Monday, September 30, 2013

New Home for Running gal Insights

I have moved Word Press.

You can now find me at

http://julieaoneill.wordpress.com/

Look forward to more conversation and learning together!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Moving!

Spent last June packing and moving into our most amazing foreclosed on home, overlooking 5 acres and amazing mountains in the distance.

That's not the kind of moving we are doing now, thankfully.

We are building, designing, and creating our new site that specifically will focus on building a community of like-minded folks that find it invigorating to be outside. And if they have kids, the find it even more invigorating to bring  them along.

It's a platform for me to continue to write, hopefully inspiring more families to unplug and go outside.

And, as an exciting fun side note, my book around this very topic is being reviewed by an editor and we meet next week to talk about it.  It's quite humbling to hand over something  as personal as my written memoirs over my personal challenges and triumphs as I faced my own giants in the back country to a complete stranger.  

And then, we plan to meet over coffee to talk about it and I know nothing about her and she now knows plenty about me.

This writing thing is risky.  But risky has the potential for such victory.  On this side of risky though, I am full  of all things nerve-wrecking and exhilarating all at once.

Living Without Walls will hopefully convey the deepest intent that heading outside has the power to break down our own interior walls, whether it be fear or an addiction to busy agendas, as we spend time in the freedom of a wall-free summer.

When our new site is ready, check here for the link!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Just another day in Small town America

One week ago today America stood helpless as we watched the details unfold of the unthinkable: 26 precious souls, killed. Gone. We all now know the name of an elementary school in Connecticut.  Sandy Creek Elementary.  Idyllic.  We know the names of amazing staff and adorable children.  The world became smaller as we all united in horror over what unfolded.

It wrecked me.  A teacher of elementary students myself, I could  hardly breathe. For days.

I leaned on the conversations and wisdom of others as they also tried to process the unfathomable.  Blogs like this http://www.bostern.com/blog/2012/12/15/god-with-us/ began to help me to breathe again.

I floated through the week in a bit of a dream like sad-state, smiling longer at my students, holding their hands, spending longer tying their shoes, giving more hugs, and attempting to savor each, beautiful, precious child in my care.

It has felt like time slowed as grief over these precious souls dampened the carefree flow of the usual Holiday season.

Today was the first time in a week that I ventured out to shop, do a few errands, and intersect with the hustle and bustle of the life that always buzzes outside my school walls.   The news is a barage of all the bad, the ugly, the evil of this world.  But the hair salons, stores, and even the DMVs of America are actually all full of good American people.

Yes - even the DMV waiting room that I had to sit in this morning, 4 days before Christmas, because my license is expiring on my birthday's unfortunate date of 5 days after Christmas, is full of GOOD.  When at last my number was called, I learned that the DMV does not take Visa (but I thought that  Visa is  Everywhere You Want To Be.)  Ok, it's official, the DMV is clearly not where anyone ever wants to be... They take cash or checks. Period.  The state I reside in, I now know, does not accept Visa.  So what's that say about my state of residence?  But I digress.

My mind silently complained, "but I sat here for 10 people to painfully and slowly  have their turn - do I have to go to my bank and return and wait my turn again?"

Then I heard a voice, "Hi.  I don't want to meddle but how  much money do you need?"  I turned to see a kind-faced older gentleman standing with his wife in a wheel chair beside him.  I'd find out in a few minutes that this kind man's name was Bob.  When I smiled and sheepishly said, "but I am short $15! It's OK sir.", he didn't miss a beat, opened his wallet and handed me a $20 bill, telling me to keep the change.

So, for 7 more years I will have a HORRIBLE picture because my makeup got all smeared with my tears...and for 7 years I will think of Bob and his simple $20 bill that blew me away.

Bob is the fabric of America - there are Bobs in every store, restaurant, street, school of America.  In this world.

Another classic American moment, had already happened earlier in the morning.  I was getting my hair cut at my friend's salon.  Through the tears we shared together over my current challenges (her tears were for me.  You know you are in the presence of a soul-mate friend when your own tears are mirrored in their eyes.) and the encouragement she showered me with,  her salon was just as much a place to get a great hair cut as it was  a place to get your heart healed.

Then it was her turn to share.  She has suffered with major back pain for nearly two decades.  She doesn't have Physical Therapy coverage.  No problem.

This is small town America.  Her PT is trading PT appointments for haircuts.  It doesn't add up but in his mind it does - he's trading time.

She cuts his hair and he fixes her back so she can get out of her bedridden state.

Thank you Friday for reminding me that for all the evil that exploded in Connecticut one week ago, there is infinitely more good.

Check this movement out to spread the kindness:  https://www.facebook.com/26acts

Sunday, November 18, 2012

John Muir on Beauty

As we hiked this last summer away, mostly on the John Muir Trail, I thought it would be good of me to get to know this man we were following, over 100 years later, in the footsteps of.  So I began reading books, journals, and letters all penned by Muir, that spoke of the wild lands that we walked through.


John Muir eloquently marvels: 
Oh, these vast, calm, measureless mountain days, inciting at once to work and rest!  Days in whose light everything seems equally divine, opening a thousand windows to show us God.


-John Muir, Journal entry for June 23, 1869

And indeed, the scenes we took in all did show us thousands of glimpses of God.

The quote that hung with me with every step I took, though, was John Muir's definitive description of God. Of all the adjectives we often use to describe God, Majestic...Powerful...Loving...he chose Beauty.

Beauty? Isn't that a bit weak?

No synonym for God is so perfect as Beauty. Whether as seen carving the lines of the mountains with glaciers, or gathering matter into stars, or planning the movements of water, or gardening - still all is Beauty!

-John Muir

But as I spent each day, immersed in exquisite sunsets

Courtesy of www.coryjoneillphotography.com
or watching as our kids blossomed under the blue skies of the wilderness 

I thought about that singular word: Beauty.  Indeed everything I looked at was indeed full of beauty.  Moments with my kids were full of beauty.

Everything God touches, as it turns out, is beautiful.  Full of beauty.

The southerners have a lovely way of saying things.  They sugar coat their delivery while us northerners are much more blunt.  "She was being UGLY!" hardly sounds like the real truth: "If I never see her again, it won't be long enough."  

But God is BEAUTY.  The complete absence of UGLY.  

As I walked each day, more of His Beauty was uncovered.  I noticed the beauty in our kids, as they encountered their trail days.

Months later as we sat with a reporter relaying tales of our summer, our youngest finally had her turn to speak.   Her answer to the question of what was your favorite moment of the summer spoke of the natural way that children embrace life - with unbending positive optimism.  

“My favorite day, it’s very different then what everyone else has said, “ she said with a giggle, “was the first morning.   I was so happy because I knew it was the first day, the beginning - and I had the whole trip still left to do.”

While I needed self-talk to embrace day one and not feel overwhelmed by the thought of walking over 200 miles, step by step over an entire month, our daughter skipped around camp, singing.  A shift in thinking from my adult perspective of feeling overwhelmed to a childhood perspective of excitement over all the unknown possibilities that lies ahead could have meant that I spent the morning dancing and singing around camp.

Instead, the stream of fear that was implanted in me the day my body suddenly collapsed in seizures still ripples in the shadows.   Honesty hits me with raw reality: what lies ahead is 200 miles of opportunities for me or someone in my family to get hurt or die.  

She was excited by the unknown.  I was intimidated by it.  


Another moment: Beautiful. Beauty in my daughter.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Bad weather prescription

There's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!

Get outside!!  As we head for the dark days of the year, it's so tempting to stay inside, run on a treadmill, or just drink hot cocoa and read a book on a couch.  I am all about that last one, but only after a good outdoor adventure.  

Ya gotta earn that hot cocoa!!  Or you'll end up fighting through the winter blahs - or worse yet, the winter blues.

So get some good clothing and head outside.  

I love running on a fresh dusting of snow.  The world seems muted, quiet, asleep.  It's bright outside and the crisp air invigorates.

Keep adventuring!!  
Live life without regrets.  Just because you might not have run yesterday (or walked or biked or whatever it is that gets you outside), don't be discouraged for today.  
Start today!

Afterall, this is the first day of the rest of your life!





Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Avoiding Nature Deficit Disorder in kids


The Introduction 
As I watched our eight year old daughter's pigtails bobbing up and down as she casually skipped from our campsite down a grassy slope to the lake's edge to wash up before bed, I was filled with wonder at how content our children were at 12,000 feet.   Unlike any other locale, our children were able to fill their time easily, smile more, laugh more, talk more, complain less when removed from the distractions of modern life.  Only when we left our car in a parking lot and step by step put more distance between ourselves and the stuff of this world could we truly, as a family, unwind and connect.

As my gaze shifted from our bathing blondie to the soaring peaks beyond, I took in the scene around me and promised myself to never forget.  I vowed to try to bring the grounded perspective that is gained when sitting on a granite rock  back with me to the "real world".  While sitting in the warm sun, under blue skies, sipping in pure air and thinking of the days' to do list that consists purely of items needed to simply survive, life becomes simple again.  And in that simplicity, the stresses of life seem petty and ridiculous.  A new order emerges - one of priorities of connectedness with loved ones, movement, wonder.  Entertainment is complete in observing natural beauty and quietly dreaming through inspired conversation.  The mundane of cooking dinner and getting water are chores that now bring joy as they are not done in a rushed and hurried after thought to a busy day, but that are part of the days rhythm. 

It was this moment that birthed the idea to write this book.  For the past 11 years, as our family pass folks on the trail, we have been asked, "How do you get your kids out here?" from truly astonished fellow adult hikers.  This book is inspired and birthed from that singular question.  There was a time in recent history when kids ran more free, feeling real soil at their feet and the wind swirl on their face on a dusty mountain trail.  But every time we hear this question we wonder if we are becoming an indoor people, addicted to our computer monitors while we miss the explosive firework display as the sun dances across the eastern sky.  This question comes to us with genuine perplexity and points to a phenomenon, Richard Louv in his book Last Child in the Woods, has named "nature deficit disorder" which he defines as "...the human costs of alienation from nature, among them: diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses."

This memoir takes place, in it's majority, on the John Muir Trail.  John Muir has the honor of having what many considered the most beautiful scenic trail in the country named after him. It is because he has done more to preserve our wilderness then any other American.  His wanderings through the wilderness and eloquent writings inspired President Roosevelt to establish 148 million acres of national forest, five national parks, and twenty-three national monuments.  Muir's writings spoke of nature as a powerful aid in human health and wholeness for the weary, stressed, and overworked city dweller. 

Living between the years of the Civil War and the Great Depression, Stephen T. Mather, first director of the National Park System, suffered from emotional breakdowns marked by depression and withdrawal.  Without drugs to help him cope, he found that spending time, often alone, in the wilderness was his best remedy.  When that was not possible, his wife surrounded him in his recovery room with pictures of Yosemite.  After months of reclusion, he would emerge, fervently focused on lobbying Congress, the press, businesspeople, and just about everyone in America.  His persuasive energetic whirlwind convinced congress to establish The Grand Canyon National Park in 1919.  

In the spirit of John Muir and Stephen T. Mather, we too have found the power of immersion in nature to be able to refocus us, calm our spirits, and bond our family together in ways that nothing else can. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Day 27: Final words. It's time for the Big Conclusion.

As we decided to descend to the truck and finish the final 5 miles we had remaining, we took one look back over the valley we had left.  As I said goodbye, I was reminded of something I read on my friend's blog (my most favorite blog of all times!)

The day we walk over this pass without stopping to let these mountains and lakes impress us, that's the day we've grown too hard to see God in this.

The final five miles were easy, downhill all the way to the truck.  We passed two lovely lakes that fed rushing waterfalls that plunged over more ripped landscape.  It made me smile.  The Sierras deliver raw beauty through the last step.  These Sierras were "good to the last drop".

As promised, upon passing the sign that marked the boundary to the John Muir Wilderness, Bekah's tears began to flow.  "I am so sad it's over.  I don't want to leave the Sierras," she said through her tears.

We all felt it.  We were charmed by this place, yes, but more than that, we lived outside, all summer, working as a team, bonding, talking, laughing, and even being quiet,

as we walked our summer away,

                                spending the long, endless, summer days,

                                      in slow motion,
                          
                   together.