The Seemingly Impossible

This past Friday, I left my first-graders with a substitute and headed up to Kirksville, MO to attend a conference at my alma mater, Truman State University. It was a wonderful excuse to take a day off of work, make my grand return to K-ville, and engage in 24 hours of girl talk with my good friend, Molly, all while learning applicable strategies for how to be a better reading teacher.

While meandering around campus, reminiscing over past classes, professors, events, and boyfriends, I picked up a copy of the campus newspaper, The Index. After writing for The Index my first semester of college (in pursuit of my short-lived journalistic dream), I always had a soft spot in my heart for the publication. In the hotel room that night, I read through the issue, catching up on the campus’ current events. One particular story caught my eye: “Students Hike Home“*.

For those of you who chose not to click that link, the article details two students’ plans to walk home at the end of the semester, from Kirksville to St. Louis. The distance measures 188 miles. This will be a second attempt–last semester, Daniel got to 100 miles in five days, but became exhausted and called on his parents to rescue him from New London, MO. This time, Daniel claims, will be different. He’s been running a few times a week, and planned a couple of long hikes beforehand. He has a cohort this time–a female student named Elizabeth. Daniel and Elizabeth plan to carry food, first aid supplies, and sleeping bags. Last time, Daniel just dozed off in his sleeping bag in public areas along his path–the article doesn’t mention whether these plans have changed this time.

Why?? you may ask yourself. Well, he plans to collect donations for the Sierra Club. But, what caught my eye was the comment that “the trek will test his ability to achieve the ‘seemingly impossible,’ a notion he said he is always trying to challenge.”

After reading this article–to myself, and then out loud to Molly–I thought to myself about how I could never do this. Then, no, I thought, that’s not true. It’s that I would never want to do this. Then I began to wonder: Why?? Why would I never want to do this? Here are the reasons I came up with off the top of my head:

1. I hate sleeping outdoors.

2. I don’t like being dirty.

3. It would mess with my running plans.

4. It doesn’t seem safe.

5. It doesn’t seem necessary.

Then, I began to feel a little down on myself. How come I never have these sorts of adventures? Will I one day look back on life and feel regretful that I didn’t try to walk 188 miles? What fun, crazy things have I ever done? Nothing! Am I boring? Am I just a total conformist? Why don’t I feel the need to tackle the “seemingly impossible”? These thoughts haunted me for a few days. (Well, okay, that was just Thursday night, so maybe just one day. But still.)

On my run this morning, I pondered those words: “seemingly impossible”. And here’s what I decided:

We each have our own definition of the “seemingly impossible”. These are things that seem out of reach, would require some sort of major lifestyle change, and would benefit us in some way. For me, walking 188 miles isn’t necessarily “seemingly impossible”. It does seem out of reach, it would require me to change my lifestyle, but I don’t really see what benefit it would have to me.

I felt a little better about myself when I thought about the “seemingly impossible things” I have accomplished in my life.

1. Losing weight.

2. Running a half-marathon.

3. Running a half-marathon in under two hours.

4. Meeting someone, falling in love, and getting married.

What‘s “seemingly impossible” for me right now?

1. Getting 21 first graders to grade level in reading and math.

2. Living an anxiety-free life.

3. Buying a house.

Although these things seem scary and over-whelming, (and, well, impossible) looking at the list of “seemingly impossible things” that I have accomplished leads me to believe that I can accomplish these things. But, just like I had to set goals, make changes, follow through, and hold myself accountable for my attained goals, I have to do those same things for my current goals.

Here’s my question to you. I encourage you to comment below and let me know what you think. What “seemingly impossible things” have you accomplished in the past? What “seemingly impossible things” are you currently tackling? What “seemingly impossible things” seem truly impossible to you? How can we help each other to further our accomplishments?

*Kudos to Scott Henson, IndexStaff Reporter, for writing an intriguing article

Squashing the Body Bashing

Working in a predominantly-female workplace, and just being female in general, I am amazed by how often I hear women talk badly about their bodies. Not that I am not to blame, as well. I’ve been known to complain about “fat days” or make a face in the mirror at a specific body area. As women, we know how important it is to love our bodies and appreciate the strength and health that allow us to do awesome things like carry 15 grocery bags at once, sit on the floor to play a board game, or even run a half-marathon. But, sometimes it feels like it’s in our DNA to point out the “bad”–which is usually something no one else would ever notice! I think this problem is rooted in the need to constantly compare ourselves to other women.

Anyway, this quick rant is a way to introduce you to one of my newest weekly obsessions: No Fat Talk Tuesday. Espresso and Cream, written by Madison, a 24-year-old Midwesterner (okay, maybe there’s a reason I identify with this woman…), is primarily a food blog. Madison features “simple food made with quality ingredients, and a whole lot of yum.” While I have yet to try one of the recipes, I was drawn to this blog because of the weekly feature on a woman’s story about body image. Each story is the tale of a different woman’s journey–her struggles and victories when it comes to achieving a healthy body image. It’s empowering, as a woman, to hear another woman sharing some of the same thoughts and experiences.

I’m sharing this with you today because yesterday, being Tuesday, yet another inspirational story was shared. I urge you to read through a few of the women’s stories, and then to pledge yourself Fat Talk Free–and not just on Tuesdays!

Was Jesus a Yogi?

All week, I’ve been pondering an interesting development in my understanding of Yoga and its relationship to my faith. This past week in church, on the second Sunday of Easter, our pastor gave an interesting sermon on the Resurrection. It struck my interest so quickly, that I began taking notes. From my rough outline, penciled in the margins of my bulletin, here’s a quick recap:

(This is by no means a direct quote… Rather my summary of what was said!)

There are twelve appearances of the resurrected Jesus in the gospel. Interestingly, 12 is the Biblical number for “completeness” or “perfection”. Although there are rumors of other appearances, not penned or included in the holy word, these twelve hold the substance and the meaning behind the Resurrection.

One of the appearances (according to John 20:1-22) occurred the evening of that very first Easter. The disciples (all twelve of them) had gathered together to comfort one another in the sorrow they were feeling upon the crucifixion of their leader. They’d heard rumors all day–women around town were saying the tomb was empty and that Jesus had been raised from the dead, however, they were skeptical. They didn’t dare to believe this was true.

But then, in the midst of their gathering, Jesus appeared and said to them: “Peace be with you.” In these words is the meaning of Easter. With these words, Jesus transforms the pain and loss of his death into joy and peace. In the depths of despair, Jesus sheds light, bringing life from death.

He repeats these words, adding “as God has sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21). It is with these words that Jesus issues a charge for what will become the Church. It is with these words that we are called to respond to the resurrection, to share grace and peace with one another.

The next verse reads: “And with that, he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit'” (John 20:22 NIV). Through the breath, Jesus says, we are able to do everything that God calls us to do. Through the breath, we find grace, peace, and forgiveness.

As I contemplated the last part of this sermon, and Jesus’ use of the word breath, I drew a parallel between what Jesus said and did, and what I’ve lately been experiencing in my Yoga practice. The sense of peace that Jesus brought to the disciples when they learned of his Resurrection, the peace felt through the Holy Spirit, is the peace that I feel in Yoga. It’s through the movement of Yoga that I feel connected to God. And what guides movement in Yoga? Breath.

I had a brief, but impactful, conversation with my Dad on Easter Sunday. He’d read my most recent post on Yoga and explained to me that it mirrored the benefits he gets from Meditation. He told me that, over the years as he’s practiced Meditation, he’s begun to believe that Jesus taught people to achieve actualization through something similar to Yoga or Meditation. He even drew a parallel between Buddha and Jesus.

Sunday afternoon, as I surrendered deeply into Pigeon Pose, which has become my most contemplative position, I thought more about these connections. I’m convinced that the breath–which is with us always, filling us deeply from head to toe with oxygen that we so truly need–is a constant reminder of the peace God wants us to find in the Resurrection.

I’m comfortable with assuming that you breathe on a regular basis. So, I encourage you to add to that experience. Whether Meditation is your thing, or the movement of Yoga brings you to that point of centeredness, allow your breath to be transformative. Allow your breath to be that bridge between you and God.

Dream Come True

I’ve recently had a dream come true.

Last year, I admitted to my extreme obsession with all things Harry Potter in this post. That’s when we took our Harry Potter dorkitude to a whole new level, making matching Gryffindor Quidditch Team shirts, and attended a HP-themed birthday party as Katie Bell and Oliver Wood.

Well, those shirts made a second appearance last week, when B and I got the chance to visit Harry Potter World at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure over Spring Break.

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Sporting our awesome shirts in front of the Hogwarts Express.

Truly, the entire experience was like stepping into a dream. As I would explain to my first graders, when I read Harry Potter, I “create mental images” in my mind. Visiting HP World was like jumping into my own mental image.

The sights…

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The streets of Hogsmeade

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Hogwarts

The tastes…

Hog's Head

Mmm, butterbeer!

Honeyduke's

And the sounds…

Zonko's Joke Shop

Although HP World itself is absolutely fabulous and wonderful, the Islands of Adventure park left much to be desired. Since we were lucky enough (and sneaky enough) to bypass most of the lines at HP World, waiting only for the Forbidden Journey ride, we were done with the park in a little under three hours. After paying the Disney prices, we felt a little like… well, like we could’ve used more HP. Although, I’ll admit, I probably would have paid the prices just to stand in the Forbidden Journey line:

In the Hogwart's Herbatorium
(Did I make that word up?? B says I did.)

About to go inside Hogwarts

Dumbledore's Office
(Hard to get a good picture as I didn't want to stop in the line and risk having my head bit off by eager HP fans.)

The Sorting Hat

Portraits

At the end of the day, we decided not to think about the high cost of the experience, and just the experience itself. And, seeing it that way, HP World was AWESOME!! I highly suggest it to any HP fan out there. Oh, and don’t pass up the Butterbeer. Sure, $25 for two is a lot (hey, we splurged on the souvenir mug), but the creamy-marshmallowy-goodness is seriously to-die-for.

Surrender. Let go. Release.

Tomorrow, being Easter, marks the end of my commitment to practice Yoga twice a week. However, it will not mark the end of this practice in my life. The experience of regularly incorporating Yoga into my life for the past forty days has truly been transformative. The benefits are numerous. Yoga is:

  1. a great stretch for tight running muscles
  2. a release for my tension-filled back
  3. increasing my flexibility
  4. a time to slow down and breathe deeply
  5. a time to think
  6. a time not to think

Every time I leave a Yoga class, I do so feeling calm, and peaceful. Yoga clears my mind, makes me a more patient and grateful person.

I struggle with an anxiety disorder, and the past few weeks were getting pretty tough. Whenever I’m having an anxiety “flare up,” I become very inflexible when it comes to any changes or anything unexpected. I tend to back away from things I cannot control, and end up ostracizing myself.

But something a Yoga instructor said during class a few weeks ago really stuck with me, and it’s a mantra I’m now trying to incorporate into my every day life. As we were finding Pigeon pose (a great stretch for my sore IT band, but also one that tends to be a little uncomfortable). I was feeling a little antsy in class that day, and my hip was killing me as I tried to find a comfortable position. But, she explained that this pose is about letting go. She encourage us, with each breath, to release our muscles and surrender to the posture. On my next exhale, I mindfully released the tightness in my hip, and sure enough, I sank closer to the floor. I let my forehead settle onto my stacked palms on the mat in front of me. Breathing deeply, I listened as she suggested:

“What would happen if you applied this practice to your life? What would your life be like if you surrendered? If you just let go?… If you just released control?”

Her words have stuck with me. After that class, I was able to break out of my anxious “slump” and have embraced the idea of living in the moment, and of just letting life happen. So far, allowing things to slip a little out of my control hasn’t produced any terrible results. As a matter of fact, I’m learning that some of the best moments are surrendered moments. And when times get tough, or I feel my mind slipping back into its old pattern, I say to myself (sometimes even out loud):

Surrender…

Let go…

Release…

Just try it.

 

Venting Session Re-Posted

Let me vent to you for a second. I am so disappointed that Christians have a terrible reputation. That people stereotype Christians in a bad way….think they are judgemental, haters, offended group of legalistic rule-watching-bible-beaters who are stupid. That reputation exists for a million reasons but one thing stays the same…..I HATE THAT. It makes me angry and sad and disappointed. I want people to know that God wants you to be the best version of you….be authentic…have fun and JOY…know where you are from and where you are going….and that He loves you more than I can possible describe. There are gonna be struggles…our lives are crappy, sometimes we feel we can’t climb outta our muddy trenches…but it doesn’t change the fact that God made us outta the dirt to LOVE us. He gave us his son to LOVE us. to BE WITH us. to GIVE US the best possible relationship we can imagine. and God wants us to have a future. more than this dirty shell. and He loves it when we love each other.

I am trying to focus on that. BE like that. to break that mold that everyone keeps on trying to jam me into.

Re-posted from one of my favorite daily perusals, Bower Power. Well, said, Katie!

My Mom: the Cure for the Common Cold

At 24 years old, I’ve yet to find a cure for the common cold/flu better than this simple remedy: a day curled up on the couch, watching recorded TV shows, and eating Mom’s homemade soup. It’s just not possible to re-create the feeling on my own couch, with my own TV, or with my version of soup. What’s the missing factor? It must be my mom!

Mom & me on Christmas morning in 2007

I’m one of the lucky few who can honestly call my mom one of my best friends. She’s the one I call when I want someone to talk to on my way home from work. We swap books and recipes. We go shopping together (and since she’s my mom, she sometimes foots the bill–does your best friend do that??).

Pre-shopping days, Mom smocked dresses for every holiday.

My mom has always been my biggest supporter. She never missed a softball game, a piano recital, or a band concert. And, now, she’s always on the sidelines cheering me on during races. Birthdays, Christmases, and graduations have always been special times thanks to my mom’s thoughtfulness and hard work.

My Bunny Cake on Birthday #3

Oh, yeah. And then there was that wedding thing that she helped me plan last year.

Mom and me on the Big Day

I was so lucky, when B came into my life, that my mom embraced him with as much love and warmth as she’s shown me for my whole life.

Celebrating Mom's Birthday in 2009

As you can see, I’m a lucky girl to have such a fantastic mom. She even vowed to me, when I was in preschool, that I can sit on her lap forever. “Even when I’m sixty?” I challenged her. “Well,” she responded, “I’ll be 92, but sure. Even when you’re 60.”

Since I explained to you yesterday that I’ve been feeling a little under-the-weather this weekend, if you need me today, you’ll find me on my mom’s couch. If you’re lucky, maybe I’ll even share one of her soup recipes with you.