Currently [October 2017]

Currently reading:

If You Only Knew by Jamie Ivey
I’m on the launch team for this title! The book comes out in January and I am so excited to share more about it. I’ve already pre-ordered my copy, but I am reading it on my Kindle right now and I love hearing Jamie’s story of fully embracing her relationship with the Lord. It’s also fun to “hear” her voice…since I listen to her podcast every week, reading her book feels like talking to her! 🙂

The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams
I read A Hundred Summers last fall and it was my favorite book of the year. I haven’t really loved another Williams’ book until this one! I’m savoring the last few chapters.

Currently indulging in:

Scarf weather! Two 60* days in a row this week. I’ll be wearing all the fall clothes until the humidity comes back!

Currently working on:

I just finished an online class on the platform edX and I feel accomplished! It was about Instructional Design, which largely relates to my job, and I loved learning and sharing with my coworkers. Plus, I had to create an online portfolio, so that was fun. 🙂

Currently craving:

An apple fritter. I went to a pumpkin & apple farm yesterday and refrained from purchasing the apple fritter mix in their market. Then, this morning, my mom sent me a picture of an apple fritter she was eating…and now I’m wondering if I can refrain from walking to Saxby’s for my favorite donut.

Currently eating:

Vanilla Shakeology with cookie butter, banana, cinnamon, and ice. This is actually shake #2 of the morning because I poured cumin instead of cinnamon into the first one. #monday

Currently feeling:

Happy! And ready to take on the tasks of the week. Although I wouldn’t mind staying in bed and having another weekend day.

Currently thankful for:

The girls in my small group and our adventure to Homestead Farm yesterday!

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Currently dreaming about:

A fall or winter weekend trip to New York City. I’ve gone each year for the last few years and I’m already dreaming about Central Park and the Radio City Rockettes. 🙂

Currently obsessed with:

Tazo Sweet Cinnamon Spice hot tea!

Currently listening to: 

Milky Chance. I like a lot of calm, indie music playing in my headphones unless I’m working out!

Currently drinking:

Hazelnut coffee with a scoop of collagen peptides. Maybe this will make my eyelashes grow nice and long. 😉

Currently excited for:

Tomorrow, Joe and I are going to D.C. Improv after work to see ESPN’s Fantasy Focus Football podcast live. We plan to wear Steelers jerseys and get boo-ed by everyone who doesn’t know what’s good for them. Ha!

This coming weekend is the Marine Corps Marathon & 10K. I’m excited to race the 10K and then chase my crazy friends around the marathon course!

Currently praying for:

My friend Alicia, who just started an after school reading program at her school and is in need of picture books and chapter books. I’m praying that God provides for her and her students!

Currently wondering:

The less serious: how much longer I will go without getting my nails done.
More serious, holiday related: how to carve my pumpkin next weekend. 🙂

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All the Christmas Things

How are you feeling this marvelous Monday morning?!

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Hopefully you are the complete opposite of Amigo. 😉 My brother’s dog is THE definition of “not a morning person”. My mom sent me this gem on Saturday morning and I could not stop laughing!

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My Monday is brought to you by lots of happiness from Christmas adventures this past weekend. My roommate and her boyfriend bought our tree on Saturday and it is the cutest. Now all we need are a tree topper and a skirt! I am most excited to have a real Christmas tree because I haven’t had one in years. We also added a wreath to our front door, some greens to our mantle, and two poinsettias on the fireplace. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas up in here!

Friday evening was spent doing a ridiculously hard workout courtesy of Blonde Ponytail. It looked a little something like this:

20 minute AMRAP (as many reps as possible) with 25# dumbbells
10 squat hang cleans
10 push press
10 walking lunges

…except I modified the workout so that I could use 15 pound dumbbells because I’m not that strong yet and it still kicked my ass! I invited my friend over to watch Christmas movies and we had a ball laying on the couch and watching The Grinch and Elf. Christmas movies are the best!

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On Saturday, I took myself on an adventure to The National Harbor in Fort Washington, MD. I have never been and I have always wanted to go, plus I know that there are Christmas events going on this month, so it didn’t matter who was going with me…I was going! There are many restaurants and boutiques along the waterfront, but my first stop was at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center.

The lobby was all decked out with Christmas trees so I knew the rest of the place would be just as amazing! I also took a picture of that tree four times and each time, it was just as crooked. #bloggerfail

The child behind me on the escalator told his mom that he felt like he was in the tropical rain forest and I couldn’t help but agree! The interior of that place would be amazing even if it wasn’t Christmas. Added to the usual surroundings were a train, breakfast and dinner with Santa, pictures with Santa (of course), The Village of the North Pole, and ICE featuring Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. ICE is definitely the main event and I really wanted to see what it was all about, but I couldn’t justify a $38 ticket if I was by myself ha!

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Luckily, The Village of the North Pole was free and there was still a lot going on! There was a carousel, a gingerbread house making station, and lots of Christmas decorations and candy for sale! I bought bells to hang from the doorknob to my laundry room. So exciting, right?!

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I left the Gaylord and went to do the other “normal” National Harbor things such as shopping in all of the boutiques, but the best thing that I came across was The Grinch playing on the big screen! It was 53 degrees on Saturday so people had jackets on, but there were so many eating ice cream from the nearby shops while they watched the movie. It was so funny!

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I’m a child and moved to a place where no one was in front of me so that I could see better. I am sure that people thought I was very strange. The Grinch is just my favorite movie ever! Fun fact: Sarah (from Picky Runner) and I go to a lot of the same places at a lot of the same times and yet our paths still have never crossed. I posted the above picture on Instagram and she commented that she was just there. Of course! Haha:)

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Me, my puffy eyes, no makeup, and a Christmas tree. #bestselfieever #not My eyes have been bothering me lately (besides the fact that I scratched my cornea — that is all healed now) so the doctor put me on “contact vacation”. I am not a fan. My glasses are in the hand that’s not holding my iPhone here. 🙂

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Last night, I went to a Christmas party at the Hill Center. It’s an old Naval hospital which is kind of cool, but now it hosts meetings and events for various groups. My church has unofficially planned this Christmas party for the last 7 years. National Community Church doesn’t sponsor the party, but alot of NCC’ers go and proceeds always benefit a mission at our church. Last night, we were raising money for an orphanage in Zambia. I was super excited for this party because it was cocktail attire and who doesn’t love to get a little fancy sometimes?! I have to admit, I had on a sparkly navy cocktail dress and I changed into a sweater dress with tights and booties because my arms and legs were cold. #im107yearsold #iknow

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My friend Shannon is one of the people who travelled to Zambia this past summer to work at the orphanage, so this event was super special to her! She also created all the promotional things there, from posters to little info cards, and I was so impressed! We graduated from college the same year but she is a graphic designer and I am always amazed at how creative she is!

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There were probably five or six rooms on each floor of the Hill Center and each room was something different. One had a photo booth, another had live music, and several had food and drinks. Many people in attendance provided the food and drinks that were available to us all which I think is awesome! My favorite part of the party was gathering together at one point to sing Christmas carols and waiting in anticipation to see if I would win any of the prizes from the raffle. There were really good prizes! I was hoping for the $50 Anthropologie gift card or the month of free Spin and barre classes at a new studio, but no such luck. 🙂

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The best room was the one where we had room to dance…and we danced for a while! At 11:30, our feet were DONE and we crashed on a few open chairs. Even so, it was such a fun way to kick off the holiday season!

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I was up bright and early on Sunday morning to serve in the nursery at church during the 9 AM service. Somehow, I always seem to hold the baby who is teething or really tired. I do love it, though! The little girl I was holding yesterday would start to fall asleep on my shoulder and then turn around and look at the other babies playing in the room and start screaming and crying. She was not pleased to be at church haha! I haven’t been in the nursery much lately, so it was really nice to get back and see the other volunteers and of course, the little ones who are always there! Two of the babies that I have seen the most since I started volunteering this spring are about to turn 2 and move on into the toddler room. So sad!

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If you need a little marvelous in your Monday today, I suggest going to your local grocery store and finding these Peanut Butter Crunch Pretzel Crisps. I found them at the grocery store when I went to pick up my prescriptions the other day and they are SO GOOD. I may or may not have had too much sugar this weekend. You decide. 🙂

Happy Monday!

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A Different Perspective

*Disclaimer: We are all different. This is just my personal opinion.*

I have been a fitness instructor for almost five years. In college, I became a certified Spinning instructor and I love both taking and teaching that class! Then, last December, I became a PiYo LIVE Instructor. That’s the kind of workout I need to do more often as a runner, so I really enjoy teaching that format, too.

At instructor trainings, you are taught so many things to better your participants’ fitness routines. You learn a little bit of science about the human body, you learn about music and cues, and you learn more about the format you are teaching so you can help correct while you are teaching. Notice how I didn’t say you learn how to encourage your participants — because truly, you don’t go over that in detail. But as a fitness instructor, one of the most important things you can do is encourage your class!

I think encouragement in a group fitness class means different things to different people. It might even mean something different to you depending on what kind of mood you are in. That is true for me! If I am feeling a little lackluster about my workout and I have a really awesome instructor yelling encouraging things at the front of the room, I start to work a little harder. But there comes a point when encouragement in a fitness class starts to cross a line. Sometimes what is meant to be encouraging is actually kind of uninspiring.

Think of the quotes that we all too often see plastered across social media:
“Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”
“Unless you puke, faint, or die, keep going.”
“#teamnodaysoff”

And because we just had a major holiday, we were also #blessed with images like these:

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I’m pretty sure if you get sick or faint during a work out, you should stop. I’m also pretty sure that if you never take a day off, you will mentally and physically burn out. Maybe to some people these statements are encouraging, but I just don’t see anything positive behind them. I also don’t see anything encouraging about the workout image above. It gives me anxiety. It makes me not want to eat the food that my family spent so much time preparing. And for the record, how does anyone know how we prepare our food? We all have our own recipes. Maybe we make the healthy versions of our favorite dishes. 😉

I’m up on my soapbox right now because of a recent experience in a Spinning class. The day before I left for Thanksgiving Break, I took a class with an instructor who said things like this:

“The average person will gain 3-5 pounds this weekend! Keep going!”
“You better stick to that fitness routine this weekend. Don’t let anything get in the way!”
“Come on! Burn off that pumpkin pie right now!”

As someone who has previously struggled with food and exercise, I was very offended by this instructor’s encouragement. If his statements had encouraged me to work harder in class last week, they also would have encouraged me to go back to my old ways of thinking. Back in the days when I felt that I HAD to work out once, if not twice a day, and I spent hours planning my meals so that I could stick to my own “perfect” meal plan.

In retrospect, this was the first holiday where I worked out when I had time and ate pretty much whatever I wanted without feeling bad about a second of it. I have spent YEARS obsessing about when I am going to fit my workout in my day and how I am going to appear normal at the dinner table because I “can’t” eat the food that is being served. To know that I am finally getting to the place where I am not thinking about food and exercise all the time is exciting…but at the same time, I still don’t like the negativity that sometimes surrounds food and fitness.

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We should not work out because we hate our bodies. We should work out because we enjoy it and we want to keep our bodies as healthy as possible.

We should not “earn” our food. We need food to live. You are “allowed” to eat whatever you damn well please.

Every day of the year, and especially Thanksgiving, we should be giving thanks. Thanks for our health, thanks for the ability to cook way too much food, and thanks for time with family. We should not be filled with worry that we completely ruined our healthy lifestyle with one meal.

And for the record, what is the big deal about Thanksgiving food? There are plenty of other days during the year when we indulge and don’t make a big deal about burning the whole meal off. In particular, I’m thinking about every time I visit a Mexican restaurant. #allthequeso 😉

Did I work out every day while I was at home? No. But I will be the first person to tell you that I ran 8 miles on Thanksgiving morning. The plan was wake up, see how much time I had before the Macy’s Parade was on TV, and run far enough that I would be back in time for the start of the show. I woke up early, the weather was pretty, and I was feeling really good. So I ran far. My dogs even joined in! But it was fun. There was not one moment when I was out there when I felt like I HAD to be running. I wanted to be out there.

I know that the instructor didn’t mean to hurt my feelings or make me think about how I used to be. I am SURE that is not what he was trying to encourage at all. But going forward, I am going to be more mindful of the things that I say when I teach my own classes. I think it’s also a good reminder to just be nice to yourself. What kind of things do you say to yourself…or what kind of images do you pin on Pinterest to encourage your healthy lifestyle? They should be nice. They should be positive. You deserve to think uplifting thoughts!

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Do tell…do you feel like you “have” to burn off your Thanksgiving calories or are you just happy it’s the holiday season?!

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Monday Memories [21st Birthday Edition]

It’s a happy Monday over here for the McGraw family! Someone we all know and love is turning 21 today…

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…is he not the cutest thing you have ever seen?!
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My brothers are so very important to me and I am glad that we grew up with parents who cherished their relationships with their siblings. If we didn’t see how important that was, maybe the three of us wouldn’t be so close. Somehow, we have learned that no matter what is said and no matter what happens, we will be there for each other. That is the best gift ever.

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If I had to be stuck on a desert island with two other people, I would pick my brothers. The funny thing is, the three of us are nothing alike and I think that is why we get along so well. Jake is adventurous, Alex is hilarious, and I don’t really know what I have to offer…I’m just along for the ride. 😉 Alex and Jake have a special bond because they are brothers and Jake and I have a special bond because I was the oldest and I liked “taking care” of him when he was younger (hey, I still do that now…). But Alex and I have a special bond because he made me a big sister. I was 3 years old when he came along and I was so excited to have someone to play with. I have vivid memories of making him watch “Wee Sing” sing-a-long VHS videos with me and playing all of my imaginary games…house, school, the whole nine yards.

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Alex was just the person I needed because while he was adventurous and loved playing outside, I was a total girly girl and would have rather played indoors! My favorite memories are the many hours we spent outside drawing sidewalk chalk roads for our bikes, playing in the creek behind our house, and getting all the neighborhood kids together in our front yard to play kickball or hide and seek.

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While we definitely had our own friends, sometimes our friendships overlapped. He called my best friend Stefanie “Fluffy” and I loved playing with his best friend Nick’s little twin sisters. 🙂

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When we were at the beach this summer, our family kept telling lots of “Remember when…” stories because we have been to Wildwood, NJ so many times! Alex and I were trying hard to remember life without Jake, but it was really hard! Jake was born when I was 7 years old and Alex was 4 years old, so we should have lots of memories just together…but somehow, they all include Jake. Which he is totally fine with. Hahaha

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When we were in elementary school, we bickered like cats and dogs. We were part of an after school bumper bowling league and I remember my mom always reminded us to be nice to each other “in public” because I guess she was afraid we would be mean to each other in front of people. We always told her, “But we’re nice to each other there. We take care of each other and share our french fries.” Hahaha

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One of Alex’s favorite pastimes was hiding behind a door…standing in my closet…laying under my bed…sneaking just around the corner…and then jumping out and scaring the shit out of me as soon as I entered the room/stairwell/bed. To this day, I am easily startled, so needless to say, I wasn’t a fan of his favorite game way back when. 😉

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My very favorite memory with Alex is making our Dad hate the movie “The Parent Trap”. When Alex was 5 years old, he and his best friend were racing their bikes around our driveway and Alex turned too wide and ran into the small strip of brick in between our garage doors. He tore his lip and messed up his teeth pretty bad. He needed stitches! In his school picture that year, you can tell something happened to him! But I am pretty sure for the next week after that little accident, we ate our body weight in Welch’s grape and raspberry popsicles and we watched “The Parent Trap” over and over and over again. There are some movies you can just do that with. 🙂 To this day, I love it, and I’m sure if you ask my Dad, he would probably say he hates it! Haha

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Once I got to middle school, Alex and I had totally different social lives. I was my regular introverted self and he was his regular outgoing self. Luckily, we were always the best of friends when we were together. We spent a lot of time with our family and I was his number one fan at baseball and basketball games. 🙂

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We even got to spend one year together in high school! I was a senior when he was a freshman. We both went to Homecoming that year, too!

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He got really tall and most people thought that he was older than me. When I went on college tours, the tour guides ignored me and would ask what he was going to study. But my very favorite were the people who would mistake us for dating. Ha!

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Once, we were riding this Surrey bike in Wildwood and Alex was driving us down a ramp from the Boardwalk to the street. Though this bike has two steering wheels, only one of them ACTUALLY steers the bike and that person also controls the bike. Lucky me, Alex was driving. In his brain, we were going to go full speed ahead down the ramp, but I was having a fit and trying to slow us down before we crashed. As we argued and I tried to reach across him to control the brake, someone commented that we were too young to already be acting like an old married couple. Hahaha!

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We did not die. We made it to dinner that night:)

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Alex has a huge heart, is so smart, and has that extra little dash of confidence that lets him do what he really wants to do no matter what anyone else thinks. I envy that and wish I were more like him in that respect!

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He loves driving (his car and anything else)…

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He loves his dog, Amigo…

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…and he loves Pittsburgh sports. Steelers games are our happy place. 🙂

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The day is finally here, Alex! You have been waiting for your 21st birthday forever. You are now officially an adult. I love you so much! Happy Birthday! Have the best day!

We Are Fam[ILY]

“Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.”

A great quote I read yesterday on Pinterest (follow me HERE) but also so very true. My family is super important to me, and I consider my friends like family, so I take all the relationships in my life very seriously. Without the people I surround myself with, I wouldn’t be who I am. I can be 23 years old and out in the world pretending like I got myself here, but really there are a whole bunch of wonderful people behind me supporting me every day. Yesterday was all about the fathers in our lives, and if you don’t have a father in your life anymore or your father is absent from your life, know that I am thinking about you. Your dad loves you no matter your circumstances.

I am lucky enough to still have my Dad, but we had to celebrate Father’s Day a few weeks early when I was at home visiting! We went to lunch and he opened his present and it was a wonderful Dad-Daughter date. Luckily, yesterday he still got to celebrate and spend the day with my brothers. But, I still woke up and texted him right away to wish him a Happy Day!

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How many Father’s Day pictures did you “like” on social media? Honestly, I know some people get annoyed that everyone “participates” in holidays by sharing pictures, but I love days that make you recognize who you love and why you love them. So I liked all the Father’s Day pictures on my news feed. 🙂 I texted my Dad this collage and he said, “Omg! So nice!! I love it!!!” so since it was Dad approved, I went ahead and shared it on social media. Ha!

I have lots of great memories with my Dad. He always worked opposite hours than my mom which was nice for my brother and I because we got to spend some of our days with him instead of at our babysitter’s house! I remember making him hate the movie Parent Trap because me and my brother watched it 157 million times. I remember riding to get ice cream with him in his old “antique” car to get ice cream in the summer. I remember going to the Brickyard 500 when I was in second grade and never wanting to go back…it was so loud! Ha! I remember listening to Bruce Springsteen. I remember learning to drive at 14. I remember that he has always had a convertible of some kind…the man loves his cars! Mostly I remember just knowing he was always there to listen to us talk about our day/life/current problem/current happiness. He would do anything for my brothers and I. We are a lucky bunch.

A second Father’s Day shoutout went to my Pap Pap (my mom’s Dad). I never knew my paternal grandfather because he passed away before I was born, but I knew my maternal grandfather really well. He was the heart of our family. I was lucky enough to know him until I was 14, and then he was taken from our family in an unexpected and tragic car accident. But, that is not how I remember him. I remember riding on the lawn mower with him…and pretending to sleep in “his spot” on the couch when he got home from work…and going to his house every Sunday with my family to play and eat lunch. I remember his love for M&M’s and I remember he always only talked on the phone in the living room. Ha! I remember running all the way from the front door to his recliner chair to hug him (and I did that for a lot longer than you might expect;) and I remember how much he loved my Grandma. He was the best role model for his kids and his grandkids and I still think about him all the time. Would he be proud of me? I hope so.

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And a third Father’s Day shoutout went to my cousin, Glenn. My Dad’s siblings are all much older than him, and lots of their kids are about the same age as my Dad. So he is an uncle to nieces and nephews that are his age. My Dad’s sister has two kids, Joan and Glenn, who are like an aunt and uncle to me because of their age. Family history aside –> Glenn went to college at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, which is about 45 minutes from my hometown, so when he was in school, he would spend a lot of weekends at my house hanging out with my parents. And I was this big. 🙂

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I sent him and his wife this picture yesterday! Even after he was done with school and moved back home to Indianapolis, it still felt like we saw him all the time. A few times each year, my family would go to Indianapolis to see my aunt and of course my cousins would come over to hang out with us, too!

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Glenn was always the one who would take us to the park, give us piggyback rides EVERYWHERE, and basically act like a kid with us. He is still the best cousin. 🙂 Now he is married and has a son who is about to go to middle school and I am AMAZED at how fast time flies!

Even though I didn’t get to spend Father’s Day with any of the amazing men in my life, it was still a good day. I hope you had the best weekend with your family! Happy Monday!

I’m The Kind of Person

I’m the kind of person who needs everything in its place. Until I get dressed. Then the clothes take over.

I’m the kind of person who would rather go to sleep early and wake up early than pull an all-nighter.

I’m the kind of person who reads more than one book at a time.

I’m the kind of person who drinks their coffee black…with one Splenda.

I’m the kind of person who won’t answer the phone because Hello! Scandal is on.

I’m the kind of person who keeps running until my GPS ends on x.5 or x.0. #norandommiles

I’m the kind of person who can listen to Eminem followed by Luke Bryan followed by Taylor Swift followed by Bruce Springsteen. #eclectictaste

I’m the kind of person who likes to please others.

I’m the kind of person who would rather wear my hair in a topknot than take the time to dry and style it.

I’m the kind of person who loves to go shopping and never has anything to wear.

I’m the kind of person who eats lunch and then has a snack fifteen minutes later.

I’m the kind of person who honks the horn impatiently at other cars, changes lanes to avoid any possible hold up, and has a special place in their heart for the fast lane on the highway. #slightlyaggressive

I’m the kind of person who works out at 9 AM and doesn’t “get ready” for the day until 2 PM…or ever.

I’m the kind of person who cannot make a decision without talking it out with someone.
*Okay, I probably could if I HAD to, but I like to talk. Hahaha

I’m the kind of person who always has some sort of music playing…iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, etc.

I’m the kind of person who loves sending random pieces of mail.

I’m the kind of person who owns lots of beautiful makeup but goes “au natural” at least half of the days the week. Wait til I have a full time job. Muahaha

I’m the kind of person who treats their planner like The Holy Grail yet still forgets at least one thing every day.

I’m the kind of person who sends a text that says “Just got in the car!” when in reality I’m still in my room trying to decide what shoes to wear.

I’m the kind of person who never talks on the phone…but when I do, you can guarantee we’ll be chatting for a good hour or so.

I’m the kind of person who spends hours thinking…past, present, and future.

I’m the kind of person who puts forth an all or nothing effort.

I’m the kind of person who sacrifices space in my suitcase to pack workout clothes and running shoes.

I’m the kind of person who says no to eating pizza but won’t blink an eye at eating ice cream and a cookie for dessert.

I’m the kind of person who is the only person like me.

What kind of person are you?

Uptown Funk

School is not my jam right now. I am in graduate school at the University of Maryland and I am working on a Master’s in Reading Education…so people look at me kind of funny when I say I’m sick of school. Because due to my major, I will likely be in school forever. 😉 However, there is a big difference between being IN school and teaching school…I went straight from undergrad to grad school. I think I’m ready to teach!

Right now at church, we are talking through a series of sermons called “Trip Around the Sun”. My pastor just wrote a book with the same name. 🙂 In talking about our trips around the sun, Pastor Mark has been talking about our experiences. Because our experiences are what make up all the years of our lives. Apparently, someone did a survey on a group of fifty people who were about 85 years old or older and they asked them what they would do differently if they could do their lives over. They said:

1. Risk more.
2. Reflect more.
3. Do more to leave behind (in regards to their legacy).

Today I am reflecting because I am oh-so-cranky about my blessings instead of appreciating them.

What I have been thinking all weekend:
“I can’t believe I still have a project and a final. I have never been in school this long in my life. Duquesne always ended in April. This is dumb. I don’t care.”

P.S. I felt completely stupid typing that out. It’s like when you say something out loud and you think, woah, that is ridiculous. Yeah. That just happened. But that is what I have been thinking…

What I should be thinking:
I am financially and academically blessed to be able to attend the school that I do. I have a job(s), I have amazing professors, I like my classmates, I have friends, I live in an amazing city…

Pastor Mark was talking about a sunset that he saw last weekend at the lake…the sun was setting on one side, the moon was rising on another…and it was one of the most awesome moments he’s ever seen. So he got us thinking. Not that we have to watch every sunset, moon rise, day break, etc…just thinking: how often are we looking down instead of literally (or figuratively) looking up and experiencing what’s around us?

I am taking “looking down” as “not appreciating”. 😉

Recently I have been getting very caught up in the big picture, which in my case is finishing school and getting a “real” job. I currently have three part time jobs. But I am so concerned with having a real job and “finally having money.” That’s what I keep saying. I’m not really even sure what I mean by that. But, that is not the point of a job, especially my future job. I am meant to teach children, not meant to worry about how much money I am putting in the bank each week.

“Don’t accumulate possessions. Accumulate experiences.”

I’m in the middle of an experience right now. It’s called graduate school. And it’s not my forever, but it IS my right now. And God put me here for a reason. So I’m going to pray on it…and reflect on it…and LOVE it. Because our trips around the sun are made up of the little moments and I’m in the middle of the little moments right now. Professional Development Project, I’m looking at you. 😉

So I am going to find the good in every last assignment, every final test, every last interaction with a professor or classmate…because nobody likes a downer. I’m choosing the positive.

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– How have you been feeling lately? Happy, silly, frustrated, sleepy, excited?
– How do you break yourself out of a funk?

If you’re interested, you can watch yesterday’s sermon HERE or listen to the podcast HERE.

Post Spring Break Happiness

Today I woke up and the sky looked like this:

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You can’t be mad about Monday morning when it’s this pretty. 🙂

I’ve been thinking about my Spring Break and realizing that although it didn’t really go as planned, it was still a great week. I didn’t travel to an exotic location with friends, I just went home to spend time with my family and friends and it was so fun. I did get sick and that kept me down a few nights…but maybe rest is just what I needed! I was still able to see two of my best friends, have lunch with my Aunt, spend time with my parents and brothers, and celebrate my brother’s birthday. When I picture what my planner looks like in the next couple of weeks, the number of assignments and projects I have due almost makes me feel like I need to schedule my day by the hour. But I don’t feel overwhelmed…I feel refreshed. Ready to take on the many, many tasks with my name on them. And I think I have Spring Break to thank for that!

It wasn’t only getting sick that made Spring Break not so spring-like…it actually SNOWED on the official first day of Spring!

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My workouts weren’t as intense because I was trying to listen to the doctor (eight to ten days of rest? Is she kidding?) but I did manage to make it outside to walk the dogs a few times and run on Saturday. Colby is a good little walker…Amigo pulls forward the entire time like he has never been on a leash before. I keep hoping that with more practice, he will stop being the leader of the walk. It hasn’t happened yet. 😉

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It’s like you can see their personality in the pictures…Colby is content to just be (he was laying on my lap) and Amigo loves to play and move and run at all times!

I spent a good part of Friday night at Jake’s volleyball tournament…

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He’s got hops.

…and we spent lots of time celebrating his 16th birthday. 🙂

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My people.

My mom let one of his friends eat a piece of cake before we sang Happy Birthday! I was appalled. He wouldn’t let us sing when we went to Dave and Buster’s with his friends, so we made the singing happen at brunch the next day. You can see how happy he is about that. 😉

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But now it’s Monday…I’m back at school…and it’s back to reality! Instead of looking ahead at all of my responsibilities and feeling overwhelmed…I’m going to look back on my Spring Break…and then move forward feeling refreshed. I think I was stuck in a winter funk before I went home. I was obviously still going to work, doing my schoolwork, and working out, but I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired to do any of those things. I actually couldn’t wait to get home and “relax” most days. The biggest thing that I wanted to focus on this year was being more present in my every day life. Really involving myself in what I am doing…engaging in conversations…and appreciating the moments. But no one can do that 100% of the time and I think it’s pretty normal to feel like you’re a little disconnected from your own life sometimes. You don’t need an entire week off to bring yourself “back to life” (or maybe you do;)) but you should do something that will help you break your routine.

Last week, I would have felt overwhelmed by everything that I have to do for school…this week I am excited to take on the challenges.

Last week, I would have felt like it wasn’t fair that I “have” to work out (seriously, this is a thought I had), this week I am thankful that my body is able to work out.

Last week, I would have watched Netflix in my free time…this week I realize that my free time is SMALL and should not be given to mindless TV. Example: last night, I taught myself new PiYo choreography and read a book.

I’m still in grad school so I get to have fun weeks like Spring Break. But if you’re in the real world and ten days off isn’t a gift that your job gives you (they really should. Let’s petition!)…change it up. You have a daily routine (we all do), so just do one little thing differently. Your perspective WILL change.

My perspective is refreshed.

Happy Monday!

Running: It’s All In Your Head

I love to run. I have been running ever since my favorite aunt took me to the park with her and let me “jog”. So what happens when you start to work out and you just feel kind of ehhh? If you are hurt, you should definitely stop whatever you are doing. If you just feel kind of uninspired, then you need to push past that mental block. That’s usually the name of the game in running. Even on the very best running days, you may find yourself wishing for a park bench or a water fountain. 😉 And even though I go through seasons of life where I am more dedicated to a different kind of workout than running, running is still my soul mate workout.

I explore.

I listen to music.

I get to wear fun shoes and clothes.

I clear my head.

It’s completely exhausting and some days much harder than others, but I love it.

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One of the best things about running (for me) is that it’s always there for me. I know that sounds cheesy, but when you look at the fitness world and see how much there is to offer (Zumba, BodyPump, Spinning, yoga, PiYo, Pilates, lifting, swimming, boot camp, etc etc etc), it can be hard to decide what you are going to commit yourself to. For two years in college, I did very little besides run and I completely wrecked my hip. I now have a small tear that will always be there. We need to be dedicated, but we also need to rest. Now when I race, I actually strength train during training and I actually take time off from running after the race. I didn’t do this before. And because I worry that I may get injured again, I take extra time off. That’s just my thing. I am still working out, but I choose other things to do besides running. So it is hard for me to admit that every time I start to train for a race, it feels like I am starting over. I feel slow and everything feels much harder than it should. Slowly but surely, I find my groove again, but it’s hard NOT to be envious of my previously speedy times or feel like I am completely out of shape. I am in shape, I’m just not quite in running shape…yet. 😉

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Right now, I am training for the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler in April in Washington, D.C. I used to think I was such a good runner that I could run without training…and then I got hurt. HA! Now I use a training plan for every race (like a normal person). On Saturday, I was supposed to run 4 miles and it was 45 degrees and sunny. Running > studying for stats;) I thought I was in for four easy-breezy miles!

Not so much. I was just feeling blah. I also kept getting a cramp in the same place on my side and those are never fun. Must practice breathing like a runner.

Here’s a little preview of my crazy:

Mile 1: Outside. I like being outside. These sidewalks are half slushy, half dry. Who is in charge of cleaning these?

Mile 1.5: Oh look, a hill. I’m going to be a badass and run up that.

Mile 2: WHY?!

Mile 2.5: Photo op.

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For some reason, there have been a ton of geese all over campus lately. And seagulls. All birds seem very confused with this weather!

Mile 3: If I just do one more loop around this side of campus, I can go hoooooooome!

Mile 4: Lots of fast music and darting around like a weirdo looking for every downhill possible. 🙂

There is a reason people say “you only regret the workouts you don’t do”. I felt so much better when I got back to my apartment even though it was a mental challenge to get through four measly miles. And yes, I sat down at one point and texted my friend to complain. Some days are like that! We just have to remember that the slow, hard days are paving the way for happier, faster days. Any run feels great after a particularly hard one!

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Today, I was excited for my Monday miles. You have to get excited because whatever workout you are choosing to do should be fun for you! I could have totally ditched them because I remembered the struggle from this past weekend. I also could have used the excuse that I didn’t have the right shoes…I usually wear my running shoes to the gym where I teach PiYo and run right after class, but I must have been half asleep when I got dressed because I wore the wrong shoes. I walked home after class and practiced saying, “Your legs are not tired, they are warmed up.” Walked in the door, changed my shoes, and walked right back out. Who am I?! It feels good to prove yourself right and start your day off on the right foot.

Happy running and happy Monday, friends! 🙂

Monday Musings

So, my weekend looked something like this:

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Photo Credit: Angela Fu

UMD hosted the Southeast Collegiate Fitness Expo from Friday to Sunday and to say I had no idea what I was in for is definitely an understatement! I was required to go because I work at the gym, but once I saw the schedule of events, I knew that I would want to be there! What could be better than a gym full of other fitness instructors who love working out and nutrition as much as me?! I have decided that being around like-minded people is the best. 🙂

Saturday morning started off with an equipment-less bootcamp style workout led by Abbie Appel, a master trainer from Florida! Unfortunately, she didn’t bring the warm weather with her, but that room was full. of. sweat. We did a 40 minute workout: 8 minutes of work…a different exercise every minute…and then took a quick rest period. The class flew by and it was a perfect kick off for the events to follow on Saturday!

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She’s so cool she even took a selfie with us. 😉

After boot camp, I was famished because I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet, and I had ten minutes to hydrate, feed myself, and get to my next destination: Piloxing. Pilates + Boxing = Piloxing. And sweat. And fun. This trainer works in the D.C. area which is amazing because that means I can go to the class again sometime soon! I tried a bunch of different workouts on Saturday and ended the day in a seminar about social media…one, because it sounded cool, and two, because I just wanted to sit down!

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My mom sent me a care package last week and sent me all kinds of protein bars that sound like peanut butter and jelly. This bar was amazing and the perfect snack for my busy day. Why did she only send one?! Saturday night, we all had to find our second wind because there was a social at the UMD Golf Course. I really wanted nothing more than Netflix and pajamas, but it was so fun to see my co-workers all dressed up in “normal” clothes! We made sundaes at an ice cream bar with different flavors from The Dairy and danced the night away with what little energy we had left! Sunday started off bright and early with hip hop yoga…hip hop music playing in the background while we stretched and relaxed and restored our bodies from all the festivities of the weekend! I attended three seminars: one about personal branding, one about running, and one about body image. I took so many notes (#nerdalert) and left so excited about being a fitness instructor! There is just so much goodness about this job. What was left of Sunday looked like this…anything that required laying down, even homework, sounded great to me!

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During the weekend, there were certain seminars that we were assigned to monitor. Luckily, I monitored a session I wanted to go to! It talked about “fitspo” and how what we see on social media really affects how we think about our bodies, our exercise, our nutrition, and in turn, our happiness with ourselves. On Instagram, we are bombarded with images, but I feel like many of those are positive. My newsfeed is typically posts of people pre- or post-workout with an inspirational quote thrown in. However, there are so many “inspirational” pictures floating around the Internet that aren’t actually inspirational at all…they’re just degrading. That was not really something I had thought about before. I decided to look at my Pinterest workout board and see what kind of images I have been pinning:

I found six that made me shake my head. Three of them were shirtless images of Ryan Reynolds, Ryan Gosling, and Channing Tatum. I have no idea what that was supposed to represent for my workout life. Clearly, I am not a man;) But that kind of shows how men who aren’t celebrities might feel pressure to look a certain way.  Anyway, I have shared the other three here, but if you click on my Pinterest board, they’ve all been deleted.

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I feel like the body types represented here suggest that we should all be this thin. If you are a naturally thin person, there is nothing wrong with that. What I am saying is that you should not strive to push your body to an extreme that it cannot handle. I don’t have experience testing the jumping jack theory suggested on the left, but it seems kind of unrealistic to me. I do like the advice on the right…we can wish for whatever we want, but we are in control of our health, and that requires doing something to change your situation. Just like anything else in life. However, no one looks at that picture and gets all deep and thoughtful about the quote. When we remember that quote, we associate it with that picture. And really, I do not wear my sports bra to work out, so that picture just makes me feel bad about myself. I am proud of that girl for being so fit, though. 🙂

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If you clicked on this image on Pinterest, it took you to a page that told you how to get a nice butt. But honestly. I would rather see a photo with the actual exercises than these girl’s behinds. The bad thing about these images floating around is that even if we scroll right past them, we still think about them. Images are powerful and they can affect your thoughts. That is crazy to me. We need to change the norm so that we are surrounded by good thoughts and images!

Here…this motivates me to work! This is a great example of an image that is effective. We can’t play the comparison game because there are no butts to look at;) And it gives you steps to take the action you need to be a healthier, happier you.

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Another good example. Good message and an almost fully clothed girl;)

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Things that we say or read are powerful too. Luckily, most of the quotes I have pinned are about being a happier person. I was glad to see that after thinking about this topic. Here’s a quote that is everywhere in the media –> “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” I would like to disprove this theory by asking you to think about all your favorite treats. Queso, peanut butter straight from the jar, and cookies are pretty tasty, too;)

You should use images and quotes and social media and whatever else you have to motivate yourself to be healthier. I am 100% supportive of that. I am just thinking that we need to do this healthy thing for us. It’s not even just about looks…you may compare yourself in other ways. Someone lifts heavier than you. Someone runs faster than you. Someone can do a crazy inversion at yoga. We just have to know that we are doing the best we can and that truly, we will only ever look like, run like, lift like, eat like, be like…ourselves. And occasionally, we don’t favor our own self. We want to be beasts;) So we need to practice using those thoughts constructively.

I have worked really hard to change my mindset. I want to focus on what my body can do rather than play the comparison game. I can run long distances, I can lift dumbbells that are heavier than they were at this time last year, and I can correctly do down dog in Yoga and PiYo classes. Do I wish that I looked a little different? Sometimes, but we all have goals. Your health is your life, not a short term goal. So at this point, my jeans still fit. I bought a bikini on Friday. And I really like dessert. I just have to be happy with the body I have and make those changes in a healthy way. When I have those days of feeling bad about myself, I hope that I still share positive thoughts and images with others. There was a time when I didn’t like how I looked and I thought that restricting what I ate and working out excessively would help me change my body. Both of those things did help me change my body, but I was also tired, craving sugar, and unhappy. There’s a part of being healthy that requires being happy. And being healthy doesn’t mean being skinny. I learned this. It’s a trifecta of working out, eating healthy foods, and being freaking happy.

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I challenge you to look at the images and social media accounts that you find inspiring. What is so inspiring about them? They should make you want to be a better person in all aspects of your life.

Happy Monday. 🙂

Special thanks to Alicia for leading such a thoughtful session!