Going Back, but Moving Forward.

Its hard to believe, but it has been a year since I traveled to Oregon to participate in a bucket list event, the Wilder Running and Writing Retreat organized by Lauren Fleshman. I’ve never really written about the experience, there were lots of demons that surfaced that I’ve been slowly working through. The experience is also slightly tainted by the prolonged illness that my poor Eddie Fox suffered and to be honest I still have some guilt for leaving him as often as I did last summer. But the experience was one of transformation and growth and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I am grateful for my time in the Oregon wilderness.

This weekend some of my fellow Wilder Women have gathered at the Caldera Arts Center to reunite and light the Wilder fire again. In their honor I thought I’d share some thoughts on the experience and a new opportunity that has come to me. Sending love and peace to the women doing the work this weekend. Know that I am with you in spirit.

Want to go deeper? That was the question on the website in front of me. Did I want to go deeper? When the first email came out from the woman I basically idolize (Lauren Fleshman) asking if there was interest in a Wilder Alum Workshop, I thought to myself No!  I wasn’t ready to go deeper, I wasn’t ready to be just one of a very small group of women coming back to dive in deeper with the Wilder Writing and Running experience. I didn’t think I had fully processed my first Wilder experience from last year. So why had I clicked on the link for the application?  Why was I filling out the application and hitting send? I didn’t feel like I had progressed in my writing or running. If anything I felt like I had gone backwards in the months since journeying to Sisters, Oregon. I wasn’t certain I had worked through the self doubt and the feelings of being inadequate that I honestly battled during my first Wilder experience.  Last May I felt like a total dork trying to be cool around a pretty impressive group of women. I wasn’t certain I was worthy of a spot in a group of 10 women who were Wilder Alumni, what had I done with myself since leaving the Caldera Retreat Center in Oregon?

But here I was feeling the pull, wanting to go deeper, completing the application and hitting send hoping for another opportunity to really dive deeper.  A chance to grow and sit, with confidence at the knee of a teacher I truly admire. I think a part of me secretly hoped that I wouldn’t get selected, that the demand would be too great for the September session so it wouldn’t even matter; but here I am, the dates are booked on my work calendar, I’ve paid my registration fee and I’m already looking at flights.  I’ve also dusted off my copy of Writing Down the Bones and I am practicing, practicing both writing and running. Practicing some self love and self acceptance and working on owning my place in the circle of women that have shared this truly incredible experience. So in early September I’ll be headed back to Oregon, headed back to see what else I can unearth and to continue to develop 2 things that I love to do; run and write and to do both in a wild way.  

To my fellow Wilder women I thank you for sharing your time, your stories and love.  I thank you for continuing to inspire me and for giving me the strength to go back and to dive deeper. PC:@jesssbarnard

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APRIL 19th, 2019

Today is THE day… Today is the day I’ve been pondering in my head for weeks. What would I write today, what did I have to say that was different from what has already been said. I’ve written several posts both on paper and in my head and now that the day is here nothing seems right. I researched all the things that have happened on April 19th – like the first running of the Boston Marathon, Sally Ride being named the first female astronaut, the start of the American Revolution, the FBI raid on the Branch Davidian Compound outside of Waco, Texas and of course the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City, OK on April 19th, 1995.

Next weekend I will stand on the start line of the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon for the 7th time to run the half marathon (and no I have not trained for a half marathon), but I don’t care. It’s important to me to be there to honor the 168 people that lost their lives while I sat in my 9:00 am Biblical Literature Class at Oklahoma City University, 2 miles from downtown Oklahoma City. I will show up because I don’t want anyone to forget what happened that day, I want to honor those that died and I want to honor those that I shared the experience with; my friends whose lives were changed forever on that day because we all lost something that day.

I know the world moves on and that for many they don’t even realize the importance of the day. There was nothing mentioned about the anniversary in my news feed this morning. But I remember. I will always remember, and next weekend I will #Run2Remember and I will run next year and the year after that and the year after that. I will run until I can’t run anymore and I will run for those 168 people that can’t. I remember.

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Yes.

Today I choose to say yes!

Yes to being positive.

Yes to being grateful.

Yes to living life in ALL CAPS (Roche, D.The Happy Runner; https://swaprunning.com)

Yes to doing my best.

Yes to love.

Yes to making progress towards my goals.

Yes to early morning runs.

Yes to eating my veggies.

Yes to drinking water.

Yes to saving money.

Yes to saying Thank You.

Yes to saying, How can I help you today and really meaning it.

Yes to calling my Mom.

Yes to being present.

Yes to putting down my phone.

Yes to being brave.

Yes to breathing deeply.

Yes to being patient.

Yes to prayer and meditation.

Yes to appreciating the gifts of others.

Today I say yes to moving more and eating less.

Yes to writing.

Yes to ALL the things.

Yes to sipping coffee on my balcony as the construction site below slowly comes to life.

Yes to new possibilities.

Yes to changing my perspective.

Yes to showing up for myself.

Today I choose to say yes, what will you say yes too?

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My Monkey Brain

I actually had a completely different post planned for tonight. One about how I didn’t use to enjoy writing, how I struggled to complete my Junior High School writing assignments and how my time at Oklahoma City University with their Writing Across the Curriculum program and the inspiring direction of Professor Marsha Keller that I finally understood the mechanics of writing and it became a tool that would serve me for years to come. That post is for another day. Because today I had yet another freak out over Eloise my 5 month old Welsh Corgi Puppy.

If you follow me on Facebook or instagram you know that over the course of the past 3 months I’ve been a very anxious mother. The first week I was so worried I would “ruin,” Eloise. She proved to be a very picky eater and then she had an episode of diarrhea, then it was a hurt back leg and now I took her for her latest round of puppy shots and then let her play with her cousin, Millie the chiaweenie mix and at the end of the afternoon she’s whimpering and refusing to move. OMG, I broke the puppy by letting her play too hard after her shots. At least that’s where my monkey brain went. How would I get her to go potty, what about our next round of puppy class that starts tomorrow night, what do I tell the dog walker, what about her scheduled day of puppy day care. SO MUCH DRAMA and all in my head. As I write this the little angel is up and walking, has gone potty, eaten dinner and tried to play with two of her friends that we met while out on our walk. Eloise is fine. However, I wonder about her mother.

In my work life I’m in control, I’m professional, I can handle a crisis, an upset family member, a surprise visit from our regulators; I can tackle the most challenging of obstacles and I do it well with out a lot of emotional drama. So why can’t I handle a 5 month old puppy? Why do I continue to let my monkey brain run out of control when it comes to Eloise?

Is it that I have learned to listen to the voices in my head, that I don’t just quiet them with booze or food or excessive spending or hours in front of the TV? Am I learning to hear the fears, the doubts, the not nice things I think about myself and deal with them? Its not easy to learn to live with yourself, but I feel like I am. Slowly but surely I feel like I am learning to face the really messy parts of my life, the parts that I have chosen to ignore for years. I finally feel like the pieces of the puzzle of my life are starting to fit together and that Eloise is here for a reason, not just because I said yes to a Facebook Mess anger notice about an impossibly, cute Pembroke Welsh Corgi Puppy. For the first time in 6 years I actually have thoughts, very serious thoughts about putting down roots in the DFW area, not an easy thing for a gypsy like me to admit too. Thanks to Eloise I find myself connecting more with my family, spending less time at work and thinking more about how I take better care of myself.

I’d love to say I have some deeper more profound thought to share with you but I don’t. I think Eloise and I found each other for a reason. I think she’s helping me learn more about myself and that at the ripe old age of 45, I know who I want to be when I grow up. I’ll say I don’t really know what the future holds for this adorable puppy and I; but for the first time in a long time I’m excited and optimistic about where I’m headed and honestly I think where I’m headed is right where I am. “The world is round, and the place which may seem like the end may also be the beginning.” Ivy Baker Priest.

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An Open Letter to my Body.

Dear Body –

I want to apologize to you. I am sorry, sorry I haven’t taken better care of you.  Sorry for the nights where I stayed up way too late, the times when I drank too much, ate too much and choose to not get outside and move.  I’m sorry for the days where I subjected you to extreme levels of stress for no good reason. For thinking you weren’t thin enough, fast enough, strong enough, or pretty enough.  I am sorry for not trusting you and how tough and resilient you are.

I am learning to accept you for the unique gift from God, that you really are. I am learning to show up for you.  To move more, sleep more, eat for fuel and not entertainment or comfort. I will quit arguing for your failure and learn to appreciate all that you are capable of doing and have accomplished.  You are beautiful. You are strong, and you have carried me through 45 years of life’s ups and downs and I am looking forward to 45 more. To more adventures, more fun, more love and to living life to the fullest.

I am not always perfect, but I am learning to love you and appreciate you and I am grateful that God gave me my mother’s looks and my grandmother’s legs.  I love that you can look at me and know that I’m a Fox, Reese, Baker, Withrow.

Dear Body, I won’t always be perfect; but I am learning to do better and to take better care of you and not always give in to the whims of my monkey brain.

Thank you.

I love you,

Jen

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Home.

So if you haven’t heard, I moved this week. I did the unthinkable and moved North of 635, which means something to me. After 4 years of living in East Dallas I am back in the suburbs, but I am in a somewhat urban setting, a mixed use space at the intersection of two of Dallas’ busiest highways. The big selling point is that I am only 10 minutes from work, 10 minutes from my Sister and her family, and steps away from shops, restaurants and the DART. I am also in a bigger apartment for about the same amount of money and 4 days in I love it. As I wrote about in my last post I feel like I’ve found my Spacious Place.

So I tend to move a lot. I don’t think I’ve ever had one address for more than 5 years. I swear there must be a Gypsy somewhere in my family tree. I can’t say that I’ve ever had a strong sense of home. One of my earliest memories is of my family moving from the suburbs of Kansas City to Grove, Oklahoma. That would be followed by a move to rural Southeast Oklahoma when my Dad received the call to be a minister in the United Methodist Church. My parents set an unintentional pattern for my life, one of constant movement and never really settling in one place for too long. If my memory serves I’ve changed my address no less than 20 times in my life. While some of these moves have been for work, most have been self initiated or self inflicted.

My need to move is something that fascinates and puzzles me at the same time. This bug or urge is something that my brother and sister have seemed to escape as they’ve both been in their current locals for longer than I’ve lived anywhere ever. However, my Maternal Grandparents were always on the move spending winters in South Texas, summers in Colorado with stops in Oklahoma in between. Perhaps that’s where my desire to frequently change locations comes from? Maybe its my pioneer roots, similar to those of Laura Ingalls Wilder, whose family was always packing up and moving in search of a better life.

So here I am, in my 4th apartment since moving to Dallas 6 years ago. I am learning with each move the importance of making that place a home as quickly as possible. As I’ve gone through the process of packing and unpacking, I’ve thought more about the things I am moving and why. I collect Fiestaware so I have more dishes than any single woman really needs, but they mean something to me and their colors bring me joy. The ancient Sunbeam Stand mixer that doesn’t get much use but was used by my Grandmother and Uncle will always stay with me as it connects me to them both. My endless collection of coffee cups also serves as a reminder to connections from the past – jobs at the Pittsburgh and Kansas City Symphonies, gifts from friends, travels; memories that I cherish when I drink my coffee in the morning. Granted this time around I think I purged more than I ever have, but there’s still a lot of stuff and a lot of stuff that needs to go; but my stuff, my pictures, plates, coffee mugs, vases, tea pots and books are my home. They represent who I am, where I’ve been and will go with me as I move into the future.

Home is what we make it, whether its a 2 bedroom townhouse in the suburbs of Kansas City (which I still own, but might be for sale if anyone is interested in an investment property), a traditional 3 bedroom house, a parsonage in Southeast Oklahoma, or an apartment in a mixed use space home is where I am. In the words of R.E.M. I choose to, “Stand in the place where I live.” Home is truly where the heart is and I think I’ve found my home, at least for the next couple of years :).

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A Spacious Place

I’ve been reading the Bible again, in 2018 I had set a goal to read the Bible in a year and then quickly gave it up. I am trying again although I will confess I am woefully behind schedule right now. I am honestly struggling to find a new routine in the morning with puppy and have been waiting to do my reading at night and end up falling a sleep. Anyway, a few days ago the devotional for the selection from the Psalms, Psalms 18: 16-24, was describing David being surrounded by his enemies. God rescues David and, “brings him to a spacious place.”

For some reasons those words, a Spacious Place, have stuck with me. As I’ve moved through out my days dealing with the stress of work, moving and life with a 14 week old puppy I’ve found myself praying to be led to a spacious place. It has also got me to thinking about how I live life, have I retracted to a small space? Am I living a small life or am I living into the Spacious Place? Doing big things and making an impact on the lives of those around me in a positive way. Am I living up to my potential or am I falling into the trap of believing “things are hard,” and I can’t do them and choosing the easy way out? How can I create and lean into this Spacious Place that I fully believe is a place where God wants us all to live, how can I help create this place for others?

Lots of BIG questions that I don’t currently have the answers too, but certainly I am chewing on in my mind. I am excited to be moving into what is a truly spacious place this next week, after a failed attempt at downsizing. I am excited to be back in a larger apartment that will offer more natural light and more room for all of us (Gracie the cat, Eloise the Corgi, and me!). I am still working on ridding myself of stuff. I have no intention of moving things that have out lived there usefulness or no longer bring me joy (thank you Marie Kondo). I want a space that is open and light and comfortable and that will allow me to live into the Spacious Place, where I know I belong.

I feel like I have lived the past year of my life in a narrow and unfocused way. That while I do have big goals and big dreams I’ve not pursued them with intent and been bold and gone after them. I feel like it is time again to spread my wings and find the joy and light in life. To step into the Spacious Place that God has created for me and claim it as my own.

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