Against the grain.

Remember when that cool new fad came out in middle school and you were all like “Mommmmm I NEED ABERCROMBIE clothes, everybody is wearing them!!!!”  Then you had the dreaded reply of:  “Oh you do? If everybody was jumping off a building, would you do that too?”  Most middle school kids living through those dreaded years of trying to fit in and make friends would usually reply, “um, no?” But in their heads they were thinking- “If it means I had friends then heck yes I would!”  Man am I glad those years are over.

We all learned at a young age that doing the opposite of what everyone else is doing can be hard, it can be lonely, and  sometimes even get you into trouble.   More often than not though, it is the better path to take.  Think about it.  Where do we learn our behavior from?  Other people, right?  We learn how to talk as babies by observing our parents and siblings and we learned the norms of school by seeing what other kids did.  We base our dress on what everyone else looks like, heck we even base our own self perception off other people.  We justify almost all our thoughts, behavior and actions off everyone else.  Well, what if some of those “other people” are wrong?  Then what?

The good thing is we all have a moral compass, deep down we know what is the right thing to do, but it is just not always the easiest.

I know I rant too much about our society’s eating habits, but that is just one example of this.  Why not eat all that crap food, if everyone else is doing it, can’t be that bad, right?  If it is all stores are filled with, how terrible could it really be?  Wrong, this is why obesity is an epidemic.  And even though it is an epidemic, I still get ridiculous “OMG are you on a diet or something?” looks from people when I order off the menu or am eating fruits and vegetables instead of potato chips- GASP!!!  It is so sad that to the majority of our society, eating fruits and veggies means I am trying to starve myself to be skinny.

Sure, I can bash that friend, co-worker, manager etc. behind his/her back, it’s not that big of a deal.  Everyone is talking about it.  Gossip helps people bond right?  If I am the one person who doesn’t, will they judge me?

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Oh and my personal favorite…sure, I can put that on my credit card!  Everybody else is doing it, buying big houses, expensive clothes,  nice cars, you know…all the important things in life.   I mean it IS the American way right?  No joke, someone once said to me “living off credit cards is normal, everybody does it.”  Right…and you can probably guess this same person blamed everybody else for the state the economy was in too. Thumbs up, dude.   I will not even go into how many things are wrong with that kind of thinking.  Again, I will just keep enduring the weird looks when people ask why I am being so stingy with my money.  The best is when I get the assumption that I am a  ‘poor broke twenty something’, barely getting by and then people feel bad for me.  Living within your means apparently is not the American way.

Do you have ideas that could change your company, your family or your life?  Do you have dreams that are so big and different, they scare the living daylights out of you?

I am not telling you to stop going to work or just run around without any clothes on, let’s not get crazy.  Just take a look at the path you are on.  Are you on this path because you decided to follow what somebody told you was right?  Are you a sucker to what our society says is normal?  Are you on a path that really doesn’t make you happy, but you just thought it was the way you were supposed to go?  There is no shame, we all get caught up sometimes.  I am 100%  guilty.  Going against the grain is really hard, but it is truly what changes the world around us.  We have the power to stop bad habits, do big and different things and change our little corner of the universe for the better.

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Take the road less traveled.  Think about all those heroes you have read about in your history books or the entrepreneurs and business leaders of today.   They certainly did not do what everyone else was doing, they took a different path.   They endured all kinds of judgmental looks and laughter.  But they dared to follow their moral compass and their intuition instead of what society told them was “right”.     I dare you to do the same, to be different.  Who knows, you might even start a revolution 😉

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Outside looking in.

When we are in the midst of our crazy lives, it is hard to take a step back and really appreciate everything going on.  However, personal reflection is so crucial to have a happy and balanced life.  Within this past year of my Servant Leadership program, I have had to do A LOT of reflection.  So much, that if I have to write another paper about myself, my leadership style or my weaknesses I might strangle somebody.  However, it is been incredibly moving and I have learned quite a bit about myself.  In fact, this program is what made me realize that the path I was on (working a million hours a week and speeding through life) was not a good one.  It caused me to really think about what I wanted in this world and what my goals and passions truly are.

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Imagine your life as a party, people around you, music pumping and just pure craziness going on.  It can be fun, it can be stressful.   You are right smack in the middle of the dance party, so often times it is hard to see the whole picture.  Now imagine what that party were to look like if you were viewing it from a balcony.  You might notice a little more, see some things you had no idea were going on, you would see the “big picture”.   Often, when I am going through my day it is one thing after another, I don’t have time to think about it or appreciate it.  For example, a typical thought of mine in a day might be “Argh, I have so many student appointments and meetings today!”  Even though I truly love what I do and I love students, the amount of energy it takes to get through a whole day of appointments and meetings can be daunting.  When I look at my day like that, it is always going to cause me a little anxiety.  But instead I have to remember, I don’t HAVE to meet with students all day, I GET to.  I am not just meeting with them, I am helping them explore the next chapters of their life.  I am giving them relief in this often overwhelming process in choosing a college.   I GET to help them and make a difference.  Anytime I go into an appointment like that, it goes well.  Why?  Because I am fully present yet I am also on the outside looking in.   But if I treat it as just another part of my to do list that day and try to rush through it, that student will not get the full benefit of my attention.

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The other day, I had a group of 4th and 5th graders come to campus for a fun day of learning about college.  This is another cool part of my job that I get to do all the time.  However, it happens so often that sometimes I can think “Ugh, another middle school visit, just gotta get through this.”  No no, I GET to teach middle school students about college and hopefully light a fire that helps them realize later in life that is a possibility for them.  I don’t HAVE to, I GET to.

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Think about your day to day responsibilities.  Do you often get caught up in the “I have to’s” and forget to look at the big picture?  Doesn’t matter what it is you do, you are part of a bigger picture somehow.  Don’t forget to not only enjoy the party while it is going on, but to take a moment and hang out on the balcony to appreciate it for everything it’s worth.

Week 7.

I have been spending almost every Saturday at the Waterfall Glen Trail, my legs feel dead almost always and my appetite is that of a 300 pound man.  Yup, I am deep into marathon training.  Almost 7 weeks down and roughly 9 more to go.  Seems like I still have a long way, but I know these next two months are going to fly and it makes me nervous.  I still have many kinks to figure out and work to do to get to where I need to be.  But I know I can do this.

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My current workout schedule is as follow:

  • Mondays:  AM Crossfit
  • Tuesdays:  AM 6-8 miles/ PM Crossfit
  • Wednesdays:  AM Crossfit/PM 5-7 mile Track workout
  • Thursdays:  AM 6-8 miles
  • Friday: AM Crossfit
  • Saturday:  Long run
  • Sunday: Off or hot yoga

For my Tuesday/Thursday run I do not keep a set pace but I do for my track workouts and long runs.   My long runs are not exactly where I need to be just yet, but I am still feeling pretty good.  My biggest thing is I am still consistent with my crossfit workouts, even if it means my legs are dead for a long run.  This might make for tough training runs, but when I am prepping for a race day and have a rest week beforehand, it makes my legs feel superhuman and light because I am so used to running when they are heavy.   The slowest average pace I have kept on a long run is 8:30 and the fastest average pace has been 7:30.  So for race day, I need to be somewhere in the middle of that.  Boston qualifying pace is an 8:15 average, but I am aiming for 745/8 to be safe.

My biggest concern right now is how long it takes me to settle into my pace. My running style is a little odd, I  like to start off pretty slow (about 2 minutes slower than race pace) and then work my way up.  While this has worked for me in the past, I am just nervous that I am going to lose too much time on the front end of my marathon getting myself “warmed up”.  So, we shall see.   I have a half marathon coming up in a few weeks and then a 20 mile race in September, so these will be two big trials to work all this out and see where I am.

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Every time I visualize crossing that finish line in a Boston qualifying time, I tear up.  It would be a dream come true, something I never thought in a million years I could accomplish.  I also never thought I would be capable of running a half marathon in the 1:40’s or a 5k in 20:20, and I did.   Me? A fast runner? Nah, I just run for fun.  Just goes to show what our bodies are capable of  when we push out of our comfort zone.  ANYTHING is possible.

 

Whoops.

Oh man, you guys.  I was SO naughty this past week.  No, not that kind of naughty.  Get your head out of the gutter, sicko.

You know how I told you I have a sugar problem?  Well let me tell you,  I have been doing a pretty good job of avoiding it at all costs for MONTHS.  I was starting to feel like I actually had will power.  Thennn…my birthday happened.  I am allowed sour patch kids on my birthday right?  Sure, 1 box of sour patch kids is fine.  But you know…I HAD to eat multiple.  Right after I had two burgers WITH BUNS.  Gasp.Picture 164

Then…our campus connect event happened, which is pretty much an awesome carnival like thing we do on campus and have naughty foods like cotton candy, caramel corn, soft pretzels, snow cones, etc.  I had all of those.  Had to make sure it was good enough for the students, duh.

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OH..then we had back to back weddings this weekend.  I mean how can I turn down WEDDING CAKE?! It would be like an insult to the couple or a curse on their marriage if I did not eat their wedding cake! I could never do such a thing!  Not to mention, now I know how much all that crap costs from planning my own wedding.  I was not about to let those hard earned dollars go to waste..no sireeeee not me.

So I have had pretty much 10 solid days of too many sweets, too much alcohol, too much bad food.  I was actually starting to see my abs come through before this binge and then BAM they are gone.  Long gone, covered by a bloated sugar belly.  So this week will be trying to re-set my body to go back to all the gains I was making while I was being good.  But  all I can think about today is sour patch kids or those amazing looking sugar cookies my co-worker brought in.  MUST. STAY. STRONG.   Sugar is seriously the devil.

It is okay to be human.  It is okay to splurge as long as you get yourself back on track.  Sometimes I don’t want to be the Jill that everybody thinks is lame because I don’t drink much or eat certain things.   BUT what I always learn when I deviate and go crazy (no matter how fun it is) is that I feel way better when I am strict with what I eat, my workouts are better, my energy levels are better, I am just happier with myself.  It is okay to cheat every now and then and not think about how much you have to do to work off that oreo, life is too short to think like that ALL the time.  And, you would go crazy.

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This weekend I made a bunch of spaghetti squash and mixed it with lots of veggies (if you are a pasta lover, I highly recommend this), took a trip to our favorite little Mexican market to pick up our meat, stocked up at the farmers market and I am ready to go.  It also helps that I have a weekend at the lake planned in two weeks.   Somehow, having to be in a bathing suit around people that love to take lots of pictures and post them on FB (curse them!!) is always a good motivation to get serious 😉

Stay blessed in the mess!

Staycation.

It has been officially 3 days back at work since my week-ish long “staycation” and I am JUST now catching up, oy vey!  I checked my emails and voice mails pretty regularly and  even came in to work  twice in the evenings to check on files, so I did not think I was going to be this swamped when I came back- butttttt all is good now!

My week off was pretty freaking awesome.  I almost love staycations more than regular vacations, so much can get done!  I did my monthly deep clean of the house, re-organized all my closets, drawers, kitchen cabinets, cleaned out the fridge etc.  I spent lots of time at my local coffee shop, walking Wyatt along the river and worked out as many times a day as I wanted- pretty amazing.  I even made it up to my family lake house to spend some time with a good friend and my family.

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My 27th birthday was also a good one, Shain got me tickets to a Trace Adkins concert at a new venue that just opened up in Aurora.  So we spent the beautiful summer night drinking beers, eating messy BBQ food and listening to country music.  What is better than that?  We even had the opportunity to get front row seats!

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In the 5 years I have worked at AU, I always take a week off in the summer, however this is the FIRST time I did not work at another part time job during my staycation.  Typically I would use this week to babysit for a few more hours or train a few more clients so it wouldn’t really feel like I was relaxing at all, but I was bringing in a little extra money which was nice.  Since I made the hard decision this year to let go of working so much part time and putting more focus into my job at AU and grad school, I feel like my life has changed completely.  I did not realize how fast of a pace I was going until I finally slowed down.  I was never able to NOT rush anywhere.  I found myself becoming short with people, just because I didn’t have time to listen or I had a million other things on my mind.  That’s not who I want to be.  I want to be present in all the special moments in life.  I can drink my coffee slowly, taking in all the aromas.  I can sit on my back porch for hours with my nose stuck in a book, not worrying about other things I should be taking care of.

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If I need to stay later at work to finish up a project, I can.  I spend my weeknights after work reading, making good fresh dinners for Shain and I (as opposed to cooking for hours on Sunday), long walks by the river, bike rides, etc.  Things I used to never have time for.  Instead of having a race that takes up every weekend, I can really focus on the quality of my workouts toward my goal for Boston this fall.  As good friends of mine are starting their own families, I am excited about the thought of being able to spend time with them and help out during this chapter instead of being too busy for it.  I am also *hoping* that I will get to spend more time with my niece if my brother and sister-in-law move back here!

I didn’t think it was possible for me to love life anymore than I already do, but the simpler my life becomes, the happier I am.

As my favorite Zac Brown Band quote states..

ZBB

Stay blessed in the mess friends!

27.

Tomorrow I turn 27, holy COW.  Where does the time go?  I know, I know… I am still a spring chicken but I certainly don’t feel like it as I creep closer and closer to 30.  THIRTY.  OMG.  Mom and Dad… does it weird you out to have 2 kids almost 30?!  Hahaha, okay that was mean. 

I know many people who get really upset over age.  They are not where they want to be or where they thought they would be.  But who is really?  According to my journal at age 7, I was going to be married with 2 kids at age 23.  In the same journal, I also said that if I had a million dollars I would buy all the sour patch kids in the world and not share them.  So I think it is safe to take that with a grain of salt, right?

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As a child or even a teenager, I envisioned what my life would be like when I was in my late twenties and I thought I would be this incredibly different person.  You know what?  I am the same person.  That’s the thing, we never really change.  We improve, we grow wiser, we get more experience but we are always going to be immature  kids at heart with big dreams.  Why do we want to muffle those dreams and enter in to adulthood so badly?  Why is it that we think we are going to have life figured out by a certain age?  It is a journey, nothing truly ever gets figured out, no winning puzzle piece- just one  hell of a roller coaster ride.

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Does the thought of being 27 and not (yet) married or having kids on the way make me anxious a little bit?  Sure, I am a woman after all.  We have this stupid biological clock that ticks away at us saying “YOU ARE BEHIND!! YOUR MOM HAD TWO KIDS BY THIS AGE!!” Men, you are so lucky to not have that clock, it is so annoying.  Sometimes I wish I could stomp on it.   But to be honest, I don’t trust that clock one bit.  It is a clock that was built by society, not by reality.   Don’t rush into things just because you feel you are  behind, it will happen when it is right.  And the “right” time is different for everybody so don’t compare your life to others either.

If you really are upset with where you are right now,  not in the job you thought you would be, not in the health you want or the body you want, or the money you hoped to make, etc. the list goes on.  GUESS WHAT?!!  I have great news for you.  I want you to do something really quick first before I tell you though, ready?  Take a deep breath in and out.  Did you do it? 

Do you know what that breath means?  It means you are alive.  You are here.  Which means you have the power to change.  You have the power to change your story.  Don’t let another 10 years of regret pass you by, go do the things you love, chase after that dream no matter how crazy it is.  This life is meant to be LIVED.  This life is meant to bring you happiness.

 

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I cannot tell you how many people say to me “You have a good life,  I wish I had your life”.  I hate to say it, but if you are saying that to me or anybody else, you would not be happy in my life or anybody elses’ life you are comparing yours too.  I have a good life because I am thankful for it and because I do things I love.  Plain and simple.  If I had to pick up and move somewhere different tomorrow and I had to start all over, I would still be this happy.  Because I make that choice everyday.  When the sun is shining and I have a good cup of coffee, I choose to be happy.  When I am running late and nothing is going my way, I choose to be happy.

I am so thankful for the 27 years God has given me and I hope that I have done something good in those years to make him proud.  I also hope that I am on the right path to continue to make a difference and to inspire others, as that is what I live for 🙂   It is okay that we are not where we thought we would be, as long as we are happy with where we are.  I hope that my 7 year old self is not dissapointed that I have not yet been married or started family yet, but hey I still love sour patch kids…does that count?

Stay blessed in the mess 😉

Every place has it’s beauty.

A week or so ago my  running crew and I were stretching after our morning 5 miler when an nice older gentleman came walking by us and started a conversation.  He was visiting family in town but was from Utah or Montana (I can’t remember which one for some reason).  I said to him something a long the lines of, “We don’t have as good of views as you do out there!”  He smiled and replied, “every place has it’s beauty”.

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I have always thought that I do not belong in Illinois.  I belong in the mountains, in the forest, somewhere where I can hike every day and just be surrounded by nature constantly. Not here in boring old Illinois.  But the man was right, Oswego sure does have it’s beauty.  It might not be surrounded by gigantic mountains or state parks, but it is beautiful all the same.

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Sometimes we spend so much time wishing to be on the greener grass on the other side, that we miss our own beautiful landscape.  There has been many times, that I am in awe of the beauty that sits just outside my house.  The gorgeous sunrise, the beautiful river and the rustic small town I adore so much.  Every place you go has it’s own beauty, but how often do you stop and appreciate it?  I may be envious of my friends living in Colorado, Norway or San Fran but who is to say they are not envious of Oswego, IL? That might be a stretch, but I can dream!

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I live a half mile from town where multiple small business know me by first name, our house is right behind the beautiful fox river and the sunrises out here in the country plains are to die for.  It is a fantastic community that I would not trade anything for.  Every place has it’s beauty.

Be careful what you ask for, Dave.

Since it is 4th of July and all, I would like to take a moment to recognize a hero of mine- Dave King.  Many of you are privileged enough to know this inspiring individual and I have the honor of working out with him in the wee hours of the morning at Crossfit Oswego.  You don’t know him?  Well, let me tell you a little something about “Kinger”.

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He is the most kindhearted man you will ever meet.  Always encouraging, always classy to his fellow athletes.  Sarcastic?  Never.   He is always the first to say something positive on all of my facebook posts.  What a guy.

He has the running form of a gazelle.

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During our gym’s Paleo Challenge, he did nothing but encourage all the athletes to do their best and not give into temptation.  He was our rock.

He has the best Burpee form I have ever seen. I mean just incredible.

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This man’s work ethic is just unbelievable.  Never rests.  Never takes a day off.

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When I grow up, I want to be just like Dave King.

 

What if I fail?

A couple weeks ago somebody asked me why I was broadcasting to everybody that I was trying to qualify for Boston this year.  What if it doesn’t work out?  What if I fail?

I was not at all offended by this question, it is a legitimate one.  Sharing goals  (that you are not even sure you are going to accomplish) with the world is risky.  You run the risk of not being successful and having everyone know you did not make it.  You run the risk of people judging you. You run the risk of not only letting yourself down, but others down.  So why did I decide to make it known to all my friends and loved ones that I was going after this?  Why did I not just keep it to myself and surprise everybody if I made it?  Because as soon as you make a personal goal public, it becomes real.  You become more accountable to work towards it and not mess around.

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As many of you know I also am a firm believer in manifestation, and I feel very strongly that if I put something out into the universe, somehow someway it will work out.  This of course does not mean I can just sit on my butt and cross my fingers for a sub 3:35 marathon time this October,  I need to put in the work and I have been.   But so much of the things we want come from having the mental ability to conceive and believe in them. 

A good friend once told me…“every thing you have ever wanted, is on the other side of fear”.  So true.  Taking risks is scary.  Going after your dreams is scary.  What if you fall on your face?  What if you are  not good enough?  All are real possibilities, but are they strong enough to keep you from at least trying?  I hope not.

There will be haters, there will be nay-sayers, that is just life.  But the biggest enemy we all face is our mind.  The people who love and support you will pick you up when you fall, they will tell you to keep going.  You are also guaranteed to inspire others along the way.  If you have never truly pushed yourself past fear and past your comfort zone, you have never realized your full potential.  This of course is not just about running, it is about life.  It is about going after what you want.

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I would be lying if I told you I am not terrified.  I would also be lying if I told you I would not be upset if I don’t get the time I need at Chicago.  But I would be more upset and disappointed in myself if I never even gave myself the chance.  It is not a matter if I can do it or not, it is a matter of whether or not I believe I can do it.

The little things.

So there is this awesome I-phone app called Instagram I am sure many of you know of.  It is pretty much the only reason I decided to take the plunge in 2013 and get an I-phone in the first place.  I literally do not use any other apps, I don’t even have email hooked up to my phone.  Instagram is kind of like Facebook, but just with pictures.  The reason I love it so much is I am able to snap pictures of the little awesome things that excite me like a cup of coffee or a pretty bird or a sunrise and I don’t have to post them on FB for the whole world to see (even though sometimes I do anyway).

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Early Saturday morning walk and coffee

When you have to time appreciate the little things,  life is so different.   Little things can be so awesome and such a huge source of happiness.   Think about your most favorite childhood memories.  They are not usually big things like a trip to Disney World or Lavish Birthday parties.  They are usually things like fishing with Dad, Church on Sundays or riding your bike with friends.  The little things.

Some of my favorite childhood memories include:

  • Having “Nerf gun wars” in the courtyard of my dad’s apartment with him and my brother
  • Eating Home Run Inn pizza after baseball games
  • My mom and step-dad  jamming out to the Beatles on the way to Church every Sunday
  • Sitting on the couch with my Papa eating whole cartons of blueberries
  • Camping with my aunt
  • Walking to the bakery with my Nana to get a cookie

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Fox Valley Trail

 My point is, life IS the little things.  The more you enjoy them, the more happiness you will have.  I have always loved the little blessings in life, but now with my new found free time I can enjoy them even more.  This past weekend was another perfect example.  I enjoyed long walks with my dog, sipping on fresh coffee from the grind, BBQs with friends, spending time with my mom,  summer concert with Shain, meeting a friend for breakfast, and a run along the beautiful Oswego trail.  None of those things cost too much money if any at all, but they all help me to enjoy my life and appreciate every moment.  Living in the moment and taking it all in, I cannot help but smile all the time.

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River’s Edge Park

Take some time to enjoy that coffee instead of chugging it as you walk out the door.  Walk a little slower with your dog and take in the beautiful neighborhood.  Sit out on your porch and just listen to the trees.  Live IN the moment, don’t fly through it.  There is so much to love, appreciate and value right here, right now.

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