Ultra


I’m still working on a race recap to my recent adventure in Texas over the past weekend. Most often my writing in relation to those trips maintain themselves over on my running-specific blog. However, after the past week, my heart is so full that my passion and my life have truly intertwined into something beautiful that I feel compelled to share with the rest of the world.

Yes, this is a little emotional.

Two weekends ago my wife and I learned that her mother had passed away. Outside of the immediate sadness and comfort dedicated to my wife, it created some questions on what to do with the entire process. We’re both only children, my wife does not have a father to speak of, and her mother left this planet with no life insurance policy, estate, etc…Plus, Darco and I had already planned to go to Texas the following weekend.

First, I’m blessed to work in a school building with people that are genuine enough to care about your wellbeing, take over your classes, and help you fill out paperwork of bereavement so you can be with your family. I am so fortunate that my coworkers and supervisors were so easily willing to allow me time away from school in the middle of the school year. Only by God’s blessing did I wind up with substitute teachers that covered my classes, took my assignments home, studied them, and helped teach students while I was gone. I am indebted to so many people from this large brick building.

Also, my parents stepped up to do exactly what we needed them to do in such a tough situation: nothing. MC and Jim carried on conversations with us throughout this time acknowledging what had happened, but not dwelling on it either. In many ways, their house was a safe-haven for my wife to retreat to from the onslaught of emotion in regards to preparing the dead for burial. Additionally, both having lost parents over the years, were able to assist us in preparation pieces and expectations leading up to the ceremony.

My wife made a decision to ensure that the funeral was taken care of no later than Wednesday via the funeral home. This was not done in regards to expediting the process in order to head to Texas; it was done because my wife does not like to dwell on what was.  As her and her family met with the funeral director some information came out about funerals. They are not free. Now, take that reality and apply it with the above mentioned piece of Darco’s mother not having anything to take care of moments like this in the event of her passing.

Darco stressed out.

The funeral home, as it turns out, has a ‘crowd funding’ site similar to gofundme and kickstarter, but solely to help offset expenses of the funeral. While we were hesitant, we figured it was better than nothing.

We are fortunate that my wife is employed through the company that she is. They take care of their employees in incredible ways. Due to the financial strain of this development; two things were able to take place:

  1. Darco was able to apply for a ‘cup fund’ in which employees in the company donate to for partners that have moments like these
  2. She was also able to get an emergency loan against her 401K that she had been building since prior to being 20 years old

Being able to have these two pieces were massive in the ability to show the funeral home that funds were available, and the process could go forward.

Her mother passed away on Saturday, this was all taken care of by Tuesday. My wife is strong.

The morning of the funeral I found my wife checking the account that had been set up by the funeral home to accept donations. It was at this point that God’s grace began to completely overwhelm us in emotional, tearful ways. Almost half of the funeral expenses had been covered by people donating; literally throughout the entire United States. A huge chunk of them coming from the running community that Darco and I have become a part of over the past year. Even to the point that one of the runners, the owner of a local coffee shop, asked if they could hold a ‘latte art throwdown’ contest in order to raise funds to offset the funeral costs. All of this combined allowed Darco the ability to not worry about the money, and instead mourn the loved one that she had lost.

The funeral was Wednesday. The substitute teachers had been checking in with me throughout the day via email to ensure my students were following instructions. After the funeral, my wife and I came home to a house to start packing for the trip to Texas. At this point it was not about running, it was about giving my wife a chance to get out, breathe deep, and just recover.

By Friday night we were laying in our hotel room, alarms set to 3:45 AM, and with the funeral still fresh in our minds we also realized that the next morning started another adventure; my first ultra-marathon.

Several months ago I had decided to sign up for this challenge. I wanted to run 31 miles in the woods, on trails in order to become an ultra-marathon runner (any distance over 26.2 miles). I had been training for months to get myself ready for this event, and my wife had been incredibly supportive through the whole journey.

31 miles, 9 hours and 38 minutes later under the hot Texas sun I crossed the finish line with a random lady from Denver, Colorado. My wife and our friend were able to get my finish on film, photos were taken, and water was drank.

Facebook. Exploded.

The amount of congratulations flowing through my timeline looked like we had announced a pregnancy (no, by the way). My social media feeds were more active than my birthday. I had gone an entered myself into a statistic that places me with .05% of the American population. Truth be told; I accomplished something that I didn’t even know was possible.

More importantly though was recognizing the amount of people that were watching it happen. One of my coworkers went to get running shoes at the store that I frequent constantly for running gear on Saturday. When she walked in she noticed a group of workers surrounding a computer, while she was walking up to them, one of them yelled, “Shawn only has 7 miles left!” They were watching my race updates live 12 hours away from the race.

My heart has been so full as of late.

There is not enough to be said or enough to be done to thank so many people that have done so many amazing things for myself and my wife. From being with us in our lowest moments preparing for sorrow and mourning, to being with us from the happiness of accomplishing something I once thought was impossible.

We are blessed in ways that neither one of us could have ever predicted. This is a life that both of us can agree on, that we don’t deserve. God has shown us so vividly over the past week how vital it is to have fellowship with others around us.

Thank you, everyone. I wish I could do better to share my heart’s joy with you all.

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You have no idea how wonderful it has been to see her smile again.

-D-

Full & Content


Between passes of chips amongst the tables, around the salted rims of margaritas, and underneath the bowls of salsa was found laughter, humor, and smiles abroad.

Over 20 people; from different walks of life, lined the tables for a feast and an evening of company. Work, family, politics, all major themes were in play through the monthly dinner at the local eatery.

People spoke of future adventures, heckled each other for being ‘too hurt to run’, and inquired with newcomers on which wind blew them towards this strange, close crew.

A refill of water, a new plate of chips; the night passed on for the tiresome group. As the night began to settle, the laughter transitioned into final farewells;.knowing that they would see each other once all too soon. Bringing the evening to a close.

It’s true to what many say about the lines of family and friends easily being blurred. I’m fortunate, blessed to be surrounded so frequently of this unique hybrid that leaves my heart full and content.

-D-

First Vote


There are so many reasons that I love the school that I am able to teach in on a daily basis. So many instructors are insanely creative, administration tends to be very supportive with the wild endeavors, and the students come from every, single walk of life. While it can be crazy at times, it is also a beautiful experience.

Friday demonstrated one of those moments.

I teach social studies in our school. I am teamed up with another social studies teacher who loves to push the limits of young minds. It is inspiring, motivating, and easy to follow along with. Our school, through her guidance, did take part in its own ‘mock election’ yesterday. Students voted on President/Vice-President, Governor, Senate, and House of Representatives for the respective area. All three grade levels voted, with literal booths borrowed from voting establishments, actual “I Voted” stickers, and a registration sheet for students to sign-in on at their arrival. All things considered, it was very professional and reflected strongly what a polling place looks like.

Personally though, it was not the event itself that truly made my heart swell, it was the remark of one specific student:

Our school is incredibly diverse; students come from all different backgrounds; ethnic, racial, religious, etc…A few weeks ago I received a new student, they were originally from a country located in Central America and had only been in the United States for aa few years. Her class was to vote at 12:20 PM on Friday, she came to see me around 10:30 AM and created a fascinating dialogue…

Student: Are we voting in class today?
Me: Yes.
Student: As in, we are going to select political officials?
Me: Yes. It is not real because you are not of voting age, but the simulation is real.
Student: So I get to choose someone?
Me: Yes.
Student: I can tell my family I voted?
Me: Yes.
Student: *tears in eyes* I actually get to do this? I can vote today? This is a real event that is going on in school? I’m so excited. I have heard of people doing this, but I do not know what it is like.
Me: You get to vote today.

Later in the day, after they voted, the student actual ran from their voting booth, exclaiming, tears running down from their chestnut colored eyes…rather loudly in the polling place…”I voted! I got to vote!”

Not as a teacher. Not a social scientist. Just as a citizen, I wish I could have bottled up that raw emotion, that passion, that unknown opportunity and distribute it out amongst the bitter masses that have polluted so much of sociological existence within our culture.

While I do frequently try to avoid topics about politics on here; I would at least challenge you to exist as a citizen with the heart of a 12 year old.

The local news stations covered our elections! Check out the links!
Fox 4
KCTV5
Action 41 News

-D-

#getyourpraiseon


The interesting adventure that is known as teaching comes with many strange opportunities with the territory. Just from the past year and a half I have worked retail, coached, debated over anime characters, and also ensured that students were attempting to be successful in class.

I suppose it comes with the territory of teaching; you wear many hats.

A new path opened itself a few weeks ago, a student came to me wishing to know who was in charge of the debate club inside the school. I gave them the information and quickly ushered them out of my classroom prior to the bell ringing to start class.

ngmd-logo-imageWhat I had not expected was for the student to return with the following…

The instructor from last year cannot do it this year because they are teaching college courses. They said you should do it.

Adding to my hat collection…

Honestly, this is rather exciting. After some work behind the scenes, countless pieces of advise from other instructors, and tapping into the debate network at our local high schools; last Thursday we actually had our first debate club meeting. Students have opportunities to digest current issues around the world, analyze the high school challenge topics for the year through the debate circuit, and even heading into the rest of the year perhaps an opportunity to challenge themselves against high school opponents.

I’m not 100% sure the entire direction of this program, but it is rather exciting, as a former competitor, to be able to give back to the community that gave so much to me.

Resolve: Middle school students should have the opportunity to expand their knowledge base on current events; articulating discussion points in order to persuade a panel that their path is the correct one.

-D-

 

Heart


I received a hand written letter tonight after a hot, muddy run through the woods. It was an awesome, encouraging thank you letter from the previous weekend.

I did well reading the encouragement, all the way until the final sentence. Only then did my emotional state become unstable. In the cursive font I read the following:

You’ve got the heart of an ultrarunner the same way you have a heart of a good Christian.

It has been at least six years since anyone has ever said good and Christian when identifying me. This didn’t come from a preacher, choir leader, Sunday School teacher, missionary, theological professor, elder, or deacon. It came from no one within the Church. It came from a person that I want to match step-for-step with in the mud one day.

I was called a good Christian.

I was called a good Christian.

I whisper this to myself with a half smile; facial muscles fighting off sobbing or quivering lips. This is something I never deserved to read:

I was called a good Christian.

The jealous, lustful, divorced, cheating, spiteful, hateful, flawed, ugly soul that roams this earth…was called a good Christian.

I was given a compliment that I had assumed I would never hear again in my lifetime.

Even through the stress of today I’m going to bed with a happy heart. I witnessed God’s grace tonight, and my soul smiles because of it.

Cool handwriting!

-D-

XXXI: My Declaration


I’m sitting in my basement. The sun is shining through two windows and the blinds are currently drawn on the patio doors adjacent to this entertainment room. Above I can hear our two cats wrestling with each other in the living room. The laundry is caught up, washed, dried, and put away. We’re working on a way to correct our frame for our new bed so that our cats will not destroy our box springs (again). The kitchen is calm, dishes are washed, and I’m thinking of cooking ribs tonight for dinner. I washed my truck for the first time in six year. Darco’s tomato plant is growing, and our new landscaping in the front yard looks great thanks to my wife’s hard work. Her dress is currently drying in the summer breeze out on our porch looking over our backyard. We just learned that my wife will be receiving another ‘promotion’ within her company in the next six months. Granted, if I gave details she would be all bitter towards me for sure.

Later today, time permitting, Darco and I will drive six miles down the road and explore the trails that surround the lake that we live next to. Tonight Darco and I will attend Bible study with a group of people that are relatively close to our age. We’ll laugh, study, and talk about our positions in life and what we think God is directing us towards. In a few days MC and Jim will come to our house and we’ll watch the fireworks display that is being set off only two miles away from our neighborhood. Tomorrow morning I’ll run from our house, across the dam of our local lake, into the small downtown of our town. I’ll grab a cup of coffee, eat a cinnamon roll, and then run back to our house. Afterwards I’ll meet MC and Jim and we’ll depart to the city 15 miles south of our neighborhood. We’ll ride the streetcar, shop through the open air river market, and explore antique stores through the city’s old industrial sector referred to as the West Bottoms.

***

Between the founding concept of this website and the world currently outside my front door, negativity is something that plagues the world around me. Someone is upset, offended, hurt, or dead it seems every minute (maybe even more). Social media tends to be toxic with people arguing over what is right and what is wrong.

This world is a shockingly hard place to live in.

If I get wrapped up in what is so wrong with the reality around me I’ll miss the blessings that have already seen set before me. The truth is God is good and has blessed me tenfold in the past five years. I have a loving wife, a pretty entertaining job, and I live somewhere that I would have only imagined living in, in my own wandering dreams. I have central air conditioning…and tile floors…and a garage! God has given me more than I should ever deserve. Biblically speaking I only deserve death, so there’s that. I’m only curious, and this is solely directed towards the ‘Christians’ of the world. Whatever happened to us giving praise for the life we have? The enjoyment that we should never have had in the beginning? It is so easy to rely on God when the chips are down, but what about the other moments.

One of my objectives since 2011 was to experience life to its fullest. That included a crazy marriage, moving, and many different jobs. However, guess what, God has stayed faithful through every single moment of my life. He never left me, never forsake me, never gave up on me. He ‘s still right here, and I can’t express how comforting that is.

Let’s be real; I’m a divorced Christian that remarried to a woman who wasn’t even a Christian when we first met. I watch anime from Japan, teach middle school students, enjoy tattoos, running, and electronic dance music. Sometime during the year my beard is dyed different colors, and sometimes I even wear headbands when my hair is getting long. There is nothing, I pray, nothing about my life that fits the criteria of being a ‘Christian’ in today’s society.

Even thinking back to the days of youth church camps, mission trips, etc…there always seemed this unspoken urge to be sad, broken, or devastated about this, that, or the other. Don’t get me wrong, Paul, David, John, Job, and many others all tore their clothes for the sorrows of their own life’s and that of others. However, they also danced, rejoiced, and praised the high points of life.

I don’t think God expects us to be stoic.

I think God expects us to live a life worth living, and to reflect back knowing that we gave it our all and we had a blast along the way.

I will declare my happiness, my joy, and my peace at this moment in my own life. Darco and I are blessed, and I firmly believe that as a Christian couple it is our responsibility to not only seek God throughout our days, but also to give Him praise when life turns out in ways we could never dream of happening.

We’re praising. We’re blessed. God is good.

-D-