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You are the light of the world.

Has anyone ever told you that you are the light of the world? Hear it now.

The Fat Pastor

Part Two of my story of Godspell. Read part one here.

Click here to go to the full sermon, where I talk about our experience with Godspell, called “You are the Light of the World.”  From 11:30-20:00, I talk more extensively about the salt and the light as found in Matthew 5:13-14.

“You are the light of the world,” I sang. And then I went home and reflected on the amazing thing we had just done. Godspell had forever changed me, but in the hours after the show I don’t think I had any idea just how much.

“You are the light of the world,” we all sang. Dino Hayz, director of the Center for Living Arts and our Jesus, went out into the audience. He grabbed someone and had them stand up so we could all sing to that one particular person, “You are the salt of…

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HKC Reunion, Part Two: The Interview!

Just before Janelle started packing up to head home to The Burgh, we found time to do the HKC interview.  Read the first part of the reunion story here; read Janelle’s account hereImage.  Read HER interview of ME here!

Here we go!

TS:  You are on a ship, and it begins sinking.  You have to make a choice about the ONE fitness tool you can bring with you–and it CAN’T be a kettlebell (that would sink the raft, of course).  What tool do you choose to bring with you, and why?

[This was the first–but not the last–funny look I got from Janelle during the course of the interview.  Really, it’s a serious question! I wanted to see how she set priorities and found alternatives, and where her other sources of strength might be. Frealz.]

JP:  I would grab my portable pull-up bar–it’s a great all-purpose tool for building strength by mastering bodyweight.  I’ve been experimenting with lots of more specialized moves lately, like skinning the cat, one-armed pulls, etc.  My goal is eventually to master the muscle-up, which is some serious strength business.

[Janelle, practicing her skinning the cat moves]

TS: Same question, but with food.  What would you grab to take with you if you could bring only one item?

JP:  Almonds, no doubt!  They provide the body with healthy fats, some protein, and will curb your appetite for a while (which is good if you’re stuck on a life raft).  They won’t go bad, are easy to stash (again, important on a life raft). . . . what’s not to love?

[You can read more about Janelle’s adventures with food and health on her blog. She has an amazing story of transformation by way of nutrition.]

TS:  You know my story.  What would you say to someone in the same place as I was 2 years ago–dangerously overweight, feeling sick and stuck, feeling like things will never get better?

JP: I discovered kettlebells randomly while in grad school in 2010, with the simple goal of getting in shape.  But a sudden and very serious career change sent me spinning out of control–I was wrecking myself because I didn’t know what to do with my life, or how to make it better. At some point I realized that I couldn’t stay “stuck”–I had to do something, even if I didn’t really know what that might be. I picked up that kettlebell again, and this time started working seriously with it.  In the process, I discovered a community that wanted me to succeed–was absolutely committed to helping me succeed!

To those who feel stuck, I would say:  know that even just making small changes will help.  The hardest part is not finding the fitness routine that will change things for you–it’s believing that you can change to begin with.  That’s where a support community helps the most.

TS:  I know you primarily through our connection with kettlebell training.  What are the other parts of your life that fulfill you, keep you sane, make you who you are?

[Cue second funny look.]

JP: I don’t do much right now outside of kettlebell training, just because I’m in preparation for RKC.  But just recently, I’ve reconnected to a local faith community called Hot Metal Bridge.  They’ve helped me get grounded again spiritually, and that’s been really important to me.  The community meets and really builds each other up through regular group meals and networking.  I also participate in community outreach programs sponsored by Hot Metal Bridge.

It’s good to do more, be known for something outside your work, to broaden your horizons.  I drink way too much coffee at the Beehive . . . though my trainer disapproves, I love to go skateboarding around the Southside neighborhood of Pittsburgh.  Every Monday, I hang out with a group of people to kick back, watch movies, sing some tunes and talk about where our lives are going. I like to be part of the Pittsburgh community as much as I can, and will do more in the future as things settle down for me professionally.

Basically, I am an all-around goofball who enjoys good company. I can talk your ear off about philosophy, psychology and theology as those are the subject matters I studied throughout college and grad school. Ha! I’m a nerd.

In my spare time I also rock out my keyboard (been playing piano for 22 years now) and I also lay some tunes down on my guitar.  What can I say? I wanted to be a rock star at one point!

[See Janelle sporting her best rock star duds here!]

TS:  Where will you be, and what will you be doing, in 5 years?

JP:  I’m certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine for personal training (taking the exam this month!) The significant health problems I’ve been through (auto-immune disorder, depression, substance abuse) have made me really want to help people take a stand for their own health, as I did.

I’m certified by DragonDoor for the Russian Kettlebell Challenge instructor certification (April 2013).  This certification has been my dream since I started getting involved with kettlebells and the RKC community.

I’m a full-fledged kettlebell instructor, whether for athletic types improving their performance, or for regular people working their way back into good health.

I’ll be working on other certifications to enhance my professional profile and to improve my work with clients:  the Functional Movement Screen, Primal Move, etc.

TS:  What has been THE MOMENT, the highlight of the work you’ve done with kettlebells so far?

JP: True story! Back in 2010 when I started with kettlebell training and I was looking for instructors, I found that there were some important trainers right in Pittsburgh (Brett Jones and Kerry Swick, for example) in addition to those I was following online (like GiryaGirl Adrienne Harvey and Sharon Shiner RKC).

This became kind of a pattern:  I’d post my workouts online, would get contacted by these folks with encouragement and suggestions for my training, and then suddenly I’d get a chance to meet AND TRAIN WITH these wonderful people I had learned about and looked up to way back in the beginning!

Even better, some of them have become my friends, and now I have a new pattern of traveling to meet, train, eat, and hang out with them:  Florida with Adrienne, New York City with Marshall Roy, West Virginia with you, next Boston with Sharon Shiner RKC!

It just goes to show you that dreams really can come true!  You gotta have the faith to get started–and then just keep going.

[Read more about Janelle’s Have Kettlebell, Will Travel adventures on her blog.]

Thanks to Janelle for her friendship, for her example of strength and perseverance, and for a fabulous weekend!Image

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Watch This Space!

On tap for tomorrow: a re-cap of my recent reunion with HKC partner Janelle Pica, aka “The Primal Burgher“!

See us engage in feats of strength! (Well, that would be Janelle, mostly.)

Stand in awe as we consume ungodly amounts of venison!

Hear us make odd sound effects–“ppppppt!”–as we clink little tiny cups of limoncello with a neighbor!

Watch in horror and wonder as I interview Janelle with questions that make her  go, “Is this really a serious question?”

All here in this space. Set your watches now, folks.

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Updated for Christmas, Day 6: the call of the wild goose!

A Plate Full of Crazy

(If you are catching up, please see the original post, and the first four days of Christmas, here.  You can read Days 9-12 here.)

Christmas, Day 8–Happy New Year as well!–even on New Year’s Day, those eight maids must go a-milking. Because cows won’t wait.milkmaids

In the more agrarian society of the carol writers, it was often the case that the locations of churches were determined by how far they were in walking distance from the farms and barns where cows would need regular milking–even on the Sabbath.  It was not until a dairy herd was imported to the Jamestown Colony in the early 1700s that the colonists really began to thrive; in the words of the 19th century essayist William Cobbett: “When you have a cow, you have it all.” (Ron Schmid, Green Living Journal).

There are many biblical references to milk:  the Old Testament promise…

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Plan the work, work the plan

Step by step, rep by rep, the line of exhausted candidates for the coveted Russian Kettlebell Challenge certification advanced across the gym floor. After a year or more of personal preparation, three previous days of nonstop instruction and serious work–and one final demanding day of testing–the candidates were literally within steps of their long goal: the letters ‘RKC’ after their name.

As they advanced, the shouting and cheering from their onlookers built the excitement: trainers began calling out “RKC! RKC!”–family, friends, and colleagues yelled the names of their candidates. The volume level increased in inverse proportion to the distance between the advancing wall of candidates and the bleachers where we sat; as they drew closer, we could see their exhaustion fall away, replaced by sheer surging adrenalin. Tears of joy and relief flowed and became indistinguishable from the sheen of sweat covering their faces.

As I wrote in my GiryaGirl.com blog posting about the Vienna 2012 RKC, to be present in those final moments of pain and triumph–to have shared that moment with a larger community I never knew existed before that moment–was great privilege indeed. I saw the passion each candidate brought to their pursuit of the goal–saw the root of that word made tangible: pati, or suffering. Saw it made real, and fulfilled.

In my pursuit of the Hardstyle Kettlebell certification just a a few weeks earlier, I had tasted a bit of that passion, suffering, and triumph at the end. Though their achievement eclipsed mine many times over, I understood.

I returned home this week to face final preparations for yet another new goal, representing my university and my office to a wider circle: the 2012-2013 HERS Institute at Wellesley College near Boston, a professional development network for women in higher education leadership and administration. The work volume has been daunting, to say the least: hundreds of pages of reading and note-taking; multiple interviews to conduct, write, and submit; data and reports from my institution to gather and begin to work with.

One of the pre-assignments related to my work with the institution’s mission statement and strategic planning documents: I had to prepare a personal mission statement and strategic plan, covering my personal and professional development over the next several years.

What a stretch for me! I confess I have been something less than strategic in my career development: every entry on my resume has included a generous portion of sheer serendipity (and perhaps even more pure dumb luck): from my first leap after grad school into registrar work, to my return to our alma mater, to our shift eastward to Virginia, and finally our eventual migration across the Blue Ridge to West Virginia. It has been a satisfying career, but not much has been planned, strategically or otherwise!

This particular assignment, then, has been every bit as challenging as my physical and mental preparations for the HKC; and I am hopeful that the results will be every bit as fulfilling.

Page by page, report by report–step by step–I have been building my portfolio for the first session, this upcoming weekend. I fly out Wednesday for Boston.

Where, by the way, I hope to hook up with one of the newly-minted RKCs from Philly’s certification, Sharon Shiner, and her kettlebells, of course. Gotta keep up the training . . .

More later, folks.

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