Pushing the limits

“To try is to risk failure. But the risk must be taken, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.” 
– Anonymous 

Just like this blog, I’ve decided to take a leap of faith and pursue something that I’ve been thinking about for quite some time now: a group instructor certification. I’ve been taking group fitness classes for almost a year now and I’m truly enjoying myself. I love how group fitness makes working out fun and challenging and I’ve made some great new friends along the way. Working out has always been something I love to do but at the gym I’m currently at, it takes my love for working out to a whole new level. I’m constantly seeking ways to improve myself within a class, even if it’s a class I’ve taken a hundred times. No class is the same but each time you leave feeling like you really got a good work out in and that you pushed yourself to the next level. I live for the high.

The group fitness certification was an opportunity that I stumbled upon. I wasn’t actively searching for it, nor was I even settled on the idea of perusing it; It sort of fell into my lap and I couldn’t ignore it. I follow the gym on Facebook and they are actively updating with schedule changes, promotions and facility news. Monday night’s status was nothing different: class schedule for Tuesday, bootcamps to sign up for and then right at the bottom it said “Interested in becoming a group fitness instructor?? Message our Facebook or stop at the front desk!! Opportunity this weekend to become a CERTIFIED instructor at our club!” I scrolled past it, not giving it much thought. The next morning, I woke up and it was the first thing on my mind. I did my normal Tuesday morning workout, got dressed and went to work, and still, was the only thing I could think of. Finally, after unsuccessfully trying to ignore it,  I decided to text the gym owner’s daughter to fully understand what this certification would entail. She responded back quickly and enthusiastically, with all the information and encouragement she could give through a text message. She quickly sent another text, “so you’re interested?” I paused. I guess I was interested.

After much deliberation (Could I actually do this? Could I teach a class? What if I fail the test? Will I even know what this guy is talking about?) and asking my friend/gymspiration/instructor her opinion, which she said would be an amazing opportunity for me and I shouldn’t turn it down, I had half decided to actually go for it. It wasn’t until later Tuesday night, while out with a group of friends from the gym for a happy hour where I made up my mind. Two of my closest friends were there and when the topic arose that I may be completing this certification, they were extremely supportive and happy for me. I guess that was my turning point, knowing that two of my best friends, the girls I would trust my life with, were behind me on this, and that reassured my wavering confidence that I can, indeed, do this. I wasted no time in texting the gym owner’s daughter back saying “Yes, I’m in for Sunday.”

Here’s what I do know about the certification:
1. It’s an all day event this upcoming Sunday at the gym
2. Most of the day will be spent with lectures, so I need to bring a notebook and a pen
3. There will be a mock class portion in which I would need to teach the class a workout routine
4. The 60-minute test will be at the end of the day, around 6:30/7pm

I was also told that I would need to study basic anatomy, physiology and cardio respiratory – so here I am, notebook and pen in hand, googling everything I may need to know so that I can pass this test on Sunday. I was never very good at science so I am getting a little more nervous (even discouraged) but I am going to push through and try to work through this so I can feel a little more comfortable with the material that will be presented to me.

I can do this. I have faith in myself and I believe that doing something out of my comfort zone will only improve, not hinder, me. I’m scared and I’m definitely nervous about Sunday, but Eleanor Roosevelt once say: “Do one thing every day that scares you.” I have to push past my comfort bubble in order to live the life that I see myself living. Even if I’m scared I will fail, at least I can say I tried.

Always A Bridesmaid…

I was just updating my Twitter profile, which is a lot harder than you would think. How are you supposed to describe yourself in 140 characters or less? I enjoy Twitter for the short tweets but for a profile biography? It’s tough. It was definitely time for an update though since I’m no longer “newly relocated to PA from NJ” (we just renewed our lease; Yes, I’ve been here for almost a year already – time flies!) and I think it’s pretty obvious I’m a “social media addict.” I tried to pick out the most relevant things about me that weren’t too obvious, like, “I have brown hair (sometimes)!” or “I’m a Cuban that can’t really speak Spanish!” or even “I’m almost 26 and have no idea what I want to do with my life!” You know, the things that glow off me when you first meet me.

So after I typed a few things, then hastily deleted them, I decided to figure out what I do on a daily basis: go to work, go to the gym, sleep. Work is already listed there, as is where I went to college and what year I graduated (2009 seems forever ago, btw). So, I wrote “Gym Rat” because that’s what my boyfriend calls me. Plus, “gym rat” only takes ups 7 characters as opposed to “gym lover” that takes up 9 or “i go to the gym a lot” which is 21. Next I wrote “chocolate lover” but sounded so boring, so I deleted “lover” and wrote “eater” – again, boring. Finally, I was able to find a word that I liked, wasn’t too many characters and described me perfectly: devourer. YUP.

Thinking of one last little tidbit was hard. In my opinion, it’s always so difficult to write about yourself. I don’t want to come off as bitchy, nor conceited, nor self-loathing. It’s almost like you have to walk a fine line before crossing into any of those areas. I let it marinate for a few minutes then decided that “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride” fit me perfectly. I tried wording it differently by incorporating the 2008 Katherine Heigl movie “27 Dresses” (which is what I’ve been referred to lately) into it but nothing seemed to work, or fit the required limit of characters. So, there ya go, Always a bridesmaid, never a bride is what I went with and it’s the truth and I’m ok with it.

Since graduation, it’s been a nonstop parade of weddings. My friends, my family – everyone I know is getting married, has already gotten married, or is planning to get married soon. It started off slow, only one wedding the one year, no weddings the following year then BAM, 4 weddings last year, 5 weddings this year and I already have 2 scheduled for next year. Something must be in the water, which is why I’ve switched to bottled water only, please. I don’t mind being in weddings though, I’m excited for my friends and happy to help and be there for them on one of the biggest days of their lives. Luckily for my bank account though, I wasn’t asked to be in the bridal party for all of these weddings. Could you imagine? I’d be so broke, you’d see me on the street corner in Philly with a sign that says “Broke because of weddings, please help!” – and quite honestly, I think people (ok, mostly women) would give me change because they understand how expensive it is to have a wedding.

Right now, in my life, I’m not at a point where I’m ready to settle down and get married. I do not see my wedding anytime soon in my future and I’m ok with that. Life is not a race; I’m not going to lose at life if I’m the last of my friends to get married. Marriage is something I’d like to do, eventually, maybe in a few years, but I’m not looking for that right now. I’m pretty ok with the way my life is going right now, however, there are a few things I personally would like to accomplish before I make that commitment to someone else. Things that I’d like to be able to say I did on my own that put me in a better place before I got married. Nothing extreme, like, climb Mt. Everest by myself backwards, but things like, figure out what career path I’d like to take or at the very least, find a job that makes me happy. I’m a firm believer in making yourself happy before trying to make others happy. Again, there is no right or wrong way, life is not a race, this is just how I see it. So, for right now, I’m happy always being a bridesmaid and not a bride.

Strawberry Cheesecake Bites

I got the idea for this recipe off of Facebook, which probably came from Pinterest which looks like it came from this awesome food blog. The original recipe was for cherry cheesecake bites and I thought, “That looks easy! I can totally make that!”  and filed it away under my “recipe” folder in my Gmail inbox. We’re having a good-bye party for my friend at work (she’s moving on to bigger and better and I wish her all the luck in the world!) and I figured I would test out this dessert recipe.

After searching three different grocery stores for cherries, I finally realized that it’s not cherry season and decided to go for the next best fruit, strawberries! I bought a 5lb crate of strawberries, plus another 2lb crate – had to make sure I had more than enough. I also wanted to make these somewhat low-fat (shhh, don’t tell me coworkers!) so I purchased low-fat cream cheese and low-fat graham crackers. To be honest, I can’t tell the difference, they taste just as heavenly, without all the calories!

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Ingredients!

I do not have the luxury of owning a mixer nor a food processor so everything I had to mix, or crush, I did by hand. By all means, if you have the tools, use them! If not, you’ll get a good arm workout before eating these yummy (yet low-fat) treats!

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They may not look pretty but they are delicious!

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the tray

When I make these again, I will probably change a few things:
– Dry the strawberries after you wash them, the cheesecake filling tends to stick better.
– The first tray I did, I scooped the filling onto a spoon then tried to put it on the strawberry. I then found that dipping the strawberry in the filling and then spreading it out with your fingers worked best.
– Don’t sprinkle the crushed graham crackers onto the strawberry, dip the strawberry into the bowl, filling side down.

These things are highly addicting, so remember to share so you don’t eat them all yourself! Enjoy!

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I am not a runner

“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”

I am not a runner.

I can run and will run for a good workout, however, I do not classify myself as a runner. Ever. Yes, I’ve done a few 5Ks and will run a few miles during the week but that’s just to spruce up my workouts; help break up the constant HIIT cardio and strength training that make up the majority of my gym time. I don’t find myself pushing myself during a run and I don’t feel as successful afterwards like I do after a really good cardio workout or lifting session. In order for me to feel successful, I need to feel a burn and I need to sweat (a lot).

My fitness goals differ from those of a runner. I don’t run for distance or for time, I run for fun and for clarity. I like to run when I’m stressed out and need to clear my mind; where the only things I want to hear are my iPod and my feet hitting the pavement. I prefer to run outside, not on a treadmill, otherwise I get bored and my mind wanders, counting down the minutes until I can stop. Sometimes I’ll run with a friend, which makes the time go by much faster and makes the workout more enjoyable, at least for me, but this isn’t very often as I feel I’m interfering with their running training.

Last week, when I first heard about the Boston Bombings, my heart bled for those marathoners. As a person who loves to push my fitness limits, I can sympathize with those who were there, especially the runners who didn’t get to finish the race. All their training, all their hard work, dieting and eating right, all the weeks/months of anticipation for this race to just be stopped midway through due to 2 brother terrorists. It’s not fair. For the runners who had already crossed the finish line, some for the first time, some for the 50th time, this was a moment of jubilation and to have that triumphant feeling ripped from them is dishonorable and immoral. But… everyone on the face of the earth (except the terrorists… and apparently the Westboro Baptist Church) know this. But as it always does, good has overcome evil and because of this, Boston is stronger than it ever was.

I’m not a runner, but for Boston I will train harder and give my workouts all I have… because they deserve it.

A Very Purple Bridal Shower

“Here’s to the groom with bride so fair and here’s to the bride with groom so rare!”

My little sister is getting married. 38 days till the “I do’s” and a lifetime of marital bliss. As maid-of-honor, I’ve been there every step of the way for the planning, hand-holding and consoling a very excited, yet nervous, bride-to-be. Thankfully, my sister only has her bridezilla moments and isn’t a constant terror, however, this made it extremely difficult to plan her surprise bridal shower.

I’m going to be honest, I am definitely a maid-of-honor on a budget and tried to save money where ever I could for this shower. Plus, with the bridal party being comprised of me, one other bridesmaid, two junior bridesmaids and a flower girl, most of the burden of planning was placed on my shoulders. I consider myself a smart thrifty shopper, always finding deals and making bargains, so I knew if I was able to plan ahead, I’d be able to get the most bang for my buck. I cut costs on the invitations by designing them myself (with help from a co-worker) and having a friend print them for me on nice paper at her work (which she was allowed to use). I only had to buy envelopes ($5) and 3 books of stamps ($29). I was also able to use the same template from the invitation for the thank you cards by replacing the 5 W’s for the invitation with the words “Thank You” for the thank you cards. Another corner cut.

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The Mother-In-Law graciously opened her house for our use and insisted on cooking all of the food. We also asked guests to bring platters (if they wanted!), as well. This helped me save a ton of money considering we invited over 60 people and restaurants and caterers around the area were charging at least $17 per person.

One of my really good friends does cake baking on the side (as a stress reliever) so I had asked her to create a purple bridal shower cake. Honestly, my breath was taken away when she pulled up to the house on the day of the shower with the cake in hand. It turned out better than I could have ever imagined and it was definitely one of the focal points of the shower. It also tasted delicious – I think even better than a cake I would’ve ordered at a bakery. I will definitely be using her again… I get a great cake, she gets to relieve some stress, it’s a win-win!

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The favors were another place I was able to save money. My cousins and I made little poporn bags to take home. First of all, I love Pinterest for giving me this idea. My cousin bought the paper bags and kernels and in one afternoon we stuffed and folded the little popcorn bags and tied it together with twine. I was then able to create the label and little instructions and my boyfriend helped me cut them out and tape them to the bags. They turned out so cute, however, I made way too many. The saying on the label: “Thank you for popping in and celebrating Alyssa & Nick’s corny love! For Butter or For Worse”

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I am so thankful that my 2 cousins stepped up to help me pull off a beautiful bridal shower for my sister. Without their help, I don’t think this shower would’ve been pulled off as successfully as it had. They were the ones I was able to turn to when I had no idea what to do next or would become overwhelmed with planning.

Of course, no shower is complete without games, which I was able to create and print off myself. The other bridesmaid created the pieces for an awesomely hilarious game called “Who has the Groom” (another Pinterest find) and was a huge hit with shower guests. I wish I had taken a photo of the “grooms” but with all the commotion I forgot… but I will say that Ronnie from the Jersey Shore (complete with his gold chain) had to be the best one. We also played “How Well Do You Know The Bride” which was also hysterical. Just a note, my sister’s favorite color is not purple, as her wedding would suggest, it’s pink. My cousin created a mad-lib for “Marital Advice” – some answers were definitely not kid-appropriate! I had created 2 other games, Bridal Shower Bingo and the Purse Game, however, my sister’s fiancé got her to the shower 30 minutes later than planned so we had to cut things out in order to get all the guests fed and presents opened (the only thing that was wrong with the whole day, which wasn’t even that big of a deal).

All in all, the shower was a huge success. We were actually able to surprise my sister (something I was a little skeptical of being able to do) and Alyssa received a ton of gifts for her and Nick to start their new lives together. It was a day full of fun, laughter and most of all, love. Just being able to see my sister’s face light up was enough for me and I’m so thankful that my sister has such a loving family and is being welcomed into another loving family.

My little sister is getting married. We only have 38 days till she walks down that aisle. I better get my tissues ready.

So Put On A Happy Face

“Bye Bye Birdie” is one of my all-time favorite musicals. I’m partial to the 1963 movie version though with Dick Van Dyke, Janet Leigh and Ann-Margret since that’s what I used to watch, religiously, growing up. I know every word, every song and a few of the dance moves – it’s safe to say we got our monies worth with that VHS tape. It reminds me of happy childhood memories and also of my Pop-Pop, who passed in 2005. When he came to visit, this movie was in the rotation of ones to watch with him (along with any kung-fu movie and Mary Poppins).

I can’t find the movie clip of Dick Van Dyke singing this song on YouTube, however, here’s the link from TCM.com.

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image created by jillian k smith

This song is always my favorite part of the movie. Besides Dick Van Dyke dancing around the yard, trying cheer up Janet Leigh’s character, I really love the lyrics and the positive message that they are enforcing. Cheer up, put on a smile, this feeling of sadness will not last forever. I try to live my life by positive affirmation; knowing that even though you’re going through hard times, there’s always something to smile about which can help turn your mood around.

I may not be the poster child for this method. I can dwell on the negatives instead of searching for the positives in some situations. Lately, however, I have been trying to really see the brighter side of things. Sure, bad things happen but they never really last forever. There’s always something that can get you to smile: a joke, a tv show, eating a piece of cake, a hug from your Mom. Personally, I like to go for a run or head to the gym. After a workout, I feel like my worries are smaller and I’m able to smile and look for the positive aspects in life. Once you find your stress-reliever, it really makes troubled times not seem so hard and remember, Just Put On A Happy Face (queue tap dancers…. now)!

Volunteer Work

“Service to others is the payment you make for your space here on earth.”
– Mohammed Ali

I’ve always had a passion to help others through volunteer work. Regardless of it being on my own or through a group, I always find these experiences rewarding and fulfilling. My happiness comes from knowing that I am helping someone less fortunate than me and that my hard work and selflessness will in turn, create someone else’s happiness.

About a month ago, my place of employment sent out a company wide email asking for 25 employees to participate in a volunteer day at Philabundance, Philadelphia’s largest food bank and hunger relief organization. I was fortunate enough to be chosen for the last volunteer day my employer had at Cradles to Crayons, an organization that provides children of low-income families with daily essentials.  That email hadn’t sat in my inbox for more than 2 minutes before I sent back my reply, “Yes, I would like to volunteer” (but on the inside I was screaming YES YES YES! Please choose me!). Thankfully, my supervisor approved and I was chosen to be one of the 25 employees to participate.

Last Wednesday, we drove down to South Philly and met at Philabundance’s main warehouse where we helped sort and box up non-food items, like paper towels, shampoos and other personal care items. After lunch, we were asked to sort through boxes of frozen raw meat and package them up by type. Just knowing that these items that we were sorting and packaging would help make someone else’s life better, made me smile. The day flew by and I thoroughly enjoyed the full 8 hours we were there. It was nice to feel accomplished after a hard day’s work.

After that day, it solidified my notion that I want to do something in a nonprofit organization all the time. That if I could find a job where I am actively doing good and helping others, then I’ve lived a good life. It may not be right now, but one day, I believe I’ll reach my goal to work in a nonprofit and to help others in need.