Giving Back.

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I almost didn’t write this post in fear of being a part of a cliche. It is entirely non-running related, but is a huge part of my life. This week always makes me take a step back and appreciate all that I have, all that I am, and each and every wonderful person in my life.

Not only is it Thanksgiving, of which I will touch on in a few, but this week was also the annual Oregon Mission of Mercy event. Each year, more than 1,000 volunteers gather to provide free dental care on a first come, first served basis for up to 2,000 patients in 2 days. These volunteers include dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants, dental lab technicians, as well as community volunteers. They utilize portable dental units in a large public area. Every other year, this takes place at the Oregon Convention Center with alternating years in other locations around the state.

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I have had the privilege of participating in this event for 5 years now. Each year, I spend both mornings, starting at 4am, taking x-rays with a fantastic team. As a dental assistant, I would spend my afternoons assisting chairside with various dentists. Now that I am a dental hygienist, I had the privilege to give back in a way that I’d only dreamed of. I teamed with a fabulous dentist. She removed the decay from the tooth and I would placed the filling. I was able to utilize my dental hygiene license to its fullest and directly provide care to those in need.

Each year, I leave this event with an overflowing heart, a few tears,  and a deep sense of happiness knowing that I’ve worked with like minded individuals to give back to our community. The feeling that comes from being able to utilize skills to provide for those in need is absolutely immeasurable. Not to mention two days of 3 am wakeup times to volunteer from 4am-6pm are entirely exhausting in the best way imaginable.

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This photo was after we’d seen our last patients of the day. Tiredness in our eyes, but happiness in our hearts. I could talk about this event all day. Let me just say that this friend of mine right here is entirely special. Friends from my first days as a dental assistant almost 9 years ago. She has been a wonderful friend, mentor, rock climber, cross country skier, and fellow tooth nerd. The company she works for fabricated 100 removable prosthetics (think: dentures) for patients during Mission of Mercy this year.

Following this event, I fell asleep in my chair at home with my scrubs still on and little Jax the puppy on my lap. Happy hearts need sleep too.

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Speaking of Jax, this photo is how I spent my Thanksgiving day. Brisk air, crunchy leaves, many layers, running in the park with the little guy. And by running, I mean attempting not to roll my ankle in Dansko shoes. Have you tried running in clogs? Not recommended.

Great food was prepared (citrus rubbed turkey, quinoa cranberry stuffing, roasted brussel sprouts with bacon sherry cream sauce, apple blackberry crisp,) family time was enjoyed, and I could not have asked for a better day to relax. Don’t worry, we still got our run in.

Happy Thanksgiving fellow runners, family, and friends!

Take a moment to appreciate the small things.

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A Yarn About Running.

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Shorts pulled on. Shoes laced. Hair braided. Mind set. Go.

As I tie my running shoes and head out my door, I set my intentions for my run. Is this an interval run, a pace challenge, a hill run? Or is this simply a run because I need it? Am I running because I feel obligated to or because I want to? These questions set the tone for the run as a whole.

Tonight, I ran because I needed it like bananas need peanut butter. I ran because my muscles were tight and sore from my relay last weekend (more on that in my next post.) I ran because it was my therapy

I haven’t written in a while. Fact. Now, I could sit here and give you all kinds of justifiable excuses. But that’s just it, they’re excuses. School, work, relationships, board exams, the dog ate my keyboard…excuses. The real reason I haven’t blogged about running, cupcakes, and happiness is because I’d lost the groove.

I’ve said this more than once, I find my best inspiration for writing after I’ve had a good run. And, I simply have not been putting in the time needed to have good runs, to find that inspiration. Yes, I’ve been running. But, they have not been the feel good runs where magic happens.

Those runs are what make everything else worthwhile. The magic is when everything just falls into place. Your mind isn’t telling you to stop with every step forward. You aren’t worried about time. Or pace. Or distance. You just run. Magic.

It is on those magic runs that I have the best mental clarity.

A side note: You know when you have a skein of yarn that you didn’t bother to roll into a pretty ball? As you use it to knit or crochet, the skein becomes this tangled bunch of yarn. A messy mass of string. The more you tug on it, the worse it gets.

That is how my brain feels before a run. Tangled with the day’s stresses, worries, and the ever-present to do list. It is tangled with thoughts of everything else I should be doing besides running. It is tangled with guilt that I haven’t been more consistent. It is tangled with every bit of negative self-talk tinged with anxiety.

It is not until I’m a couple miles into my run that I can feel those knots start to loosen. I can feel that silly, negative voice in the back of my head start to calm down. The muscle tightness starts shaking loose. The daily stresses start to shake themselves off.

It is so often on these runs that I find myself living in the moment. Once the tangles have been undone and I finally have a pretty ball of yarn. It is then that I can keep my inner voice calm, focus on my breathing, and be thankful for the privilege to run.

This is how today’s run felt. Magic.

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This yarn about running can really be summed up this way:

Before Run = Sad Jess.

After Run = Happy Jess.

And sometimes, it just takes a small reminder to motivate us to keep going.

Set your intentions. Find the magic. Not every run is going to be great. But, remember that a run brings cupcakes, unicorns, and rainbows. Or an untangled mass of yarn. Your choice, really.