How to Fight Fire with Fire

I lead a very fast paced life. It’s been described as nuts, crazy, too much and has been described as “intimidating.” When running obstacle course races (OCRs) and attending heavy metal concerts is considered your down time, yeah I guess I would agree with that statement.

The concern I get from others is honest and real. I take it seriously and I know they are looking out for my best interest. Sure, I think some are truly concerned but, it’s possible some are just uncomfortable.

Making people uncomfortable has been a constant thread in my life, but we’ll talk about that another day.

It might appear like these activities are fueling the fire and I am certainly aware of the possibility of burnout. I have noticed, if I’m unbalanced in other areas of my life, there is danger in this fuel if everything else is spinning out of control. However, if other areas of my life are balanced, the flame is contained and these activities serve as a release. There is no spillover.

Describing what these activities do for me has been difficult, because at first I didn’t fully understand it. Running 10+ races in 6 different states (some of these races lasting 11+ hours) this year has given me some time to think and now I get it.

It has everything to do with the task at hand.

My life is busy. It’s loaded with things to do, places to be and things to create. Nearly all of these activities are susceptible to interruption and distraction. (Even as I write this, I have two dogs getting in my face and trying to lick my hands. Like why?) Aside from OCRs, I can’t remember completing a task from start to finish without some form of disruption. I have a young family and a young business – it’s just the current season of my life. I accept it.

Racing provides me with a task at hand. I pack my bag with the necessities: water, fuel, mustard (for cramping), chapstick and likely an extra layer for unexpected weather. The clothes on my body is carefully chosen, right down to the socks that cover my ankles during rope obstacles and hopefully prevent poison ivy (yeah, right).

The night before a race is when I turn inward. I get my game face on and my mindset in place. It’s all about laying out the gear, packing and stretching out. Oh and the obligatory Instagram photo. My busy life fades away and it’s shear focus on the upcoming event.

I’ve done enough Spartan races to know where to go and what to do that even those actions become part of my pre-race prep. It’s methodical and routine. I enter the starting area and the MC gets the crowd going. I participate and go through the paces, but I’m still turning inward and preparing for what I’m about to tackle.

Before I know it, we give our final “AROO!” warrior call and we’re off. This is where the magic happens.

It becomes all about the task at hand.

There are no emails or phones to answer. No questions asked. No interruption. It’s about the Here and Now. Right Now. What’s right in front of you, what lies ahead and what you’re about to overcome.

This is where I find peace. Ok truthfully, after the race is where I find the peace. Certainly there were courageous attempts, successes and failures. It’s an accomplishment no matter what happens. I might be bumped and bruised. I may walk like I’ve ridden across the country on horseback, but I am lighter.

I am lighter.

I am lighter because I have left everything out on course. I’ve pored my heart into the task at hand. I’ve sweat and grit my teeth. I’ve experienced thirst and hunger. Pain and pure victory. And that fire jump finish ignites my heart. It solidifies, “I can and I will.”

Peace lives at the finish line.

Odd Girl Out

Note: It’s been a terribly long time since I’ve last written. Life has been crazy. It’s been awesome and not, as life tends to be. When I took a peek in the draft folder, I came across this post. Part 1 is that post. Part 2 was written after.


Part 1: Draft dated 6/13/16

So, I have this book that’s been super hard for me to read. It’s called Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls and it stirs up a whole lotta something in me. I mean I guess it’s good as it brings awareness to how girls and women treat each other, but frankly, it pisses me off. It’s the proverbial light going off, “AH! See? I knew it!” That’s what it’s like for me.

It’s my suspicions being confirmed.

While I know some are quite gifted in passive-aggressiveness and just plain meanness played off as “what do you mean? I didn’t say that.” (If you excuse my language, it’s what I call a mindf*ck. Because there’s just no other way to explain it.) I do believe, in some few cases, the manipulation and game playing is built into their DNA and they have no clue. Then again, I suppose you could be brought up or trained this way…

I find that sometimes I’m anticipating malicious girl behavior when there isn’t any. Then after I beat myself up about thinking that way. This is what it’s like to be programmed to think and feel a certain way. After our move, I have so much clarity about this because we have no ties here. No history to draw from. Sure, it still happens but it doesn’t cut as deep.


Part 2: Last night.

Fast forward a few years and here I sit very involved in the community in one form or another. And I’m not sure I like it. I have things to offer and I’m willing to do the things others won’t, but it amazes me how one act can be misinterpreted and snowballed. Real friends ask questions. You know, talk it out. Fake friends belittle you behind your back and feed the fire. Then it spreads. (Ever have a good relationship with someone and then suddenly it becomes awkward? It doesn’t take long to figure out there’s been some mudslinging going on and now their perception of you has changed based on someone else’s misinterpreted story. Fuel, fuel, fuel.)

They say history repeats itself and the signs were there all along. I chose to ignore them because they felt like “my people.” I have learned that is so not the case. When you’re new to an area, there are lots of differences – mannerisms, how people behave, even “tag sale” vs. “yard sale” it’s all different. So you make allowances. What seems rude at first glance might not be in “their language,” so you choose to ignore it. Then time proves those gut reactions were right.

Truth? It is disappointing. Truth? Turns out, I don’t want to be surrounded with people like that anyway. Truth? I have things to offer, but it is not the best use of my time dealing with drama and with people like this. If I am giving up time with my family, my real friends and my business, I am not half-assing it. I am all-in and doing what I can to make whatever it is better than it was before. I make the investment and throw myself into the task at hand. At what point is it just not worth it?

The Sweetest Gift.

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Yoga session with my boys. Classic: Chewy right there with me and Kiko giving me his opinion.

It hasn’t been terribly long without our boys, Kiko and Chewy. They were a pair. Chewy may have left us first, but our boys were always “Kiko and Chewy.” Like salt and pepper, they were a set.

Now, I won’t get into all the mush about “the hard” since we had to let them go a short time ago. Our hearts are healing, even if a few pieces are missing.

This is actually happy story. 

Chewy was laid to rest, but with the timing of everything (like the frozen ground) we could not do that with Kiko. Hats off to the peeps who handle that sort of thing. They sent us a paw print and a tuft of fur along with his cedar box.

More than a month ago, I came across a website that makes actual gemstones from the ashes or hair of our loved ones…. something we could easily do for Kiko, but not for Chewy. This was problematic.

For weeks, I wondered where Chewy could’ve been that we haven’t cleaned yet so I could get a little bit of his fur and then it hit me like a freight train. 

About five years ago, I had a classmate in massage school that spun her own yarn. Since my boys blew their coats at least twice a year – in amounts that could build another dog or two – I offered her some fur and she accepted. Two large (full!) ziplock bags later, she had plenty of material to work with. And that was the last I heard of it.

I held my breath as I sent her a message hoping she was a little like me with a few unfinished projects lying around. 

She was quick to respond that, in fact, she did have some and she would gladly mail it out to me. She wouldn’t accept payment for shipping, even though I would’ve paid double. Triple even.

And then, my sweet girl got sick, then I got sick and I forgot all about it. Until yesterday.

I received a package from an address I didn’t recognize. (Truthfully, I thought I ordered something from Etsy in one of my middle-of-the-night-should-be-sleeping shopping sessions. For those of you who don’t know, it’s the lack of sleep version of drunk dialing.)

A sob caught in my throat when I realized that package contained the two original bags of fur. Each labeled with their names. Apparently, I was so fixated on these bags I didn’t realize there was a third bag. My husband handed it to me.

It was a woven scarf made of fur.

I held it, assuming it was my boys, and tears welled up. It was then I noticed the bright yellow envelope. Upon opening it, I revealed a cute card with two dogs in the back of a pickup truck.

Inside it read:IMG_9515

Amber,

May your memories of Chewy & Kiko be forever happy!   ❤

(The scarf is Chewy.)

In an instant, I felt like he was given back to me. I can’t explain it really. Losing them both was hard, but losing Chewy was almost unbearable. Maybe it was suddenness of it or his lack of ailments/issues or maybe it was because he was mine. 

By some twist of fate, I gave a woman some fur and she gave it back to me years later when I needed it. For that, I’ll be forever grateful.