Tuesday, December 30, 2014

What If???

I have three lives.....one third that of a cat; my family life, my running life, and my life of sheepdogs....each brings joys and learning opportunities....each comes together in the making of me.  Recently, I've been logging a few running miles in preparation for my first ever half marathon that I will run January 18.  I love running....not so much the act of running because that comes with some baggage, but the effect running has on my brain.  If not world problems then most certainly my problems get solved or, at the least, put in perspective right around mile 3; every mile there after is productive sorting of ME.  Some days I drift into wishing I'd found running earlier in life.....who might I have become had I?  I always come back around to being grateful I have found that my two feet can carry my brain into inner depths of finding more and more of who I really am; what I am really made of.

Lately, I've been thinking about "what if's"?  "What if this were my last Christmas?" Would I spend it the way I did?  Would I say the things that came out of my mouth, had I known it was my last?  Would I have extended grace in the face of bitterness?  Would I have found compassion as disappointment showed up?  What if my first half marathon, in reality, were my last?  Would I prepare more, release expectation of pace, find blessings amongst the sore muscles and wheezy lung?  What if I let go of trying to make others happy?  The "what ifs" taking me deeper in as well as letting me go....freeing.

I look at my Snook dog, my first border collie, the one who introduced me to sheep and the ugly side of myself.  Snook is turning an old 13 this year; hind end thinning with wasting muscle.  I know my "what if's" are closer to reality with Snook.  I pinch her cheeks and remember all she has brought into my life and I discipline myself to seize the day with her.

I've always reveled in the week between Christmas and New Year's Day; collecting slogans, motivating pictures, dreams, goals, aspirations for the year to come.  Every year, I read a few more motivational sports psychology books and am told to "visualize", "manifest", "name it/claim it", "a person's mind cannot tell the difference between that which is vividly imagined vs. what is real" or something along those lines.  I look back over my vision board and note that much of what I have put on it has come to be.  On the one hand, I'm blessed, honored, astounded.....on the other hand, a sense of superficial ME-ism rears its ugly head. I understand that working on me is what I should be working on, however self absorption might be best tempered with .....something other than that.

I wonder: what if this year, I put on my vision board:  join in curing 90% of childhood cancer, building  a school in Africa, donate what has been collected to the betterment of others?

A few things about me, that I know for sure:  I have always been "all or nothing".  When I want to learn something new, I delve right in...reading books, watching videos, getting in and dirty with all that is required to understand, accomplish, conquer, succeed.  I'm also pretty freaking honest which has the down side of knowing that sometimes "truth is relevant"; very cliche but every so.....true!  For 2015, I believe I am going to strive for "BALANCE".....looking for answers into the "what if's" before I act so that each day can be one of making my life extraordinary.  With balance, I know there are things I must let go of along the things I need to embrace.

2015's vision board is coming to life, filled with one portion self improvement, a scoop of joining the cause of something bigger than me,  and a few sides of dreams, goals, and impossibilities to round me out and keep me living a life that, if it were my last days, would be so worth living.

For my half marathon, I am fundraising for the kids at St Jude Children's Hospital.....where the goal is to cure 90% of childhood cancer and no child with cancer goes untreated because of not being able to afford care.  Want to join my team?  You can donate here:  Be a St Jude Hero

Happy New Year!!!  May 2015 be filled with profound intention and dreams come true!

Seize the Day!!!!!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

And Then This Happened

I've spent the past few months watching my 2014 final's run with Bella.  As I've confessed, I've gone through the stages of death and dying.....shock, denial, anger, bargaining, anger, depression, acceptance and HOPE. Yes, I'm still sorting....months later.  I'm grateful to good friends who spend their precious time watching, providing feedback, listening; honesty with the heart of greater good is such a rare commodity these days.  I could delve into the mirky waters to share what I have learned about myself: real deep inner ah-ha's from 10 minutes on a hay field in Carbondale, Colorado with my instructors: 5 sheep and Bella.

photo by Jenny Glen
I've been running my body, miles and miles of road running, in preparation for a half marathon in January.  All the little details of working towards the race amaze me at what I never knew I had inside myself.  Everything requires practice:  14 mile long runs getting my joints and bones accustomed to the pounding,  speed work to make me faster, lifting for strength, hills for endurance and racing to understand pace, work on mental toughness, feel what it's like to run with hundreds of other runners.

photo by Jenny Glen
Then life, running and sheepdogs meet right there in the middle of my head........at the finals and most trials, I find myself either filming runs, asking to scribe, or sitting off watching runs....all of which equals me really watching.  I enjoy the different styles of dogs, the different ways handlers approach the course. My true confession is: sometimes I get caught up in running my dog way different than I train my dog.  Be to the fact I do train my own dogs, this can be very problematic.... and, at the least, frustrating for my dog!  I believe that is what I see most in my final's run.....a dog trying to sort out who the heck was standing at the post and what the heck she wanted!

photo by Kerri Back Photography
What's a girl to do?  

photo by Kerri Back Photography

I've taken a little break from trialing and teaching lessons; this winter I've put my name out to work in the trenches.  I really enjoy the "real work" on so many levels.  Some of my younger dogs are getting to take a turn at jobs and it's so amazing to see the understanding develop.  When I close the gate on a tough job, the level of pride I feel for my dogs is just darn right amazing. It's in the real work that I find myself again, how I train, how I communicate, all things relationship.  The sense of the job brings clarity and understanding.....my corrections become help, I can laugh at the ridiculousness when things go south. These are the qualities in me that I would like to take back onto the trial field.


As I live my life out.....I am really beginning to see how much mental discipline is something that is worked on and developed much like strength and endurance.  Strength and endurance don't just happen, I work at them.  Eric Orton from The Cool Immposible writes: "It is easy to perform when things are going well, but just like in life, 'real' performance is about how we act after we think, being aware, and continuing to perform when things "seem" to be wrong.But in reality, the only thing that is wrong is this flawed thinking in the moment. Can you perform when your thinking goes south?  Can you be aware when thinking goes wrong?  Can your mind perform when you want the current situation to be different?
I tell my athletes, everyone has negative thoughts; it is what we do with the negative thoughts that separate the elite thinkers from the average thinkers in sport.  This is important to understand.  We all have negative thoughts, no one is immune.  The first step is to understand this and realize avoidance is not the target.  And, when we do have these thoughts it doesn’t mean we are not mentally strong.  The mentally strong have trained and perfected how to respond to challenging times, which inevitably produce negative feelings.  So the take home here is do not beat yourself up if you have bad thoughts during your performance, EXPECT IT and then MODIFY IT."


I jump from Eric's thesis of practicing, training and perfecting response to negative feelings to practicing running my dogs the way I train...and then being true to myself when things go south just as much as when the run goes well. For me, it's something that requires work and thoughtful practice to strengthen this to begin to become my strong muscle memory.  As I delve in, I see the dogs begin to relax and give back with greater understanding, consistency and relationship.  Funny how it all comes back to me........and there in lies my hope.

Seize the Day!