Hey, I just met you and this is crazy

But here’s my number, so call me maybe.

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This is an untold story. Actually, to be completely honest, I don’t think anyone knows this story other than me. My mom knew a bit of it, but she’s no longer here to tell it to anyone. And as far as I know, she kept my secret safe with her.

The year was 2012. I was newly engaged, about to plan the wedding of my life with who I thought was the love of my life. It was a cold wintry night when my Mom invited me out with her girlfriend. At first, I thought it would just be a lame night with a bunch of old people. But we ended up at a local bar that had a live band playing, and the crowd was mixed with mostly people my age. I ended up drinking a few drinks, and dancing with a few people. Nothing terrible, and always with my Mom right there with me. As the night went on, I kept crossing paths with a cute guy. My Mom was kind of nudging it on, since she kept talking to him as well. We danced and at the end of the night, he asked me for my number. I gave it to him, but didn’t plan on following up with him since you know, I had a fiance and all.

During the uber ride home, my Mom laid it out in plain, drunken word. She asked digging questions like: Do you really want to marry Vince? Can you see yourself with this guy, or someone else? Why are you texting this guy already?

I was texting him to let him know I had a great night but was about to get married and wasn’t looking to start anything. At all. Nada. Zip. Zero. Fast forward to sober Jen driving to work a few days later and this song plays on the radio and takes me right back to the bar, with the cute ginger boy. His eyes, his red hair, and his number in my phone leads me to texting him. Days later, we’re still texting a ton. A week or so later, my fiance notices that I’m texting a lot. This was pre-unlimited texting and I was getting dangerously close to the limit. So I had to stop. I told the ginger we had to cool it down. And we stopped talking. Dead silence.

Except for that time we met up again – once to see a movie and another time to get drinks with some of my friends. Yeah that wasn’t awkward. So I kinda liked him, but I was way too focused and stubborn to walk away from Vince. Also, morals.

Fast forward a few years later, I’m sitting in my empty castle of a house crying my eyes out and all of a sudden ginger boy texts me. At a moment of weakness, I cling on to him. But he is now living in St Louis (which I kinda knew anyways) and the idea of me driving down there to see him seems to be similar to climbing Mt Everest at this point in my life. What happens when we re-connect is interesting though. All of a sudden I start imagining how my life would’ve been had I followed my instinct. Had I left Vince, even if I didn’t end up with ginger boy, where would I be? Would I be happier? Could I have avoided a divorce and major heartache? Would I be better or worse?

And it brings me back to that night. What was my mom getting at? Did she know something I couldn’t see quite yet? Did she think Vince was the wrong choice?

Anyways, I didn’t end up visiting him in St Louis and actually decided he wasn’t the right guy for me. But it’s all interesting and in the spirit of sharing random stories about myself I wanted to share this one.

Also, it’s always the random guys I meet in the local bars that steal my attention away. After years of trying online dating, I already know that isn’t for me. Meet me in person, dance with me, buy me a drink, and let’s talk. 🙂

 

This is Me: Take it or leave it

Once I heard the song This is Me for the first time (in church of all places) it instantly got stuck in my head. After looking it up and playing it on repeat for a few weeks, I finally sat down and watch The Greatest Showman. It was a great movie and in some ways reminded me of Hamilton. They both channel that whole this is me, this is who I am, and I’m not changing for anyone. Strong, powerful lead characters who are impossible to take down. And these characters fuel me.

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As a writer, I’m a lot like Hamilton. I could see myself writing pages and pages, the words flowing out of me. Actually, I’ve had days like that where I just write and write in my journal. Some stuff almost no one will ever read. But today I feel like sharing just a little bit more about me and why I no longer give a f*ck.

Growing up I had a lot of f*cks to give. I cared a lot what others thought of me. I’d go out of my way to dress a certain way, brush my hair, and try my best to be nice to everyone. I actually found myself between a rock and a hard place several times in elementary school as I tried to be friends with everyone, including the nerds and the populars. At the end of the day, I just wanted to be accepted and feel like I belonged. But I also didn’t want to make anyone else feel alone.

Most of my life I’ve been really nice. Actually I am still really nice. So nice that it’s been painful at times. But I always have and always strive to see the best in people. It’s both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because I’ve been around some of the best of the best. The people who I’m so glad I gave a chance. The people I love to love. It’s a curse because there are people who have and will stomp all over my heart for their benefit. I had someone who after I pushed past all of the barriers and obstacles only to choose him, over and over again, used that same blind love to stab me in the back and still demand a quick and low-cost separation. Of which I granted, out of kindness not only to him but also to myself.

So I am nice, but after crawling through flames I’ve decided to be nice to myself first and foremost. This is not to say I’m not nice to others, it’s just to say that I have to consider how being nice to others affects my niceness to myself.

In other words, I ask myself how much of myself do I want to pour into someone before opening up. I’ve been singed a few too many times to just openly love and pour on strangers. But I also still have the ability to love on the right people. The people who are there for me no matter what. The ones who show up in the middle of the storm and at the top of the mountain peak. I try my best to be as warm and kind to those who are there for me. And I give my standard kindness to everyone else.

But for those who shun me or judge me, I have nothing for them. I don’t have the time or energy to waste on draining individuals. Instead, when one person leaves, I tend to take that energy I almost wasted and pour it into myself. This way, with every person I encounter, I grow spiritually and emotionally. Whether they’re terrible or great, they bring with them a lesson that I learn and grow upon.

But never will you see me chasing after the wrong person. I would rather watch them walk out of my life than be anywhere near them. And to be honest, I’m running low on f*cks to give. I gave a lot of them to who I thought was the right person. Now, I’m taking the time to step back and breathe as I try to figure out what went wrong and how to avoid making the same mistake again. (third times the charm?)

Holding on to these last f*cks for the right guy. For now, they’re in the vault until the time is right to let them shine.

 

Running is a lot like life

I recently started reading a book by a local runner appropriately named The Incomplete Book of Running by Peter Sagal. Even within the first chapter, I saw that this book wasn’t just about running. It’s way more, and running is way more than just running.

You have good days and bad days in running. Some days, the weather’s perfect and so is your pace. You feel like you could run forever and a day. Your feet feel like they’re running on clouds and there’s a stupid smile pasted on your face. These are the days we look forward to and hope for.

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But then there are the bad days. The weather is cold, wet or dreary. Your feet feel like they’re weighing you down. You can barely look ahead let alone up and above the dreaded horizon. Each step is felt and you count them until your last step. You have to push yourself every step of the way, and don’t even think about your pace because that’s a lost cause. If it’s bad enough, you might even consider quitting running for good.

And these days don’t just apply to running for fun, but also race days. You can train and prepare and get to the start line on race day only for everything to fall apart between the start and finish line. Now think about life. Life is the same way. We have good days and bad days. We train and prepare hard for certain things. And sometimes, hopefully usually, we are successful. But nothing is guaranteed. We may fail, but it’s up to us to get back up and dust ourselves off.

You may not finish that marathon, or you might have a terrible running day or streak of days. Or maybe even weeks, months, years. But those running shoes will be waiting for you to lace them up and try, try again.

What keeps you going?

The beginning of the end

The year was 2016. Everything in my life was changing, and not in a good way. My Dad was engaged and about to marry a raging alcoholic. I was still grieving the recent loss of my mother and there were few things that felt solid in my life: my marriage and my therapist were the top two. Kung Fu helped me vent, as well. But all through everything else falling apart, I felt like I could count on my husband and my therapist.

Even when my husband was frustrated over my grieving and stress about my Dad, I still felt like we were solid. Even when he spent more and more time away from home, I just wrote it off as his way of dealing with things. I felt like my stress may have been overflowing onto him, so tried my best to give him everything he needed, including many “massages” and other activities where he didn’t invite me to. It felt like I had blinders on until he blew up at me. What seemed like overnight, he started sleeping on the couch and stopped talking to me. All the love and warmth was sucked out of the room when we were home. My world was officially falling apart, not just everywhere else but also at home.

And the only solid thing I could cling onto was my therapist. And God. I started praying daily from the first day I felt a rift in my marriage, which was about two months before my husband left the house. I prayed for someone to go to church with me, since it was pretty clear my husband wasn’t going to go anymore. I prayed not just for someone to invite me but for me to find a community where I belonged. And God answered my prayers.

My co-worker Elizabeth who I didn’t know very well invited me to her church. I could tell she was nervous to ask me, but I couldn’t say no. Especially since it was exactly what I needed, at the right time. I started attending Free Church right after my husband left the house. Right around that time, I finally realized just how many lies my husband had told me. It spiraled out of control and I ended up in the middle of a panic attack late at night. It felt like the entire house was spinning all around me and my life was falling apart. I started hyperventilating and felt dizzy. I considered driving myself to the ER or calling 911 if I didn’t move in the next few moments.

As tears started rolling down my face, I started talking to God. I couldn’t say anything other than I’m sorry. I apologized, over and over again, because here I was losing my shit over a person. A human being. A shitty, awful one but at the end of the day just a creature. And in the midst of all my tears and apologies, I heard God tell me “It’s ok, I have someone better for you.” And all of a sudden, I’m calm. My tears dry up, and I feel a sense of warmth and relief. And I fall asleep.

That was the beginning of the end of my marriage. But that was also the year I learned that just because one thing ends doesn’t mean that everything is over. Actually, it usually means a new, different opportunity will present itself. And in the end, as long as you trust in God, he will take you where you’re supposed to go.

Suicide Prevention and the Holidays

With the holiday season comes an increase of sadness and depression. Some blame it on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) due to the decreased daylight, whereas other cases can be traced back to lonely or drama-included holidays. Speaking from experience, I can see where the holidays can be sad for someone since I lost my mom right before Christmas of 2015. I want to focus on suicide prevention and ways to lift your spirits despite the gloomy circumstances surrounding you.

Suicide Prevention: tips and tricks

  • Move! Stay active. I know it’s hard during these colder months, but staying active will increase your feel-good hormones. It may be too cold to exercise outside, but there are some great gym membership deals going on right now that you can jump on.
  • Eat better! Instead of grabbing processed and fatty foods, go for foods rich in protein, fiber, and/or good fats. I.e. eggs, avocados, oatmeal, etc. These foods will also help you stay full for longer and won’t tire you out.
  • Start or re-vamp a hobby! Whether you like to read books, watch movies, or play the guitar, pick up an old or new hobby to focus on. People who do what they enjoy find more joy in their daily lives.
  • Be social! Join a meet up group or a local running club. Whatever it is you like to do, there’s likely a group of people to do it with. Doing something you enjoy with others is a great way to make new friends.
  • Choose yourself. Love yourself. You are amazing and you are worth it.

If you find yourself considering suicide or suffering from depression, don’t hesitate to call 1-800-273-8255

Check out this website HERE for more resources and information. Let’s get the conversation going and let it continue on everywhere.

Late night thoughts

I have a theory. Or maybe a few of them. All relating to people and their behaviors. This is probably one of the latest blog posts I’ve ever done, but I wanted to write this week and didn’t have time until now.

scale-403585_1920There’s an article I read recently about this amazing couple that lost all this weight together. Like nearly 400 pounds between the two of them over the last two years. I can’t even make this up, it’s like two completely different couples. This story got me thinking about relationships and how they can literally build you up and push you forward, or knock you down and hold you back. This is an extreme case of the former. It’s like together they pushed each other to be healthier and to take back their lives.

Ideal relationships

This is the ideal relationship. We all want someone who will love us no matter what, but will also push us to be better than who we were yesterday. Settling is for dirt; people are meant to grow and evolve throughout their entire life. If we end up settling, we may miss an opportunity because we may not even get to that level to open that door. In my previous relationship, I thought I was with someone who was supportive no matter what. It wasn’t until I wanted to go back to school did I realize that he was holding me back from my goals and dreams.

Unhealthy relationships

Then you have the relationships that knock you down. “You’re tearing me apart, Lisa!” (The Room). You know, the ones where your partner tells you you’re fat or you’re boring. And somehow, despite all the weight you lose, you’re never good enough. In a way, they can push you to do better, but you’re only trying to do better because the person who’s supposed to be on your team is tearing you down. And you want to prove them wrong. Pretty sure this is unbelievably unhealthy. And if you’re in this type of relationship, the one where your significant other is extremely selfish, please do yourself a favor and leave it. You can do so much better.

Are you in a healthy, ideal relationship? Is your guy or gal willing to support you and push you forward all while loving you no matter what?

Pursuing my dreams

What does it look like to pursue your dreams? There’s a saying that if you find your dream job, you’ll never work another day in your life.

My many hats

Through the past several years, I’ve worked in many different fields. When I started out fresh out of college, I wanted to work in the veterinary field for the rest of my life. So, naturally, I started out as a Veterinary Technician (nurse). Through the years, and Grad school, I determined the Veterinary field wasn’t right for me. I also worked a little in Information Technology, where I thrived but wasn’t passionate about my role there.

I thought I broke through the mundane when after I received my Master’s degree, I got a Technical Support role at a laboratory supply company. It mixed my skills of IT with science, and I got to talk to customers. I love talking to people, something I found through the veterinary roles I had. Then the company management started micro-managing me, despite me being one of the top employees in my department. They pushed me away and into sales since they gave me sales goals with no incentives. And I entered IT sales, because it made sense. Yes, I knew it wasn’t my passion, but I thought there would be a bigger chance to make more money.

That brings me to now..

After a year and a half in IT sales, I wasn’t making nearly as much as I thought I would. The company I was working for actually lied about the role of the job and instead of it leading to a sales account manager position, it was more of a glorified admin role. And if you know me, you know I’m not one to just sit back and do nothing. I’ve been there, done that. And no way did I get a Master’s degree to be someone’s assistant.

So I decided to take a risk. After months of job applications and a handful of interviews, I received zero job offers. I was getting this itch to get out of my current role and into something that would help push me towards my dream job. Not to mention, I wanted to get away from my old life as much as I could and my career was the last string to be cut. So when LA Fitness called me, I agreed to interview with them. The words manager in training were said and I was instantly interested. After the interview, I knew I had a shoe in but that my life would be changing completely.

My passion in fitness

pursuing my dreamsThis is only my first week and I’m still in training and learning all that I can. So far, I’m loving it. It feels like I belong in the world of fitness. Technically, I’m still in sales. But now I’m selling personal training rather than laptops and servers. I’m helping people work towards and obtain their health and fitness goals. And this makes me happy. I know that I’m taking a huge risk. My income is based on how much I sell, and I have bills to pay. But for some reason, this feels right. And I believe that if you don’t push yourself and put yourself out there, you’ll never know your full potential.

Also, you can’t know success until you know failure. So if I fail, I will know what doesn’t work. But I like the saying do or do not, there is no try. I’m beyond trying and now I’m doing. I’m following my passions and dreams. And I know this will help me grow in the fitness field and gain the experience and knowledge needed to be a leader in the fitness field.

What’s your passion? Are you working your dream job?

Come see me at LA Fitness in Oak Brook if you’re looking to start or change your fitness journey!

Open for Business: Mini Target

target-express-oak-parkYay Target!

The cutest Target opened up this past week in Oak Park, IL. It’s one of eight small format stores in the Chicagoland area, and as an Oak Park resident I couldn’t be happier.

No longer are the days I’d have to cross the busy street of Harlem to go to Walgreens to pay for over-priced convenience-store items (i.e. Gwen Stefani Revlon Makeup). Now, it’s as easy as walking comfortably a few blocks from where I live to get any and all of my Target (Trademark) store needs (and those I have aplenty).

While there is even the added bonus of a mini Starbucks (hello, coffee!) there is a part of me that is sad over the opening of this store. First of all, it’s at the bottom of a new high-rise that’s now a part of the Oak Park skyline. Which, since I’m new to the area, I don’t really know Oak Park without it. So that’s fine. But a part of me does worry how this Target will affect the little guys. You know, the small local businesses of Oak Park. Which I personally like to try and support as much as I can.

I’m an avid fan of these local businesses and always out and about looking for more to add to this list.

Local Businesses I love

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What businesses do you frequent in Oak Park? How do you feel about the new Target? I was in there the other night and look forward to utilizing the store when needed. Especially on those days I don’t feel like driving and would rather walk around my beautiful Oak Park neighborhood.

Writings from the other side

I’ve been dealing with a few thoughts lately that have been coming at me from the other side. Bear with me.

“No offense Jen, but I’d never marry someone who’s divorced.”

How I remain unoffended is another story for another time, but what about being divorced makes someone undesirable? Why is it an instant red flag situation? And if this is true, why did I marry a divorced person? Where were you 4 years ago as I was tying the knot with the devil himself?

I guess if I had that mindset, then I would’ve never gotten married in the first place and I would have less baggage. A less red red flag. Or maybe I’d have more. Who knows. A part of me thinks the marriage kept me out of trouble though. And it taught me a lot.

It taught me that just because I know how to love unconditionally and trust someone doesn’t mean everyone knows this. Also, while I saw a glimmer of hope and felt loved by my ex, it was fleeting as once things got hard, he ran away. But only partially. I learned that some people can literally live on lies, and create two separate lives based on these lies. A part of me wonders if there’s an app for that: keep track of all your lies app.

I also learned how to love myself. By being discarded, I found myself and finally see how much I truly am worth. I found not only my legs, but my entire body, mind, and soul all came in sync with each other. Enough to not just run my first marathon, but also to start a whole new life that I never thought I’d have. Finally, I am happy to be on my own. I am getting comfortable in my independence and freedom in this new world.

But there’s that nagging voice inside my head. What about my future husband, if there is one? Another marriage? I mean, if I can find a guy willing to roll the dice on me (since I’m so unwanted). Please note the tone of sarcasm in this last sentence. But for real, if and when I do decide to potentially marry again, what does this mean for me? And for the man I decide to take a chance on?

There will be demons that I will have to fight. I’m actually already fighting them now, way before even considering marrying again.

Am I good enough? Will I be good enough for someone to marry? Will someone love me the way I deserve to be loved? Unconditionally and until death? The way marriage is supposed to be. Will I be able to trust someone enough to take the plunge again, after everything I’ve been through? They say better to have loved and lost than to never have loved. I find comfort in that and I agree with it. Which is really hard to say because I was really hurt, for a very long time. Longer than I’d like to admit. Some days I still hurt a little over it, but everyday is getting better as I find my strength and courage to push forward and move on, one step at a time.

One thing I have learned is that until I am completely over what happened to me, and completely happy with myself, I won’t be ready to even entertain the idea of marriage. I know this time is the time that I need to focus on myself and my relationship with the Lord. My strength and courage come from Him. He has opened so many doors in my life it’s overwhelming. He has answered all of my prayers, and has given me more than I could ever even imagine asking for. One year ago he freed me from the hell I was living in, and he answered my prayer by having my friend invite me to her church, which is now my church. And that was just the beginning.

IMG_20170923_104230I’m not perfect. I will likely always have doubts and those voices in my head that I must battle. But I know what I deserve, and I strive to be the best person I can be. I know my ability to love, deeply and unconditionally. And I feel that same love from Jesus, so at the end of the day even if I end up being alone (and with 30 cats) I will be just as happy as I would be with someone. I don’t find my worth or happiness in others (if I did then that comment above would affect me way more). Instead, I find my happiness within me and my joy in God. He brings me everything I need and even the things I don’t realize I need. He goes above and beyond to show His love to me. And it’s indescribable.

So to my future husband, if you exist, if you’re reading this then you can see that I’m a work in progress. But aren’t we all? All I ask from you is patience and love. If you choose to love me, I will choose to love you. Everyday. For the rest of our lives.

But until then, I’m going to enjoy the shit out of life with my fur babies, my friends, and my family. I’m going to run marathons, or maybe just half-marathons (they’re much easier!). I’m going to lift weights and practice yoga. I’m going to not only attend but also provide help at my church. I’m going to spend time in God’s word and grow with Him. I’m going to enjoy my alone time as much as my time with others. And I’m going to heal myself. I choose myself everyday, which may seem selfish, but I know it’s necessary during this season in my life.

All I can say is I’m worth it. We’re worth it. And with God anything is possible. Always and forever.

With love.

Jen

What faith means to me

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Some common questions I get from friends, family, and acquaintances:

  • Why are you not more angry over what happened to you?
  • How is it that you’re happy despite everything you’ve been through?
  • How is it you continue to believe in God even after He took away everything you wanted?
  • How do you find your strength and courage?

I’m here to tell you that this journey I’ve been on, the one I call faith, has not been the easiest one. It has had it’s ups and downs, and I fully expect it to for the rest of my life. A quick look at my history within the Christian realm:

I was raised Catholic. For three elementary school years, I attended two different Catholic schools. The three years were miserable, with the third taking the cake. My mom listened and showed me grace by placing me in the local public school starting in 4th grade. But no fear as I continued CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) through middle school. Basically, continuing education for Catholics. After I graduated high school and went away to college, I decided to officially stop pretending to be Catholic and leave religion for the old ladies with rosaries.

During my first semester in college, I dated a guy who wanted me to “know Jesus” so I dumped him. #byefelicia. By the second semester, I was lost, alone, and sad. Someone invited me to a bible study, and I went mostly to just make friends. Through the small group, I started making some amazing friends. And I discovered Campus Crusade for Christ. While I was a part of the small group, I didn’t really get into Cru until my sophomore year. Through this small group and the amazing things I did with Cru, I accepted Jesus as my savior and chose to have a relationship with Him. The rest is history. But like I said, it hasn’t been an easy journey. At times, I’ve fallen away from my faith, but I’ve always had my belief in God to fall back on. A crutch, if you will. Even when I disobey, I still feel His love.

But I never needed it as much as I’ve needed it over the past two years. Through the death of a parent, a divorce, a life-changing move and now marathon training, I’ve never felt closer to God. And that’s where I am now.

This past week, we celebrated our 5th birthday at my church (Free Church) and this amazing pastor Brett Jones visited us and had an amazing message. And it’s too good to keep inside. So this is my version of it. Welcome to my mind. Make yourself comfortable, today we go deep.

(Genesis 22:1-14)

It’s important for us to know that not every test comes from Satan. The life of a Christian should be expanded and grown upon. For example, one way to know if someone is ready to be passed from one grade to the next is to test them. God doesn’t test you to break you. He tests you to prove you. The difference between temptation and test: Satan tempts you. God tests you. One is to destroy you, the other is to promote you.

A sure way to wreck your life is to think you can take everybody with you. God calls you for your assignment and you alone must go. Some people need to stay with the donkey (Genesis 22:5). Don’t try to take them where they don’t have grace to go. Abraham knew that something was going to happen on that mountain that the young men he was with couldn’t handle. There are some places that only you and your sacrifice can go.

Most of the time there isn’t a crowd when God proves himself to you. God will allow you to prove yourself and He will rewrite the story after your proving ground. If you’ll give God your stuff, He’ll give you His stuff. This story in the Bible introduces one of the greatest themes of the Bible: substitution. Abraham and Isaac met God on a hill outside of Jerusalem. Abraham saw a lamb (substitution), Jesus was the lamb.

Jesus was crucified on the same hill where God tested Abraham, just thousands of years apart. As Abraham climbed that hill, his thoughts centered around the death of his only son. As God climbed that hill, his thoughts centered around how amazing Abraham was and his amazing will to pass the test He was placing on him. His faith led him to where God wanted him. God tied up a lamb to replace Isaac as the sacrifice. And Abraham had no idea this all was in store for him, he just took a step in faith.

Are you living in faith or fear? Do you check everything before taking every step? Do you over-analyze everything going on? God sees the whole picture. He is the author of our story, and He has the ability to rewrite it. Even if you feel like you’re destined to live without God, anything is possible. Even if you feel too evil, or too far from Jesus, He still loves and chooses you. If you’re interested in learning more about what I believe in, reach out to me. This is just a tiny snippet of my story, and my story is still being written.

Lots of love,

Jen