Friday, February 10, 2012

Taking it one step at a time.

You shouldn't be surprised that I just finished my 4th week of the semester and this is my first post since it started.


That's the one way to describe the events as of late.

I didn't really expect things to be THIS crazy, but really they have been. Let me explain what I've been up to:

This semester is quite anticlimactic for me. Even though I signed up for the classes 2 months ago and knew what I was getting into, it still surprised me that in my final semester at Parkside I'm in 3 intro level courses and a senior seminar. As much as I'm bummed that I'm spending my last term with a lot of students that haven't even declared their major yet, I remind myself almost daily how it is the smartest decision I could have made. So yeah, last semester sucked and this semester isn't very exciting, but with everything else that's going on it is exactly the way it needs to be!

I don't really talk much about my work on here, so I guess I'll back track a bit. Back in May 2010, I started an internship with my advisor working on the evaluation portion of the CAN (Capacity Building Assistance for Non-Profits) grant. This was a 3 year grant (08-10) for non-profits in Kenosha and Racine county to, as the grant says, build their capacity. Oh and it was a 1.5 million dollar grant at that. The plan was I would work about 30 hours a week from May-September running reports, doing a bit of writing and basically assisting my advisor in whatever information she needed for the final report. Well that wasn't exactly... how it worked out..

The reality of the situation is... I was suppose to be there for 4 months, but I am still employed there. The work I was doing that summer was at a little place called the Center for Community Partnerships. The work that was done with the CAN grant was apart of the Non-Profit Development division of the CCP.  Well there is another section of NPD called Community Based Learning that focuses on connecting the university with community partners. When I came on as an intern, there were 2 student workers for CBL, by the end of the summer there was only 1 and I took over the other spot... and I haven't left since.

This job has really been a huge blessing to my life. I've witnessed so much change, transition, frustration, chaos, but at the heart of it all I've found what it means to work with individuals who are really passionate about helping the community it is we live in. It has opened my eyes to the goodness there is, just right in our backyards and while my time there is up in May - I'm thankful to have spent majority of my time working at the CCP.

Along with all that mushy stuff, I've been working over 20 hours a week which is so much more than I normally do during the semester so it has been cray-ZEE.

My wonderful co-worker/friend Lauren and I have been doing this intense class at the Y called Flex and Crunch. I haven't pushed myself as hard as that class continues to push me every Tuesday and Thursday. It has been great to have a work out partner that motivates me every week to be better and do better!

Along with that, I have committed to a running schedule (thanks for helping me, Gina) and I'm hoping to run my first 10k in August/September.

Overall, it has just made me so much happier to be active and setting and achieving goals.

Okay, holy smokes. The wedding is officially 152 days away. The Save the Dates have been sent out, I'm getting measured for my dress in less than 2 weeks and the bridal shower planning is in the works. Cameron and I are just focusing on taking care of the important things and staying ahead of the game which I think we've done a great job at. It helps that we are both very matter of fact type of people, when we've looked for certain things, found something we loved, we made the decision, done and done. I get more and more excited as we get closer to the day :)

Aside from all the updates, there was a specific reason I wanted to post today.
Lately, Cameron and I have felt a strong wave of negativity from those around us. I don't know the cause of it, but it seems like every conversation we have with individuals (married or not) they make marriage seem like the worst possible idea. We're either too young, don't have enough money, are rushing into it, etc. Here's what I have to say about the whole thing:
No one, not even those closest to us, know the extent of work that Cameron and I have put into our relationship over the past few years. There have been issues of my past and Cameron's that we've worked through. These issues and this baggage we hold doesn't go away over night and has forced us to be adults and tackle the confrontation that presents itself right in the heart of our relationship. What it really comes down to is we, like all other dating, engaged, and married couples, were raised in different types of households, with different experiences and different values. We definitely don't have our entire life planned out. We do know that we are both overjoyed to be so close to marriage and excited, optimistic, scared, hopeful [insert any other adjective] for what the future holds. It is very apparent that some people will never understand the reasons why we are getting married and that's fine. Our goal through these months and the rest of our lives is to keep God at the center of our relationship and so strongly that we don't ever feel the need to justify ourselves to any person again. I will say as far as the human aspect goes, if anyone feels so inclined to share their opinions on how we should be doing things - they should pray for us. Pray that God leads us in the direction we need to be headed, that God watches over us and that if we're making all the wrong decisions He can bring us enough peace to get through it.

Which brings me to my final words for this post, I will never be able to fulfill and satisfy the million expectations the people in my life or society places on me, but I will continue to look to God to remind me how little it means to impress others if I'm not living for Him.


Monday, January 16, 2012

The importance of investing in my marriage before the wedding.

Let me start by saying, we are less than 6 months away from the wedding. I am 105 emotions deep and knowing that the wedding is so close is as exciting as it is terrifying. It was almost as if the day we got engaged, time suddenly went into overdrive and here we are now in our wedding year.

I'm very blessed to have great women who have ministered to me during my engagement. I've been spending a lot of time with one of these women recently. She's very important to me, among many reasons, because since day 1 she has understood and accepted me for my past and all that has come with it. She knows more about me than most people do and the relationship I have with her is one I really cherish. She's a wife and a mom and a great friend to me. She shares all of the advice and guidance she can about marriage with me and recently she told me something along the lines of "after the wedding.. you'll just be another couple.. after you have kids.. you'll just be another set of parents and eventually just another family". This is so true. Here I am in the heart of one of the most eventful times of my life and in the snap of a finger the spotlight will redirect to the next engaged couple and we will just be, married.

What is most interesting is that as an engaged couple it is so easy to get caught up in what we're going to do for the day of, what's the dress going to look like, real or fake flowers, DJ or band, any little people in the wedding? and the list goes on, but Cameron and I have tried our hardest not to be naive about what's really ahead. Because after the I Dos, the first dance and the honeymoon, we will be smack dab into our first year of marriage. July 14th will absolutely be a day that we will remember, but it is only one day of the rest of our lives.

Let's face it, anyone who has ever been in a relationship knows that it's hard. I've talked about it before that there have been stages of our relationship where I didn't think we'd make it, but we did. These hardships don't disappear once the rings are on both fingers. I know marriage will be hard. The odds are stacked against us, we come from families with a lot of divorces and heartache. The most clarity that has been brought to us is our ability to recognize this at our age and stage of our lives together. God has been so good to us in helping us have these hard conversations that neither of us really want to have.

This is why having mentors and pre-marriage counseling has really been the most important part of this whole planning process. It helps when others notice this. Just the other day a friend told me, "most of the time I'm so against couples our age getting married, but not with you - you're being so smart about this". It's uplifting to know that while we will never plan as much as we want to we are truly investing time into making our marriage successful before the wedding. So yes, eventually we will just be another married couple, but I hope that someday we can be the ones ministering to others the same way our mentors have invested in us.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


One more thing..

We had a great service today at church on gratitude. This series is called "margin" and I thought this was a great topic to start the new year with. I want to share some of the notes from today's outline:

helps us maintain the proper perspective 
sustains joy in our life
allows people to find a blessing, enlarge a blessing or create one in almost any situation.


Gratitude begins where our sense of entitlement ends

This is all so true. I think of all the times I began to just expect that things should go one way or that I have a right to something. There are a number of times I haven't given proper praise to those who deserve it - this is another thing I'm hoping to be more conscious of this year.

Also, this is a video I came across just a week ago that I think describes the times we live in and gratitude perfectly --

Looking forward, looking back.

So, it's 2012. Um.. what?

I unfortunately started this year with a cold that I've had for the last few days. I was in bed early last night and while it wasn't that thrilling of a night - I'm looking forward to this year. Before I dive into this year, I want to reflect on this year's high and low lights.

Back in February, I broke my ankle. What a way to start the year, huh? It was the first time I've dealt with a serious injury. It took 2 surgeries and a lot of therapy to get me back to normal, but all in all it could have been a lot worse.

On May 6th, Cameron and I got engaged! That was such a great day and the whole reason this blog came to be.

I'm the type of person that believes everything happens for a distinct purpose. If I had never broken my ankle, I wouldn't of had the motivation I did to start running. In July, I started the couch to 5k program and in September I ran my first 5k and in October my second. I was lucky enough to run my second with my friend, Drew.

Yes, I wore the same shirt for both :)

About a month after running my 5ks, I was going through some serious hip pain which brought me to the chiropractor where I found out about some issues I'm having with my back. I'm happy to say that I'm doing so much better today. While there have been days of struggle, I had planned on getting back to running in January and look forward to starting again. 

Which brings us to now.. January 1st. 

There's a lot in store this year for me individually and for Cameron and I. 

Let's start with running. 

Since I haven't done any serious running in a couple of months, I plan on starting out slow this month. I need to build myself up at a pace that I know I can handle and that won't worsen or bring back the back pain. Cameron and I plan on running a 5k together at the end of February, early March. From there, we will be running a 10k, 15k and the ultimate goal is still a half marathon. While my previous goal was to run the half at the Wisconsin marathon in May, it depends on how these next few months go. I want to be realistic about this. By this time next year, my goal and our goal is to run a half marathon. 

I graduate on May 12th! This semester I have a light load, 13 credits, with a lot of great professors I've already had or know. Should be a great end to my undergraduate career. 

The next one we have been building the foundation for since the summer, but are really taking it seriously starting this year. I mentioned in previous posts that Cameron and I were apart of a growth group called Financial Peace by Dave Ramsey. First, I want to say if you are ever given an opportunity to take this course - take it. You will not regret it. It's a realistic look at how to handle your money and how you get yourself out of debt. When it comes down to it, Cameron and I collectively have a lot of student loan debt going into our marriage. We are fortunate to not have that much credit card debt (no thank you, gap card with a 24% interest rate) but what it comes down to is that we need to get ourselves out of the hole we are in. Yes, a college education is worth the money, but looking back on it I should have applied for scholarships and thought harder about where I would be 4 years later in 2008. Using Dave Ramsey's total money makeover plan, we will be on a budget for the first time starting this month. Every penny will have a place to go, before it is spent. It's widely known that finances can rip a marriage apart and it has taken Cameron and I a long time to get to where we are today, but I am so happy we are taking this step forward. Most importantly that we are doing it together. 

Last, but not least, weight loss. This Christmas I got a juicier for Christmas (thanks mom) and I will tell you why. A few months back, I watched an amazing documentary called Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead. It is on an Australian man, dealing with a serious condition that causes him to experience a pain like a mosquito bite at random times all over his body. He had become frustrated with all of the meds he was on, the different explanations he was getting from doctors and knew he had to take hold of his life. He juiced for 60 days, his diet included fruits, veggies and nuts (for protein). In that time he lost nearly 100 pounds and after a short period of eating raw fruit and veggies following the 60 days, he was off his meds completely. This is inspiring. It makes you take a hard look at the toll you put on your body year after year with processed food. I invite all of you watch it and check the website. I want to incorporate juicing into my diet heavily this year. While I don't think I could ever do a 60 day fast, my goal is a 7 day one this month. I've been doing my research and just need to make sure I have all my bases covered. I juiced this morning for breakfast (2 pears, 2 apples) and it is delicious. I see the 2 biggest barriers being juicing vegetables and not eating solid food. More on that later! 

2011 was just a stepping stone into my life that will change drastically this year. 2012 will be an incredible year. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

To Cameron.

Dear Cameron,

In honor of today, our 6 year anniversary, I wanted to praise you for the man that you are. I didn't think that 6 years ago, when you asked me out  I would be saying yes to my later fiance and now future husband. What I have known, and for a while, is that you are unlike anyone that I have ever met. You can be the most stubborn person on this planet, but also the most sensitive and loving too. Things aren't the way they were 6 years ago. We were in the heart of our teenage years when we first got to know each other and today, as adults, we continue to grow each day. We still have a long way to go, which I do not fear, but look forward to. Every now and then, people will ask me how we've managed to stay together this long. My answer once was, "we're really open with each other, are always in communication and are honest with one another" and other things of that nature. Today, my answer is God has kept us together. I think back to lowest stage of our relationship, the decision was finally made that we would start going to church together and everything changed. We began to connect on a level that I didn't know we could. Our conversations were more mature, more realistic and for one of the very first times I felt like we had finally decided that the focus of our life would be centered around something bigger than ourselves. I knew in that stage of our life, we would get married. When we took that turning point, I met a whole new person. It was then I realized, you were the man of God you always wanted to be, but that I didn't even know that I needed. When I broke my ankle in February, you showed me just how protective you are of me. I knew then you would do anything in your power to make sure I was taken care of. I know that 6 years is a long time, but looking back on the early years of our relationship - we were really just going through the motions, not knowing that something bigger and better was on its way. You have filled a void in my heart and you have brought me so much happiness.

On April 26, 2006 in an old blog, I wrote this -
"i can seriously not believe that saturday is already cameron and i's 4 month anniversery.. i never thought i'd have a relationship that would last this long, and its crazy to think that too because with him, it feels like we've been together forever, but its gone by so fast that i lose track i dunno its weird, but i love him. so much, seriously i've never felt this way about anyone before and even through everything, i can't picture myself with anyone else."

Those feelings that I experienced at 16, have not changed a bit. You are an incredible person, will be amazing husband and later in life an extraordinary father.

You have changed my life for the better. You have seen me at my worst, best and everywhere in between and still love me for who I am. You are perfect to me and I would never trade what we have for anything else in this world.

I love you today, tomorrow, and always.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Dear 21 Year Old Me.

Before I start this post I need to give credit where credit is due. I stole this idea from Katie, whose blog you need to read immediately. There are many different ways to structure these letters, but I'm going to structure mine like she did hers.

Back in the 8th grade, we were given an assignment similar to this. We were told to write letters to ourselves and they were mailed to us within the year after we graduated high school. I received mine and was quite disappointed. I specifically remember that I did quickly write the letter because I was taking care of other things during class time. The letter was generic and didn't explain my emotional state whatsoever. I will try harder this time to really explain how I'm feeling right now. We were even given the opportunity to write letters to others that we were leaving 8th grade with. I don't remember who I wrote one too, if any, but I only got 1 sent to me from Amy Tripp. So thanks for thinking of me, Amy.

So.. without further a due:

Dear 21 Year Old Me,

You are, of course, writing this at 11:54 the night before your last final of the semester rather than studying. I imagine that unless you were forced into it, you still find ways around taking care of anything than the most important task at hand. You're writing this in an anxious mood because you're less than 24 hours away from starting winter break and walking away from the worst semester you've had in college. You've thought for the last week about what you would say in this letter and decided that you will go ahead and make a list of things you will regret and things you will not regret. So here goes:

Things you will regret:
You will regret not living up to your full potential in school. This is not an easy pill for you to swallow right now, but at this very moment you are kicking yourself for not spending as much time studying as you should have.

You will regret worrying about so many people that I can guarantee will not be apart of your life by the time this letter reaches you. In fact, you will most likely sit around pondering about who exactly you were talking about when you were writing this. Cameron won't know either, so good luck figuring it out.

You will regret passing judgment on others before giving them a chance.

You will regret being an extremist. For real girl, cut the drama.

You will regret not making more of an effort to have a relationship with your dad. You will regret the time you spent angry at him. You will regret the time that was lost with your other family because of your bitterness and resentment. You will someday realize that the past is the past. 

You will regret talking about so many people behind their back.

You will regret letting others walk all over you.

You will regret not giving those who really care about you, more of your attention. You're (you will regret that you originally wrote "your" and had to go back and edit it) young and can still be naive about things, but you know that you took others for granted a lot.

You will regret not appreciating your mom more in present time. You will regret hurting her feelings.

Overall, you will regret putting more emphasis on things that didn't matter and less time on things that do.

Things you will not regret:
You will absolutely not regret transferring to Parkside after your first year of college and moving back home. This was the best personal move you could have made and it taught you a lot about yourself.

You will never regret not dating anyone else prior to marrying Cameron. You will never regret anything about Cameron, period.

You will never regret or forget the first time you decided to give Great Lakes Church a chance. This church has changed your life. Wherever your spiritual journey takes you from here, without this church you may have never found God. You will also not regret being upfront and honest about your religion at a young age. You've found peace and hope that no other group could ever offer you.

While you will regret not trying harder in school, you will not regret finishing your bachelor's degree in 4 years. Even though when you entered college you thought it was just the norm to finish college in that time span, you will quickly realize how fortunate you were to be able to graduate on time without life getting in the way.

I need to bold this because it's important: you will never, in your life, regret not being apart of the party scene. When you read this again years from now, you will not be bummin' about the fact that you missed so many parties when you were in your late teens and early twenties. It won't happen, older you and current you know that.

You will not regret the times, even at 21 and younger, you didn't give into others and walked away from bad situations. You learned from this.

You will not regret being you. You will not regret being mature and spending time with older people. You will not regret investing time in yourself and putting yourself first when it mattered most.


That felt good! I don't know how I'll get this letter back to myself later on, but I'll figure it out.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Switch of focus.

In a little over a week, I will be 1 semester away from finishing my Bachelor's Degree. This is exciting and terrifying at the same time. My college experience wasn't very ordinary. It was during my time in college that 2 people I went to highschool with and a close family friend passed away. This was my first real experience with death (aside from my aunt passing away in 2008). It's a lot different when someone you're close in age with passes away vs. a family member, even though she passed away before her 50th birthday. I've learned a lot from these deaths and faster than I expected to. While I want to remember college as being the greatest years of my life, the memories of these deaths will always be attached. Today, I was told that a friend of mine recently found out her mom has breast cancer. This was a hard pill to swallow. Since we grew up together, I feel it's something that could have easily happened to me. It's a difficult situation because this isn't just someone I went to school with or passed by in the hallways, she has always been a close friend to me and always will be. When I found this out, I was in the middle of one of my own personal fits, angry about something small and in an instant it was as if God personally delivered me a reality check. He's good at this. The minute I think I have problems I am immediately reminded that it The truth of the matter is, for every time I've started a sentence with I'm thankful for this, but __________  - I need to retract my sentence with I am thankful regardless of this. The fact of the matter is God has taught me that life will always be more about who I spend my precious time with rather than who I choose to use my time complaining about. I am here to say, the lesson has come through loud and clear. I'm guilty of this every single day. Instead of saying that my new's year resolution will be to fix this - it will start today. I need to put greater focus on the people that mean something to me and less focus on things that I will never have the power to change. It's all about perspective and mine changes.. now.