Friday, December 23, 2011

The Work of Christmas

When the song of the angels is stilled,

when the star in the sky is gone,

when the kings and princes are home,

when the shepherds are back with the flocks,

then the work of Christmas begins:

... to find the lost,

to heal those broken in spirit,

to feed the hungry,

to release the oppressed,

to rebuild the nations,

to bring peace among all peoples,

to make a little music with the heart…

And to radiate the Light of Christ,

every day, in every way,

in all that we do and in all that we say.

Then the work of Christmas begins.

-- Howard Thurman, adapted
Wishing you the Merriest of Christmases and a blessed New Year.
May we do the work of Christmas all year long.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Welcome Winter

This morning I saw a moon sliver, framed by birch silhouettes, in the most stunningly clear, crisp, inky blue winter sky. We rounded the corner and the magic was lost, but the image is burned in my head. It echoed Silent Night to me and reminded me to slow down and bask in the wonder of the holiday.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

To Do Now or Later: Traditions

I'm a sucker for traditions. Yours... mine... those of people I've never met, doesn't matter. I enjoy reading about traditions and then figuring out how to incorporate them into my own if it's feasible to do so.

For the last seven years, one of our traditions has been to alternate holidays with our families: Thanksgiving in Baker, Christmas in San Diego, then the following year Thanksgiving in San Diego, Christmas in Baker, repeat. This has worked out really well and we always know what to do, where we're going, and what to expect when we get there.

This year, however, the family unanimously decided it would be best if we stayed in Oregon for Christmas and come to visit later when flights are more reasonable. While it's nice to not have to make travel plans or cry over plane tickets and ridiculous surcharges, I am feeling a bit lost. This has led to many conversations about making our own traditions.

While we have incorporated some of our families' traditions - I am making the Bentley brisket for the Monday Night Posse Christmas party on Monday and always fill stockings to overflowing in true Henshaw fashion, for example - we have not really made our own as a couple.

That's not to say there aren't things we do every year - like get a tree as soon as our schedule and finances allow, watch ELF, and buy a picture frame ornament to mark a moment in the last year (something we've been doing since 2006, the year before we married). We just don't have anything that's really ours.

It's a little late this year, but we are talking about traditions we want to establish now and then can modify or add to when we have children. This came out of a conversation in which I said something to the effect of, "I have lots of traditions, we just can't do them until we have little people," and Jason replied, "Stop trying to write me out of this! I want to be part too!"

I was a bit convicted by that statement. I am one who gets quite annoyed when people say, "When we have kids we'll x, y, z," or, "We're not going to do that until we by a house..." (within reason, of course there are some things you can't do until an earlier requirement has been filled), meanwhile life is happening now and they are missing it waiting for the next thing.

When we have children, they'll be around for 20 years; the time we have now is ours and I want to spend it making beautiful memories with my husband. That'll make Christmases with babies all the more sweet.

What are your traditions?

As long as I'm at AMC, this may well become a tradition.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Winter Reflections

Look not mournfully into the past.
It comes not back again.
Wisely improve the present.
It is thine.
Go forth to meet the shadowy future, without fear. 
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ~

The red, gold, green, and white has come out of their boxes. Christmas music has been my companion for three weeks and the chill is in the air. Amidst the joyous chaos that is the holiday season, I find myself reflecting more and more on this last year and all the changes in store for us in the coming year. As a culture, we tend to think of January 1 as a clean slate, though it's not really true: it's merely a continuation of whatever we set in motion the year before.

Two years have passed since I had my meltdown. A year ago I was a barely functioning exoskeleton. The contrast between this year and last at this time is stark and beautiful. I am overwhelmed by the love and encouragement I received from those dearest to me and my heart overpours with gratitude for those who came alongside us and helped bear the load - emotionally, physically, and financially. I am so blessed. We are so blessed.

I feel such hope for the next year. More intense than the hope I felt while surrounded by the Monday Night Posse on New Year's Eve and more real. Does that even make sense? I'm not paralyzed by fear - I'm excited!

As we spend time with our family and friends in the coming weeks, sharing meals, exchanging gifts, playing games, and generally enjoying each other's company I want to have in the forefront of my mind the central purpose of the holiday I celebrate - the simple, beautiful gift that was given to mankind - and the gift I was given this year that will not end when the clock strikes Midnight on January 1.


Monday, September 19, 2011

War Wounds

"And you know what the worst part was? He was one of the Army guys who just got back [from Iraq on Tuesday]." 

My brother's voice reverberated in my head as I drove through the back roads and geological wonders of central Oregon, racing towards my first home. My weekend plans for a run with my BFF in Bend, shopping, and picking up our anniversary project from the ceramic shop cut short by a 7 am phone call. A night in the ER, seven stitches total, missing teeth, possible jaw fracture. The Flag didn't drop to the ground and neither did he.

The story I had heard played over in my head, despite Safe Haven audiobook on level 15 volume trying to drown out my sobs. A night with friends, two beers, visiting with the bartender who used to be our neighbor, leaving at 1 am for home. Hearing a crack as he left, turning the corner to see what was going on. Then it happened.

My brother, full of righteous anger, grabbed the Flag from the ground, drenched in urine, started folding it, and asked the guy who the f *ck he thought he was pissing on the American flag. The "kid" rose to the challenge and asked Bobby what he knew about the damn flag. My brother told him he was a Marine for six years, fought for the flag, had friends that died for the flag, that he almost died for it, so who the hell was he. He was one of the Army guys, young, just returned from Iraq. Then the kid charged.

My heart caught in my throat again as I remembered that part of the story. "You know what the worst part was? He was one of the Army guys who just got back." My brother and I had started sobbing three hundred some miles apart. "I couldn't hit him. He was my brother. He was wrong, but he was my brother. I took three to the face like a champ, never hit the ground, and had a death grip on the flag. I should have killed him, and I would have gone to prison and I'd be okay with that, but I couldn't even hit him back."

At first, in the confusion, the crowd had held my brother back, but when the fourth punch landed they realized there was only one aggressor in that "fight." The kid walked away and Bobby went back inside to wash his hands. Then he caught his reflection.

Three missing teeth, one barely hanging on, seven stitches total, possible jaw fracture and oral surgery, liquid diet. And one heck of a swollen lip. He never raised a hand to the kid who obviously had war demons of his own. The Flag didn't hit the ground and neither did he.

Author's Note: I wrote this post a number of ways on my four hour drive on Sunday from Bend to Baker. I cried a lot and I cried more remembering the pain in my brother's voice as he told his story. In the end, I decided to leave out the commentary in my head on lack of veteran support and reintegration and tell the story simply as it played in my head. What struck me the most on the drive home was until this point my brother's war scars had been mental. Now, a civilian for a month, he received some very physical war wounds on the street of his hometown, from a fellow soldier and veteran. That is the part that hurts all of us the most.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thankful Thursday: Present and Future

My very own cake wreck.
How many errors do you see?
Today is my last day as Development Assistant at LifeWorks NW. It doesn't seem real yet, but as the hours tick by I know I am getting closer to closing this three year chapter of my life.

This job was a blessing three years ago when I found myself 30 credits away from graduating with my Bachelor's, but my full-time job would not accommodate a full-time school schedule. I needed a job that would work with my school schedule. What I found was a surprisingly well-paying part-time job with flexible hours, PTO, and benefits. Life works when you get the help you need.

I continued my part-time schedule after graduation, with consistent encouragement full-time hours would become available, but unfortunately the agency was never able to deliver on this. During the three years as Development Assistant I honed my database skills, delved into the world of event planning, and expanded my knowledge of the intricacies of office work. Life works when you get the help you need.

Today is my last day. When I close down my computer and walk out the door it will be for the last time. I am thankful for the opportunities and skills LifeWorks NW provided me and I am excited for the future in store for me as a result of the lessons learned here. Life really does work when you get the help you need.

PS: Check out my guest blog at Rough and Rede.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Transitions & Things

There's been a lot of change and chaos in the Bentley household as of late. In short, our house has been in a constant state of recovery after the July rainstorm, all our office and kitchen things have been piled in our bedroom and living room, I've been working two part-time jobs, and we've been housing friends and family nearly every weekend since May.  My mantra this summer has been, "Two more weeks, you can survive anything for two more weeks."

Two weeks ago, I accepted the Campaign and Donor Records Coordinator position at Adventist Medical Center Foundation. This is the job I have been filling in at and was honored they invited me to interview and ecstatic when they called the next morning after my evening interview to offer me the position. For the first time since graduation I feel like I can breathe again. Our finances have been stressful and this is just the boost we needed.

During the last two weeks of transition, as I look at my piles of laundry and pile of things in the living room, I feel the chaos of my surroundings permeating my being. The more the stuff sits, the more I begin to wonder if I really need it. And really want it gone. I've been reading minimalist and simple living blogs trying to figure out how to go about downsizing and simplifying my life. I like peace and clean lines, but you'd never know it looking at my house (or desk) right now.

As part of our transition to a DINK household (double income, no kids), something we haven't been for a couple years, we are taking a hard look at our finances and our lifestyle. We want to expand our family in the next couple years and as a caveat to that we really want to ingrain healthy habits - both physical and financial - now by paying down our debts and making exercise a staple in our routine. 

One option we are looking at is leaving our 2 bed/1.5 bath townhouse in the suburbs for a 1 bed/1 bath apartment closer to my new job. It's easier for me to take public transit and the commute for Jason from the places we're looking at are shorter than what I will be driving starting next week. I love my townhouse and am both excited and terrified of downsizing. 

I want simplicity back in my life, I want those clean lines and a place for everything. I want to reach in a drawer and get exactly what I'm looking for. The difficult part is deciding what to let go of and what to hold on to. I'm starting small - a drawer here, a cupboard there, a closet - and slowly but surely freeing myself of things. You can do anything for a year, and if moving to a small house is what is best for us at this time I have no fear that we will be happy in our new little nest - wherever that may be.

Summer of 26

It's been an adventuresome few months in the Bentley household. I'd like to say I will fill you in, but considering the chaos my life has been for the last few months I'll probably never deliver. To top it all off, I broke my camera the same day my dear friend delivered her first child, so photographic proof of my life has been nearly nonexistent as of late. Here's a few pictures to bring you up to current day...

Holding 3 hour old Ezra Nathaniel, first baby of my dear friends on June 3.

Halfway through Run to the Ruts 5K in Baker City. Happy 26th birthday a few days late to me! It was seriously the best (and most difficult!) 5K I've ever done and it's not entirely because I'm biased.

Crystal and I after the 1st Annual Run to the Ruts 5K my daddy organized at the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker City. The goodie bags were over-the-top awesome, those shirts we're wearing are women's tech and the race fee was $25 to name some of the highlights. Never mind the gorgeous views and breakfast burritos.

Trying to hike to Strawberry Lake.
I found the trail - notice how I'm three feet shorter than everyone else?

Speedy Turtles at the finish line for Cascade Lakes Relay. CLR is a BEAST!!!
My Aunt Deb came to visit and we hung out. Good times.
Baby sister got married on August 13. She's really tall.
(Yeah, we don't know what Jason was doing either, but this is so going on the Christmas card.)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Reflecting on Blessings

"What if you woke up today with ONLY the things you thanked God for yesterday?"

Miss Jordan at Southern Hospitality  posed this question at the end of her post recently and it struck a chord with me. After a particularly rough counseling session yesterday, followed by a delightful time with my abuelos and my aunt, the timing couldn't have been more perfect to give me a moment to reflect. 

The last couple of years haven't been a picnic. The last couple weeks have been especially draining emotionally and mentally. But in the midst of those ups and downs I have learned to focus on the blessings in my life. They are many...

A husband who always has my best interest at heart, laughs and cries with me, and is my best friend. A family that is only a phone call away. Friends who will drop everything to help me out. Two kitties who bring endless amusement into our home. Legs that can carry me from place to place. An inquisitive mind. Food in my cupboards, fresh veggies and fruit in my fridge. A soft bed to sleep in. Friendly neighbors. A God who justified me before I was born and has since covered me with a grace I cannot comprehend.

If those were the only things I woke up with tomorrow, I will still consider myself blessed beyond measure.


Friday, April 1, 2011

Flashback Friday: Shamrock Run

Happy Friday! I'm feeling behind on my posting and workouts, so it's time for a flashback to a great race - the 2011 Shamrock Run, which was held Sunday, March 13th. This was the first year since I've lived in Portland that I was in running shape to do the race and/or didn't have a weekend class at PSU. (Not that I would give up having met George Rede in 2009.) 

This year the annual race drew more than 35,000 runners and walkers of all abilities down to the Portland waterfront on a very rainy day with the promise of Irish music, beer, and Standford salmon chowder. (I listened to the music, but we'll get to the beer and chowder later) 

When I was formulating what I wanted to report after the race one thing kept coming back to me: the awesomeness of volunteers. While my family was doing this... 
Waiting for MAX at Sunset Transit station - 6:20 am
Volunteers had been working in the dark to set up booths, arrange the start/finish lines, supply water stations, organize clothe check, and entertain the early arrivers (a ka, us). 
Waterfront at 7 am, before the rain came down
After the obligatory Honey Bucket stops, Dad, Jason and I ran a couple warm up laps up and down the esplanade. I felt appropriately dressed with my capris, green plaid RunningSkirt, and don't-hit-me-yllow NIKE half-zip. I never fear getting too hot, but I have a deep-seeded fear of being too cold. I don't like being cold. More on that later. 

At the clothes check a cheery bunch of volunteers bagged our backpack, tagged it, and tagged Jason for later pick up. I was still grumpy and impressed with their helpfulness. Afterwards, I took a vanilla bean GU and hopped into the 8K start line. I had learned my lesson from the Jingle Bell 5K Run, so joined Jason 9:30 pace group so as not to be run over by dogs and strollers again. (Of which, ironically, there were none.) 

While waiting for the horn to sound, I made friends with the people around me. After about 15 minutes of standing, Jason took his jacket over to my parents - during which time it started raining pretty heavily - after deciding he didn't need it after all. Saved some 15Kers from starting in the wrong race. They appreciated that.

After a short eternity, we started moving. Then stopped. Then started. Then stopped. After three cycles of this I said to the people next to us, "One day we'll stop getting so excited at the first sign of movement." From that point I walked until I could see the start banner. 

The 8K course was tight for the first quarter mile as everyone found their stride and it didn't take long for me to lose sight of Jason altogether. So, I channeled the Army Airborne cadences, focused on my breathing, and took in the awesome view of the river. 

As I powered up the Burnside Bridge, I was once again struck by how hardcore volunteers are. (And noted someone else was as awesome as me and represented with the RunningSkirts green plaid.) There was a volunteer at every mile reading off the clock time as you ran past. Most were without umbrellas, there were some girls without jackets at all that cheered, and during some of the most challenging parts of the course there was always someone to give me a high five when I really needed it. I wanted to hug all of them. 

I called my Dad at the mile 8 (my mile 4-something) and said, "Just passed the 8 mile sign, which means I'm almost done sucker!" (He was doing the challenging 15K, cause he's a rockstar, so started later than us.) 

PS: It's difficult to call people and run. I don't know how people do it and this is the one and only time I have and don't think there will be a repeat

At mile 4-something people were handing out Voodoo Doughnuts and Little Debbies. This is where I made a rookie mistake. I indulged in the Little Debbie.  I even told the people how awesome they were. After 100 feet I immediately regretted my decision and started gagging and cursing the tempters. I should also note I had brought my Amphipod handheld water bottle, but once at the race discovered there was mold in it (yeah, totally gross - my loving husband had washed and prepared it for me, but didn't get it all out) so left it with bag check. So, I finished the race with a gnarly, gnarly taste in my mouth.
Basking in finishing glory. My first 8K and best race EVER
BUT, I finished! With a pretty dang decent time that I don't currently remember. Jason was ecstatic to see me as he wasn't expecting me for another 15-20 minutes. (See, I AM getting faster.) We took some photos and ran into one of our favorite Gym trainers, Don.
Have you ever seen a happier running couple?
Jason and Don. We <3 this guy.
While waiting for Dad we saw the first five 15Kers come in. The first won his weight in Widmer beer. It was funny to see people gather around and gawk at the first place champ - he had an entourage. 
My new Brooks getting drenched, but they made me fast.

Dad came in after 1:18 and some-odd seconds and we were SO PROUD. The 15K course is nothing to scoff at and all his high-altitude and hill training definitely paid off. 
Dad and me at clothes check post-race
After we got Dad, I said, "It's a long walk to clothes check, so we need to get you over there before you get cold and cramp up." Jason and I had already made the walk once so knew it was not messing around. Plus the 15Kers and 5K runners were all coming in at the same time so there was significantly more crowding.

My happy meter took a dive after we got Dad in dry clothes. All I wanted was a beer and the salmon chowder I'd been dreaming about. As I got colder and wetter, all I wanted was the chowder. When Debbie (she did the 5K Stride) came in all I wanted was to at least get in the line. Once we were in the line I began thinking we were in a fake line and all I wanted was to not be around people any more. Which, in the end, resulted in my family's new favorite picture of me... You're welcome.
I was trying to smile, honest.
All in all, it was a good race, despite the downward spiral at the end as I got colder, wetter, and crankier. I'm not sure I'll do it again, but if I do I think I'll deem everyone on their own while I get some chowder. ;-) 

Most of all, a HUGE THANK YOU to the volunteers. I don't think I've adequately conveyed how much they contributed to the atmosphere of the race. I think my memory of the race would be very different had they not been the rock stars they were. A couple days later I was still talking about how great they were and told Jason, "I think, as runners, we have a responsibility to volunteer for at least one race a year..."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Thankful Thursday: Just

I feel I could write a book on what I'm thankful for today. I have a home. I'm fed. My clothes are clean and dry. I have a car that will get me from place to place. I know where my friends and family are, and, most importantly, know that they are safe. The world is in chaos and uncertainty right now, and I feel that strongly as well, but in the midst of it all I see how blessed I am. It's the little things.

This song started playing in my head today. It's been my go-to song when life is filled with uncertainties.

Share In The Waiting by Greg Long

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Word from Japan

We received more news from our cousins in Japan. A word from Erik describing the conditions and specific needs...
Yoko & Erik - May 2007

Thank you for your continued prayers. There are several specific things you could pray for. One is God's peace on us. We continue to experience aftershocks, and some of them have been quite close to where we live. Here is one now! It is just off the coast from us about 50 miles/ 80 kilometers and measuring a 6.0. If you are not familiar with where we are; we are in Narita which is east of Tokyo and west of the coastal city of Choshi. Narita is home to the main international airport for this part of Japan.

Another prayer request is for us to be lights to those around us.

Lastly, please pray for the nation and the monumental task of rebuilding that lies ahead.

The nuclear plants to the north of us continue to fill the news. It appears that they are being honest with the current situation and not trying to down play it. We are a pretty good distance to the south from them, but we are told to be aware of any wind out of the north. They don't want people outside any more than they need to be.

Rolling blackouts have started in order to conserve electricity. We have been told that we would have them each day since Sunday but have not experienced one yet. The latest notice is that we are scheduled to have one tonight. Gasoline is being rationed, some stations are only allowing people to buy 10 liters or about 2.5 gallons at a time. One station near us lets people buy 3,000 yen worth of gas. At 140 yen a liter, you don't get a whole lot.

During they day, we have been hanging out in the "kids' playroom" in our apartment complex. It is on the second floor which doesn't move as much as our 9th floor apartment. Our building has 15 floors, so those at the top must be getting quite a ride.
Jason, Sarah, & Nike at Erik & Yoko's wedding.

Sarah (Erik's sister, our cousin), is doing well. She is planning on visiting us this weekend, but we are not sure if that will still happen or not. Yoko's family is safe, and we have heard from all of them.

Maika (their baby, less than a year) has been great through all of this. Thankfully she does not know what is going on which eliminates any fear she might have.....

My friend, Yoshimi, and her four-year-old left to be with her family in Japan today. The family is home now and are still anticipating her brother's wedding next week. They all could use some happiness in light of the tragedies.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Prayer for Japan

My heart sunk Friday morning when I learned why there were tsunami warnings off the Oregon Coast. My heart immediately thought of  my dear friend, Yo - her family is there and she is scheduled to visit the coming week. No phones, no e-mail. No word.

I thought of Cliff, in Hawai'i, preparing for Yo and E's arrival in a few weeks. Then I remembered Jason's cousins are in various areas of Japan - one now a resident with a beautiful family; the other preparing to come home after a year of teaching.

With the help of Facebook and a large dose of patience we learned Cliff was fine - the roads are another story. The Bentley cousins are all okay, though one cousin's family had to stay in a refuge overnight. Yo's dad called - her family is all alright. Thank God.

Today, as I watched the devastation unfold while in the comfort of my gym on a crisp, spring-like morning, my heart swelled anew. I cannot do all, but I can do something. Lord, show me what is mine to do.

While reading the captions of fearful parents, family who can't find their loved ones, my heart cried...
Lord, ease their minds. Comfort the lost, bring peace to the grieving. May this be a time of hope and coming together as a community. May what is best about humanity - our resilience, our compassion - shine during this time of darkness. Lay your hands on the relief workers - give them words of comfort and guide their actions. May the people of Japan feel love and peace at this time of uncertainty.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

We Interrupt This Program...

I don't make a secret of my disgust for what passes as news these days. I am single handedly trying to bring down the Jersey Shore by refusing to click on any links, read any magazine/newspaper articles, or mention the names The Situation or Snooki. Likewise, I will flip the channel if they happen to pop on the screen. I am merely one person, but I like to think my lack of acceptance could help turn the tide. I have been exercising the same restraints in regard to the Charlie Sheen fiasco. This has been harder considering he is literally on every station and I can't control the gym television so I know a little more about the situation than I would care to admit.

So, you can imagine my horror when I logged onto Facebook today and my mother-in-law's status stated this: Charlie Sheen 47, is all over the news because he's a celebrity drug addict while Andrew Wilfahrt 31, Brian Tabada 21, Rudolph Hizon 22, Chauncy May 25, are soldiers who gave their lives this week with no media mention. Please honor them by posting this as your status for a little while. May these heroes rest in peace!

Really, America? This is a disgrace and we should be ashamed. Here is my tribute, so at least my readers and myself will know their names and faces.

Photo Courtesy of Jeff Wilfahrt
Cpl. Andrew Wilfahrt, 31, of Rosemount, Minn., was killed Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011 by a bomb while on patrol in Afghanistan. His mother described him as a gentle soul who was very learned without going to traditional school. He joined the military because he was seeking structure, which was ironic as he had rebelled against structure preferring to do things his own way.

He was kind, he was compassionate, he was loved by his unit, friends, and family. (Source.)
Brian Tabada 21, of Las Vegas; assigned to 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.; died Feb. 27 in Konar province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit using small-arms fire and a rocket-propelled grenade.

He joined the Army in August 2008 and arrived at Fort Campbell in January 2009. He is survived by his father, Muncko Kruize of Honolulu, Hawaii, and Leinette Mahan of Las Vegas.  (Source)

U.S. Army SPC Rudolph R. Hizon was assigned to Task Force Patriot soldiers from 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.  Hizon, a 22-year-old Los Angeles native assigned to Company B, 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment’s Task Force Storm out of Fort Polk, LA. 

His comrades remember him for his easy smile - the kind of smile that makes everyone else in the room smile, cheerful disposition, and friendly support. (Source)

Spc. Rudolph R. Hizon 22, of Los Angeles, Calif., died Feb. 28, in Logar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using an improvised explosive device.  (Source)

Chauncy Mays, a 25-year-old native of Cookville, Texas, was assigned to 63rd EOD Bn, 20th Support Command and attached to 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division’s Task Force Patriot based at Fort Polk, La.,

He was assigned to 705th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company in the Tangi area. Mays was working out of Combat Outpost Tangi in support of 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, while deployed in Afghanistan.

Always careful, never fearful, Mays' comrades respected him and state he saved countless lives and the world is a lesser place without him. 
A decorated soldier, Mays died while in the Wardack province, Afghanistan. He is survived by his wife, Katherine, and daughters Chesnee and Kiley.  (Source)

Alongside Chauncy Mays, U.S. Army Spc. Christopher G. Stark, 22, died during an improvised explosive device attack while on a dismounted patrol in the Tangi area. Stark was working out of Combat Outpost Tangi in support of 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, while deployed in Afghanistan.

Several Soldiers said Stark was an outstanding team member and a great EOD technician. Stark’s comrades said he was always willing to help others and made everything he did fun for himself and for those around him. (Source)

A moment of silence and the playing of Taps... 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Epic Plunge

Two weeks ago some of my favorites and I stood half-dressed in 9-degree weather, patiently awaiting to plunge into 35-degree water. The next day we learned the scuba divers weren't there to save us - they were there to churn the water to keep it from freezing. We participated in the coldest Polar Plunge in Oregon history and raise over $400 for Special Olympics Oregon. Thank you to all who contributed!
Team Apocalypse - placed 4th for costumes
About this time I wondered why I was willingly running into freezing water. I don't run into water ever. (That's me in the pink shirt and black bikini bottoms on the right. I'm also picking up one of Jason's shoes he lost.)
Warming up took some help from apple cider and a vent on our feet.
We ended the evening with karaoke, dancing, and dumplings.
Jason's gearing up for next year, but I think I'll be the girl with the towels. ;-)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thankful Thursday: Just Dance in the Rain

I received a special treat today - an introduction to a new music artist. I've always identified with music more than any other medium. My brother and I always joked, "Things too stupid to say are nearly always sung," (that is an actual quote from someone famous) and I don't think I'd have it any other way.

Between the depression I've had for the last year plus and the fact that it's winter in the Willamette Valley and that's always hard on me, I'm finding this song beautiful and encouraging. A huge thank you to A{muse}ing Mommy on a Pink Park Bench for sharing Rhyne McCormick's work with her readers this morning.

Just let the rain fall down and be free...

Friday, February 25, 2011

Legally Blonde, Get Out of My Head

Ever have those days where a line from a movie will play over and over in your head? No? Just me then...

We joined a gym a couple weeks ago - opening day was February 11 - and to say the least, I'm in love. Like, really, it's almost a sickness. I've made friends with the front desk people and a couple of the trainers. (Yep, I'm feeling better - totally going out of my way to learn people's names and make them feel special.) Today I was so chatty Jason literally had to pull on my arm and say, "Nike, we need to get to the east side, we need to go..." But then I had to say good morning to Pam, and then say goodbye to Pam, Stormi, and Don (who I just met today). Needless to say, my feeling better is coming with it's own complications, but they're ones we'd rather have.

Anyway, about the gym. It's a Crunch Gym and their motto is "No Judgments." Love. I've been a member of a gym before and frequented a few others, but I've always felt so out of place, awkward, and inferior to everyone else there. Here I feel like a valuable member of a special group. I see all types at this gym and I frequently want to give them high fives or clap and tell them, "Way to go! You're getting of the couch and doing something good for yourself!" I restrain, cause I'm not sure that would be well received.

Yesterday we took the Tread n' Shed (I insist on calling it the Tread n' Shred class). It was amazing and is going to become part of my interval and hill training. There were two gentlemen to my right who started singing along really loudly to a song I'd never heard and it warmed my heart. I gave everyone in my class a mental high-five cause they worked their booties off and it was not easy.

It's taken a few years, but I've finally found a place in my life and routine for exercise. The strange thing is, I've become a runner and a morning person seemingly overnight. Who saw that coming? Definitely not me.

"I just don't think that Brooke could've done this. Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don't shoot their husbands, they just don't." ~ Elle, Legally Blonde 

Off to jump in the icy Deschutes River... what are your weekend plans?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Fashionably Late

It's probably more than obvious I've fallen off the blogging bandwagon for the last month. I've also been terrible about reading blog posts, but I'm determined to catch up!

The lovely and inspiring Jessica of A Student Runner's Blog left me this little gift... 

I'm completely flattered - stylish is something I aspire to, but feel I never quite attain. (Hence my current hairstyle. I'll totally post a picture as soon as I figure out how to manage its new awesomeness.)

So, here's the rules... the recipient needs to:
1.  Write a post and link back to the person who awarded this award.
2.  Share 7 random things about yourself.
3.  Award 15 recently discovered great bloggers.
4.  Contact these bloggers and tell them they’ve won!

1. I didn't eat anything but Ramen Noodles until I was six years old. This resulted in a life-long nickname of Nike Noodles. Yeah, that was fun in Junior High. (Also, I can't stand Ramen now and haven't eaten them since I was 12 or so.)

2. I've become a morning person and a gym rat in the last couple weeks. Never saw that coming, but I'm loving every minute of it. It's become my sanctuary.

3. I'm very impressionable. Run Oregon posted something about exercises to  prepare you for the Zombie Apocalypse yesterday and then a couple of my girlfriends were talking about how they talk about zombies too much. Last night I had a dream about running from zombies and racing Kenyans while holding hands with Jason. I've never seen a zombie movie or read a zombie book. 

4. In my mind I'm a Kenyan, which makes it really frustrating when Green Garmin or the treadmill tells me what my real speed is. 

5. I struggle with where I stand on the Pro-Life/Pro-Choice arguments. I identify Pro-Choice, but am not necessarily pro-abortion. I think there are shady dealings in both camps and I think the heart of the issue is a lack of education and resources. I saw a sign yesterday that said, "Consistent Birth Control is the Sexiest Way to Prevent Abortions." That's very much in line with my thinking.

6. I've had a baby name book since I was 13 years old. It started as a resource for finding character names for my short stories. Yesterday the boy and I finished highlighting all the names we agree on (47 girl names and 49 boy names) in hopes of having a smaller field of names, and ones we both agree on, when we do decide to have children. 

7. It freaks me out when people call their baby by the name they've chosen while the baby is still in utero.  

15 is a lot, we'll see how far I get... 

1. Evie of Treble Maker
2. Laura of Make Yourself at Home 
5. Leslie & Shanwa of Pink Spandex 
6. Heather of Running with Sass 
9. Laurie of The Corner Slice
10. Norma of keep it simple 
15. JJ at The Confetti Party 

Thankful Thursday: Health

9 members of Monday Night Posse at White Canyon Trail
Today, I am thankful for health. I'm thankful that I can wake up in the morning and get out of bed without pain or assistance. I'm thankful my body is capable of running 4.5 miles without fatigue, even if I'm not as fast as I would like to be. I'm thankful that, despite my lack of coordination, I can follow a Belly Butt Thigh aerobic class without fainting. Tripping maybe, but no fainting.

I'm also thankful that for the first time in three years I can consistently take my wedding ring on and off easily, hike up mountains without feeling like I'm suffocating, and live an active lifestyle without wanting to throw up. I'm thankful to finally be seeing results as I consciously make decisions to improve my whole mind, body, spirit. I like the changes I'm seeing - physically and mentally - and I'm feeling very hopeful for the future and appreciating the now.

Tomorrow I will join my best friend in Bend, my husband, and several other crazies at the Riverbend Park. From there, we will plunge into the icy waters. I've never been one for cold water, but the cause is worthwhile. Special Olympics of Oregon is the beneficiary of the Polar Plunge Oregon events. I am healthy and getting more athletic by the day. Nothing moves me more than people with the odds stacked against them doing incredible things - Special Olympics of Oregon helps athletes with intellectual disabilities be the best they can be every day, in every season, at every age. (If you'd like to donate to this awesome cause, you may do so by clicking on the Polar Plunge link on the right side of my homepage or click here. Do it for the kids.)

What inspires you to be better/healthier?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Memories of Shadows, Ink on the Page

I promise I'll write a real post soon. There's a lot going on right now and I hardly have a moment at the computer. My brother shared this song on Facebook and I find it hauntingly beautiful. He said it's something that's been on his mind a lot lately and I really felt the lyrics for reasons different than his, but I think we've all had those moments of loneliness and feeling abandoned - even though we're not. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Thankful Thursday: Blogs

I discovered blogs a few years ago. With the help of my professor, George, the blog world opened up to me in a whole new way in 2009. So, here is my thanks:

To you (and you, and you) who inspire me to lace up my running shoes - thank you.

To you who show me the beauty in the world - thank you.

To you who remind me to never give up on my goals - thank you. 

To you who create beautiful things - thank you.

To you, you, and you who make me laugh - thank you.

And thank you, Jordan at Southern Hospitality, for sharing this beautiful piece of encouragement today: 

I hope this year, when you are spreading your wings to reach for more, you remember embrace that there will always be people trying to bring you down. Those people who are jealous or intimated by you and your potential. Those people mistake their own insecurities for confidence and try to justify themselves by attempting to belittle another person's character. It's so important not to allow those people to influence your attitude. It's true when they say he who anger's your, conquers you, so rise above it and believe in yourself. The past is behind you, the future is looking promising and life is such a beautiful ride. You CAN do it!

The list could go on and on. The blog community is incredible and I have learned so much from each of you. Thank you.

Monday, January 3, 2011

2010: A Year of Standing Still

Old Father Time has passed the torch to 2011. This year my response is, "Good riddance!" In reflecting, however, I'm remembering the highlights 2010, though trying, brought. So here's to the annual survey. (For a 2009 refresher, click here.)

2010: The Survey

Was 2010 good for you?
The year as a whole, no, but it had some high points.

What was your favorite moment of the year? Running under the Hood to Coast "Finish" banner with 10 other teammates in various stages of pain while our spry 12th runner took off ahead. We were all laughing, tripping in the sand, and yelling, "Tooooom! Wait!" I laugh every time I remember that moment.

What was your worst moment of the year? December 16 when I came face to face in the shortcomings of our mental health system.

Where were you when 2010 began? I don't remember... weird. Did I go to bed before Midnight?

Who were you with? I bet Jason was there wherever I was.

Where were you when 2010 ended? At the Halls' house, standing with my arm around Jason, Josh and Laura to my right, and the rest of the Monday Night Posse in front and behind me. It was a beautiful thing to countdown and clink glasses with people who have come to mean so much to me over the last year.

Did you keep your new years resolution of 2010? I followed through with some of the not-so-fun commitments I made to myself. I had also resolved to be more cultured and that was certainly accomplished.

Do you have a new years resolution for 2010? To live boldly. To be intentional in my actions, be present in every moment, and stand my ground.

Did you fall in love in 2010? Every day.

Did you make any new friends in 2010? Yes, 2010 was a good year for new friends. I love my running buddies and it is fun to stay in contact with my subbed-in H2C teammates.

What was your favorite month of 2010? July

Why this month? The sun came out and stayed out for awhile, I made a surprise trip to Baker for Dad's 50th birthday, hung out with my abuelos, and Aunt Deb came to visit.

Did you travel outside of the country in 2010? No, I really need to renew my passport. I'm looking at you, Canada. And Dominican Republic. And South Korea. And Japan...

How many different places did you travel to in 2010? Baker, Bend, Prineville, Salem, Hug Point, Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Seaside, Tillamook, Carlsbad, San Diego, Denver, Sutherlin and a bunch of places along the I-5 corridor.

Did you miss anybody in the past year? My brother and my besties

What was your favorite movie that you saw in 2010? Secretariat

What was your favorite song from 2010? "If I Die Young" by The Band Perry

How many concerts or plays did you see in 2010? Jason took me to see CATS! and a friend took me to see The Lion King at the Keller. We also saw Clackamas High put on Les Miserables and an elementary production of Wizard of Oz.

Did you have a favorite concert in 2010? No concerts, but I loved Les Mis.

What was your favorite book in 2010? My favorite fiction book was Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay and my favorite nonfiction was Until Death Do Us Part by Ingrid Betancourt. (I read the version printed after Betancourt was released from her captivity.)

Did you do anything you are ashamed of this year? I'm not impressed with my work performance.

What was the biggest lie you told in 2010? "I'm fine and everything's great."

Did you treat somebody badly in 2010? No, I finally told the truth with compassion and firmness.

Did somebody treat you badly in 2010? No, because I set up boundaries.

What was your proudest moment of 2010? Completing the Hood to Coast.

What was your most embarrassing moment of 2010? I must have blocked it.

If you could go back to any moment of 2010 and change something, what would it be? I would have been happier to hear from my best friend at 7 am instead of being grumpy pants.

Where did you work in 2010? LifeWorks NW

Favorite TV shows(s) of 2010? Glee, Without a Trace, Lie to Me, The Mentalist, Criminal Minds, and How I Met Your Mother

Favorite Band(s) of 2010? Lady Antebellum and The Band Perry

Favorite Food in 2010? I was really digging post-run hamburger and fries this year. Horrible, I know.

Favorite Drink in 2010? Vanilla Chai Tea and Vanilla Rooibos Tea Latte

Favorite Place in 2010? Disneyland

Favorite person(s) to be with in 2010? Jason, Aunt Deb, Dad, and Heather

Favorite person(s) to talk to in 2010? Aunt Deb, Bobby, Grandma+pa

Favorite trip in 2010? Drive to Carlsbad for Thanksgiving and surprise trip to Disneyland at the tail end of it.

Favorite stores in 2010? FitRight NW and RunningSkirts

Hardest thing you had to go through in 2010? Recognizing I have depression and the ensuing battle that's resulted from that. Thankfully I'm blessed with a supportive husband and friends who love on me.

Most exciting moment(s) in 2010? Jason entering the Bachelors part of his adult degree program; anytime marshmallows, chocolate, graham crackers, roasting sticks, and a fire were around; eating at the Marrakesh with the Monday Night Posse; all of Hood to Coast; and standing in line for the teacup ride at Disneyland...

Funniest moment(s) in 2010? It's only funny now, but was very not funny at the time: when my hammock strap broke during our Goat Peak/Rock(?) backpacking trip. I was so tired I said to Jason, "Screw it, I'll just sleep here" (here being the bottom portion of my hammock on the ground while the other portion was tied to the other tree).

Nike & Jason in 10-degree weather at the 2nd Twin Lake. First snowshoeing trip of the season, December 31, 2010.