Embrace your season.

Here in Illinois, there was quite the commotion over the snow in October. I know we are not ready for winter. I know we wanted a few more weeks of that beautiful fall weather that we cherish so much in the midwest. But instead we were faced with freezing temps and snow. It all just feels so off, right? I too, was incredibly crabby to see the forecast of snow during the week of Halloween, a time I was looking forward to being outside with my kids trick or treating and enjoying FALL. I had a vision for what I wanted the week to look like with my family and the snow seemed to ruin it. Or did it?

Of course it didn’t. In fact, we had a fantastic adventure trick or treating and playing with friends. We built a snowman named Ellis, our Halloween snowman. We made snow angels. We ate candy. We embraced the season we were given. The view of brightly colored leaves glistening in the snow was not a bad sight either, I would venture to say it was pretty breathtaking actually.

Personally, I felt like this fall snow was a reminder that I needed to embrace MY season, because to be honest I have been having a hard time doing just that. I had a vision for what this season of my life was going to look like; I would spend days blissfully playing with my girls, going on adventures, being able to keep up with the house, have time to make meals and then I would spend two days a week working with students and fostering my business. I was going to feel SO BALANCED you guys.

Well, I am not feeling balanced at all. My days with my girls CAN be blissful and fun, don’t get me wrong. But the majority of the time they feel like endless monotony. Manage tantrums/emotions, change diapers, constant fighting and noise, laundry and cleanup cleanup cleanup. It feels impossible to not lose my patience which then ensues a mountain of guilt. I no longer have an overwhelmingly long to do list, but things just FEEL overwhelming. I look forward to the two days that I get to work, but I also find myself cramming a million things within those two days. So that leaves me feeling a bit overwhelmed in a different way.

I know I am doing a good job, I am proud of how we are raising our kids and really am thankful that I get to be with them so much—but man it is also just hard. Hard on my mind and hard on my identity. As I see people get after their goals or doing fun things, whether it be with their career or fitness or whatever, I feel a twinge of sadness. When will I have that kind of freedom again? When will my girls stop needing me so much? When will it stop feeling like such an impossible feat to keep up with day to day tasks around the house or to just make a simple dinner? I still do things that bring me joy, I feel strongly about that, just not as much as I would like.

There have been so many things that have been giving me perspective lately, the perspective to be thankful for where I am what I have. In two short years our girls will both be off to school. That is so soon, although at the same time, it feels like an eternity away. And when I do have a bit more freedom down the road, I don’t want to look back at this season with sadness because I didn’t embrace it. So that’s the intention I am working on right now, to not wish for the future or dream about past, like Ellis the Halloween snowman, just embrace the season. Whatever season you are in right now, whether it be one you didn’t expect or one that is just plain hard, I encourage you to find the beauty. It is there, I promise.

Stay blessed in the mess 😉

A Voice in the Storm.

I am not even really sure where to begin. I have had so many swirling things in my head that I have wanted to share with you. The story behind my decision to quit my job, start a small business and be home with my kids more. How I am surviving being at home and trying to enjoy my toddlers. Scary health stuff that has been going on in our family. How Shain and I have been working on our marriage. There has been SO much.

But I think I will just start with a reflection on where I was 2 years ago today, because there was a lot about that particular season that brought me to where I am now.

Rocky, our oldest, was just shy of 2 years old, 21 months to be exact. She was coming in HOT at 2, tantrums, whining, crying, clinging, you name it. She had a brand new sister who she without a doubt loved, but she also struggled with the transition. Maeve, our second, was a little over a month at this time and was what you would consider a ‘colicky’ baby. She screamed for what felt like all hours of the day and night and I was her only pacifier. Overwhelmed doesn’t even scratch the surface to what I felt during that season.

Also during this time, my best pup Wyatt, was dying of cancer. We had found out a few weeks prior that he didn’t have much time and he was declining fast. I remember one night vividly. It was around midnight, it took me 3 hours to finally get Maeve to sleep and I was so relieved to get to lay down for maybe an hour or two before she woke up to feed again. Just as I was about to do so, Wyatt puked all over our bed. He had been doing this for weeks. He couldn’t keep anything down. My husband was also traveling a lot for work and he happened to be gone for a two week period at this time so I was alone. I remember just sitting on my bed and sobbing. I was so overwhelmed, sad and angry. So began resentment issues that took me a long time to work through.

My extended family was also struggling. My mom had been having a string of bad luck with her own health and my precious grandparents were also having one ailment after another. There was a lot going on and there was a lot on everybody’s mind and hearts. It was one of those seasons where you just kind of feel like the ground is crumbling underneath you and there is nothing in sight to even grab on to. I felt like I was drowning all day every day.

I had felt the pull prior to this season that I needed to change my work path so that I was home more and had less to juggle. I had a job that I loved, I was able to work from home with flexible hours which I was so thankful for, but it was still a lot. It was still too much. It became very clear to me during this time that I needed to start to plan for a different path. I prayed a lot, I thought about it a lot and I kept feeling that pull to be home. It wasn’t until a few months later when I came up for air that God gave me the idea to start my own business. At that point, I gave myself an 18 month timeline to get everything in line, plan and set the stage little by little for a new chapter. But the decision was made ( I hadn’t even spoken this to my husband at this point, but you know, minor details).

The amazing part though is that after that decision was made, things started to miraculously fall into place. My husband began the journey of finding a new career path that worked better for both him and our family and this change gave us the financial confidence we needed for me to make that “leap”. The things that happened in within that year remind me of one of my favorite lines from the book, The Alchemist:

…or in other words when you are on the path God wants for you, he will open doors for you where you didn’t know there were doors in the first place.

Even though there was a lot of light and relief that came after that time in my life, my family and I are once again embarking on what may be another tough season. I now know I am in a good place to take it and handle it and be here for my family through the storm. It is so clear to me now why God wanted me to stop working full time and I am so thankful. I am still trying to find my groove, but I know I am exactly where I need to be.

I think when we are in hard phases of our life, it is hard to see the light and listen to that still small voice. I have learned that If I am too busy to hear that voice, I am too busy. That voice is what gives me the answers I need to direct me in the path I am supposed to go, not the path that I THINK is right.

Truly blessed in the mess.

Our Nana

Carmella Locigno was the true definition of a phenomenal woman, a LEGEND of woman.  She set the most impossible standards of what being a wife and mother could be, because she was that good.  She was the kind of woman that modern day feminists would scoff at because she didn’t work, she didn’t drive, she lived for her family.  She lived in a time where the expectations of women were much different, but yet I often think about how beautiful and simple that was. Not that there was anything simple about raising 5 kids, but still. She cooked.  She danced. She always wore earrings (because ‘you never know who you will run in to you know’). She LOVED.


Her love was a force, truly. Anybody who came across her was treated as an immediate part of the family and they felt that.  Fed. Loved. Cared for. There was infinite space in her heart for anybody who wanted to recieve it. It was a gentle love but also a tough love.

She used to walk me to and from school when I was young and I distinctly remember one time when she had to come to my kindergarten class because I had peed my pants.  As I walked out the door to greet her waiting with my new set of clothes, she grabbed me by the hand, smacked my butt and said “Jilly, you are too old for this crap!”

And then gave me some cookies from the bakery down the street, pinched my cheeks to give them a kiss and sent me back in.  That was our Nana.

Her love was the kind of love out of the Bible.  A Jesus level love that I think most regular humans have a really hard time giving.  Her love had no judgement, no stipulations. She just loved fiercely. She told us we looked beautiful, handsome, that we were so talented, that she was so proud.  She was proud even when we didn’t give her a reason to be proud. She saw us as we were, never who we were trying to be.

I truly believe the reason she was able to give so much to the world was my Papa’s love for her. If anybody has ever watched a Hallmark movie or seen The Notebook, it can be easy to say that kind of love doesn’t really exist. But anybody who knows our family knows very well that it can exist and it does exist. We have all witnessed the selfless love between these two and how he felt about her, the most devoted husband I have ever witnessed. Papa makes those hallmark movies look like a joke. What started as a blind date turned into 67 years of beautiful marriage and the way he cared for her, especially in the last few years, was nothing short of incredible.

They were so attached at the hip, that they even broke their hips together. Not kidding.

On the day she passed, her hospital room was filled. She left this world exactly how she would have wanted.  Surrounded by her family. So much family that the hospital receptionist that was checking everybody in was starting to get annoyed throughout the day.  She kept making the call to the nurse saying “We have ANOTHER one for that Carmella”.

I think when you leave this world with a crammed hospital room and mountains of tears, that is a  testament to a life lived right. A life of love.

It can be so easy to wish you had something else somebody had.  A better family. A better car. A better house. A better job. More money.  We often lose sight of the things we do have. I think that about our Nana.  God could have given us nothing else, but he gave us her. And for that, we won the lottery. The space in our hearts feels unbearable, but it is only because that is how fiercely she loved all of us and I don’t think we would trade that pain for anything.

Social Media Detox

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For almost a year now I have been saying to myself “Man, I really need to get off social media for a bit”. But like a drug, it kept reeling me back in and I kept making excuses as to why I couldn’t.

“I will miss updates from my gym or work groups.”

“What if somebody messages me something important that I need to respond to?”

“I will miss seeing pictures of my friends and their kiddos etc.”

“How am I going search fun events that are going on?”

“I don’t really spend THAT much time on it.”

“But I really love seeing pretty pictures and quotes!”

Truth is, none of these excuses would result in my death. Social media was a way for me to numb and distract after a hard day at work or with my kids. But like any good numbing strategy it was making me feel worse. I DO love my Instagram feed because I follow some of my favorite authors and people who spread so much insight and inspiration on their platforms. But inspiration or not, I just found myself scrolling too much at night. Not to mention, some nights my husband and I would be sitting next to each other in silence while scrolling our phones. It was getting out of hand! So we both made the decision to give it up over lent and here is what I personally took away from that 40 days.

I missed it more than I thought I would. I didn’t miss Facebook so much, don’t think I need to explain that one. But I DID miss seeing things on Instagram and missed not being able to share my random insights and thoughts and funny/cute moments with my kids.

I stopped living my life in captions. Anybody else do this? It isn’t like I post every event through my whole day, but it was like I kept thinking about captions as my day went on. Without the ability to post anything, I kind of just…lived my life and enjoyed it a lot more too. WEIRD RIGHT.

I didn’t take many pictures. This kinda bothered me. So all this time was I just taking pictures so I could share them or because my phone was in my hand? That’s stupid. I like capturing moments with my family, but sometimes I think I take too many pictures because it is too easy. Then I am stuck with 1,678 pictures that I need to somehow go through and WHO HAS TIME FOR THAT. So perhaps, just snapping a picture here and there and on special occasions is actually the way to go. The digital overwhelm of stuff to keep organized is real.

My brain felt so focused. Not at first, but after a week or two, I could feel this weird calm and focus in my head. And let me tell you, that was a weird feeling considering that April is my busiest month of the year.

Extreme Clarity: Not only did I feel focused, but I felt clear. I didn’t have this weird jumble going on in my head of different thoughts and people, because I was just focused on my life and task in front of me and that was it. It also gave me some internal answers that I really needed as I approached some big decisions on my next chapter in life.

I think if you are ever at a point of feeling overwhelmed or mentally ‘jumbled’ in your life, social media can really make that worse, even if you have the best of intentions. Don’t make excuses, I am telling you it will be worth it to just take a break if even for just a week. Tell me how it goes!

Do you feel like your life is a bit out of control? Do these three things.

Schedule is packed. To do list is long. Brain feels ready to implode. You are on your 4th cup of coffee and waiting for your energy to kick in because there is no end in sight. I’ve been there. While I try my hardest to avoid being in this place, it still happens from time to time. These are three simple ways you can regain control.

1.Turn off social media for a week.

Whenever I am dealing with some hard feelings, I have found that my first instinct is to scroll on my phone more. A terrible habit that brings nothing but more clutter to my brain and heart. Do it. Rip the bandaid. Just for a week. You will be amazed at how much more clear your head feels, I promise.

2. Wake up 20 minutes earlier than you usually do.

20 more minutes of sleep is not going to be make you feel any less tired. But what will make you feel better is getting up (DON’T LOOK AT YOUR PHONE) to do something that will help set up your day successfully. Here are some things you could try:

Meditate for 5 minutes

Do some stretches and deep breathing

Write a few things you are thankful for

Mind dump all your random thoughts and feelings onto a blank page

Look at your schedule for the day and prepare yourself mentally. What 3 things MUST you get done today? Put those on a post it where you can see it all day. Intention is everything.

3. Pick something to say NO to today.

Other people will be demanding your time until the end of days, that will never ever ever change. The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to practice saying NO. It is a muscle that you just have to get used to using. It will feel weak as hell at first but let me tell you, it will get stronger. And eventually it will empower you. Be ruthless.

Fearlessly Authentic.

Fearlessly Authentic.  This is what I would call my personal journey that has been a few years in the making and it really all started with the most spiritually awakening and exhausting experience there is: becoming a parent.

When I became a Mom for the first time, I was overwhelmed with happiness. The transition into my new life was so shockingly smooth and wonderful for those first few months that at times I actually wondered why people made this parenting thing seem so hard. Then I went back to work.

All of a sudden, I had anxiety.  I was depressed.  I was overwhelmed.  I cried every night thinking about leaving my new baby for 10 hours and also thinking about all the time I didn’t have to do so many things that were being asked of me. Nothing about this felt right, even though I had a career and co-workers that I really loved.  Every part of my body and soul was fighting it. I kept thinking- how come nobody talks about this?  How come nobody warned me that to be a fully present parent and successful in my career would feel damn near impossible? And that the amount of overwhelm & inadequacy I would feel would be paralyzing? How come everybody seems to act as if this is just what people do?  WHAT IN THE ACTUAL HECK.

So I started talking about it.  A lot.  Probably to the point of my friend’s and co-worker’s annoyance.  I told my boss I was struggling to keep up but was doing the best I could. I talked to my friends about how I held this new sense of resentment towards my husband and I didn’t know how to process it. I talked to co-workers about how pressured I felt to be good at everything yet consistently feel like a failure at the end of every day.

And the more I shared the more I was met by this beautiful chorus of “me too”.

Furthermore, when I decided to pursue a different job with more flexibility to better balance work/home/motherhood- I was met by another chorus of “I wish I could do that”.  Which hurt my heart and is another topic for another day.

 

As I went deeper into motherhood and eventually had my second child, I realized there was so much more we don’t talk about. So I made it a little personal goal to be fearlessly authentic.  To be honest and forthcoming about my joys but also my struggles. I don’t do this to play the martyr or be dramatic, but so that I do not feed into the facade that my life is perfect so you should feel crappy about yours. I don’t want to add to that.  People feel inadequate enough as it is.  I am a happy and positive person by nature and I love my life but man do I struggle in many ways.  Here are some examples:

I love my girls and being a Mom.  But sometimes I feel suffocated and depleted by motherhood.

My husband is a good man whom I love.  But sometimes I harbor strong feelings of resentment and rage towards him that have a negative effect on our marriage.

I love my work, but I struggle with it fulfilling my whole purpose.

I struggle every day with feelings of not being good enough.

I have a hard time managing my money

Being authentic does this powerful thing.  It frees you from your own prison.  There is this myth that when you share your vulnerabilities, you give them power.  But on the contrary–it does the opposite. It sets you free.  Free from trying to play the game, balance all the balls in the air and say everything’s fine when really you are on the verge of a breakdown. Nobody’s life is fine all the time. NOBODY.

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Authenticity has another powerful affect- that person you just shared your truth with?  They have a truth they have been weighed down by and afraid to share, but you sharing yours, it frees THEM.  Instead of that person walking away from you thinking “well he/she has it all together, so now I feel even more like a mess.”  They feel empowered, they feel relieved that is not just them.

I am not saying we need to share our woes with everybody who will listen, that isn’t healthy either.  However, I believe the mental health of our society can be directly correlated to this isolation we bring on ourselves because we are fighting battles alone that should be fought together.

Saying everything is okay does not make the darkness go away, it makes it darker.  When you share your truth, slowly lights will begin to flicker.  Those lights are other people whispering “me too” and then suddenly instead of being overwhelmed by that said darkness, you will be overwhelmed by light and community.  This is the way to live, I believe it with my whole heart.

 

Are you giving too much? Protect yourself and your schedule.

I have had 5 people cancel on me this week. A few were “important” meetings for work that I had to re-arrange my schedule for because they were ‘SO IMPORTANT’ and others were informal catch-ups with friends.

Am I annoyed? Not really. I very often am the flake who forgets about an appointment or has to cancel a lunch date, it happens. Additionally, I have the tendency to get a little too enthusiastic about scheduling and end up having to slim things down if it has been a crazy week, so I get it. I give people grace because I hope they would give it to me.

But it got me thinking about how much I have evolved over the years with scheduling and planning things, and MAN have I evolved. I rarely re-arrange anything for anybody anymore, and this week was a good reminder as to why.   When you get in the habit of moving around your priorities to meet others’ needs, you will suffer. Guaranteed. A couple of these work meetings I had scheduled were in the early morning and a far drive away- which means  I would have had to skip my morning workout AND not be able to have breakfast with my daughters.  NOPE.

Am I more selfish now? Hell yes. I know very well what I need in my day to day life to feel balanced, happy and productive.  If I do not get what I need and I run myself ragged, I am not a good Mom, I am not a good wife, I am not a good employee. Period.  If I want to give LIFE my best, I have to guard my priorities and my schedule and do what works for ME to be my best in all my roles.

I remember early in my career when people wouldn’t give me reasons they couldn’t do things, work on projects or set up a meeting etc. and I remember thinking those particular people must be slackers. At that time in my life, I booked myself solid in all departments of my life, especially work.  I would schedule anything with anybody at anytime!  I am flexible! I am committed! I am dedicated!  I will get the job done and THEN SOME! You know what I was? Naive.

Because who was the first to suffer?  Me. My work suffered. My health suffered. I skipped lunches, forgot to eat. Got to work too early, stayed too late.  Yet…was NOT productive OR effective at ALL, yet I considered myself a hard worker because I was always doing SOMETHING. What a joke.  And then I caught on.  Ah yes, I am the keeper of MY schedule and my work load.  When I finally figured that out, I became more productive and better at my job, I learn to say no to things I did not need to do or that were not important, because I only have so many hours in the day.  I learned to time block tasks and push away all other distractions.  I learned that I didn’t have to respond to an email or a phone call or a co-worker’s need IMMEDIATELY.  Especially if I was working on a project that needed my full attention.

We unfortunately live in a society in which we are supposed to jump whenever somebody wants something from us.  Text back immediately.  Respond immediately.  Get that project done in 1 hour. There is this general assumption out there that this is just how business needs to be done if you want to be successful, keep clients, be looked at as a hard worker. NO. We are not doing anybody any good by teaching others that they can have whatever they want from us when they want.

If you want a quality response, quality work or better yet, if you want to retain me as an employee and get GOOD work out of me, you will give me time and respect my time. This goes for friendships and family relationships too.

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Here is a prime example. In my current role, I work with a lot of needy and difficult parents who will literally call me 10 times a day and everything is an emergency (it is not).  During the winter months, I spend a lot of time reading college applications and it takes a lot of focus.  I have my schedule mapped out so that two days a week in the morning, that is my sole focus and nothing else.  I don’t take phone calls or check emails until after lunch, and I typically can get back to everybody who has reached out within that day without issue, but those specific mornings are blocked off without exception.

There was one particular Mom who was calling and calling one morning, but I did  not answer as it was my blocked out application reading time.  She left me 4 messages, emailed me, texted me and called my boss all in a matter of 2 hours.   When I finally got back to her that day, she lit me up.  She was beyond frustrated because she was filling out her son’s college application and a question confused her and ‘she just wanted to get this done and off her to do list for today’ (why yes, parents fill out college applications for their kids now in case you were wondering and yes it is absolutely ridiculous).

After she was done yelling at me for taking 2 hours to get back to her- I calmly said to her….

“I am sorry you are frustrated, but this morning I was focused on reading applications which I take very seriously.  I would hope that when it is time for me to read your son’s application you would want me to give it the same focus and attention”.

She got real quiet and then immediately changed her tone to that of condescending to practically brow-nosing.  Eye roll.

I have to use that line on a weekly  basis. WEEKLY. Because again, I know better.  I know you can teach people how to treat you and what you will or will not allow.  I know that answering every single phone call every minute means I will get nothing done and feel stressed and have to work longer hours and a result not being my best self. And if I do not guard my schedule and my priorities for my day for both work and personal life- people will walk all over them, most of the time un-intentionally.  I am not sorry for it, I am better for it.

I challenge you to find what your personal equation is for your own balance within work and personal life.  Do you need a slow morning start?  Do you need an hour to decompress at the end of your work day and plan ahead/reflect/organize? Do you need space and time to create new ideas?  Do you need a workout every morning? Meditation? Do you love going to your Saturday morning spin class?  Sunday Church?  Own those priorities and protect them with your life because it IS your life you will lose if you do not.

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Lastly, please do not be sorry for it. People WILL be annoyed, but don’t be offended or worried about that.  They are only annoyed because they typically are the people who are running themselves ragged and are not brave enough to guard their own life, so they are envious.  I know, I used to be one of them.

Training My Mind

Like many people, I tend to fight off voices in my head telling me I am not good enough quite often.  This voice has proven to be very loud at times, especially when I am running.  A few years ago when I set the goal to qualify for Boston, I followed a training plan, did everything I should have, worked hard, but my mental confidence was never really there. Some days I was strong, but the majority of training I was exhausted not by the miles, but by the fight with my thoughts.

Just recently, I read a Memoir written by Deena Kastor, an Olympian and American record holder for the Women’s marathon.  In her book, Let Your Mind Run, she documents the ups and downs of her running journey.  In one specific chapter she talked about how one run she started to become more aware of her thoughts and was shocked as to how many negative ones came through. She decided on a simple strategy to replace every bad thought with a good one and it strengthened her running more than she ever thought was possible.  I was so inspired by the simplicity of this and decided to try it for myself while doing a local 5k.

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I love the 5k distance. It is quick but challenging, and always pushes me to run a little faster than I am used to. The most challenging part of 5ks for me though are the runners around me.  There has been countless races in which I SHOULD have finished first, but I let the other competitors and my negative self talk get the best of me.  I have always had issues with crumbling under pressure and it is something I am working on.

So I decided to try this strategy out.  So simple, for every negative thought that came in, I would replace it with a positive one.  I just needed to be aware of the thoughts, all of them. That was my only goal for this race.

As I lined up at the start line, I put myself behind a sea of what had to be the local girls cross country team.  Great.

My first thought came in…

 I am at least 20 years older than these girls. Yup, and you have 20 years of experience on them.  They don’t stand a chance.

As I stood there anxiously, I felt my heart start to pound and my legs get shaky. Good, use that energy.

The gun goes off and 3 girls sprint like a bat out of hell ahead of me.  CRAP.  Don’t worry, you know how those young ones can be, they don’t know how to pace. Get close to them, but don’t worry.

About a half mile in, I looked at my pace: 6:15.

I can’t keep that!  Says who? You feel fine. Relax your shoulders and settle here.

I end up being right behind the lead girl by mile 1 and I decided to just hang right behind her as to not be too risky, but shortly after I noticed she started to lose steam a bit.

Don’t go now, just stay here, it’s safe. What? You feel strong right now, give a little push here.

So I surged passed her and had a serious boost of confidence and energy as I took the lead.  As far as I knew, she was really the only other girl that was close to me.

Well, look at me!  I am so fast!  I am going to win! I am awesome!  I am….

A little teeny bopper FLIES past me out of nowhere right after mile 2.

You have got to be kidding me.  Well, there goes my lead. I knew it was too good to be true. There it goes?  Don’t just give it up you pansy! You can stay with her! You got this!

She is legit sprinting. I am frustrated.

My legs are dead.  They are alive.

Who did I think I was?  You are a fast runner, that’s who. Stay with her.

Look at her butt, that is a runner’s butt. I couldn’t even fit one ass cheek in those shorts, who am I kidding here?  You have a strong butt. That is an advantage.

For what seemed like an eternity, I stayed right on her tail as best I could, huffing and puffing along the way.  At one point we passed a bank sign that read the current temperature: 91 degrees.

It’s too hot to be running this fast, you really should play it safe, slow down. Second place is still really good. Oh shut up, you love the heat and you know it.  Stay here, first is  better.  You want first.

At one point one of my favorite Fallout Boy songs came on in my headphones called,The Mighty Fall.  And I found myself repeating: She will fall. She will Fall. She will FALL. (I of course didn’t want her to actually fall, just fall back).

Then somewhere around mile 2.7, she abruptly stopped from her sprint and started walking.  I literally almost tripped over her.  I could not believe it.

Worried somebody else was going to threaten my potential victory, I put on the best pump me up song I could find and and pushed on.

My body feels so heavy.  I feel like a feather.

What if somebody is right behind me?  So what if they are. They can’t catch you.

I can’t do this.  You are doing it.

Then I crossed the finish line as the first female with a time of 21:16.  This may  not seem like an Olympic victory, but in my head it really really felt like one. This was the first time I was ever able to control my thoughts during a run and it was powerful.  This was not a PR for me which is what makes it even more profound.  Had I let those few girls beat me, I would have looked at my time and been confused and frustrated, knowing I could have run faster.  But instead, I let my head win the race and let my body do what it knew how to do.  This was not a matter of just trying to stay positive for the sake of it, I literally felt my body responding with each strong thought. It seriously was just so surreal.

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Now here comes the comical part, shortly after I was handed my fancy glass “First Female Finisher” plaque, I dropped it and it shattered into a million pieces. Yup. There were a couple people standing around me who gasped in horror and I think looked at me waiting for me to start crying.  But I laughed.  Because, this is me folks. And two, because nothing could steal the joy of that victory.  NOTHING!  Not even a pathetic yet typical clumsy act that I would normally beat myself up about in embarrassment.  NOPE.

I challenge you to choose new thoughts in your day to day life.  First, become aware of your thoughts. Then as those little jerks come through saying to you “you are not good enough” or “why did I think I could do this” just choose a NEW one.  You are good enough, you CAN do this. You don’t even have to believe it, just say it to yourself.  Make it a practice and watch the magic happen.  It is too simple to NOT try.

You can read this essay and 100 others to inspire your running in the new Chicken Soup for the Soul book; Running for Good.  Check out the link HERE.

The Importance of Presence

I have been thinking a lot lately on presence.  Defined as, the state or fact of EXISTING, occurring, or being present in a place or thing. If I could pick one major value I have as a parent and as a person in general, presence is it.

I believe that if we could simply become more present, intentional and authentic with our lives- we would encounter so much less stress, anxiety and pain. I could write for days on all three of those, but today is about  presence.

I have been thinking about this often because the more present I work to become (and believe  me, I do have to work at it), the more I notice the lack of awareness surrounding me. We tend to think we are experiencing moments by taking photos, posting, sharing etc.  And don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy those things, but there is a line that dances with the devil.

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Immediately following the horrific shooting at Parkland High school, I was working in a coffee shop as I often do, and that particular day I was feeling pretty heartbroken, helpless and really just lost. As I was working, I was observing families and people coming in and out whether sitting down with a friend or grabbing breakfast or lunch with their kids. And something continued to happen that literally made me so upset that I ended up just needing to leave because it was shaking me to my core.

I was at that coffee shop for 5 HOURS and every single family that came in that day, was not present with the people they were with.  Not ONE. I am not exaggerating. This is a problem.  This is an epidemic.

There were friends that sat down for coffee and would chat for a few minutes, not really listen to the other person, interject or interrupt with their own thoughts before the other one finished and then check their phone- repeat.

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The parents that came with their children, all different ages from toddlers to teenagers would sit and eat their food and scroll on their phone.  Muttering a few words here and there but then right back to their screens.  Probably checking an email they thought was important.  Probably scrolling on Facebook.  Probably shopping online.  Or maybe taking a photo to post on social media about how much they love spending time with their kids…yet THEY ARE NOT EVEN THERE.  And several times, if a child got fussy and anxious, as children do, a phone was shoved into their face.  What in the actual hell is happening here.

I notice these things all the time.  I fight the urge myself.  But this particular day, it really got to me.  Just the day before, 17 families lost the ability to ever have a meal with their child/friend/parent ever again.  Yet here we sit, hours after knowing that, and we cannot even look our own loved ones in the face and enjoy them?  We are severely lacking presence, which leads to lacking awareness, which also leads to lacking the ability to sense if something is wrong around us, whether that be within our own hearts, within our families or others who need us. Even if those ‘others’ are strangers.

A similar situation struck me when I was in an airport recently.  I was standing in line approaching security and there was an abrupt announcement made saying that they were going to bring dogs in as a security measure and “please do not acknowledge them or pet them, let them sniff you if need be”.  Okay no big deal, this happens all the time.

There was a family in front of me that had three kids, two older possibly in high school, one boy in middle school, maybe younger.  I noticed right away that the younger boy became visibly anxious at this announcement.  He looked up to his parents or siblings for re-assurance but they were all…you guessed it…looking at their phones.  As the dogs continued to walk around near us, I kept seeing the boy get more anxious and continuously look up at his parents to no avail.  This only went on for about 5-7 minutes but my GOD I could feel his pain and it felt like an eternity, I so wanted to help him, to just give him a hug. I kept watching him, desperately hoping he would look at me and make eye contact so I could assure him, “it’s all good buddy, this happens all the time, nothing to be scared of!”  I still regret not being more assertive and telling him that.

How many of those small moments are we missing?  Those moments when somebody really needs us, is going through something, but we miss it entirely. I can tell you one thing, we are missing a lot with our kids.  I can see it happening every where I go.  I know we cannot possibly catch everything, but I think we are missing more than we are catching and our kids our suffering because of it.

Guys, I’ve been there.  On long days at work or with my kiddos, I will check my Instagram feed to see what everybody else is doing as a way to “decompress” (which is a joke because it does the exact opposite for your brain).  I will respond to a text message that really does NOT need to be responded to immediately.  Or the most often for me, I am having a moment with my girls that I truly am enjoying and then I feel the need to take a picture and share it.  I am NOT innocent and I have to constantly fight the urge to look at my phone, I have taken Facebook and Email off it a long time ago to better work on my presence. But we all have to fight harder I think.  There are people that need us and we literally cannot see it because we are too busy, too clouded and too focused on ourselves and our screens.  We are all hurting and we all need connection, real connection.

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The question I have been asking myself a lot  lately is “How can I make this world better?  What can I do to help?”  The answer tends to ring back pretty loudly: love your kids, love your family, love your neighbors, love your community and BE the change.

If we all did that in our small corner of the world, I really do think we could change our trajectory, but we have to first work on being present.  Did you read this on your phone?  Great, now put it down, Look around, listen to the rain, take a few deep breaths and let your thoughts sink in,  it might be uncomfortable, but let yourself BE.  This is where the work begins.

Happy 6 Year Anniversary, Crossfit Oswego!

After college, I had started running marathons & triathlons to keep myself active and stay in shape.  Yet, I still had such a yearning for something MORE when it came to my workouts.  Nothing had quite yet gave me the satisfaction, sense of community and challenge that being an athlete did. Enter Crossfit Oswego.

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I remember pulling up into the parking lot on my first class and I was a few minutes early.  Once I parked, I noticed there were some of the coaches doing a workout that involved lots of running, some rope climbing and throwing around heavy looking stuff.  Maybe nobody saw me and I can just turn right back around and leave? Who am I kidding with this!? This is so not my level, I should just stick to running.

Somehow, another thought followed… OMG THIS LOOKS AMAZING!  Obviously, I listened to the second thought, thank goodness.

I was scared, because as corny as it sounds, I knew this place was the answer I was looking for.  The place that was going to push me out of my comfort zone, and it has continued to be that place for 6 years, my third place. The place away from home & work where you can let the barriers fall, relax and just be you. The place where life, responsibility, stress, whatever it is you are going through, just gets put on hold for one hour. The magic hour.

Because of the coaches and the people, I gained an outlet I didn’t know I needed.  And I gained confidence and strength I never knew I had. The picture below is during my first class, when I could not do a single pull-up and needed the assistance of a band.

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For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be “that” girl.  The girl with the kind of strength that people notice. The girl who can do a pull-up, or heck, SEVERAL. The girl that may look small, but is mighty.  Crossfit has helped me be that girl I have always wanted to be, but never thought was possible.

Through more marathons, two pregnancies, and all the ups and downs that life has had to throw at me…Crossfit Oswego has remained my constant. There are some seasons of life I feel like I am killing it in that gym, and others I feel like a total wuss (coming back after  babies, oof). But, I keep showing up because for whatever reason, at CFO I am the best version of myself no matter where I am in life or in my fitness journey.  I am positive, I am strong, I am capable.

This place has no doubt changed me physically, but the mental aspect is what has truly been so profound, it is hard to even put into words.  My inner voice is not as negative as it used to be and I go after things that used to terrify me.  I am so thankful to these coaches and to this community for continuously changing and pushing me for the better. Happy Anniversary, Crossfit Oswego!

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