Before I started this blog, I used “blog” on Facebook.  Not that I did a ton of writing (not like I do now either) I was inspired by a friend’s writing and thought “why not?”   This post was done in 2009, but as I think about some of the things that have gone down over the last few days, it’s become evident that I need to regain my focus.  This has helped me to start finding my groove again.  This was initially posted on July 9, 2009.  Enjoy.

As a point of reference, Runango is a very small, but awesome running board online.  The group that I hang out with I’ve “known” for close to 8 years now, some a little longer as I also posted on Runner’s World for a time too.

Some of you may have read this on Runango…..

First, this is why I missed the reunion, so no crap about not being there!! 😉

For those who don’t know, over the last two and a half years, I’ve been working towards a Master’s of Education with an emphasis on elementary education. For me, it’s been an emotional roller coaster, some good classes, some bad, crappy instructors, inspirational ones, but it all culminated with a week on the University of Viterbo, located in La Crosse, WI.

First, the campus is gorgeous. It was created in 1871 by a group of Franciscan Nuns, who were very strong into education. The chapel on campus is an amazing work of art, one of the few in the country that is tone perfect. Just a living work of art to say the least, located just stone’s throw from my door step.

I got up there Monday morning, checked in, and went to the computer lab to make sure my research presentation worked. Guess what, it didn’t. ****!!! I had a partial copy on my laptop, so I started working through the problems. No big deal. We met as a whole group and found out there were 3 fewer Iowans there than Wisconsinites (which we Iowan found funny) a total of 470 of us in all. We met for a book discussion, then our group of three from my school met for dinner, then I spent the night tweeking my presentation.

Tuesday brought the first of three days of “morning reflection” by one of the professors, one who has profoundly moved me. His first topic was talking about his father in law, who has passed away Saturday. He delivered the eulogy our first day of class, and read that for us, bringing many to tears (myself included). He also read us a poem titled “A Summer Day” by Mary Oliver. Now, I’d not heard this before (because I’m a literature illiterate, but that’s another post). A great poem, but he really hit on the last line:

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

We celebrated with a Viterbo riverboat ride with much laughter and smiling all around.

Wednesday, my presentation day, was a blur because of my nerves. I’m an excellent public speaker, however, I get the biggest cases of stage fright possibly known to man. Today was no different. My presentation went well, was well received (my research was the effects of question answer relationship on my classroom), and I was praised for teaching reading strategies during my content classes. The women I came with wanted to go shopping after class, and while I would have loved to spend more time with them, shopping, ummm NO!! So I ended up at an independent baseball league game, the LaCrosse Loggers, and had a blast. I ended up next to a retired teacher from LaCrosse, her husband and her granddaughter, and we had the best conversation about baseball, family, school, life in general. I made my night totally.

But what I will take away from it: we were sitting on the first baseline, just a few feet outside the protective screen around home plate. We’d had one ball fly relatively close over our heads, but nothing to be too worried about. The grandfather had just whispered into the granddaughter’s ear “tell Grandma I love her”, and the granddaughter giggly told her that. The grandmother sent the same reply back, and just as the granddaughter was saying this, a right handed batter came around late on a fast ball, fouling it sharply off in our direction, in fact two rows below us in our direction. As we looked at each other, she said, “I’m glad I told her to say that back to Jim. You never know when your time will come, and to have said those words would have been a great comfort to him.” All I could think was wow…..

Thursday, our morning reflection was about Seattle, WA, and how our speaker, a young poor grad assistant at the time, would go the local tavern to “reflect” and was asked to dinner by an older man with a disability. He went to this man’s house, helped him start dinner, and before he knew it, there were people all over, each bringing just a small item to share with everyone. The older man told our speaker something I found very profound as well: “If you don’t have much to give, then give of yourself”. Again….wow

Yesterday was graduation in full regalia. Again, much smiling, laughter, some tears, but a wonderful ceremony. Before the graduation, we had Norm Bossio, a “motivated speaker” not a motivational speaker, talk with us about education. Nothing new, but very pointed in his comments, but made them with humor and a passion that we all fed from. That is one occupation I could see myself doing, public speaking. I’m a very quiet, fairly reserved fellow, but when in front of an audience, I can perform the crap out of things. We’ll see….

What I took away from all this:

1) Celebrate. I came in very much a “check it off the list” kind of guy. No more. This week was a celebration of much hard work, and I loved every minute of it from the panic of my show not working, to the river boat, the baseball game, and all the personalities involved in this process. I dreaded this coming in, but found myself totally letting go of that dread and being filled with a sense of awe and wonder at the presentations, the people, and the fact I’d come this far.

2) Sing. I, for whatever reason, signed up to sing in the volunteer choir (I sang all four years of HS and in college as well). How many guys total were there? Three! But we had as a choir had a blast. Half of the choir was made up of choir directors, and it was inspiring to watch them help each other out as each song we did was directed by one of the volunteers. We sang When I Close My Eyes by Jim Papoulis, and You Raise Me Up made famous by Josh Grobin. What we did in four, 50 minute sessions was tremendous. I will never forget that part of this experience as the texture it added to the whole thing was amazing, a whole different layer.

3) Plan. I want to do something more, and spent a very sleepless night (and a few more to come I’m sure) wondering what that is. I love what I do, but how can I do it better? Could I do something else to make more of an impact? What do I want to do with my one wild and precious life? And I pose that question to all of you: What do you want to do with this one wild and precious life?

Now that I’m all teared up again, if you’ve read this far, thank you. This whole week made me see how special my accomplishment truly is, especially since I’ve done it working full time, married with two kids. It also has made me realize how special relationships are, so I will certainly be making an effort to find races or reasons to put my face with that MTM name that you see. It may not happen often, but it will happen, because there are many special people here.

Again, thank you for the chance to spout off…

MTM – Darin