Don’t blame me.

This past week I had the opportunity to go to my first ever National Association for College Admission Counseling Conference in Indianapolis and it blew me away.  From the keynote speaker to the various informational sessions, not to mention the incredible networking opportunities; it was much like my beloved IACAC Conference and left me feeling rejuvenated and bursting with thoughts and ideas.


The keynote speaker that kicked everything off was Geoffrey Canada, who is well known as a leader in educational reform.  I connected with so much of what he spoke about, but what hit me right in the gut was a poem of his that he shared.

Don’t Blame Me

The girl’s mother said, “Don’t blame me.

Her father left when she was three.

I know she don’t know her ABCs, her 1,2,3s,

But I am poor and work hard you see.”

You know the story, it’s don’t blame me.

The teacher shook her head and said,

“Don’t blame me, I know it’s sad.

He’s ten, but if the truth be told,

He reads like he was six years old.

And math, don’t ask.

It’s sad you see.

Wish I could do more, but it’s after three.

Blame the mom, blame society, blame the system.

Just don’t blame me.”

The judge was angry, his expression cold.

He scowled and said, “Son you’ve been told.

Break the law again and you’ll do time.

You’ve robbed with a gun.

Have you lost your mind?”

The young man opened his mouth to beg.

“Save your breath,” he heard instead.

“Your daddy left when you were two.

Your momma didn’t take care of you.

Your school prepared you for this fall.

Can’t read, can’t write, can’t spell at all.

But you did the crime for all to see.

You’re going to jail, son.

Don’t blame me.”

If there is a God or a person supreme,

A final reckoning, for the kind and the mean,

And judgment is rendered on who passed the buck,

Who blamed the victim or proudly stood up,

You’ll say to the world, “While I couldn’t save all,

I did not let these children fall.

By the thousands I helped all I could see.

No excuses, I took full responsibility.

No matter if they were black or white,

Were cursed, ignored, were wrong or right,

Were shunned, pre-judged, were short or tall,

I did my best to save them all.”

And I will bear witness for eternity

That you can state proudly,

“Don’t blame me.”

‐ By Geoffrey Canada

 In education especially, there are an insurmountable amount of obstacles when it comes to policies, politics and resources.  It is no doubt a challenging field to be in right now and I have heard the heartbreak countless times from many fellow colleagues and teachers who feel they no longer are able to truly teach or counsel students the way they need to because of all these challenges .  It breaks my heart.

But we CANNOT play the “don’t blame me” game.  Because who truly suffers from that?  Our students. The reason we are here.  We have to fight the good fight..for them.

How often do we fall back on excuses that keep us from serving students to their full potential?  How often do we utter the words, “there’s not enough time” or “I did my best” when in our hearts of hearts we know we could put forth more time, more effort.  What if…we made a promise to ourselves to do everything in our power to make our students successful?  I am not talking about doing things that are allowed in our budget or that can only be done in our 40 hour work week.  Sadly, that is just not possible sometimes.  We often use those as easy outs to avoid the dirty work.   The kind of work that will change student’s lives, the kind of work that will change the world.

Think about those heroes and those you look up to who have changed the world as we know it, not just in education.  Did they stop when the bell rang? When the clock hit 5pm? When their boss said, “no we can’t do that.”  No, they pushed the boundaries.

writers-Freedom Writers Diary: truly inspirational book you should check out 🙂

What is YOUR cause? What is it that you work for?  How passionate are you about it? Are you willing to do what it takes?  Are you willing to sacrifice personal time?  Reach in to your own pockets? Maybe you are gasping at the thought of that.  Maybe you think it is ridiculous for an employer to expect that of you.  And you are right, they cannot really ask that and they probably won’t ask that of you.  Sometimes it is just necessary.   Some of my best friends are teachers and I have heard them tell me numerous stories about kids in their classes who maybe showed up to the coldest day of the year without a coat.  Or maybe they suspect, a child does not have any food.  These friends of mine do not even think twice to go out and buy a coat, bring extra food to class, etc.

 With shrinking budgets and messed up priorities in the administration of any field, sometimes all we can lean on is the human spirit and the desire to make a difference.     I am blessed to work at a school that for the most part says “yes” to my crazy ideas, but I also get my fair share of obstacles and challenges that I believe to keep me from doing the best job I can to service my students.  But I cannot just stop there.  Sometimes we have to take matters into our own hands, our own pockets, our own resources.


I struggle with the balance of this VERY often.   I value my small amount of free time and lord knows I certainly do not have the luxury of deep pockets.   BUT I refuse to NOT do everything I can to give my student workers the best and most valuable campus job they have ever had.  I refuse to NOT do everything I can to ensure my lost little high schoolers know I am here for them through the overwhelming college search process.  Even if it means giving up my weekend time to work with their schedule, texting/calls/emails at all hours of the night, or maybe just taking them out for coffee/lunch/dinner that is not in my “expense budget”.  That is what being passionate IS.  It is not doing your job from 8-5 and anything after that is not your problem.  If you are passionate it is always your problem.  I would rather live a life of sacrifice for a passion….than have more free time and less meaning in my life.  So Geoffrey’s poem really spoke to me. It made me think, am I doing enough?  Can I do more?  Who am I letting slip through the cracks?  Maybe if I can make a few more phone calls, reach out just a little more, go the extra mile, re-think my communication plan, it may make the world of a difference for one student who did not think college would be an option for them.

Don’t blame me, we don’t have the funds:  But how can you get creative with what you have?

Don’t blame me, I only have so much time:  A little extra of your own time will go a long way.

Don’t blame me, it is out of my control:  You have more control than you think.  You can still have a positive influence.

What this poem made clear is that we have more impact on these kids than we will EVER know.  Let’ take that seriously.

Stay blessed in the mess 🙂


It has been a craaaaaazzzy week!  This past week/weekend I had an awesome opportunity to go to the National Association for College Admission Counseling conference.  This one is different from the IACAC conference here in the spring that I always talk about as that one is Illinois specific, where of course this one is for all admission staff and high school counselors across the nation.  The location of this conference changes every year but since it was in Indianapolis this year and more affordable to go to, we were able to send two staff members.  I feel super blessed that I got to be one of the people to go.  It was AWESOME.  So many great sessions.  I have lots of reflections and thoughts that I will be sharing in some future blog posts, so stay tuned 🙂


A little Boston update for you.  Registration opened up last week and I submitted all my information and have been anxiously waiting to see if I made the cut.  Today I got the unfortunate news that I did not.  Insert sad face here.  They capped registration off at -1:02 below qualifying time.  Which means anybody who qualified by less than that did not get in.  I knew this might happen,  I knew I was cutting it close but it still really sucks.  A lot.  I have been researching how to get into Charity spots for Boston as well, but from what I can see the fundraising limits are incredibly high and it is still tough to get into those unless you know somebody.  But this is where the story gets interesting…stay with me on this one.

There was a 5k being held during the conference I attended last week.  Now I am being honest, I had no intention of doing the 5k.  Really, I swear. It less than a week after my marathon and quite frankly I was looking forward to a little break from running for a while.  But there I was on Wednesday morning sitting in the common area, drinking coffee and checking some emails before the sessions got started when I realized my entire water bottle was turned over and emptied into my work bag.  Everything was SOAKED (those of you that know me, know this is a very typical Jill moment and has happened hundreds of times, sigh).  I happen to be sitting across from the area where they were doing registrations for the 5k happening later that night.  If you registered…you got a t-shirt.  And I thought well why not sign up for it so I can use that t-shirt to soak up the ocean that is my work bag?  Genius right?  So that is what I did and that is the story of how my brain decided to sign up for the 5k.


It was a beautiful night out, perfect for running.   My legs were a little sore after the marathon, but my body as a whole didn’t feel very fresh. So, I did not have very high expectations and lord knows I was not in the mood to “race”.  But then…the announcer mentioned that the male and female winner of the race get a complimentary registration for next year’s conference…in San Diego.  That kind of changed things a bit.   Needless to say, it was not a leisurely jog in the park like I planned and kinda hurt a little.  Was certainly not my best 5k, but I still pulled a sub 21 and won first female 🙂

BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE.  The best part of all this?  See that cheesy picture they had me take with the male winner?  As you can see he is from Boston.  We got to talking about running and he mentioned that him and his wife are running the Boston Marathon.  I told him how I just qualified but was skeptical I would not make the registration cut with how close my time was.  Turns out he knows some people and might help me get a charity spot.  So there is HOPE!

I have some emails out to other charities just in case, so right now I just have to wait and see.  I hope I can get in to 2015 somehow.  My time is also good for 2016, but if it is anything like this year it might be the same case again.  I have thought about signing up for a marathon that is happening in November while I am still technically trained and see if I can pull a faster time, but I did that last year and my recovery was awful.  So the debate is still out on that.   I was really looking forward to running shorter distances and focusing more on Crossfit and Yoga for a while and right now that is still my plan.  The thought of going through another year of training or even a couple more weeks makes me want to cringe.  Don’t get me wrong, if I were to get into Boston I would prepare for it, but minimally.  I just would rather spend more time hitting the iron.


If it was meant to be, it will be.  Just to be considered a Boston qualifier is a huge honor and life goal for me that was accomplished.  So send some positive vibes up and I will keep you posted.

Stay blessed in the mess 🙂





Boston Qualifier.

They say that 87% of people let the fear of failure keep them from being successful.  EIGHTY SEVEN PERCENT.  Is that number not terrifying?  So much untapped potential.  So many people so close to their dreams that come up short.  What if…failure wasn’t even on the table?  What would we be capable of then?  What would this WORLD be capable of?  What dream would you chase wholeheartedly without looking back?

Last fall after a year of training harder than I ever have before, I came up 3 minutes short of a Boston qualifying time…not once but TWICE  in one month.  I was devastated.  I let my fear take me over.  How dare I make such a lofty goal for myself.  Who do I think I am?  I was a middle of the pack runner on my JV Cross Country team in high school.   I could barely break 8 minutes for a 3 miler most of my life.  I ran my first marathon at a 10:30 pace.  Runners like me don’t qualify for Boston.  All sounds like things people in that 87% would say right?  I was one of them for far too long.


Slowly but surely, I worked on that poor attitude this year.  I read countless books on building positive mental power and had done some serious self reflecting.  What was I so scared of?  My own head, that’s what.   Convincing myself I am worthy has been one of the hardest things I have ever done.   Ironically, I heard this 87%  quote on the way to my marathon this past Saturday morning as I went after my dream goal of being a Boston Qualifier one more time.  That line hit me right in my stomach.  So much that I replayed it several times before I got to the race.  87% of people let the fear of failure keep them from being successful.   All I could think of Saturday was the number 13.  I will be the 13% today.  I WILL.


Despite my good energy and confidence all week, on race morning, fear still snuck in.  My strategy for race day was to play it very safe.  The last two marathons I ran last year, I had a goal of keeping an even pace the whole way through,  but my legs gave out way too early.  My running style is more of a negative split which means starting off slow and then picking it up and finishing strong.  So I decided that is the race I would run, MY race.  I stuck with the 3:40 pace group for the first 12 miles, which was probably a little longer than I should have because I was scared to take off on my own.  But I left them and made my way to the 3:35 pace group.  Mile 23 I then left them, turned up my music and went for it.  A mere half mile later,  I got two ridiculous cramps in both my calves.  Shortly after that I hit a huge wall.  Words do not do justice to describe a marathon wall, the best I can do is tell you it feels like you have a thousand knives just sitting in every inch of your leg.  It hurts.   I was really hoping I was going to  be lucky and avoid one of those for this race.  Not so much.   All I kept thinking was “you are the 13%, you are the 13%, YOU ARE THE 13%, just keep moving.”

I had all these visions of how this last mile would feel as I approached my goal, I thought I would be on cloud nine, I saw myself smiling and jumping as I crossed the finish line.  Lets just say that was not quite the scene.  Because I was cutting it so close and because I was in so much pain, I could not focus on anything else except moving one foot in front of the other as fast as I could.   I had no time to slow down, no time to skip,  every second counted at this point.   My last mile I felt like I was sprinting, but I was probably not even holding a 9 minute mile.  When I crossed the finish line at 3:34:54 I  collapsed immediately.  I had nothing left.  Nothing.  I was so overcome with emotion, I could not even register the people around me. I could not believe I pulled it off.  With only six seconds to spare, talk about stressful.


I was a little disappointed that it was such a close call, I really had hoped to feel stronger and finish in the late 3:20s but I FREAKING DID IT. We are all capable of amazing things.  But we have to overcome that fear.  Fear is often disguised as excuses or as self doubt, fight it off.  What I would give to go back in time to my high school and college years, where I often never felt good enough compared to my talented teammates.  I use to day dream about the day I would be in a race or out on the soccer field and have somebody say, “wow look at her, she is a good athlete”.   I wish I knew what I know now.  It was in me all a long, I just had to tap in to it.   I had to stop being so scared.



The amount of support I have received on this journey, has been overwhelming.  It has brought me to tears several times, it has humbled me time and time again.  I am such a lucky girl to be so blessed by so many supportive people.  It is a scary thing to share such a big goal with others.  It means they will know when you fail.  But it is one of the strongest tools to keep yourself accountable.  It kept me from walking at mile 25.  It kept me going to my dreaded track workouts week after week.  It got me here.  Thank you.  Stay blessed in the mess 🙂






Fall weekend FUN.

This weekend was a busy one!  We had been planning it with one of Shain’s friends for a while, but I cannot believe how quickly September crept up on us!   We don’t get to see these particular friends too often as they live a couple hours away and have busy schedules with their three girls, but we made a promise this year to make it happen more often.  Friday night we headed to the Plano HS football game so they could relive some memories in their old stomping grounds 🙂


Despite getting rained on for the majority of the game, we had tons of fun.  We then went to another friends house and hung out some more.   This turned into me playing tug of war, spoons and all kinds of other silly games with their girls for hours.  I freaking love kids.



It was a cool fall morning on Saturday, so I took the pup with me for a run.  It has been over a month since he has gone out with me, so he was riding the struggle bus hard.   At one point we were at a stop light and he decided to plop himself in a big old dirty rain puddle.  Awesome, dude.   I I was glad we got out though, because shortly after Shain and I headed to meet our friends up again at the Sandwich Fair… AKA where your skinny jeans go to die.  I was good this year, I got a soft pretzel, cinnamon almonds and shared a lemon shake up and a couple of  Shain’s mini donuts.  Now that I just typed that all out, that does not sound “good” at all.  Considering I usually  house down a steak pita and a whole bag of cotton candy (monster bag duh), I am taking that as a victory gosh darn it.


Then later in the day another fun part of the day came..DANE!  We got to watch this little chunker the rest of the weekend and it was awesome.  He is so fun and chill.  And did I mention he sleeps for 12 hours a night?  AND takes two naps?  And is this happy all the time? I am pretty sure he is not a real baby.


Oh and guess what?  IT IS RACE WEEK!!  I am pumped!  However, I am NOT pumped that it is the week of no Crossfit and barely any working out, but gotta be fresh for Saturday.  Tapering is so BORING.

Stay blessed in the mess 🙂





9 days.

I cannot believe race day is almost here, eeek!  I am super excited, nervous, terrified, confident and calm about it… all at the same time.

I finished my last dreaded track workout this week.  As much as I hate doing them, I am kind of surprised that I only skipped one all season.  During week 1 the workout starts at 4x800s at 630-640 minute mile pace with  a 400 rest in between each one at race pace.  As you get closer to race day, the 800s get up to TEN repeats.  THAT IS OVER 7 MILES ON THE TRACK.  I mean seriously, talk about torture.  But in the two years I have been doing these, I have noticed the positive results.  So even though I hate them with a fiery passion,  I do them.  When I was on my last 800, I visualized that I was on the last stretch of my marathon.  I envisioned coming into the shoot, people cheering around me, seeing familiar faces…and then I visualized how it would feel to see my goal time on the clock.   My adrenaline automatically spiked, I had goosebumps and I ran my last 800 20 seconds under pace.  I may have even teared up a little.  Get it together, Jill.


Do I want to qualify next Saturday?  Of course.  Have I put lots of hard work into getting faster? You bet.  BUT, I have decided that I am not running this race to qualify any more.  I am running it for fun.  I am running it in hopes of getting a PR.  I am just going to go out and run it, period.  No expectations, no pressure, that is when I always do my best.  Almost every time I have had a PR of any kind, lifting, running etc.  It has not been on purpose.   For example, when doing any kind of heavy lifting or finding my 1 rep max, I have a weird habit of not counting the weight.  When I don’t know the weight I am lifting,  it is easier for me to not think about how heavy it is.  I just try to focus on the movement.  As soon as I know what the weight is…I doubt myself and then I panic.  Weak sauce.

My awesome lifting partner Lorraine, is such a good sport with me.  She always makes sure to never count out loud when we are going up in weight and she also tends to yell at people when they say the number out loud around me, it is kind of hilarious and pathetic all at the same time.  LZ -you are the bomb.

If I get my time next week, awesome.   If I don’t, oh well.   It’s just another long run, what’s the big deal? I am going to hopefully make friends with my pace group, pray that they have lots to chat about and let my training speak for itself.


Unfortunately, my motivation station (Shain) will be out of town for the day of the race,  which at first I was slightly panicked about.  But he can also be a littttttle intense on on my race days (no regrets Jill! Listen to this video Jill! Get angry Jill!), so perhaps this will help go into this like a regular run;)   If any of you want to watch the easiest marathon to spectate, come on out.  It is a 5k course 8 times- so you can just plop a lawn chair out, eat, drink and laugh at all us crazy people that pass by you a million times.   I asked Sylvester Stallone and Optimus Prime if they could come cheer me on, but I guess they were busy.