Sometimes You Just Have to Jump

My father had a rough childhood to say the least. His family didn’t come from wealth, nor were they ever able to achieve it – monetarily. Like most large families in the 40s and 50s, everyday was a struggle. Even though he did without for most of his formative years, he never let his circumstances dampen his spirit. My father always had big dreams. He dreamed of success, adventure, travel and the like. He also knew from an early age that the only person who can change your life – is you. Armed with this innate wisdom, he left school at age 17 to join the military. When I asked him why he decided to join the Army he jokingly said, “Because I knew I would at least get one meal a day and have a roof over my head”. It was also his only chance to be someone, to become something – so he took it.

His first role in the military was a Paratrooper – because why not jump out of planes for fun? As a Paratrooper you wore shiny boots and a beret, which allowed him to stand out among a crowd of brave men. These wardrobe additions, a larger-than-life ego, some southern charm, and his infinite confidence added on at least a foot to his vertically challenged frame. He was popular among his peers and the ladies. I like to compare him to Tom Cruise in Top Gun; he followed the rules just enough not to get kicked out, but broke them just enough to earn respect.

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After a few near death experiences, some parachute malfunctions, being the subject of search and rescue efforts, the threat of being sent to Vietnam and being separated from his family, my father decided to find a new role – on land. Now responsible for little lives, he worked even harder to excel in his career. He sacrificed time with us so he could provide more than he had as a child, which made him a great dad. He pushed himself to the limits – mentally and physically. Anytime someone doubted his abilities, he’d work harder to prove them wrong. Even if he didn’t know what he was doing, he would fake it until he became it. When he accomplished one mission or became an expert in his field, he was on to the next one – never settling.

When I was young he would always encourage me to find my own way, be a problem-solver, and chase my dreams. Even if he wanted to jump in and save me, he’d let me figure things out for myself because he knew in the long run it would make me stronger. If I were ever discouraged he’d remind me that everyone, no matter who they are, puts their pants on one leg at a time. He knew all five of his kids were capable of accomplishing whatever we set out to do – and we have.


He went from a poor kid with a head full of dreams, to achieving many honors in two branches of the military and achieved success in civilian life. He holds a masters degree and attended law school. His expertise was utilized in all areas ranging from the Space Shuttle Training programs to the International Treaty and Anti-Terrorist Prevention programs. He retired after 45 years of service to our country. Now battling cancer, he’s still a fighter. He takes each day with a grain of salt, as he knows life still has a plan and he’s not afraid to see where it takes him.

It’s because of this drive and the faith my parents always had in me, I’ve been fearless in my own endeavors. Ultimately, my dreams have come true because I was never afraid to jump. For that, Dad – I thank you. Happy Father’s Day. Love you.

“Sometimes you just have to jump and life will always find a way to hand you a parachute.”













You Are Much Stronger Than You Think You Are

When I was in labor with my son I had the most amazing nurse by my side. Being a woman with two kids of her own, her advice and support really helped me.  At one point she looked at me as I was trying to get through a painful contraction and said, “You are much stronger than you think you are.”  This wasn’t the first time I’ve heard this, but it was the first time someone said it when I desperately needed to hear it. As soon as the words left her lips I found my strength; I just had to reach for it.

After my son was born I felt so much pride and an overwhelming sense of accomplishment.  Not only did I give my son the gift of life, but I also gave myself the gift of believing – in me.  Before I left the hospital I promised myself I would not let fear stand in the way of any future aspirations.  I had a son now, one who would look to me for inspiration and guidance.  I had to deliver.

Feeling inspired from my birth experience, I signed up for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.  Why would someone who has never run more than two miles in her life sign up for a marathon? Good question.  I signed up because deep down I didn’t think I could run it and I knew I would have to find the courage to try.  Also, as a new mom I knew it was important to find time for myself.  The training would help me continue on my journey to a healthy lifestyle and each milestone would only strengthen my confidence in myself.

I started my training in December 2010 by walking on a treadmill. My first run was on December 28. I completed 1.14 miles and thought I was going to die. The sweat was pouring off my face, my heart was pounding and my knees ached with each step. Who was I kidding?  How could I ever get to 26.2 miles? Looking for encouragement, I started reading running blogs and other marathon stories. Many of their stories sounded just like mine and their message was clear – don’t give up.

I went back to the gym and started to walk for a few minutes, then run for a few minutes. This built my stamina and helped me control my breathing. My next attempt at a long run was two weeks later.  I completed 3.34 miles without stopping. Again I felt like I would never make it to the finish line, but I was adamant about moving forward. I signed up for three races prior to the marathon.  My first was an 8K in April, the Shamrock Shuffle. This was my first taste of running an organized race.  The excitement was overwhelming.  It was much easier to run when you had thousands of people cheering you on.  I was hooked and more motivated than ever. I completed two more races, the longest being 10 miles.

Over that summer I lost some steam due to my work schedule and the heat. My runs became few and far between. I was starting to think I just didn’t have the time or energy to keep up my training.  That September I managed to get in three long runs, the longest being 16 miles.   Then I tapered off to let my body rest.  At this point I was hoping for an injury so I would have an excuse not to run, then I essentially wouldn’t be giving up.  I had family flying in and I also told all of my friends I was running, so the pressure had mounted.  They were all counting on me.

The night before the marathon my husband invited some friends over to make signs for me.  Watching my loved ones write little notes of encouragement on poster board was very emotional.  They believed in me more than I believed in myself.  Later that night I saw a quote that brought tears to my eyes and I still refer to it to this day:

“I’m a success today because I had a friend who believed in me and I didn’t have the heart to let him down.” – Abraham Lincoln

Many times when we are faced with adversity the only way we get through is by the faith others have in us. Armed with this insight I went to bed to rest my mind.  The following morning I woke early, packed all my running gear and woke my husband up to drive me.  During the short drive to the start line, we passed volunteers setting up some of the water stations and my nerves set in.  I was silent the entire ride to prevent my self from crying. My husband dropped me off and whispered in my ear, “If anyone can do this… it’s you.  You got this.”

I watched him pull away and went straight to the bathroom to throw up. After I threw up, I started laughing.  Why am I doing this to myself, it’s just a marathon.  If I make it, I make it.  The important thing is that I am going to give it my all, and that is good enough.  I headed over to my corral and waited. It took nearly an hour for my corral to finally cross the start line, as all the elite athletes start first.  I am not a fast runner nor do I strive to be.  I didn’t care to beat the Kenyans – I just wanted to finish.

As I made my way up, I remember looking at the skyline and taking a deep breath of the crisp October air and saying to myself: Well here goes nothing, just do your best.


At mile seven I knew my husband and son were waiting for me, so the first six miles flew by.  When I rounded the corner in Wrigleyville, there they were.  My husband was holding my son on his shoulders with a sign that read: I am proud of my Mommy! You can do it! This sign along with a friend jumping in to run with me gave me a boost.  It wasn’t until mile 19 I hit a wall.  I had already made it this far; I didn’t want to give up. My mind and body was telling me to stop. Then I saw two signs that gave me the final push I needed.  The first one read: While you are out can you pick me up some bread?  I laughed out loud for a few minutes.  Then a block later another read: Pain is temporary – Pride is forever!  Once those words resonated in my tired brain, it hit me – I was going to finish no matter what.

As I turned the last corner, I got very emotional. I could finally see the finish line through my tears.  I did it.  I ran 26.2 miles. I can be the example for my son. I can best equate the feeling of crossing the finish line to the day I married my husband and the day my son was born. It was nothing short of amazing.


Each time I tell this story I always get someone who says, “I could never do that.”  But that isn’t true because actually – you can. You are much stronger than you think you are.  Your goals are attainable, whatever they may be. I encourage each of you to challenge yourself, but most importantly believe – in you.

*This story will be featured on Kindredvine


What Would You Do If You Were Not Afraid?

I attended the Blogher conference this weekend where the Keynote speaker was Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook.  During her panel she asked the audience, “What would you do if you were not afraid?” This question resonated with me and I found myself writing down goals which have been put on hold due to fear. I left the session more inspired than ever.

Why do people, particularly women, hold themselves back?  Are we afraid of failure? Afraid people will think we’re stupid? Do we feel we’re not deserving? For me, the answer is yes to all the above. In my professional career I have struggled with each of these fears often, and I am certian they have held me back. In hindsight, there were many times I should have stuck up for myself or demanded things I knew I deserved.  But what’s more frustrating – this is no ones fault but my own.

As a way to inspire myself I began to reflect on those times I did face fear head on, took that leap of faith, and came out stronger on the other side.  Reflection has always given me strength when facing adversity. I often tell myself: hell, if I pulled that sh*t off, I got this! Also, sharing your stories, just like Sheryl Sandberg did, only encourages and inspires others.  Here is one of my stories I would like to share with you:

How did a Texas girl end up in Chicago?

In 2004, I was living in San Antonio, Texas.  I had essentially grown up there.  I had recently graduated college after almost seven years of searching for ways to pay for each semester myself.  This was a very proud moment for me, yet I still was not happy. There wasn’t much opportunity career wise and I was in and out of horrible relationships. I was in a city that didn’t suit me, but I stayed because I was scared. It was all I really knew. Where would I go? How would I get there? I am not strong enough to move by myself.  My dream was to move to Chicago after visiting a friend who had recently moved there.  During my first visit, I immediately fell in love.  I remember thinking: dreams happen here. I also remember seeing very attractive men on every street corner.  This was a single girls play land!

Once I returned home, the excitement wore off and the fear set back in.  I can’t afford it there.  I only know one person.  How could I make it in that big city? All my friends in Texas thought I was crazy too, and I am sure in the back of their minds they thought the same exact thing as I did: she will never do it. 

Later that summer my lease had run its course and I was about to sign another one. A week before signing, my roommate told me she was moving in with her boyfriend. There I was, about to be homeless.  I didn’t have enough money saved to pay all the deposits for a new place by myself, and I didn’t have any other roommate options.  At the time I felt helpless, scared and alone.  I was in my mid-twenties and couldn’t support myself, couldn’t find a roommate, couldn’t find a job with a decent salary, and couldn’t find a nice man to date.

Two days later, my friend in Chicago had notified me about a potential opportunity.  She warned me it may not be the best, however it would get me to Chicago.   This was my chance. It was now or never. Before thinking anything through, I turned in my notice at work.  In the next two weeks I sold everything I owned in my apartment.  If it didn’t fit in my car, it wasn’t coming. The money I made selling off all my belongings was the only money I had to get me to Chicago.

When the day arrived and my car was packed, I remember looking in my rear view mirror and I started crying. This was it, the only things I had left to my name were my clothes, a small television and my Chihuahua, Rocco. Was I making the right decision? For the first time in my life, I knew that even if it was the wrong decision, I was going to make it work.  I had to, I had no choice.

Just me and you buddy!
Just me and you buddy!

I got on the road and headed to Dallas so I could stop and see my mother and sister. My mother, of course, was nervous and didn’t want me to go, however she knew at that point there was no stopping me.  Just before I left, my sister looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “I’m so proud of you.  I would not have the courage to do this. I know you are going to be fine, and if anyone can make it, it’s you.”  In my heart, I knew she was right.

Once I got to Chicago, I lived at a hotel in the suburbs I was working at for three months. My friend was more than generous by letting me stay on her couch on the weekends, so I could be in the city and start planning my life. Truth be told, the first year was very difficult. A week didn’t go by I wasn’t wanting to throw in the towel and head back home. I was homesick, people made fun of me for saying “y’all”, and I was broke. There were several months I had to hide my car in different neighborhoods so Tyrone from GMAC didn’t come repossess it. Many bills were paid late and often, but I stuck it out. If anything, my pride was what kept me from going home.  I didn’t want to be the girl who had to come back with her tail between her legs.

Another six months went by and I met Adam, my now husband. Being broke is much better when you have someone to be broke with. He encouraged me and promised one day, things would be better. And they were.  Shortly after that, I landed a job at a top luxury hotel in the city, and best of all, Adam asked me to marry him.

Right after we got engaged
Right after we got engaged

If I would have let fear hold me back that day in 2004, I would not be here.  Anytime someone asks me if I ever thought I would be where I am today I always respond, “NO fu**ing way!”

This story may seem like no big deal to some.  You may even know people who do this type of thing everyday. The point is, I thought I couldn’t do it and I proved myself wrong. I use this story to give me strength, and share it in hopes it will inspire others. We all have a story to tell, we’re not born with the answers, so I encourage you to start sharing yours.

 “There are two ways to face fear. Say f**k it and run, or face it and recover.” – LeanIn.Org