Valuing ourselves to make a difference (Guest post)

by Shawna Clausen

When I was 10 years old, my parents moved me and my siblings from the city of Omaha, Nebraska to a farm outside of Salem, Oregon.  It was nothing short of culture shock for me.  I had to rely on myself for entertainment and thankfully, my parents allowed me to get a St. Bernard puppy from the farmer down the street as my tag-along buddy. We would traipse around the countryside, exploring the forest down the road, or choosing which orchard we wanted to hang out in each day. I was surrounded by acres and acres of orchards, and I could choose between peaches or pears or cherries or apples, or fields of green beans or strawberries.  It really was quite bucolic.

However, there was great sadness and abuse in my life starting well before I arrived in Salem. This was perpetrated by the family pedophile, and also, sadly, from my own anger-ridden father. I was “just Shawna” for a good portion of my childhood and into some of my adulthood, and this recognition of myself within myself didn’t help me value myself or my body.

In 2012, I lost my beloved mother to lung cancer. In 2014, I lost my father to lung cancer.  Even though in their cases, lung cancer was preventable (they collectively smoked tobacco for 100 years total), life was very rocky and extremely dark during the years after they died. I gained 80 pounds, rising to an unhealthy weight of 265 lbs at my heaviest. All of my joints hurt, my back hurt, my feet and knees ached all the time, and I was so unhappy with myself, with the soon-to-be ending relationship, with my job … pretty much my entire life felt like it was one black hole.

A former partner of mine (who also happens to be a former Marine) helped me get started.  In early 2014, he started sending me dally calisthenics, with an exact # of push-ups to do, miles to walk or run, jumping jacks, burpees, V-ups, butterfly kicks. You name it, he had me do them. There was also a military play class taught at KinkFest that year that he invited me to “participate” in, so of course, I had to get into somewhat of better shape if I was going to “perform” in front of 35+ people.

In the beginning, I hated every minute of it.  It was all I could do to not come up with some colorful excuse on why I could run or walk today, what other things I needed to be doing instead of taking care of my body.

Then I remembered the bad physical shape my mother was in at my age, and I realized that in order to deal with the cards I was given, and not wait until I was 60-65 to make any physical changes, I had to do something then. That was 3 years ago.

Each time I force myself to get outside makes the next time easier.
Each step I take, one in front of the other, makes the next one easier.
Each stair I climb makes the next one that much shorter.

I breathe and breathe some more. I hear my heart pumping my blood back and forth within my veins and arteries, pushing it where it needs to go and away from where it should be, and then back again.

When I run, I listen to the staccato of my steps, one in front of the other, along with the beat of the fast-rhythm music I have on my playlist. I don’t run without music; it’s one thing having Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” in my ears to keep me running up the hills.

During my workouts, I tell myself “Shawna, you can do this. You ran 13.1 miles THREE TIMES! This is nothing!!”

I ran my first 13.1 race, the Seattle Half Marathon, on November 29, 2015.  I ran my 2nd half marathon “The Blerch” (organized by the creator of the Oatmeal comic, Matthew Inman) on September 27, 2016, and my third marathon, the Seattle Half Marathon, on November 27, 2016.

Photo credit: Wendell Joost

At this time, I plan on running four half marathons this year. The first one is the Mother’s Day Run in Seattle (in memory of my mother.) I am also contemplating completing the Tough Mudder in June, the Portland Half Marathon in October, and the Seattle Half Marathon in November.

I try to encourage my friends and those that I meet that whatever they choose to do, whether that is running their own races, losing weight, learning how to belly dance or the fox trot or playing a musical instrument or knitting … whatever that choice is, they can do it.  One breath at a time.  Each second builds to a minute which builds to an hour which builds to a day. Then a week. Then a month.

I’m not implying in the least that everyone needs to rush out and lose 80 pounds.  If someone is genuinely happy with how they look and where they are in their life, that is all that matters.  I wasn’t happy with anything about me. I was heading for a shit-storm of a disaster in the form of diabetes, congestive heart failure and high blood pressure (all landing within my family medical history). The odds were against me that I would live past 60 years of age.

During the summer of 2016 while I was walking around the First Hill area of Seattle, I met a little girl named Alice, who thought I was Wonder Woman in disguise, as I was wearing a scarf with the Wonder Woman logo on it, and my phone cover has the Wonder Woman logo and emblem on it.  In talking with her mother, it became quite apparent that Wonder Woman was Alice’s hero.  My friend, Jamie, who is a crochet artist, created a Wonder Woman doll for me, and as a surprise for Alice, a wee tiny Wonder Woman doll for her very own (as of today’s date, I’ve not seen Alice due to the holidays, but I am hopeful that I will see her again). (FB post:

Wonder Woman has always been my hero, from when I was that young child. I believed in her when I didn’t believe in myself nor did many people show belief in me.  Now though, I believe in me and I value me and what I have to offer the world from my small space.  We all have value, we simply have to find it.


I am Shawna Clausen, a 48 year old feminist who happens to run marathons in my spare time.  In the other small bit of time I am allotted, my two cats, Elvis The Pelvis and Neville, run the rest of my life. 

Folsom Fair 2014

I’m also Ms. Oregon State Leather 2014, having won the title in August 2014 and stepped down a year later.  My sash husband is Steven Steinbock, Mr. Oregon State Leather 2014.  He was a huge part of my support network during my tumultuous title year, and continues to be a steadfast supporter of every one of the crazy hair-brained ideas that I seem to come up with. He rolls his eyes and carries on, and still loves and respects me at the end of the day.  I can only wish that every title holder has a sash husband such as I had in Steven.

Photo credit: Leland Carina

I am now living in Seattle (WA) working in the healthcare industry, and immersing myself in the rope bondage kink scene, in addition to the gaming piece in this city, which is relatively easy considering Seattle is now one of the up and coming tech areas in the nation. I enjoy experiencing different foods, along with watching bad horror movies with Michael, one of my partners (I am polyamorous). I travel often to Portland to attend leather, kink and drag events. I have discovered the modeling world, at least here in Seattle, having dabbled as a model for a few well-known Seattle-area photographers (in both erotic and non-erotic settings).

Seattle Pride. Photo Credit: Malixe Photography

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