Category Archives: Play

Choosing Life and Breathing Love

I’m sitting here in my pajamas at 10:19AM on a Saturday before I work from 1PM-10PM at the Apple Store in the Mall of America. I’m drinking expired Caribou Blend coffee that I earned by working at Caribou one day a week. I’m helping my grandchildren, the twins, put my Riley Hospital address stickers on their shirts. The address stickers are almost as cool as band-aids, probably because they get to have limitless address stickers, and we’ve had to limit them to only one band-aid per visit, ever since that visit where they used two whole boxes of band-aids in about 20 minutes. We’ve already watched Mickey Mouse Road Rally, and eaten breakfast and second breakfast. They’re now taking their Mamo to the park to play, then to the river to throw rocks into the water, then to the post office and grocery store. This is pretty much the perfect start to a day.

I’m taking advantage of an increasingly rare and special mood of my own and writing a bit. I’ve not posted anything here for almost six months, because I was trying to give myself some distance from my writing process and from sharing all the things about me, which I hadn’t (and possibly still haven’t) sorted out. Sometimes writing provides clarity, and sometimes the process just muddies the waters in a way that isn’t the least bit helpful. I also read back through a lot of my blogs, and realized that I was on a wild cyclic path, one I hadn’t been dealing with, and one I wasn’t sure I could deal with. The cyber-trail here indicates a lot of swinging from really good moments to really deep, sad, depressed moments.

And, being more honest than I am comfortable with, some of my darkest times aren’t even recorded here, because I was embarrassed that I had no control over my feelings, because I didn’t want to burden people I love, and because I didn’t want the stigma of being so sad I’d contemplated taking my own life. Many times in my life, I just wanted it all to end. My darkest moments were the 18 to 24 months surrounding my move to Minnesota, from March of 2013 until January of 2015.

I needed to move in order to really see how sad I’d been. I needed to move to get a new lease on life. No one was at fault for these moments, and most of you didn’t even know I was having a hard time. I hid it well.

Some of us, for whatever reason, are just prone to depression, suicidal ideations, sadness, loneliness, or the like. For some of us, this can happen even when it seems as if everything is going amazingly well for us. I’ve struggled with this since I was about 12-13 years old. For me, there are a string of reasons—none of which I am ready to divulge to the general public—for my depression. For me, my depression is coupled with addictions or obsessions of various sorts, loneliness even in crowds of people, feeling misunderstood or not good enough, feeling like no one will ever really understand me, and simply not wanting to walk outside of my house to face the world.

But something keeps me going.

A glimpse of hope?

A bit of grace?

A kind word?

A tattoo that says, “Give me hope in the darkness”?

I’d like to say that I am in a place where I will never have to struggle with any of this again, but I can’t be certain. I can say that I haven’t had a suicidal thought since early last spring, but I can’t say I never will again. I am learning to take each day one day at a time, and I am learning to set reasonable and attainable goals to keep myself focused on the joys of living.

Here are some of my long-term goals: to be alcohol abstinent for a while, to run three times a week and swim three times a week, to go hiking once a week, to find the joy in small things, to not allow the bad things in the world overtake me, to write more, to remain vegetarian, to find a therapist and work through some of this, and to tell someone if I start to feel sad, overwhelmed, or otherwise not right.

I know deep down that living can be a joyful and beautiful thing.

At my best moments, I love life. I love to have fun. I love feeling on top of the world. I love running, hiking, swimming, biking, disc golf, and the simplicity of a walk. I love the fine arts. I love rivers, lakes, and the ocean. I love crunching fall leaves under my feet. I love humanitarianism. I love sacred beauty. I love secular beauty. I love my family. I love my friends. I love a nice blue sky. I love people and their idiosyncratic behaviors. I love watching life be beautiful.

I love all of this.

When I can.

As hard as I can.

Because, in those moments, I recognize the joy, the hope, the grace, the beauty, the love.

Minnesota Minute: A Day on the Town

Today I decided to go for a little adventure through Minneapolis. I don’t have much commentary, except what I will provide for each picture. I can say that today was really fun, and I look forward to exploring the Cities on my days off.

My first stop of the day was at Blick’s Art Supplies where I bought some stuff to start printmaking. I bought linoleum, ink, a roller, some paper, and some other more generalized art supplies. I used my birthday money for this, instead of for interview clothes.

Dick Blick

My second stop, which was a pleasant surprise, was at the Basilica of Saint Mary, the first basilica built in the United States. It is the co-cathedral for the Cities with St. Paul Cathedral, the more famous one. Here are several pictures I took while I was there. Forgive me for the bad quality of the photos; I took them with my phone.

After spending a good bit of time in contemplation in the basilica, I went to my next stop. Birchbark Books is famously supported by Louise Erdrich and houses a huge variety of texts by American Indian writers. The people who work there are very helpful and kind, and the store itself is exactly as quaint and amazing as one might imagine. My favorite part was the confessional that had a sign saying, “Do not enter. We are not responsible for damnation.” Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of the confessional, nor did I get a very good picture of the outside. No worries. I will be going back soon.

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From Birchbark Books, I decided to head for lunch. If you know me at all, you know what I went for. Wings. With a simple google search, I found a place called Runyon’s, which is in the Warehouse District. Since I am new here, I had no idea what that meant. Well, as near as I can tell, the Warehouse District is a mix of businesses, restaurants, and strip clubs. This is what I saw as I neared my destination. You can’t really see the signs as well as I wish you could, but one says Augie’s Topless Bar and the other one is a giant rainbow circle that says Gay 90s. These are clear signs that good wings are nearby.

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I had to drive around a bit to find somewhere to park, and, once I did, I walked to Runyon’s along 2nd Avenue. I passed this:

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And then arrived here:

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The wings and (I cheated) the Deschutes Obsidian Stout were delicious. I kept thinking that it was really too bad that this bar is so far away from my house, because it felt a bit like Savage’s and the wings were just as good. The bartender, Nick, was pretty awesome and is himself a transplant from New York, so I felt pretty at home in his care. Their blue cheese dip was really good, too, so that’s a total plus. No shoddy, half-cracked blue cheese here. And my wings were crispy, just like I ordered them. Total win for lunch.

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After lunch,I decided to stop into this ecclectic little place I passed on my way to Runyon’s. One on One is the type of place that I’d love to hang out and just people watch. While I was in there I had some strange encounters just off the bat.

An older man said, about my t-shirt, to the woman who was chopping onions for what looked like salsa, “You know why she’s wearing tie-dye, right?”

The onion chopper said, “Why?”

Old guy, who had an opinion on everything that was going on, said, “She wanted to remind me of the good old times, the 60s, when acid was still legal in California.”

I turned to him and said, “You are absolutely right, man. I wore it just for you. I’m glad I could make your day.” And we both laughed.

Anyway, here are some photos from that place with the yummy dirty chai. First the front of the building:

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Next the inside, where the bicycles reside.

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My last task was to go to IKEA. I think I may be the only person I know who doesn’t enjoy this place one little bit. There is too much to look at, and the floor plan is structured like a maze. There is no getting in and getting out at IKEA. However, I did love the variety of cool options of everything they have in their little showrooms. I now know where I will go to buy all of my furniture should I ever live in a tiny house, a shipping container, or a tree house. The magic of IKEA is that it’s like a grown-up’s fairy castle where everything is a just a little surreal. I loved that aspect of it.

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I hope you enjoyed that little tour. Haha.

 

Summertime and the Living is Easy

Today is the first day of my ten-week summer break, and it’s exactly six weeks until the Muncie 70.3. I have also signed up for the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon on November 2, twenty-two weeks away from today, hoping that I will make it across the finish line this time. I’m a much better runner now than I was the last time I tried, and I will have completed the 70.3, which I bank on giving me the stick-to-it-iveness to make across the marathon finish line. I can only hope for the freezing rain they had last year when we volunteered. I hate being overheated when I run.

While it’s difficult for me to imagine that the last time I wrote here was six weeks ago, I guess the lack of writing on my part is an indication to you that I have been super busy. I’m looking forward to this summer for so many reasons (not parallel listing): no dissertation hanging over my head, reading anything I want, a diversity seminar on campus about inclusive pedagogy, family vacation, triathleting, possibly some art, clean eating, online meditation classes, refinishing hardwood floors, playing disc golf, playing with my animals, and naps.

There are so many things I’d love to write about, that have been heavy on my mind and heart recently, I can’t begin to touch them in one blog post, so I am making it my goal to pick back up with the idea of joy and blogging about my main goals for this year. I hope to write every day this summer, so I’ll no doubt be writing about some current events and things like that, too.

Lastly, for dinner I am making bacon wrapped shrimp kebobs on the grill, and I hope they are delicious. If they are, I will be sure to post pictures of them tomorrow.

 

The End and the Beginning

New Year’s Eve asks us to look back into the past year in order to assess where we’ve been, and it simultaneously begs us to look forward with hope that our future is brighter than, or at least as bright as, our past. Everybody and their brother is posting their reflections and their resolutions, so I figured why shouldn’t I. At the very least, this post will give my friends a heads up about the resolutions I’ll be breaking come January 3rd or 4th.

Obviously, if you’ve read this blog in the past year, you’ll notice that the past 365 days haven’t been a cakewalk for me. While my life has been incredibly blessed, I’ve had a really difficult time recognizing my blessings and reveling in them. My goals for this year in no particular order were:

  1. Eat paleo.
  2. Watch less TV.
  3. Exercise in a variety of ways (including swimming) while running (barefoot) a race a month.
  4. Meditate.
  5. Read more, including the Bible and Common Prayer.
  6. Play and find my inner hippie again.
  7. In short, do things which bring me joy. Relax.

Listing my goals out like that reminds me of Benjamin Franklin and his list of 13 Virtues or John and Charles Wesley’s tabulations of their moral behaviors. I suppose if I am going to list my resolutions or goals, I should keep track of how well I am doing with them in some manner. I don’t. I ate mostly paleo and lost about 50 pounds (I did gain some of that back this holiday season!). I can’t say I’ve watched less television; in fact, I may have watched more (Oh, Mariska, how you tempt me!). I did exercise a lot, but not as much as I would have liked. I finished my first triathlon, so that’s pretty decent. I totally left out meditation and prayer for a good portion of the year. I felt so disconnected, and I am not sure whether my lack of meditation caused the disconnection, or if I didn’t meditate because I felt disconnected. Either way, I didn’t spend enough time alone with my thoughts and God. I read a lot more, but not the specific texts I mentioned I would focus on. I played more, and playing was lovely. I did things which should have brought me joy, but they didn’t always. Instead I feel as if I just focused on the negative, even when I swore I would focus on the positives. I’m a realist; it’s difficult for me to be to be positive. I am going (to try to) to fix that this year. #PollyAnna2012 will become #joyful or #merrymaking or #radicaljoy for this year.

In short, I want this year to bring less of this:

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And much, much more of this:

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Speaking of this year, here are my goals in order of their current importance to me and my mental and physical well being:

  1. CULTIVATE JOY: Do things which me bring me joy. Embrace the random. Enjoy the mediocre. Don’t stress over things I can’t control. Live in the moment and revel in those I spend my time with. Put down my phone or my other distractions and really love and live the moment.
  2. CONSUME CLEANLY: Eat better food. Drink less cider and more water. Put into my belly those foods which will best fuel my body for physical activities and mental joy. I’m going to attempt to jumpstart this with a new Whole 30, beginning on January 7. I want a clean slate and a clean body for the new year.
  3. EXERCISE: Exercise in a variety of ways (including swimming) while running at least a mile a day. Finish a Half Ironman triathlon before my 39th birthday. Carpool or walk or ride my bike to work every day. Use the body and the buses for transportation as frequently as possible.
  4. BE INTENTIONAL: Watch no TV, except an occasional movie. Use social media for no more than half an hour each day. Replace the time spent on nothingness and meaningless conversation with strangers with pursuits of intellect and kinship. Meditate, pray, read, and contemplate theological and academic things. Practice silence. I also would love to finish this dissertation.
  5. PLAY: Play and find my inner hippie again. In the spring, I’ll start a disc golf club at school.
  6. STAND UP: Begin standing up against injustice in a real and tangible way. Use grace and love to resist those things which are unethical or immoral. Help the Burris GSA, Prism, to be more active and visual by bringing meaningful activities into my students’ lives.

These are my hopes, dreams, goals, resolutions for 2013. I hope to use Sunday mornings to write in this space about these goals and about current events. I will begin tomorrow morning, though it isn’t Sunday, by writing in depth about that first goal of practicing joy. Practicing joy will no doubt be my most difficult goal, but for me it is by far the most important. I can’t have another year like this year. Any suggestions you have about cultivating joy are welcome! How do you cultivate joy?

For some running inspiration, join us with this challenge:

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Please Don’t Drop Over . . . But I Wrote Something

Summer is here and with it comes my renewed sense of who I am. I know I am cyclic; I think who I am follows a certain strange circadian rhythm. (Incidentally, I just discovered through a quick Wikipedia accidental search that I might be the lucky owner of a circadian rhythm sleep disorder.) No, it’s more than simply a circadian rhythm; my body follows a seasonal rhythm as well. I frequently look back through my blog posts to see what I was thinking about in previous years and previous months. Sometimes the blog posts from the same weeks in different years are surprisingly similar. With the exception of last summer, which I believe to be the darkest night of my soul, summer is usually a time of growth, joy, freedom, and redefinition for me. I am most likely to start a diet, an exercise program, or some new venture in the summer. I grow restless and get a sense of wanderlust when the weather gets hot. This summer has been no exception.

I began eating Paleo/Primal in January of this year, so my diet had already changed considerably. I haven’t once looked at paleo/primal as “a diet,” so it’s been much easier to continually eat this way. Also, I have noticed that I am intolerant of most of the food I was shoveling into my face as a vegan. I can’t eat corn (serious diarrhea). I can’t eat wheat (bloating, hives, mouth reaction). I can’t eat soy (serious hot flashes). And I can’t eat much dairy (tired muscles and achy joints). The dairy, though, is typically the cheat. I can’t get enough Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey. It’s almost paleo/primal, right? Right?! I find that if I stick to eating whole, clean foods like meats and fishes, coconuts, nuts, eggs, vegetables, fruits, fermented ciders, and sparingly using raw honey and maple syrup, I feel so much better.

The side benefit of eating this way, for me, is never having to count calories, always having lots of energy, always having food options that appeal to me, and feeling full with very few low-blood-sugar moments. When I was vegan, I felt good, but never amazing, because I always felt just a little tired. I couldn’t easily go out to eat with friends, unless I wanted to be a total pain or my friends were also vegetarian or vegan. I found myself counting calories, because many processed vegan foods can get really caloric really fast. I counted calories, too, because I could never get full. No worries about feeling full with paleo/primal eating. I can eat breakfast and not be hungry again until dinner.  When I was vegan, my blood sugar would drop at least twice a day to the point where I was really grumpy and lightheaded. Also, as a vegan I always missed eating meat. I haven’t, not one time since I’ve been paleo, found myself fantasizing about a black bean burger or a slab of tofu, though they are both enjoyable. Frequently, when I was vegan, I would desire ribs or a burger or a salmon steak.

Basically, I feel like I’ve moved into a new life and life more abundantly. I’m still not cool with factory farming, and I never will be. I try to get all local, grass-fed meat and eggs and wild-caught fish, paying close attention to the ways the animals are raised, harvested, and slaughtered. This is the consolation I make for taking another life, which I still feel is sacred. This facet is the most difficult for me about paleo/primal, but I feel so much better I don’t ever want to look back. And, from my fattest point three years ago (256.4 pounds) I have lost 46 pounds total, but just from this January, I have lost 30 of those pounds. My pants size has dropped three sizes, and I bought my first pair of Calvin Klein shorts at Marshall’s when I was in Florida. I can run, bike, and swim with much more ease and speed. It’s really refreshing and beautiful.

I have set two new goals for myself: run a trail marathon by the time I am 40 (July of 2014), and complete a triathlon of some length by the time I am 39 (July 2013). Summer affords me the time and light to get in a lot of exercise, which may be why my mood gets so much better. Every morning I get up at 5:30 or 6 and either run to the pool and swim a couple of miles, or ride my bike 20-ish miles. This summer I decided to do two-a-days, which include ab exercises or kettle bell workouts in the afternoons. I find myself doing circuits, hoping to add in other body-weight exercises. I’m a big fan of minimal equipment. Today, as I sit here writing this, my abs are still on fire from the medicine ball workout I did on Monday, but I’ve read enough to know that you’re abs can take some punishment. Every day punishment, so I plan to carry-on this afternoon before joining the summer solstice bike ride that leaves from Pita Pit this afternoon. I also play disc golf, because I can and because it’s fun.

I know.

I sound like a total meat-head who can only talk about diet and exercise, but I consider those to be two of four basic building blocks of my life. Diet. Exercise. Spirituality. Intellect.

Another basic building block is my faith. Summer gives me time and inspiration to devote to spending intentional time with God. As I did with Lent, I am utilizing Common Prayer to facilitate my morning worship and prayer time. I take great comfort in the ritual of liturgy and prayer, and I find I can connect more completely, more fully with God, when I structure my prayer as a call and response with the refrain, “Lord, hear my prayer.” In my prayers, then, I can be as specific or as general with my words as I want to be, and the words, “Lord, hear my prayer,” feel as if they reassure me that God can hear my thoughts about that topic without my having to verbalize them. There are many things I pray, that I am not sure I would know how, or feel comfortable, verbalizing, even just to God, who I have been told already knows my thoughts.

As a child, I couldn’t see the value of prayer if God is unchangeable and if God already knows my thoughts. What’s the point? Now it seems to me that the point is much like speaking to a psychologist, and sometimes I can think/speak through my own problems or think/speak my own joys much like I would to a friend. Sometimes simply doing that makes it feel as if God is answering, and maybe that is the answer. Maybe we aren’t really changing God’s mind, but our own. Maybe we aren’t hearing a tangible answer from God, but we are instead somehow coming around to an answer. Perhaps this is how many people make decisions where God’s will looks a lot like their own will. I’m not sure. I’m just knocking around some skepticism/cynicism. Sometimes as Christians, I think we like to have things both ways: God is unmoveable, but we can move God through prayer, and we want God to be constant, but we want God to save someone’s life or change an outcome. In fact, we sometimes beg. It’s interesting is all I’m saying. I haven’t lost my faith, I just have lots of questions.

I have also added into my quiet time the discipline of reading through the book of James each day. Once I feel as if I have most of its truths committed to my soul, I will choose another book, though there aren’t many short enough to read in their entirety each day. I may have to read a few chapters each day or something. I started with James because of its practicality and because it seems to be an outlier about some pretty heavy theological concepts, like faith and works, speech, and prayer. I like James for his candor and for his perspective. He’s not Paul, and I love that about him.

I think when I am grounded in my faith, my relationships get better. I lump family, friends, and my love into this building block of spirituality. It all rolls together for me. When I am fully centered and fully contemplative of God, my faith, the Church, the way I deal with people is much more grace-filled, much more holy, much more compassionate. I can’t give love that I am not allowing myself to take from God. When I center in God, pursue God, my relationships fall in line and become more fulfilling, more of a blessing, and less like work. Summer is a time to nurture those relationships.

Finally, feeding my intellect is something that I have to do to feel like all is right with the world. Sometimes I feel like I go into a nine-month-long hibernation during the school year. I get up. I teach. I come home. I plan. I grade. I go to bed. If I am lucky, I add in some exercise or socialization. But, during the summer, I get to do whatever I want, whenever I want, and I even have time to read. I read a lot during the summer. It’s my goal to read at least two books each week: one fiction and one nonfiction. So far, I am on schedule. I love learning new things, and my favorite way to do it is by reading, especially since it’s become real again.

So, yeah. Summer. Love.