Chicken, Apple & Fennel Salad

I could not be more relieved that March is almost coming to a close.  Aside from being the month that some of my most favorite people were born in, it is a rough month. It teases us with signs of spring only to give us more cold, Shain is usually out of town for work for weeks on end and I myself am drowning at work during this time of year.  We also lost somebody very dear to us just a few days ago, so our hearts are feeling a little extra tender right now.

I suppose this is the flow of life. Shain and I have been nothing but blessed, especially with these last few months and everything coming together on our new house.  But along with those waves of happiness come waves of sadness, stress, heartbreak and loss. We do our best to focus on the blessings, even when all we want to do is bury our heads or stay in bed.  We will end March celebrating the life of someone very special and look on to April, which will be another busy month. The days are getting longer, I can hear the birds chirping in the early morning and signs of life are peaking their way through the sidewalk cracks.  We are almost there.

If any of you are also feeling overwhelmed or crazy busy, below is an easy peasy recipe you can make for the week, in fact for some reason this recipe tastes better a few days old.  Feel free to tweak it and make it your own.  Don’t let your schedule or any other excuses keep you from putting good fuel into your body, stay blessed in the mess 🙂

Chicken, Apple & Fennel Salad

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Instructions: Mix together all ingredients below and enjoy, that’s it!

Ingredients:

Shredded Chicken (I am lazy used a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken, took skin off and shredded it)

1 Fennel bulb and fronds chopped

3 apples sliced up

Orange Juice (I just used juice from one orange)

8-10 Dried Apricots or Dates sliced up (avoid ones with added sugar)

4 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard (or dijon mustard dressing works too)

1teaspoon Olive Oil

Salt & Pepper sprinkled

1 tablespoon Thyme

You can also add in sliced almonds to make it even more delish 🙂

Feeling Challenged? Keep Going.

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Ever feel like you are stuck in a rut? Meeting challenge after challenge with no end in sight? No matter how positive your intention is to start the day, you end the day in frustration. I know how you feel and I am here to tell you that this is a GOOD thing.  It means you are on the edge of glory, close to something incredible. I beg you friends, keep pushing through. Whatever you are working towards, weight-loss, breakthrough, promotion, or that something to come through that you have been praying about…it is coming. The point in which things get hard is when most throw in the towel, but sadly it is often when things are just about to change for the better.

This is a principle I have read about in countless books, even THE book. I have also seen it take place over and over in my life. Looking back, I know there are many times when I gave up too early. What could have been, I will never know.  But I know this lesson now.  I know that after the darkest point in the night, comes a beautiful sunrise.

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A very simple example I can share with you is from a few years ago.  I was about 4 years into my career at Aurora University, but I was feeling frustrated.  I felt I didn’t have enough responsibility or influence to make the changes I wanted and was eager to move up the ladder and be more challenged, but didn’t feel like that would ever happen if I stayed at AU.  I started looking around for other potential job opportunities just to see what was out there and ended up getting an offer to work at another school at a higher position than where I was.  After much debate, I decided to not take the position.  The DAY after I made that decision…I was offered a promotion and a raise at AU.  WHAT? Something I literally did not even think was possible at the time.  It changed everything. Now 3 years later down the road, I am swimming with more responsibility and stress than I can sometimes handle (careful what you wish for right?) but it is yet another season that I am just praying and working my way through. I am not afraid of challenge, I am not afraid of hard work.

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When things get hard or uncomfortable, don’t run away or shut down. Most people do, but not you.  You will prevail.  The fact is, life is hard for everybody all of the time. Those who are successful just know how to dig in and weather the storm. This principle applies to both the most complex and simple situations.  Do not think you are an exception to the rule.  You are meant for greatness.

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I am not telling you to stick out every bad situation, relationship etc.  Some things are meant to be left behind.  I am saying that you should not be afraid of challenge or failure as they are life’s greatest teachers. Fall down 7 times, stand up 8.  That 8th time just might be your breakthrough.

Stay blessed in the mess 🙂

A Master’s Degree in Servant Leadership? Huh?

Last month, I knocked something big off my bucket list. I finished my MASTER’S DEGREE!  Why is this big? Because it took me 2 years longer than I thought it would to finish it and of course it was a lot more work than I ever imagined it would be.  When I first started working at AU and thought about the opportunity for pursuing a further degree; I thought I would take part in the tuition exchange program and go for school counseling at another University (AU does not offer that).  But I kept running into some challenges that made getting into the exchange program a huge pain in the butt.  So, I thought what the heck I will just get my MBA since AU offers that here on campus.

I was a whole year into my MBA when AU rolled out this new graduate program called “Leadership for Service”.  It is a master’s built around the idea of Servant Leadership.  What is Servant Leadership? It is essentially a leadership philosophy and set of practices that is geared towards enriching the lives of individuals, building better organizations and creating a more just and caring world.  It goes so much deeper into what it takes to truly motivate and lead others.  Sounds kinda corny and mushy gushy doesn’t it? My thoughts exactly.  Which DUH is why I loved the sound of it right away and ditched my MBA program (despite being halfway through) and jumped into this one.

I didn’t want just a piece of paper, I wanted something to challenge me and make me a better person, employee, leader and maybe even clarify if I am on the right path in my career.  That is exactly what I got out of this program. My MBA courses were good, but I wasn’t excited about them.  Accounting, Finance, Economics etc. just was not doing it for me.  When I talked to both my Director and VP about switching programs, they both told me not to.  They told me an MBA would serve me better if I want to continue to move up the ladder or be more marketable for other positions.  With all due respect, I did not follow their advice and followed my gut instead.

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Call me crazy but titles and moving up the ladder does not mean much to me.  Neither does promotion or money. What is important to me is MEANING.  What is important to me is the question of “Am I making a DIFFERENCE?” and “Am I making this world BETTER?” and that is EXACTLY what this program was about.  We had whole classes on how to be a better listener, how to be an authentic leader and how to be more self-aware and present.  How cool is that?  I cannot even tell you how many “AHA!” moments I had in this program.  Whether it was things I was doing wrong/right as a leader or confirmation on what I am passionate about and where I need to go.

This program also came at a perfect time where I was transitioning into a new leadership role and struggling with it.  It also solidified the fact that I am meant to work with students. I am still trying to figure out in what capacity that is, but I know that is when I feel the most on fire.  When I am helping a student figure out the college application/financial aid process, when I am helping a student figure out what career path is best for them, when I am teaching my Spartan Ambassadors important lessons and helping them be the best they can be.  THAT is when I want to shout from the rooftops because it makes me so happy.  Whether my role is to stay in admission or in a different path that is more student centered, I am not sure yet.  But I know I am moving in the right direction.  All of these things an MBA could not have given me.  The late nights and early mornings of cramming  for tests projects and papers, the precious weekend time spent in class was all so worth it.  I might get a few quizzical looks when people ask me what I completed my degree in, but it’s all good. I came out of this program with more knowledge, self-awareness and confidence than I had before I started and could not have loved my experience more.  That is what education is all about.

Happy Sunday, stay blessed in the mess 🙂

Still Trying to Slow Down

Remember how I told you one of my big resolutions for 2015 was to SLOW DOWN?  A weird goal to have I know, but in order to stay balanced and happy; it was something that I needed to intentionally set out to do.

Well I must confess, this has been hard. Anybody that knows me knows I move a million miles a minute as a natural pace.  It has been a hard habit to break and quite frankly it seems to be everyone’s pace now a days which makes it even harder.  It has been a process of enjoying that free time to write, be in the silence, to read etc. and being fully PRESENT in my daily tasks which is how life is SUPPOSED to be. Not filling up every blank space with something just because. Despite how good this is for me, it still is a struggle.  Before I sit down to read my devotionals and write every morning, I even get really restless and shaky.  It takes me a few minutes to ease into the art of being comfortable in the silence, listening to my mind and listening to God. Because all I want to do is get up and go go GO! It is as almost as if I am learning new depths of myself that I never knew before; and it is forcing me to work through things in a much different way, a healthier way!

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In the month of January, I felt really good about what I was doing.  I felt centered and I felt calm. Then February hit, stress at work and a huge pending change set me off a little bit.  I still participated in my morning rituals, but they were a little more rushed in hopes of getting to work early to get ahead, as it is the beginning of a very busy time.  So as a result my day felt rushed and I began to feel off centered again. A passage from Simple Abundance, puts it perfectly…

“If you frequently feel as if you are about to spin off this planet, it’s probably because you are. I know of a woman who will begin to brush her teeth only to leave the bathroom to start making her bed while she is still foaming at the mouth.  And why? Because out of the corner of her eye she saw the rumpled sheets.  Before she could rinse her mouth, she had flung herself into the next task.  Needless to say, a day that starts off this frenzied can only go from bad to worse.” – Sarah Ban Breathnach

Thankfully, I did a little reset this past weekend.  I spent time looking at the month ahead, looking at my tasks and goals, writing out everything on my mind and heart and made the intention to get back on track this March.  You see, I knew I had to do this because these next two months will be a little hectic not just with work….but we are MOVING!

We just bought a beautiful fixer upper home a few miles from our house now.  I will tell the story in a different post of how this came about as it is too good not to share and one more piece of evidence in my life that if you put your wants and dreams out there, God/Universe/whatever you believe in always delivers in the most amazing way.  But in summary, we need to put our current house on the market (which I am very emotional about), start working on our new house, Shain has two rehab homes he is currently working on that he needs to finish up and sell AND did I mention this is the busiest time of year for both of us? Thank goodness I finished my Masters when I did, what timing!

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So despite the impending insanity the next 60 days will be, I am dedicated to keeping my center. To keep the pace slow.  To not overcommit and take that important time to myself.  After all, once these two months are done I am embarking on a solo trip to Peru! Talk about SERIOUS solo time! Then we have the whole summer to enjoy our new chapter in our new home.  I am excited.