Dear Friends

Nov 9
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Conversations, Current Events, Reflections
Photo by Josh Adamski

Photo by Josh Adamski

 

Dear Friends Who Live in Places on the Rest of the Planet,

I have visited more than 20 countries (and all seven continents) on this globe. I was not someone who jumped off a plane and booked myself into an anonymous hotel as I was on my seven marathons journey. No. I always seek out connections wherever I go. And I have the gift of having developed and now maintaining friendships with interesting and lovely individuals from many of the countries I’ve been to.

Everywhere I’ve traveled, people have rarely expressed contempt for the American population. Occasionally, well-informed friends (especially in Chile and in parts of Europe) have shared with me their opinions about US politicians or policies, yes, but I have always experienced warmth and openness toward me as an individual and toward Americans as a citizenship.

Thank you dear ones. Today I do not blame you if you are wary of us. We just did something really upsetting and, frankly, despicable. We voted someone into office who would build walls around our country to give you the message that you are not welcome. Someone who thinks you are “less than” if your skin is brown. Someone who will harass and accuse you if your last name sounds Latino. Someone who would grab your “pussy” if you are female. Someone whose best ten-dollar word is “tremendous” and who does not have any idea of the history of YOUR country.

WE did that. WE did that to YOU. Knowing that our wealth, our use of natural resources, our carbon emissions, our purchasing power, our stock market, and many other aspects of our power impact YOUR politics and YOUR individual lives, WE elected this “tremendous” bull-shitter, this dangerous person, into our most powerful office.

I have never written a political blog before. I haven’t done it precisely because my love of running and my love of writing (as a way to inspire others) transcend politics. I know many of my friends and followers over the years come from very different philosophical and cultural backgrounds. I’ve wanted to hold tight to uniting factors: that we are runners, travelers, adventurers, and humans. Most who read my books or blogs are also women.

Today, then, I must speak of this. I must speak of this to and for all of you around this planet that I care so deeply for. I love your countries, your natural spaces, your unique ways of being as people. I respect your histories—the victories and the tragedies. From you I have humbly learned about the effects of my privilege as a white woman born in the United States at this point on the human timeline. And every time I vote—for officials or for policies—I have always kept you in my heart.

This time my keeping you in my heart was not enough. This time a huge portion of the white female vote went to this hostile, ignorant man.

I am sorry; I am sad; I am scared; and I am determined. I am determined never again to shy away from political discussions with friends or family. I am determined to stand up for and stand with my friends of color and my gay and lesbian friends who are now feeling more terrified than ever. I will write my representatives. I will continue to vote. I will look for ways grow in consciousness and in conscious actions.

The United States is not the center of the universe (as I sometimes think our politicians make us out to be), but we do make a lot of noise and we do impact what happens elsewhere. Friends, I cannot even ask you for your patience with my country. I WOULD not ask you for your confidence. I hope that our constitution and the structure of our three-branch government will provide the checks and balances it was created to provide, but I won’t ask YOU to put trust in this.

Today, I only promise you that there are many of us here in my country who know we are citizens of the WHOLE world and who think beyond our own comfort and our own religious and political values. There are many of us who know that poverty and injustice ACROSS THE GLOBE are also our concern. We were not enough to keep this terrible man out of office, but we are not few.

I thank you for your friendship and for welcoming me into your nations, your homes, and your lives. I know you are with me in my grief today. But somehow (I don’t pretend to know how), we must not let fear rule. It isn’t fair for me to look to you for words of hope (though I’ll take them if you have some), but I do believe that humanity is evolving toward wholesomeness and justice in spite of what this looks like.

Love to you all.

The “H” in SHINE

Jan 30
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Chile 2014, Conversations, Current Events, SHINE

Before I get to the “H” in SHINE, I want to tell you about a new development in my life:

I’m re-opening my practice in the greater Seattle area! After several years of focusing on my writing and on virtual coaching, I’ve decided to re-open my therapy doors. On Mondays I’ll be working out of the Eastside Psychological Associates’ office in Woodinville and on Tuesdays I’ll be seeing clients near Greenlake in Seattle—both coaching and therapy clients at that location. (For those of you wondering, I’m not moving out of B’ham, just spending Monday nights down south so I can put a couple of days in.)
 
Obviously, I’ll be taking new clients and will be delighted to have referrals, so feel free to forward my email on to anyone who might be interested. clostman@live.com

 

Now for the “H” in SHINE

Hold your life gently. What does this mean?

HandsThe opposite of holding something gently is to hold it tightly. When you hold something white-knuckled and squeezing for all your worth, you’re attached to it, clinging to it, needing it, wanting it. I don’t know about you, but I hold plenty of things in my life quite tightly. Especially, I think, we are prone to hold definitions of ourselves very close to us. Most of us, after all, want to BE who we think we are; we want others to think we are who we say we are. And we spend a lot of time trying to prove we are who we wish we were. Whew! What a lot of work.

My narrative about myself was challenged during my 5-month trip to South America. In order to go to Chile, I had to put my life at home on hold. Most of the pieces to the puzzle that is me needed to be taken apart and placed in storage, so to speak. Our two sweet little dogs went to live with my friend and neighbor, Julie. Our home went to Hilda, who also took care of the cat. The responsibilities I carry for the Red Wheelbarrow Writers were sloughed off to several dear friends who were willing to each take on roles I had been filling (and who did a better job with them than I ever did—thank you, amigos). And most of my clients, friendships, and writing routines were all put on hold, too. Just to get to Concepcion, I had to strip down my world to me, myself, and I—and a suitcase full of clothes that I knew I would hate by the time I’d worn and re-worn them for five months.

I undertook my strip-down happily and willingly, but I didn’t anticipate how leaving behind the trappings of my life would impact me. Once I was on foreign ground, I felt a little out of control, to be honest. While we were in Chile, every time I thought of my dogs, I could do no more than to send a prayer out to the universe that they were okay. Or when I thought of my elderly grandparents, again, I had to consciously offer them to Life to take care of; I could not drive them to doctor appointments or take them out to breakfast (things I do when at home that delude me into thinking I have some influence over their well-being). My loss of control of my life back home was at once terrifying and freeing. Terrifying because I began to realize that my long-held sense of jurisdiction over details was—had always been—an illusion. And freeing because I discovered my sense of identity was not tied to all of the things I thought of as “ME.” In Chile I was not acting as writer or coordinator for other writers, doggie mom, best friend who is always there to talk you through something, therapist, grand-daughter, homeowner. I was just this woman no one knew at first—someone who could be anyone.

It’s rare that most people get the opportunity to open possibilities of identity the way that I did, or at least it is rare that we consider holding our sense of identity with open palms. The narrative of who you are has been, as is true for me and for everyone else in the world, a carefully designed structure, built on the foundation of your history, your activities, and your relationships. But WHAT IF you are more/other/beyond what you know yourself to be.

What if you left your life behind and started brand new as someone else?

I’m not suggesting that you do this!! I mean, even a zillion miles away from home, you carry definitions and attachments with you to a huge degree. I, for example, still Skyped with my friend to check on my dogs, called my grandparents regularly, and called Hilda to look in on the house and the cat. I still knew that I was a writer, a runner, a friend, a wine- and pet-lover. But I also felt I might be more than those things.

Holding our self-definitions very gently, without grasping after what we don’t have control over, can give a person a sense of possibility, a chance to imagine what ELSE we are. What else might you be if you loosened your grip on how you think of yourself? What roles do you have in your life that most define you? And even if you love those roles, what might be freed up in you if you didn’t fill them for a time?

You don’t have to travel around the world to open your mind to new possibilities in your life. In my upcoming SHINE program, I will be sharing some of the discoveries I made about how to dream big. Most people I’ve worked with—therapy clients and writers alike—have a feeling they are not living into their greatest potential. Holding your life—and the self-definitions life has given you over the years—gently can revolutionize the possibilities you see for yourself.

In the 7-week SHINE program I will be talking about how how you see yourself is directly linked to the choices you make in life. We will do a powerful visualization that will help you press through limitations that have held you in place or made you feel stuck. 

SHINE program details:
When: Seven Thursdays, beginning February 25. 4:00-5:30pm PST (with an additional 30 minutes afterwards for discussion applicable especially for writers).
Where: On the phone. Conference call-in numbers provided to participants.
What: Lecture, opportunities to be coached, homework assignments, bonus writing assignments.
Cost: $99 — To sign up, click here.

Independence Celebration and Beer Festival

Sep 7
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Chile 2014, Current Events, Travel log

Bill received an email on Thursday announcing that his Friday classes would be cancelled, as would all afternoon classes at Universidad de Concepcion, because the student union had decided to have its big annual “ramada” party to celebrate Chile’s independence day. Faculty members told us that university officials were concerned about safety and wanted all staff out of their buildings and off the campus by 12:30. Naturally, Bill and I wanted to see what kind of party could close down a big campus like U de C and require all adults to get out of Dodge, so we decided to walk up to campus and have a look around.

Since my Spanish instructor had told me that activities would commence at about 2pm and go on until around 9 or 10 in the evening, we thought that 3:00 would be a good time to wander through the party (after things got started but before complete debauchery ensued).

By the time we got up to the campus, students were still pouring in in droves. Apparently, though U de C hosts the event, people come from all of the other campuses in town. They set up tents to sell beer and a drink they call “teremoto” or “earthquake.” Bill bought a light beer from one of the stalls to start with… you know, to support the students…

IMG_0804

 

 

but we got curious about what the teremoto was and felt we simply had to try one—as a cultural experience.  The recipe calls for sweet white wine, Pisco (Chile’s special liquor), pineapple ice-cream, and sugar. Then it is served in a one liter glass.

trago-terremoto

 

I tried to help with it, but it was SOOO, SOOO sweet, and I’m afraid Bill had to manage most of it on his own.

Students simply piled onto the campus until every inch of this area was filled.

And as you can hear in the video, they had a good quality sound system set up so that we could hear the music quite easily from inside of our house a few blocks away.

Before heading home to listen to the party from a distance, Bill and I went out to get pizza at The Deli House, one of my favorite restaurants close to the campus (because they have decent coffee and English on the menu). When the waiter brought the bill, Bill said, “I assume you have money to pay for this?” I felt my face flush red with panic, because… well… no, I didn’t have any cash. Bill ALWAYS has cash. ALWAYS.

Bill always has cash except when he’s been warned about pickpockets being plentiful at an event we weren’t really advised to go to in the first place. He’d left his wallet at home so it could’t get ripped off while we were walking amidst the crowds and sipping on a teremoto among the ramada tents. And he had spent what he had brought along on the teremoto.

He quickly explained to the restaurant staff that he was leaving me as collateral while he ran home (10 minutes away) to get some money. Geez! Good thing we both had a sense of humor about it, which is more than I can say about our waiter—who was punching out and clearly wanted to collect his tip and get to the par-tay. But anyway, Bill was back in about 20 minutes and we avoided having to pull a shameful “perro muerto” (literally: dead dog, or to stiff someone on what you owe them) only to slink back the next day to pay and explain what happened.

Yesterday:

We went to a beer tasting festival. I’m always astounded that my husband, who sometimes confuses the escape button on the keyboard with the power button, thus turning off his computer in the middle of whatever he’s doing, can find ANY event on the internet that involves running or beer. Today it was beer.

IMG_0814

 

While I’m not typically a huge fan of beer (I know… I can hear the boos), I always go with Bill to beer festivals because I can’t stand the idea that fun is being had without me. So I tagged along. And I’m so glad I did. I found a good stout (which I do like) and sat and sipped while Bill circulated and tasted everything there was to taste. He ended up buying a beer from the same fellow who sold me my stout, and then we settled in to watch the band and the dancing. Chile’s national dance is La Cueca. Check it out.

 

 

There was also bull-riding for the children and plenty of Antichocos (Chilean shish kabobs) for sale. We stayed for about three hours and left smelling of BBQ.

IMG_0827

 

IMG_0815

 

P1060077

 

We ended the day by attending the Sinfonica at the Teatro Universidad de Concepcion. Smelling of charcoal and beer, we sat in a full house of Chileans as they enjoyed their national classical music. The concert (called Grande Chilenos Sinfonica) featured 18 pieces by Chilean composers. The symphony was accompanied by vocalists Claudia Melgarejo, Miguel Angel Pellao, Ramiro Vera, and the Coro Universidad de Concepcion—all conducted by Carlos Traverso.

photo-2

I don’t know much about music in general. Those who are familiar with my tastes would call me a throwback to the disco age. But I thoroughly and completely enjoyed the concert as few others I’ve ever attended. Both Bill and I were awed. The music was surprising. Just when you felt like you were moving with it, the direction changed and the mood shifted. I wish I had the words to describe it, but I feel like I did when I first started tasting wine and didn’t know to describe a pinot noir as “earthy” or “full-bodied.” And I wish I could have a recording of the whole thing! My favorite piece was a long one called Fantasia Sinfonica that made us feel like we were watching a war. One side is winning, and then the opponent gains ground so our side restrategizes and gathers strength. They grow tired though, and need to take a rest. During furlough, a love affair breaks out between the general and a woman he met at a party one night, which gives him new inspiration. So he goes back into the fighting with renewed vigor and moves his troops to the right and then to the left and the right again. And finally, victory is gained and the whole country celebrates with a wedding.

Anyway… that’s what it felt like.

We came home and fell into bed with the sense that we had really experienced Chile.

Join Us for Our Half Marathon!

Jun 5
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Around Town, Current Events, Preparations

2014Front

Summer in the Northwest is the best. Today I’m sitting on a friend’s porch (in my shorts and t-shirt!!) enjoying bird songs and blooming flowers.

I’m here with pen and paper making some of my final to-do lists for the fourth annual Wind Horse Half Marathon, which is coming up here in a few weeks (July 19 to be exact). I do love co-directing this event every year, and this year there’s more to love than in years past. Why? Because we have a new partnership with the Bellingham Sister Cities Association!

As you may know (because I blab about it all the time), the Sister City program, developed by President Eisenhower after World War II to promote citizen diplomacy (otherwise known as “world peace”), is and has been an important part of my life since Bill and I visited one of Bellingham’s seven sister cities in Australia many years ago (Port Stephens).  Subsequently, we also made our way to two of Bham’s other sister cities: Tateyama, Japan and Punta Arenas, Chile. Our town’s newest sister city is Tsetserleg, Mongolia, and while I’ve not yet visited, I have been involved in raising funds to provide school uniforms and supplies to the children of Tsetserleg for the past few years. The proceeds of the Wind Horse Half Marathon have gone to The Blue Sky Education Project, which distributes the funds as needed.

Well, this year, the Wind Horse Half Marathon and the Bellingham Sister Cities Association are teaming up to put on the race. This way, we can benefit two organizations we believe in with one super fun event.

If you haven’t participated in the Wind Horse Half Marathon before, consider joining us this year. The course runs parallel to Chuckanut drive. On a clear day (which we promise to have on July 19), you can see the San Juan Islands while you enjoy the cool shade of the trail and smell of pine and ferns. We are a low-key, low-cost race, but we do serve a barbecue after the run in the tradition of the Mongolians. AND, you’ll get a medal with our awesome graphic on it. We’re walker friendly (we’re just generally friendly, too) and have very cool first prizes–also in the Mongolian tradition–for the female and male finishers (but you have to be 21 years old to take it home, or we would be arrested). Sign up now, if you haven’t already. See you there.

To sign up for the race, CLICK HERE.

 

If you’d like to volunteer (and we do need peeps to support our runners), send an email to sistachristine@yahoo.com

 

Fairhaven Runners Waterfront 15 K

Sep 16
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in 2013 Challenge, Around Town, Current Events, Race Reports

20130916-092212.jpg

Notice the picture of me smiling like I’m having fun? This photo was taken by my awesome running coach Carol Frazey during Saturday’s Waterfront 15K in Belllingham–right around the halfway point, I think.

For months, I’ve been faithfully putting in my training as prescribed by Carol, making sure to get in at least the three critical workouts she recommends each week: one day of speed work, one day of pace work, and one long run on the weekends. And while I’ve managed to get PRs in both the 10K and half marathon distances this year, I’ve felt they were hard won and didn’t necessarily represent good race strategies. For my 10K PR, the last mile was a lovely, accommodating downhill (which I appreciated, but I do have to give gravity at least a little credit). For my half marathon PR (which was my best time by a handful of seconds, really), I’d gotten tired and slowed to an eleven minute pace for the final two miles–which means I’d run the first few miles too fast. (Let me quickly assure you that I’m not being hard on myself by noticing these things; I’m just looking at the big picture of becoming a more proficient and efficient runner. You won’t find me slipping into perfectionism, I promise!! I was content with both of those races.)

What I’ve been trying to do is what everyone says is optimal in a race: that I start at a reasonable and sustainable pace and hold it there so there’s something left in the tank at the end. I’m very excited to report that I achieved this in Saturday’s race.

I think because the course was super crowded at the beginning, I wasn’t able to start very quickly at all. On the narrow path available next to the traffic buzzing through Fairhaven, there simply wasn’t space to pass anyone, so I was lucky to have snuggled myself in the starting area among other runners who were also going for a 10 minute per mile pace. They kept me from using precious fresh energy too soon.

I knew the first half of the course would allow me to hold my 10 minute pace because there were no uphills to contend with, but mile seven and mile nine on the way back both had hills. I set my heart on holding 10 minute miles until I hit the hills on mile seven and then doing mile eight at 10 minutes or faster, if I could. And I could!! My final overall pace average was 10:03 and my finishing time was 1:34. That’s 10 minutes faster than the last time I ran the Waterfront 15K in 2011!!!

Friends, I’m here t tell you that if you keep up your training and don’t give in to discouragement, it will pay off. Although I’m an avid runner, I’m not a naturally athletic person. I’m also 46 years old, 135 pounds, and a lover of cheese and wine. My body is not built for Boston Qualifying, nor do I have the work ethic to push myself to the brink of common sense to get myself there. What I do have is what anyone can have: tenacity–in good-enough measures.

If you’ve been following me on this journey and working toward your own goals, I hope you’ll notice the small improvements you’re making and celebrate them. Sometimes movement is measured in time, sometimes in attitude. For me, more important even than the PR or the consistent strategy I employed during Saturday’s race was the fact that I had a good time. This is the first time I’ve come close to my time goal AND felt happy for the whole race. You might remember me saying at the beginning of this year that I was going to give one year to getting faster, but that if it made me unhappy to run harder, I’d go back to lallygagging my way through races. Looks like one can work hard and be happy at the same time. Who knew?