The Grand Finale

If you’ve ever participated in a long distance race, you know all about the need for endurance, vision, and goals to see you through to the end of the race. Without them, you might get half way through a marathon, then look in the wrong direction and cast your eyes on an adorable 6-year old selling pink lemonade and shortbread cookies on the corner. If you’re anything like I am, you’d be done for.

Endurance, vision, and goals are the energy that can sustain and push us forward when we feel that we simply can’t run the race of life for another moment. They help us to keep our eyes focused on the finish line of whatever challenge we might be facing, eliminating the distractions that cause us to stumble and fall; assisting us in taking our minds off of any physical pain that we might be feeling.

I used to know diddly squat about endurance. The only kind that I was even remotely familiar with involved making it through the emotional strain of a Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey craving from one paycheck to the next… Then I enrolled in college and I became enlightened to the truest meaning of “EVG”.

Flash back to January 10, 2011. You may not recall what you were doing on that day, but I remember it like it was yesterday. It was the first of my Monday academic “days from Hell”.  This past school term, every Monday I had classes from 7:30am until 8:30pm. Oh, and I’m not talking about fun classes like Bacon Identification or Baking with Nutella 101 (for the love of all that is good in the world, I TRULY hope that Chef Jeff at Fox Valley Tech decides to add those classes to the culinary program one day!) Nope, for 19 weeks I spent my Mondays sitting through 3 hours each of “Tourism – A Community Approach”, “Hospitality Law”, and “Math with Business Applications”. I suspect that even the finest of academic overachievers would yawn a time or two through those classes. However, ENDURANCE saw me through to the end of Hell day, so that I could focus on my classes for the remainder of the week. I won’t sugar coat the situation…for a month or so, it was looking as though yours truly might throw in the white flag on the whole college experience and walk away in defeat. Then I remembered why I had enrolled…my GOALS and VISION for a better future for Brian and myself. I trudged on, (at times, grunting and groaning), but I made it through each and every week. Then I made it through the first month… and the second….and with EVG along for the ride, I made it all the way through the term.

So here I stand at the GRAND FINALE! I’vemade it through some of my toughest courses to date. The ironic thing about that is, in prior semesters, where my classes were a bit less challenging, I still somehow managed to end up with one or two “B”‘s on my report card. So how is it that I pulled off a 19 credit course load and somehow managed to get straight “A”‘s?! On second thought, who really cares why?!  The point is, I FINALLY got the 4.0 GPA I’ve been working so hard for and so desperately wanting.

On occasion, I actually rock my own world… YAY ME!

Because summer break is the time for college students to relax and enjoy the finer things in life, I plan to kick it off right.  I’m going to make a huge batch of Jamie’s orzo salad, grill some flank steak, serve it up with INCREDIBLY awesome mango salsa from Todd and Diane, and finish off the meal with Jessica’s Better Than Crack brownies.

LIFE IS GOOD…LET THE SUMMER BREAK COMMENCE!

A Night to Remember

Confession: Thanks to my self abuse esteem, I’ve never been very good at accepting compliments. As the saying goes, “’tis better to give than to receive”. I believe wholeheartedly in that sentiment. I would much rather recognize the good in others than have compliments directed toward me. What’s more, I enjoy being the center of attention nearly as much as having my teeth drilled. So when I learned that I’d been nominated for the Fox Valley Technical College’s “Achievement Against the Odds” Award, a golf ball sized lump made an instant appearance in my throat. Don’t misunderstand…I was extremely humbled and honored that not one, but TWO of the staff members at the Tech felt that I was worthy of the award, but I didn’t believe that I was deserving of such an incredible award.  I was also frozen with fear that I might WIN…requiring me to give an acceptance speech in front of a room full of people. May I please have a shot of Novocain with that?

A few weeks later, the winners were announced…. *Insert the Halleluiah Chorus here*

In recognition of our hard work, determination, and drive to succeed in our programs of study, despite physical and/or emotional obstacles that would have otherwise prevented us from doing so, 4 other recipients and I were chosen. I was and am touched beyond words.

There was a wonderful banquet held for us, with an incredible dinner service that was prepared and served by my peers from the restaurant operations class. Everything from the place cards on the table, to the exquisitely plated Caprese salad, and the perfectly seasoned beef shoulder steak with mushroom burgundy reduction (MAJOR YUM!) were absolutely perfect.

Even my acceptance speech went pretty well. My eyes welled with tears a few times, especially went I heard the heart wrenching stories given by the other winners, but I was able to maintain my composure enough to properly thank everyone involved with making it a night to remember. Everyone that is, except for the two most important ones. First, thanks and acknowledgement go to my almighty Father God. Without His love, mercy, and healing powers, I would surely not be here today to write this post. Secondly, I want to thank the love of my life, Brian Donovan. How INCREDIBLY embarrassing it was for me to realize that I had failed to recognize and thank the one person who has stood by my side to support, comfort, and encourage me through every single one of the trials, challenges, illnesses, and battles that I’ve faced over the past few years. I fall in love with him more every day and can’t imagine my life without him.

OK…enough of the sappiness… let’s talk FOOD!

Brian and I will be embarking on a new food plan this Monday. I refuse to call it a diet. That’s such an ugly 4-letter word for a change in portion sizes and food selection. At any rate, primary focus will be placed on digesting less sugar and more fruits and vegetables. I will also be finding HEALTHY carbohydrate choices for us to eat in place of the morning bagel schmeared with Nutella and/or cream cheese. Don’t you worry, though…EVERYTHING in moderation will be the mantra around here. I will never completely release my inner bacon and butter loving addictions, either. I’d never be able to live with myself, and you would never be able to handle my rants! Incidentally, I have a personal blog in addition to this one. It’s called Feed Your Inner Chef. I haven’t posted there in several months, but if there’s interest shown by you, my dear readers, I could start posting there again, placing primary focus on my progress towards what I hope will be weight loss and road to a healthier life.  Just leave a comment on this post and/or shoot me an email to let me know what you’d like to see.

I’ve been pouring over recipes at my favorite food sites, and I found a recipe that looks perfect for Monday night’s dinner. If the dish tastes as beautiful as it looks, this will be a delicious adventure to health!

I’m going to make oven roasted asparagus and some brown rice to serve along with it. Thanks to Nancy at http://www.honestcooking.com for the recipe, photos, and inspiration. I need to find a recipe for low carb dinner rolls to go with that dinner, but for now, maybe I’ll make a batch of Christina’s incredible THIN MINT SWIRL brownies. After all, I still have 2 days left to binge all things cream cheese!

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