Life Lesson #25 Take it All IN

by Carrie Adams

I suppose around one’s birthday we become a bit more reflective, a touch more nostalgic, and perhaps even a bit more fearfully aware of the passage of time that seems to be speeding up over the years. There was a day I couldn’t imagine being in my mid-thirties and now here I am firmly there. I’ll admit, it sometimes takes my breath away when I catch a glimpse of my 13-year-old who stands nearly as tall as me, who without any effort I can still hear her toddler giggles bubbling up under the covers with her stuffed animals and Cheerios, brown curls flowing around her ears and her toothless smile greeting me with joy when I “discover” her hiding there. Without any trouble, I can still feel the warmth of her little body tucked into my arms, pacing the floors at 2AM singing her back to sleep. She can’t remember those moments herself, I’ll have to settle for telling her about those days when she’s willing to sit and talk for more than a moment. Today, I am lucky if I get a good night hug every evening… though I’ll never stop asking for them.

I sometimes feel tightness in my chest, when I see my blonde little Cate, her now long legs sticking out from underneath her cutoff jean shorts and scabbed knees from sliding in the dirt, reading aloud from chapter books instead of lounging patiently in my lap laying against my chest; her listening to me read her favorite board books as she points to the pictures and squealing with delight. I can still picture her round belly sticking out above her diaper as she ran through the halls of the house on much shorter legs begging me to chase her, blue eyes twinkling. She still lingers in my lap and lets me hold her close – though I imagine those days are numbered too as she will continue to grow and will slip ever so slightly from my motherly grasp more and more each day.

They overwhelm me with their spirit and energy, with their very existence. I cherish them. I cherish the mere fact that we are walking this Earth together – I couldn’t be more grateful. I live in earnest pursuit of being present in the moments I share with them, even as they pass too quickly. Sometimes I have to hold back from begging… begging them, begging this life to just slow down, just a bit… Just long enough for me to gather it all in and let their days (and mine) last a bit longer.

In the event I cannot slow time and I cannot stop their growing up before my very eyes so quickly, I will remind myself daily to take in the moments – especially the little ones – because that is where the love resides.

The Most Impossible of Fairy Tales

1097943_10153301269460093_831701138_nI met him in person in September of 2013. In a place that held a lot of memories for us both separately, but neither of us called home. He took my hand and led me up a stone staircase that he helped create months earlier when we were still strangers. For anyone else it would have seemed like nonsense to spend our first date in this place, but for us it was perfect. For us it was almost magical. From that moment on, what existed between us was undeniable.

Six months later he was transplanting his whole life – from family and friends to his livelihood, his passions, and his hobbies to make a life with me.  He was leaving all the things he knew to take a chance on a whole new existence that included two little girls. Without anything familiar to guide him, he trusted me to love him. He trusted me to let him take care of me just as I would take care of him. He left all those things to build new things and did those things ever grow…

In 53 days he will become my husband, but in 24 hours he will be heading across the country to a place where as strangers we connected; where we knew that we were meant to spend our lives together. I will miss him because he won’t be close enough to touch, but he will be going back to the place that crossed our paths. And if he were not the man that longed to be in those green mountains we would never have met. That place is where the fibers of “me” and “he” became a tapestry of “us.”

floridaSo I will try to not be sad that he’s leaving tomorrow. I will focus on what I know is true. I am grateful that he is the man who would have the courage to endure the pain and challenge of building the stairs that led to our first meeting, the man who would have the faith to leave his life to join a new one 17 hours away, the man who would commit himself to that new life and offer his remaining days to support and help build the days ahead. I am thankful that he has chosen me. I hope he knows that I have chosen him right back.

So, I am grateful to have fallen in love with a man that has the persistence to return… two years later to that fateful place where we first intersected, to finish what he started before there was a “we” and an “us.” I only hope that when it becomes hard, he feels me in the wind and sees me in the sky and that somehow he draws comfort and strength in those thoughts.  That he remembers all the steps he took from that first journey until now…

I couldn’t possibly love him more. For the man he was before I even knew he existed to the man that made me realize it was finally possible to believe in the most impossible of fairy tales.

I love you, Adam.

Stepping into the Spotlight

Cate_SpotlightOn Saturday night Cate had her fourth dance recital since she has started dancing. Like every year before this one, we curled her blonde hair and dabbed on her recital make-up. We ironed her costumes and laid out bobby pins, safety pins, hairspray and needle and thread (just in case.) Like every year before, we went to her rehearsal and sat for several hours in the auditorium waiting for her turn.

Unlike every year before this, Taylor was not performing with Cate. Taylor decided this year to focus on soccer and so she spent her recital this year in the audience cheering on Caitlyn’s two numbers. Never one to shy away, Cate confidently danced her two routines, with big smiles and giggles. So many of Cate’s adventures are alongside her big sister… this time she got to take the spotlight all by herself and step out from under her sister’s shadow and shine. 

The Language of Tears

Last night we watched, “Land Before Time” with my sweet seven and a half year old, Cate.  While at Target picking up a birthday gift, we saw the movie on sale for $5 and bought it immediately. It is a favorite childhood movie of mine that reminds me of collecting the hand puppets from Pizza Hut of the characters and quoted the lines of the adorable rag tag dinosaurs who ended up unlikely friends.  “Yep, yep, yep!” I couldn’t wait for Cate to see it.
Normally, Cate spends part of her evening watching her iPad or playing games on my phone but tonight I convinced her to watch the movie with us, and as she snuggled in my lap I was excited to spend quality time with her.  Like many movies of its kind, there is always an event that propels the protagonist to an early self-actualization, generally in the form of the mother being killed off in some horrible fashion. In my excitement to watch it, I nearly forgot that part of the story.  So… as the harrowing battle between sharp tooth and Little Foot’s mother unfolded, Cate grabbed me tightly and her eyes were wide with fear.  Then something incredible happened…  As the mother lay dying on the rocks sacrificing herself to save her young son saying her good-bye’s and comforting him as she knew she was going to die, Cate began to openly weep.
It got me thinking…

Tears are the language of the soul.  The expression of something do deeply felt we can only weep at the thought. How often do we actually look at one another and feel something so completely soul crushingly strong that we are reminded of the fragility of humanity or see something so beautiful it renders us speechless? It seems so rare these days… especially for our children being raised in the information dynasty where communication is choreographed 160 characters at a time.
As human beings, we are becoming conditioned to retract when things become unbearable and even just mildly uncomfortable these days.  We don’t want to face the things that are hard.  But you can’t have the good without the bad.  The bad is what makes the good so good. You can’t have one without the other.  You can’t have the love without the loss, or the light without the darkness that overtakes it each night – the burnt ends of a sunrise holding on as long as it can before relinquishing the color to the night… it is why we love to see the sunrise, when the light returns to our eyes.   Things are only beautiful because they are not permanent.  You can’t appreciate your life without knowing that one day it will end.  You can’t love deeply without the knowledge that it won’t always be there so it must be treasured.

In a scene that lasted less than two minutes, Cate experienced something deeply stirring that made her own life seem more precious.  The lesson was a brutal one – administered with a sharp, sad, sting. That night, she clung more tightly to me her small hands holding my hands and her head nuzzled into my neck.  She craved being close after being exposed to her own precious and fragile humanity… a humanity that can sometimes only be recognized through tears.

I’m Baaaaack!

After a long hiatus I am back in the blogosphere and have been quite busy over the last several months.  Since my exit from Spartan Race, I’ve been working with a company in my hometown that was formerly OFFWIRE which was acquired by a MNC Brightstar Corp and we’ve been Brightstars every since.  While I still love my muddy roots with Spartan and maintain close relationships with many individuals with whom I worked, I’ve settled in quite nicely in this role and am enjoying the ride.
I did re-launch an online community Chicked Nation, a community formerly known as Spartan Chicked.  And with the help and oversight of some good friends it is still a place where women can come and get healthy living advice, motivation, and support.  There are even a few merchandise options courtesy of our friends at OCR Gear.  Huge congratulations to Adrian and his team as well for the launch of the wildly acclaimed OCRWC last year.  I was so pleased to see that event soar and the direction of the sport move to a more unified front.  When I think back to the origins of OCR it is thrilling to think that it is moving back to where it belongs, as a sport for the people it was built for!

Now what?

To recap some of the down time, I’ve maintained my teaching position at Creighton University teaching Entrepreneurial Finance.  I still spend a great deal of time explaining why a finance teacher is a Vice President of Marketing and Training, but when all the pieces are put together it makes a lot of sense.  I suppose that’s a pretty good analogy for my life in general.  I love teaching and each semester I find out something new about myself and about how to improve my approach.  I’ve also traveled pretty widely in 2014 across 16 states in the US and racked up quite a few frequent flyer as well as road miles in the process.  I’m thrilled to be settling into 2015 and have some big plans ahead for what I’m thinking will be a big year for me.  I plan on blogging about some of my favorite things – my family, my work, what motivates me, and maybe even a few things I’ve learned along the way that may be useful.  We’ll see.

It’s wonderful to be back, I’m thrilled to be writing again, and I can’t wait to share more of the coming chapters of what is yet to come.

Love Letter to Sparta: You’ll Know at the Finish Line

On a cold, dark, wet morning in February of 2011, over a thousand miles from home, while horribly under-dressed and with a fractured foot in the mountain trails of Southern California, I raced my first Spartan Race. It became part of an experience that would ultimately change the course of my life dramatically.

I didn’t know the significance of that when I boarded the plane in Nebraska the night before or even that morning when the gun went off. Eight miles in the mountains and I was a Spartan, it was even captured on film. I was the “Single mom from Omaha, Nebraska.” When I finished, I was exhilarated with the course and I didn’t know in that moment that I was also about to take on the role of a lifetime as a Spartan Race employee. Call me Crazy
When I took the job at Spartan, everyone said I was crazy. It was crazy to join a new company with this “obstacle racing” events that were still considered “mud runs” for “weekend warriors.” There couldn’t possibly be a future in that. Spartan HQ was so unlike anything I had known – we were, and still are, a small shop with limited resources. Most of us are athletes, all of us are hard workers that believed in this idea that Spartan could change lives. And it does. I’ve seen it. It’s undeniable.

Vermont Ultra Beast, 2013

After accepting Joe D’s offer of branding and content in early 2011, my life became about plane rides and finish lines. But in between the frequent flier miles I racked up and the medals I put around the necks of those who crossed a Spartan finish line, I’ve made a lifetime of memories I’ll never forget.

I’ve done Bikram yoga in a California and almost missed a flight out of Vermont after getting into a fender bender blocks from the airport. I got stuck in a blizzard in Massachusetts, navigated up a double black diamond slope in Pennsylvania, crawled through culverts in Staten Island, and climbed trees in Texas. I took on a Beast in Killington. I spent six hours stranded at a Park and Ride in Red Hooks, NY with two of my best friends.

I’ve seen the sunrise in 17 states in the last two years. From 2011 to now, I’ve also logged time in Vermont, Malibu, Temecula, Boston, New Hampshire, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Connecticut, Washington, D.C., New Jersey, Massachusetts, Missouri, Glen Rose, Dallas, and Colorado. I’ve been coast to coast and gotten excellent at packing and sleeping anywhere – including the floor of a barn and on a rock at the top of a mountain under the stars. And this week will mark my last days at Spartan Race. It’s overwhelming to say that out loud. It almost sounds impossible, considering all I’ve done and seen in the time I’ve been here.

Vermont World Championships, 2013

When I started we had less than 30,000 FB fans and now we are well over 3 million. In 2011, we had 26 events and in 2013 will have over 65 worldwide races and nearly 750,000 people will cross one of our finish lines before the New Year. I could tell you enough to fill books about this company, stories of how the Beast was born while Joe was hiking with a few staffers in Vermont and how it took us four hours to pick the right shade of green for the first Beast medals in 2011. Our leader, Joe De Sena is the kind of man you’d go to war for. His brilliance with a slight shade of crazy has made this company great, special, and always thinking of the people who come to our races first. Everything has always been so organic and always with our racers in mind. Don’t ever doubt how much love goes into the details, even as we’ve grown to such a huge size. When I tune into the NBC Sports special that will cover our most recent World Championship event, its amazing to consider how far we’ve come. I’m proud to have contributed to that in my own way. So, if that is all crazy, go ahead and call me crazy.

Thank You, SpartansThis isn’t about what I learned about me in the last two and a half years, its what I’ve learned from the Spartan community. It’s about what I’ve been given in the process. I’ve stood for hours at finish lines watching the faces of those who would finish – from the first place finishers to the last, all crossing the same line and the transformation is immediate. The relief in their bodies, a relaxing in the face – sometimes in tears, sometimes a smile, often both. There is the physical acknowledgement and realization that they are, in fact, DONE. The medal goes around their neck and they all take a moment and stare at it’s sheen – some with shock and disbelief, but all with pride of what has been earned on the course. You have all shown me what the best and brightest exists in all of us, that there is so much good, that there is still much to have high hopes about in this life.

Cookie Cook, (partner in content marketing crime)

There are too many stories I’ve told from this blog and other places to recount “favorites.” You’ve all meant something to me. Something incredible and something that has left imprints on me that I will happily carry with me always.  From the elite athletes that breathed a new and competitive life to this sport, to those who have overcome personal obstacles… those of you running for a reason bigger than yourself, and those who are running for the first time – you’ve all made me better.  You’ve made Spartan better.  So many of you have become more than subjects of a story line, you’ve thankfully become my friends. That keeps me in excellent company and always expecting more of myself.

My co-workers are the best in the world. I will miss you all deeply.  I’ve benefited from the hard work of the Spartan staff, the commitment to excellence, and a work ethic that would shame most.   I am not leaving your family, just the walls where we’ve shared sleepless nights and early mornings.  I never had a cup of coffee in my life until  I joined Spartan.  How is that for proof?  And as Joe told me last week, “You never really leave Spartan.”

Nebraska Spartan Sprint, 2013

This is true. Many people don’t know where our tagline, “You’ll Know at the Finish Line” came from. It was something I wrote on a piece of paper in our old office in Boston after accepting my Spartan role and after doing a race myself.  It has been repeated back to me hundreds of time since we adopted it and its something that unites anyone who has done a race.  You can’t explain it, it’s just something you know once you’ve had the experience.

It couldn’t have come more full circle than when I saw my two daughters, Taylor and Cate, cross the finish line in the Nebraska Kid’s race this past weekend.  A race in my home state, a race I had asked for since I began so long ago was how my Spartan story ended.  And welcoming my girls to the Spartan finisher family of finishers, was a privilege.   It was a perfect send-off.  They knew at their finish line, they’d been a part of the story too.  They’d seen me travel to far off places and always return home with stories and muddy laundry.  Now, they could feel it for themselves.  It was one of the greatest gifts I could have given them. Their delighted faces were the greatest gifts they could have given back.

I look forward to the next chapter for me and my girls but am so, so, so very thankful to have such a prolific chapter of Spartan Race in my life story.  I’ve loved every moment of the ride, I’ve grown personally and professionally, found love, friendships, and will always be grateful to be part of such a motivating and inspiring community.  As a woman who regularly writes about 10,000 words a day, here are two that I can’t say enough to everyone I’ve encountered along the way: THANK YOU.

[Originally posted on the Spartan blog.  Find the original HERE.]

Squeeze Twice

When my girls were learning to walk they would hold my hand for support. Their tiny hands in mine, I would tell them that if they were unsure, scared, or if they needed me, they just needed to “squeeze twice” and I’d know to pay attention. When they started a new school, a new activity, a scary doctor’s appointment, anything, I’d tell them the same, “squeeze twice,” no matter how many people are around and what is going on… because I’d know what they were feeling. It was how they could tell me that they needed me without having to say a word.

Today, I picked Cate up from school and she took my hand as we started up the hill to where I was parked. We chatted about her day, she told me about her field trip, and then suddenly I felt the unmistakable two squeezes in our grip. We both smiled in the same moment as it happened. We stopped walking, I leaned over, got close to her face, and whispered, “Yes?” and she said, “I’m okay, mom. That was for you. Just in case you needed me this time.”

Squeeze twice.