Thursday, December 26, 2013

Winter Running - Running in the Snow and Cold

Skihoney running in the snow at the Up N Over 10k in October 2012.

I always had the mind set that when the snow and cold weather hit, my running frequency and duration would slow to very little to non-existent.  I had a mental block that running outside in the snow and cold would be miserable.  I thought of all the "bad" things I would have to "endure" such as:

Lungs burning
Cold fingers
Cold ears
Runny nose
Cold muscles
Wind chill
Wet feet
Inversion - Bad air
Skihoney staying warm before running the Up N Over 10k in October 2012

Plus, I would have to put on all those warm clothes to run in and that would just weigh me down.  (And it takes so MUCH time to get them on anyway).

But, it's true what those motivational running posters say, "There's no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear."

So true.

Here are my keys to winter running, or running in the snow or cold:

-Snow? Yaktraks
-Attitude (Running in general is a very mental activity, more on that in another post)
-Minimize skin exposure - long sleeves, leggings (fitted clothing works best)

It's really that simple.  You shouldn't have to worry about wet and cold feet, cause as you run, your feet get so much blood circulation that they most likely won't get cold.

Only gear missing here were the Yaktraks!
I like the yellow snow marking the half way point.
Now since being in a warmer climate now, I don't get much (any) cold running in.  I miss it sometimes.  What makes the effort to go out worth it in my mind is the little moments I notice.  My breath I can see as I stretch.  The steam rising from my body and the contrast of feeling hot and sweaty and cold at the same time.  The great view at the end (or middle), and the feeling of being able to go where you want to go, no matter what external circumstances may exist.

"There's no such thing as bad weather . . . . "

Saturday, December 21, 2013

What celebrating Christmas means to me.

Text of my talk given on Dec. 22, 2013 at my church.

As we remember the birth of the Savior each Christmas, we also celebrate the His life, the Atonement, and the Resurrection.  His life and teachings showed us that it is through agency, love, and sacrifice that we ultimately gain what we desire.  The Resurrection gives the assurance of living on after death with our loved ones.   The miracle of Christ’s birth preceded the greatest miracle of all.  The Atonement.  I pray that as we remember the Savior now, at this season, and at all times that we remember the greatest Christmas gift that’s ever been given.  Which is, the promise and assurance that we will be "at one" with our Heavenly Parents, and be like them throughout eternity.  

During this time of Christmas, how can we fully celebrate the Atonement?  We do so by choosing and allowing it to change us into who we really are.  Change.  To me that is the essence of the Atonement.  The Atonement allows us to let go, leave behind, stop, start, forgive, repent, change.  The Gospel teaches us that we must repent, or in other words change.

The Atonement in essence is all about change.  I’ve found that change can come in four different ways to us through the Savior and the Atonement.
-Change that comes with the Resurrection as our bodies and spirits unite permanently.
-Change of becoming clean as we receive forgiveness of our sins and mistakes.
-Change the comes when we are healed or as we are healed. Physically, spiritually or emotionally.
-Finally, the Change of our hearts. Changing our being, our nature.

In a General Conference talk in 2003, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said “The Gospel of Jesus Christ challenges us to change. ‘Repent’ is its most frequent message and repenting means giving up all our practices - personal, family, ethnic, and national - that are contrary to the commandments of God.  The purpose of the gospel or the Atonement is to transform common creatures into celestial citizens, and that requires change.”  He goes on to say that “repentance means more than giving up our sins.  In it broadest meaning it requires change.  Giving up all of our traditions that are contrary to the commandments of God.”

Former Church Relief Society President Julie B Beck said this, “The easiest, quickest path to happiness and peace is to repent and change as soon as we can.”  She goes on to say that thoughts or actions to do otherwise, that is to say, delay repentance, delay change in our life, or to get discouraged, offended, or whatever it may be that keeps us from changing is not from the Lord.

President Ezra Taft Benson taught that “The important principle for us to understand if we would be true members of the Church is that repentance involves not just a change of actions, but a change of heart.”

Somehow during my growing up years, I came to associate repentance with getting in trouble. I obviously know now that’s not the case, but I’ve come to understand and fully live the principle of repentance when I think of it as change.  Repent is just another word for change. Like President Benson said, it’s a change of actions, but mostly a change of heart.  

That’s the power of the Atonement.  The power of change.  So to simply think of the Atonement as a way to receive forgiveness of sins misses the other half of it that is just as miraculous. That it has the power to literally change us and our hearts to what it is that we ultimately desire.

That is why it is so important to have the Savior in our life, and to always remember him. That’s why we go to Church.  That’s why we make covenants.  Because it is through that relationship with Christ that the needed change, growth, and progression can occur.  Is it through Him that forgiveness comes.  It is through Him that the healing we need comes, emotional healing, physical healing, spiritual healing or whatever healing it may be.  It is through Him that a change of heart is brought to pass.  

You may wonder -  How do I change? What needs to change? How can I be sure that I’m making the right changes?   It’s a little different for everyone, but the Spirit is there to answer those questions.  Our responsibility is to live close enough to the Spirit, for He “knows all things”.  The answers most often come as promptings, thoughts, and inspiration to do better, to try something a little differently, to see something in a different light and perspective.  The Spirit will ultimately lead us to change and to grow and to become more like our Savior.  

I know in my home, we tend to stay pretty busy.  Especially with work, school, keeping the house clean, callings, personal time, etc.  It is what’s in all of those day to day things, that defines us.  Elder Oaks recently taught, “We have to forego some good things in order to choose others that are better or best because they develop faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthen our families.”  Some of the hardest change that I’ve found is the changing from the good things in my life to the best things. That’s where faith comes in, do I have the faith to start doing the best things while sacrificing other good things in my life? President Uchtdorf in a recent General Conference taught of the things that mattered most (best things) and he mentioned four things.  They all deal with relationships. Relationship with God, relationship with family, relationship with others, and then relationship with self.  With these four things in mind, we can use the Spirit to help us make any needed change in our lives to refocus on these relationships. To me, that’s why we celebrate Christmas and how we can celebrate the love that is the Atonement. It is strengthening those four relationships.

The scriptures talk often about our heart.  It is defined in the Guide to the Scriptures as “A symbol of the mind and will of man and the figurative source of all emotions and feelings.”  We read many phrases in the scriptures like: a change of heart, soften the heart, a broken heart, a pure heart, and as in the case of Laman and Lemuel in the Book the Mormon - a hardening of the heart.  The heart is often associated with other parts of ourselves like our spirit or our mind. In the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord says “I will tell you in your heart and in your mind that it is right” and that we should offer a sacrifice of “A broken heart and a contrite spirit”.  

That is the sacrifice we’re asked to make - a “broken heart and a contrite spirit” in order to accept needed change. “A broken heart is to be humble, contrite, repentant, and meek - that is, receptive to the will of God.” If we are receptive to the will of God, that in turn will inevitably bring change to our lives.  And that is good thing.  I’ve been taught that if we do the same things then we will get the same results.  Thus, a different result requires something different to be done.  As we sacrifice our heart and mind, we will be happy as we continue to progress and to grow and to change. Amulek in the Book of Mormon counseled, “Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent <change> and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you.” In other words, if we do but two things, change and harden not our heart, then immediately will the Atonement’s power be brought unto us. I find that to be a powerful scripture, and it shows that the Atonement’s power is within our reach.

I’ve been able to work and use various kinds of GPS devices over the years.  One of the features that I like is the ability of a navigation GPS device to “recalculate” a route that I may be following. Often, when following a route you may have to make a detour or change from the suggested course slightly. Or you may choose to go an entirely different way that may be more “scenic” but takes a little longer.  Whatever the case may be, the software on the GPS device will automatically recalculate your route once you vary from the suggested route. Ultimately no matter where you go, the GPS will always show you how to get to where you want to go. In a way, that is how the Atonement works with us - no matter where we are currently in our life, no matter our current path, and no matter what unknown changes lie ahead, our route is always calculated to go back home.  The Atonement is the device that shows us the way and paves the way, and the Savior leads us on our route back home.  We need not be fearful of getting lost.  The Savior said to “Look unto <Him> in every thought. Doubt not, Fear not”.  No matter what detours we take, or scenic views we wish to explore, He is there with us to always show us the way. Sometimes the journey is rockier at times than others, but He’s okay with that. If a sharp rock gives us a flat tire, he has a spare to put on so we can keep going.  Even when we expect to take one road on our journey, a change happens, and a new road is built. The new road is smooth, and lets us see the world around us from different views, and its a much better ride than the old bumpy, pothole-filled road you were just on and accustomed to.

At this Christmas time, I pray that we can celebrate more fully the life and Atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ. I’ve come to know that as much as we talk about the Atonement it is not something we learn or analyze, but more something that we feel and internalize.  I pray that we will use the Spirit and the Atonement to find needed change in our lives and hearts to become more like Him and ultimately to become who we are destined to become.  I know the Atonement is real.  Its power is real. It is forgiveness and healing.  It is the power of change.  I know we have a Father who knows us and cares for us.  I know the Savior lives.  I know He loves us because He chose to provide the Atonement for us.  I know He will guide us on our route back home.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Copan Ruins, Ruinas de Copan, Honduras, Dead Body

I originally wrote this below for in 2011.

Gracias, Honduras. Highest Honduran mountain peak in the clouds.

"Is that a dead body"? I asked out loud.

Driving the “back” roads in a third world country can quite often be exciting, from the occasional river crossing, to now seeing a person on the side of a dirt road who had obviously seen better days.

My wife didn’t answer my question at first until we finally drove by the body. I could tell she was confused and shocked at first, she wasn’t quite sure what we were both seeing.

“Oh my gosh. OH my gosh. Oh MY GOSH!” Silence followed with her hand covering her mouth.

Driving to Copan. Notice the white truck had passed the bigger truck on a blind curve. Luckily there is an unmarked "3rd" lane on narrow two lane roads so that when you pass something big and there and a car coming the other way, the other car just moves over and you can drive in the middle 3rd lane without a head-on collision.  I showed Skihoney some of my seldom used road skills. :)

I could tell she was getting her fill of being in a place that wasn’t quite like home. This was only our second day in Honduras. I wasn’t expecting to see a body on the side of the road, but it wasn’t unexpected for me either. I had lived in Honduras for 2 years prior to this visit and had gotten used to seeing “unexpected” things. We didn’t stop the car. There was nothing we could do. It did make for interesting conversation for the next few hours.

Typical street in Copan.
We were on our way to the Copan Ruins, via the “scenic” route by driving through the small towns of La Esperanza and Gracias, which included some dirt road driving through some very rural areas. The country itself is beautiful, with green mountains and hills. I was looking forward to seeing the Mayan ruins. I had only seen old Anasazi remnants in the Southwest US up to this point, and I wanted to experience some “jungle” ruins.

Hotel overlooking the cobblestone streets.
I was not disappointed in the least. The town of Copan is worth the visit just by itself. Cobblestone streets offer a very quaint feel. The food is great. (We had a great breakfast of “baleadas” and smoothies.) In the evening, it was fun to go and walk around and see the street vendors, catch a bite to eat at a local restaurant. It’s not too hard to pick out the “granola” type visitors either from the states. It was the week of Thanksgiving in the US (2010) and we couldn’t have picked a better week to be here. I think we even had the hotel to ourselves now that I think about it. I believe Thanksgiving is a great time to travel in Central America and the Caribbean.

Copan Ruins. 
In the morning we went to Ruins. It was a beautiful day, and our experience there was just about perfect. Hardly anyone there. It made for a unique experience, as the lack of tourists made the place seem even more sacred and peaceful. We did not hire a guide for which I was glad, but we used a paper map found in town that gave a suggested route to walk when in the ruins. Not having a guide meant we could take our time, take pictures, sit, walk, explore, look, and feel. We spent hours exploring, and even took some time to explore the underground tunnels where live excavating of the ruins is continuing to occur. I loved the huge trees everywhere. I loved the sounds, smells, everything.  I left the ruins feeling refreshed, and I think they even helped me not to mind all the potholes so much on the highway out of town.

Add this to your bucket list. Copan is a must see - must experience place.


Journal writing is not for me.  I tried it. Once.  At a time when it was the most opportune time to do so.  I look back at my journal now 11 years past and realize I didn't know how or what to write.  I made it through college and even got a decent grade in my Technical Writing class. (My teacher in that class made it onto the Survivor reality TV show.  Random, I know).

I have also realized lately that I know some things.  First, that humility is my greatest quality.  ;)  Second, that I enjoy helping others know things too.  Especially things that can change who you are.  Writing, for me, is a change.  My purpose is that I can inspire change in you and in me.