June 23, 2015

Why Michigan...





As I have been slowly announcing to friends, family, and acquaintances that I am relocating to Grand Rapids, the very common question I get is "Why Michigan?"


Um, why NOT Michigan?


Usually the people who ask me this have either not been there, assume all of Michigan mirrors poor Detroit, or can picture nothing but mountains of snow in the winter time.

Sure, Michigan is not a place many might think of to "start over".  People might think California, the Carolinas, or even Florida.  But Michigan?

So I'm taking this opportunity to explain my decision to relocate to Grand Rapids this fall.

1.  First of all, when people ask me "Why Michigan" with a look on their face like I said I'm relocating to Mars, I just want to ask... "have you ever been there?"  Because honestly, west Michigan is an incredibly beautiful place.  As my friend Dan would say... they have everything.  Beach, forests, city, whatever you might want! 



2.  It's not as cold as people assume.  The climate in Grand Rapids is a humid continental climate... just like Chicago.  Warm summers and cold snowy winters.  However, Michigan from what I hear, experiences more snow and less ice-crap like we get here in central Illinois.  Amen for that.  So instead of "Oh, we can't go outside because my driveway is a sheet of ice" it'll be more like "let's go sledding or skiing or build snow men." Yes to all!  I'm from Chicago, so winter really doesn't scare me and believe it or not, not everyone likes hot weather!  >this girl right here<


3.  It's close enough to Chicago that my family will still be within driving distance.  I'm the kind of grown up that still gets homesick.  So being within a reasonable driving distance from family and close friends is really important to me.


4.  Guys, it's Michigan.  Do any of you have a place that when you think about it, you can't help but smile and/or wish you could teleport there?  That's how I feel about Michigan.  Whenever I see a University of Michigan t-shirt, or watch those enticing Pure Michigan commercials, I smile.  I've loved this beautiful state since I was a teenager.  I visited the upper peninsula when I was in high school and again in college.  Then after becoming friends with my dear Ineke, I fell in love with west Michigan.  If you've never spent time there, do yourself a favor and GO.  Holland, Grand Haven, Grand Rapids.  Yes, yes, yes.  Or you can wait until next summer and come visit me. ;-)


I've been given the go ahead.  For a long time I felt that I was called to be here in Bloomington Normal.  And I was...for the time being.  As I started to play with the idea of relocating I did a lot of soul searching and a lot praying.  I wondered if my time here had been a waste if I was just going to leave all I'd built.  I wondered if I'd make the kinds of friends I've known here the past ten years.  But when I started to feel less and less like I belonged in the church family I'd known for so long and less and less rooted in this town, I knew something had to give.


I've always played it safe and never really cared for change.  But maybe it's something about getting closer and closer to that big 3-0 in six months that spurred me to risk it.  Why not?  The older I get, the less I care about what people think and the less I fear risk.  I find myself wanting to try new things and see places!  And I believe that God's given me the "it's ok, go!".  He's with me.  He's going to be going ahead of me and he's going to be in whatever church I find to call home.


Will I miss my church that I've seen as family for over a decade?  Yes.  Will I miss the friends that have become that family? Absolutely.  Will I miss being around my old college stomping grounds and reliving those memories? Sure.  But there is SO much to get excited about as I make this huge life change.  I heard on the radio yesterday that a person should do things A, B, and C at some point.  One of those things was to make a big move.  Well I'm doing it and it's going to be the start of something great.

June 19, 2015

Quinoa Bowls





I've passed this recipe along to a couple of different people this week and I love it so much, that I thought I'd post it here for all to see!  It's a delicious, healthy, and filling take on a burrito bowl.  I used to not be a huge fan of quinoa (keen-wah) because of it's texture.  But mixed together with veggies, seasonings, and sprinkled with lemon juice.  It's heavenly.

Quinoa Bowls

Ingredients:

1 cup quinoa (rinsed)

1 ½ to 1 ¾ cup water

1 can low sodium corn (drained)

1 can low sodium black beans (rinsed)

1 can Rotel (diced tomatoes and chilies)

1 Tbsp paprika

½ Tbsp garlic powder

1-2 avocados

Juice of 1 lemon

Chopped green onion

Chopped cilantro

3-4 leaves of lacinato/dinosaur kale, diced

 

Steps:

Add quinoa, corn, beans, rotel, water, paprika, and garlic powder to a large pot.  Stir, bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer.  Cook for 20-30 minutes or until quinoa is tender.

Dice up your avocado, green onion, kale, and cilantro.

Once your quinoa goodness is done cooking, add your kale and stir.

Serve up your mixture with your green onion, cilantro, and avocado.  Squeeze lemon juice over the top and devour!
Side Note: If you make a large batch to eat throughout the week, best to leave the kale out until you are ready to re-heat it.  Too much heat kills the enzymes and nutrients in your kale, so leaving it out until last minute is best.

June 5, 2015

...Awesome Awkward Friday...





Happy Friday Homies! I for one am stoked that it's finally the weekend.  It kicks off with game night at the McDowell's followed by a little work, a little play, and a whole lot of sleep!


Awkward:
*Being more upset about your work wife leaving for a new job than other things you should be upset about.  (though she's earned it and will ROCK it)
*People not understanding the gloriousness that is green juice. Just sayin'.
*Having a wound that requires gauze packing in a place that you can't reach.  Smack in the middle of your back right where your fingers DON'T touch.  (Thanks Dave, Em, and Katie!!)
*Getting back into the pool after a hiatus due to winter and half marathon training...only to have to be out again due to the wound mentioned above.


Awesome:
*Green juice. 
*Morning runs are BACK!
*Meeting your bestie's baby girl for the first time and the sheer amazement that the girl you've known for 16+ years is now a momma.
*Good conversations with people who love you.
*The way the neighbor's dog Charlie comes over every day to see if Yukon can play.  (and if Katie will give him a snack)
*Friends who are there for you no matter what.
*Family that believes in you and supports you no matter what.

May 27, 2015

Homemade Burrito Bowls





Happy Wednesday Homies!


If any of you know me well, I LOVE Mexican food.  In particular, Chipotle has amazing and healthy options when I'm craving Mexican.  However, at almost $8 a pop after tax, I can't really afford to eat there all the time.  This weekend I had a craving for a burrito bowl and was getting ready to head out for one when I thought... SHOOT!  I have all the makings for one here.  Duh!


So this is a simple recipe I wanted to share with you!


Ingredients:


2 C rice (I used jasmine brown rice)
3 3/4 C water
1/2 C chopped cilantro
1 can low sodium black beans
1 t cumin
1 t paprika
1 t chili powder
1 can corn
1 can Rotel (diced tomatoes and chilies)
1 head of romaine lettuce-chopped
1 avocado
1-2 limes
1 clove of garlic-minced
salt
pepper


Steps:


Rice:
Add your rice, water, and a little salt to a sauce pan, cover, and bring to a boil.  Then reduce to a simmer and cook for 35-45 minutes.  (The bag usually has a cook time on it)
While your rice is cooking, chop up your lettuce and cilantro.


Beans:
Rinse your beans and add to a sauce pan with a 2-3 T of water.  Add your cumin, paprika, and chili powder.  Heat the beans on low until they are warm.


Corn Salsa:
Easiest step right here!  Rinse your corn, drain your Rotel and combine in a bowl.  Boom!


Guacamole:
Mash up your avocado in a bowl and add the juice of 1/2 to one lime (depending on your preference and the size of your lime).  Mince your garlic and add that to the avocado.  Stir to combine and add salt and pepper to taste.


Once your rice is done cooking, fluff with a fork or spoon.  Add the juice of one lime, your cilantro and a salt (if it needs it)


Then you just layer your goodies in a large bowl!  You can also add some shredded cheese or plain greek yogurt if that's your thing.  But the guacamole gives that creaminess I love and I find I don't need it.  Try it out and let me know what you think!

May 4, 2015

...For Life...

MUSH alert!  You've been warned.


As I embark on the process of moving across the Midwest, I am reflecting... a lot.  These next few months while I impatiently try to save every penny, look for places to live and places to work I get to be very much alone with the thought of "good-byes".  While the idea of getting to start over and move on with my life is so wonderful and exciting, there's the very real fact that the town I've known for 11 years will no longer really be a part of my life, as well as many of the people I know here.  It's a little gut-wrenching.  You see, I'm one of those that does not take relationships lightly.  I attach myself to people and even places very deeply.   I place a lot of value on the relationships that I build.  Losing a friend or feeling like I no longer matter to someone really messes me up on the inside. 


It also got me thinking about the people that will always be there, no matter what.  The people that make me a better person.  The people that I sometimes ache to spend time with because time, life, distance gets in the way.  The people that make me glad I'm alive.  The people that I never have to question if I mean to them as much as they mean to me.  These are the people that I can't picture my life without.




Colleen is the girl I met when we were twelve.  She was my canoe partner on our seventh grade outdoor ed. trip.  She's the girl I played countless orchestra concerts and ensembles with.  She's the one that stuck by me and fought for us through the ridiculous and dramatic adolescent years.  Colleen's the girl that makes me feel beautiful, worthy, and treasured.  She is the one I can be honest with no matter what and trust to be honest with me.  She's lovely and grateful and the one who will always bring me back to feeling like I'm 16 in the best ways possible.  She makes me want to be better and helps me to always believe that I can be.


Emilie is the girl I met when I was three.  She lived across the street and was the girl I supposedly convinced to eat dirt.  Supposedly.  ;)  She's the one I said goodbye to at age nine and then rediscovered our friendship at 18.  She's the one I spent countless hours with in the dorms, at retreats for our campus ministry, and the one that survived living with me during the year my parents divorced and I had my heart broken.  She's the one that not only loves how weird I am, but celebrates it.  Emilie is the one I can completely be myself around and never fear judgment.  She's accepting, loving, patient, and has one of the biggest hearts I know. 


Rebecca, I met in my early twenties.  The day she walked into our small group I knew she and I were meant to be friends.  We were and are such different people but it has NEVER mattered.  We were drawn together in the midst of the hardest periods of our lives and our friendship was cemented as a result.  She was there for me and I was there for her.  She's the one that thousands of miles can't take from me.  She's my kindred spirit and the one that I never have to explain things to.  Rebecca is the one who cries with me, understands, and encourages me without fault.  She helps me to see the beauty and hope in everything.  She is beautiful, enduring, and loyal always.


Ineke, I also met in my twenties.  I moved into her apartment as she moved upstairs in our building.  We became friends because of the season of life we were in.  She is the one teaches me.  She teaches me the value of family, to be adventurous, to trust God, and to never accept a life you aren't happy with.  She gets me out of my comfort zone, challenges me, and gives me the motivation to make things happen.  She is the one that allows me to see hope for the future.  She is one of the catalysts in me falling in love with Michigan.  Ineke is the adventurer and the one that makes me want to do big things.


Though I will have to say good-bye to more people than I'd like in a few months, I also know that I do have friendships that have and will stand through whatever changes happen.  I am so thankful.  I'm so, so thankful that God took the time to put these women in my life and to use them to keep me grounded through so much.  And you know what?  These four are not even it!  There are others.  So many others that I know I will be friends with forever.  People that mean so much to me. 


And you know what else?  I'll soon get to do it all over again!!

April 24, 2015

Let the Adventure Begin...

Happy Friday, homies!


Today I wanted to take some time on my 300th blog post to give you all an update on what's going on in my life.  As you're aware, last weekend I finished my first half marathon.  It was a huge feat that I am so proud of and so happy to say that I did on my own.  The race took place in my favorite area of the Midwest: Grand Rapids, Michigan.


I've traveled there many times through my teenage and young adult years for various things.  I first discovered the beauty in Michigan when I was 16, a sophomore in high school on a missions trip with my high school youth group.  We traveled to Sault Ste Marie Michigan and spent a week there serving the community.  Four years later, I traveled back to the upper peninsula to Cedar Campus with my college Intervarsity chapter.  I enjoyed yet another week connecting with my friends and with the Lord.  Finally I was introduced to western Michigan by my dear friend Ineke on a fourth of July vacation several years ago.  There I not only fell in love with the state all over again, but the city of Grand Rapids.  And for years Ineke, my friends Chris and Anna (who are now in Seattle), and Ineke's dear mother have tried to coax me to moving there. 


So what is my point?


My point is that I'm finally going through with it.  I am officially announcing to all of you who have been such wonderful friends, family, readers, encouragers that I am relocating to Grand Rapids, Michigan. 



Honestly, it hasn't sunk in yet.  I'm still expecting the scared chicken side of me to back out.  A lot of different factors went into finally making the decision. I've been in Bloomington-Normal for almost 11 years.  Things in my life have been at a bit of a stand still in some areas and I've just felt so completely stuck.  I've begun to feel disconnected from my life here and the people I've always cared so dearly for.  When those feelings first started, I was frustrated by it.  I was confused and convinced it was my fault or that maybe people had just grown tired of me.  Then those feelings really began to put a rift in my relationship with God and the relationships with my friends.  It was so heartbreaking not feeling like a part of the family I'd grown to love over the past 10 years. 


So when this idea came to move to Michigan, I was uncertain.  I didn't want to run away from my problems or start over for the sake of starting over.  I did a lot of thinking.  I was uneasy about it because I still wasn't sure if it was what God wanted.  But over the past week, I remembered a conversation from more than a year ago.  I remember distinctly talking to a friend of mine who relocated to St Louis.  When I asked him how he knew it was the right thing and that it was what God had for him, he said that part of it was because every week that went by, when he walked into our church, it felt less and less like home.


I have to trust that this is what God has for me.  No, I haven't heard a distinct yes or no from him when I've asked him if this is right.  Sometimes, he's silent and the only way to find out is to try and pray that doors open!   If I get there and discover it's just not right, I can always come back. 


I will absolutely miss the friends I have made here, the church I've called home for 10 years, and the memories driving through my college town.  But this new adventure is exactly what I need at this point in my life.  I have made so many changes for myself over the past two years, and a fresh start is going to be something to put a lot of pain behind me and allow me to start new chapters in my life.


I will continue to update here with everything as new plans come about.  I hope to make this transition before the fall, my roommate will more than likely be putting our townhouse on the market at the end of the year to relocate herself. (found out about that AFTER I'd made the decision, so it wasn't a factor)  For now, the goal is to apply for jobs, save as much money as I can, and then once I have enough saved... find an apartment and make the move. 


If you have any advice or words of wisdom for me, I'd be glad to hear them!  Have a fantastic weekend!

April 21, 2015

Half Marathon Top 10

It's done!  I'm done, I'm done, I'm done! 


This past weekend I spent two days in my favorite state to complete the crazy journey that was finishing a half marathon.  I can honestly say I have never experienced anything so challenging as training for this race.   I don't think anyone can comprehend what it takes to train for something like this until they do it.  Not only is it physically exhausting to put in the miles, plan the meals, and get your body into shape, but the emotional aspects of sacrificing time, putting on pounds, and having to constantly remind yourself that you can do it were incredibly hard.  But I did it and I came out of it a stronger person.


So here are my Top 10 moments from my 13.1 in no particular order.


1. Driving into Michigan.  Something about seeing that Pure Michigan sign at the border just makes me giddy.


2. Exploring the city and our swanky hotel before getting some much needed relaxation.


3. Picking up my race bib.  OMG, this is really happening.


4. Arriving at Calder Plaza where I lined up with 1000 other women to do this thing.


5. Running through the chute and being so excited to experience pushing my body to its limit.  (yes, I was excited about that)


6. The countless spectators along the way offering free high fives, motivational posters (my favorites included "You've done harder things that this before" and "Finish with a spirit that is fearless", and cups of water to keep us going.  And of course the group of grown men in tutus and wigs at mile 4/8. 


7. Seeing countless husbands along the course with their children cheering the mommas on. 


8. The course.  Getting to run through my favorite city?  One of the best things ever.  Almost the entire course was along the river.  Several sections crossed bridges.  The whole time I got the unyielding sense that I might just be destined to live there.


9. That freaking FINISH line.  Coming around the corner at 13 miles and seeing that finish line amidst all the spectators sent chills down my back.  I mustered strength to finish running and nearly cried when I finally did. 


10. Actually crying when mom found me and hugged me.  Because something about seeing your mom and because I was freaking done.




Honorable mentions:
*steel cut oats with dried cherries that greeted me at my door at 6am.
*brunch buffet after hobbling back to the hotel
*hot baths with mineral salts
*all the wonderful comments and encouragement on my facebook posts.





April 3, 2015

Awesome Awkward Friday



Haaaaappy Friiiiiday!

And a very happy Easter weekend to you all.  I plan to spend it enjoying sunshine, reading, and basking in gratitude for what my Savior did for me all those years ago. 

Awkward:
*Being made fun of constantly at work for my "evil" laugh.  I'm not evil.  Leave me alone.
*Constantly being in the midst of groups of women talking about childbirth, nursing, and babies.  Sorry, not much to contribute there.
*Me trying to use a foam roller.  Graceful?  I think not.
*My healthy carrot cake fail on Tuesday.  The roommate's response? "I'd eat it, but I wouldn't serve it to other people."  Ooops.
*When you get really excited about something and then share it with someone and they don't get as excited as you.
*Ramona's new habit of putting her foot in her water bowl.  Ick.  Is that your sign that you want to drink out of the faucet, my little weirdo?


Awesome:
*SPRING!!!  It's here!  It's here!
*Warm weather runs and sunshine!
*Colleen's baby shower last Sunday and watching her and Mark get so excited about becoming parents.
*13.1 in t-minus two weeks.  Yikes.  Michigan, I'm coming for ya!
*Seeing JJ Heller next weekend with Joan!
*Walking through my beloved Oak Brook Mall with Momma last Saturday.  Oh so glorious.
*Brunch with Julie and Annette last Sunday.
*Erin E Smith.  You make sitting at a desk all day so much more fun.

March 10, 2015

Bouncing Back: Thoughts on Overcoming Setbacks and Roadblocks

Happy almost spring all!  Hope you are all enjoying the spring weather that has FINALLY made its appearance.  I apologize for the absence the past month.  But the upside, is that the reason for my absence has created a great opportunity for a blog entry!


Today I wanted to take the time to write to all of you on ways to come back from a setback on your road to better health.  Everyone encounters these.  Things are going great.  You've been eating well, working out regularly, seeing changes in the mirror, and just overall feeling better.  Then WHAM! 




Roadblock.  The equivalent of a gigantic rhino in the middle of the road.

This could come in any form.  Injuries, never ending winter weather, stress, busy schedules, illness, family tragedy, really anything can create a setback for you.  A roadblock really is just defined as something that knocks you off your straight and narrow and into the arms of old habits and addictions.  And the scary thing is they can happen to ANYBODY.

Ok, have I scared you?  Sorry. 

But really there's nothing you can't bounce back from.  Some things can take more time than others, but ultimately as long as the desire to meet your goals is still there... you CAN bounce back.  Here is how I've recently been bouncing back from mine!



Take a Breath:  Ok so you've had a horrible day, week, month, of poor food choices.  You haven't set food in the gym in two weeks.  Your running shoes are collecting dust.  You can't remember the last time you actually went to the grocery store.  The best way to handle these overwhelming realities is simply take a step back and take a breath.  Silence the thoughts that are putting you down and telling you that you just don't have what it takes.  The voice telling you you're just destined to be lazy and unhappy?  Tell it to take a hike.  Breathe. 


Look Back:  Take some time to really focus in on the things you HAVE accomplished.  So you've fallen out of routine?  So you've gained 5-10 lbs the past month?  So what!  Think about what you HAVE done.  What are you most proud of yourself for accomplishing?  Focus on those things.  Hold them close to your heart and picture the way you felt when you accomplished them, and remember you're still the person now as you were then when you did.





Talk to a Friend:  Not just any friend, but preferably someone you really trust, who has either gone through a similar journey or possesses the empathy and wisdom (and maybe a little tough love) to help bring you back to yourself.  Tell them what's been going on.  Be honest.  Talk through the struggles you've been having.  Often times, talking about it and bringing the things you're upset about or even ashamed of into the light can really help you narrow in one why things are going poorly and give you ways to fix them. 

Evaluate:  Now that you're back in a sound headspace evaluate the situation.  What are the things that have knocked you out of sync?  What are ways that you can lessen their impact on your life?  Here are a few examples of ones that I've faced over the past month:
*Weather Blues: Take your vitamin D!  Eat foods that are rich in Vitamin D like salmon, tuna, eggs, or take a supplement.  Other foods that can help beat the winter blues are berries, leafy greens, bananas, and flax seeds!
*Injury:  Talk to your doctor about what activity you CAN do.  Often times if the injury isn't severe, you can find other ways to stay active that won't irritate your injury.
*Food Boredom:  Go to the library and check out some new cookbooks or cooking magazines.  Get on Pinterest and search for meal ideas.  Check out cooking shows on Netflix.  There are lots of ways to get new ideas for healthy meals. 
*Just So Busy:  This one is really tricky.  You'll need to really think about what is taking up so much of your time that you've become unmotivated and stressed out.  What can you eliminate from your schedule?  Are you working too much?  Do you say "yes" to too many activities?  Do your best to try and carve out time in your schedule for YOU.  For me personally, I had to say goodbye to my second job.  I looked at my budget and saw that even though money would be tight until I could find a better paying full time job, I'd be able to get by.  I realized that my health, sanity, and time to spend with people I love were more important for the place I'm in now. 


Re-Commit:  Picture your goal.  Picture where you're headed and make a new promise to yourself to move in that direction.  Even if you have to make that promise to yourself again EVERY morning, do it.  You are worth keeping that promise to.  Think about it.  You are the only you there is.  And that's saying something.  If you made a promise to your mom, your child, your best friend, your spouse that you would do something for them... you wouldn't go back on that promise if it was in your power to keep it, would you?  Obviously not.  Well guess what, this promise to yourself?  It's in YOUR power, and only yours to keep.  And you're worth doing that for. 



If you have any other tips for overcoming roadblocks, please comment below!  I'd love to hear what has helped you in the past!  Have a great week brave ones!

January 30, 2015

Awkward Awesome Friday!

                      

Happy Friday Brave Ones!  Hope you all have a fantastic weekend! Be on the look out.  I've got a notebook full of blog/video ideas that will be up over the next few weeks. 

Awkward:
*The amount of times that my manager at the pool adds new students to my classes and DOESN'T tell me.  That IS something I should know, right?
*Learning how to date when you're in your late twenties. 
*Being approached by the greeter at Meijer last night.  7:15.  I was wearing no make-up, my wet-post-pool hair up in a bun, and sweats.  Clearly, I want to get my groceries, go home and eat dinner.  But the greeter catches sight of my SF badge hanging from my purse and proceeds to sing the State Farm jingle at me.  Then when I give him an awkward, nervous, chuckle, he then walks closer to me, gets in my personal bubble and begins to quote the Jake from State Farm Commercial.  Dude...just...no.

Awesome:
*How happy I've been lately.
*Insanity Max30.  It's kicking my ass and it's AWESOME!
*I get to see my sister in three weeks!!
*I get to go see 2Cellos with Colleen in three weeks in Chicago!!
*I get my first tattoo three weeks from TODAY!
*The things that some of my students say.  Zombie-worms, scuba diving, and having big muscles.
*The way veganism has transformed my hair, nails, and cravings.  #winning