2015 hasn’t been an easy year, to say the least. January started with a lot of strife — a dear college friend committing suicide, health problems with my fur baby, and my best friend/now business partner going through one of the hardest times of her life — all in the first month of the year. It hasn’t gotten easier along the way. Most people only convey on social media what they want the rest of the world to see, but I’m using this post to put the harder, real, “uglier” parts of my life out there. This has been a year of transition, heartache, vulnerability, and ultimately, growth. It’s been hard. It’s been a forcing function to make me grow up a little. It’s been a lot of things.
And by the way, this post will be a novel, so I’m going to dive right into the recipe for Lemon Asparagus Chicken that I’ve been holding out on for a few months (here you go, Alyssa!), then dig into the deeper stuff. If you’re looking for some nighttime reading to put you to sleep later this evening, you’re welcome to read on beyond the recipe. :o)
Baked Lemon Asparagus Chicken
This Lemon Asparagus Chicken is one of the best-sellers out of the fridge at our new gym. Of the two weeks we’ve stocked it, this dish flies off of the shelves quicker than most of the other menu items. It’s a good balance of tart, sweet, and faux-sinful: similar to my Chicken Parmesan recipe, you can bake the chicken tenders instead of frying to save some fat calories. This is a killer lunch recipe, and it holds out well through the week if you make a double-batch for meal prep. I think the flavor actually improves after a day or two in the fridge. (#mealprepwin)
Cook time: 30min marinating, 45 minutes hands-on
Marinade + Meat:
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1/4 cup chicken broth
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp lemon pepper
- 10oz chicken tenders (or chicken breasts cut into strips)
- 1/2 cup egg beaters (or 4 eggs whisked together)
- 1 cup lemon pepper bread crumbs
- 2/3 cup brown rice, cooked
- 2 cups frozen asparagus tips
- 2 tbsp honey
- 2 tbsp lemon pepper
- 1 fresh lemon, halved
- Combine marinade ingredients (except the meat) in a bowl and mix together. Transfer to a Ziploc bag and add your chicken tenders/strips. Place in the fridge and marinate for at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Whisk egg beaters (or eggs) and transfer to a shallow dish
- Pour bread crumbs into another shallow dish
- Take each chicken tender and dunk it in the egg mixture. Transfer it to the bread crumbs and coat, then place it on the lined baking sheet. Continue with all 10oz of meat.
- Bake chicken for 25 minutes
- While chicken is baking, cook the frozen asparagus in a skillet. Add rice, honey, and lemon pepper, stirring to combine. Squeeze your halved lemon over the top and mix well.
- Serve chicken on top of the rice and asparagus mixture.
- Dig in. :o)
Dose(s) of Reality: Life Update
The last time I posted here back in August was to announce the opening of our Gateway Shopping Center location for Plates on Plates Fitness. I was enjoying a birthday vacation with my family in the mountains of Arizona at my favorite place on earth. I can remember sitting on the cabin’s back porch drafting that post while looking through the pine trees onto the golf course, and I think that was the last time that I felt a true sense of peace. (That scene is also the background on my phone, coincidentally.) Since then, life has been a whirlwind of both wonderful and painful situations all mixed together. My world in the last 3-4 months has consisted of the end of a relationship that I thought was my “forever,” starting a new business, the impending loss of a family member to cancer, and a few other serious curve balls.
I’m not one to whine or complain about whatever situation I’m in because I know that things could always be far worse, but to put it simply, things have been rough. One of the lessons I’ve learned this year is that nothing beats full disclosure and honest communication (the truth shall set you free, right?), so I’m writing this out for myself to come to terms with it all. Writing is one form of therapy for me, along with lifting, prayer, and cooking — it’s just taken me a lot longer to be able to type this out with a clear head than it took to pick up a barbell, talk to God, or bust out the skillet. But, this is life, and putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) always seems to make things more “real.” If you ever have too many thoughts running through your head, writing them out always seems to bring clarity to things.
Taking it back to earlier this year when I was regularly posting (March-April): Kristina and I had just started focusing on a crazy idea called Plates on Plates. We put together a plan and started pouring ourselves into figuring out how to turn our dream into reality. We were completely heads-down focused on building it up and getting it off of the ground from then on. I was (and still am) all in. Seeing it turn into what it is today has been the most exciting endeavor I’ve ever been involved with. But, being so consumed by that one goal, I stopped focusing on anything else. I lost my grip on myself, my relationship, and really anything other than launching the business.
From March to July, my three-year relationship (which was the most important, stable part of my life) fell to pieces. Ryan and I distanced ourselves from one another and lost sight of what we loved about each other. I’m sure he felt like I didn’t care about him because I was overly invested in other things, and I felt like he wasn’t supportive of me chasing my dreams. We weren’t on the same page, and we didn’t take the time to talk about our problems/pick up the pieces before things became unsalvageable. Even back in April, we talked about breaking things off, but came back around and said we’d “try.” In reality, we didn’t ever try to save ourselves. There was never true effort because we were both focusing our efforts elsewhere. Lesson learned: The grass is green wherever you water it. Unfortunately, we didn’t help our “grass” flourish, and it withered. I can’t speak on his behalf, but I know I felt completely alone. There was a lot of resentment and hostility that built up between us over those few months, and I felt like I couldn’t open up to him about my life anymore. Everything that I was doing around the business was with our future together in mind, but a lack of focus on the present (what was right in front of me — him) led to that “future” falling apart. To those of you in relationships that are kind of “meh” right now — take note. Take initiative. Make it better. Cherish what you’ve got, and don’t let a day pass where you don’t tell that person exactly what/how much they mean to you.
In July, I made the biggest mistake of my life. I cheated. I kissed another guy after a few too many tequila shots to see if I could even feel anymore. The wedge that had been driven between Ryan and me made me question whether or not I was completely dead to emotions in general, or if it was just a temporary lack of chemistry between the two of us. So, I tested it by doing the wrong thing. I sacrificed my three-year relationship for a single kiss with someone that I don’t have feelings for. The truth came out, and I didn’t deny any of it. I owned up to my mistakes and started some soul searching about why I’d done what I did. I prayed. Hard. I talked it out with my friends, family, God, and a therapist. I tried to talk it out with him, but that never went over well. He moved out in late July, and we stayed “together” as a labeled couple, but nothing was the same. I’d broken his trust, and even though I apologized and told him I’d do anything to work on us, it didn’t matter. Forgiveness, no matter how many times I’d asked for it, wasn’t an option on the table.
Fast-forward to my birthday vacation in August: most of my favorite memories involve Pinetop, all the way from my early childhood to my last trip two years ago with Ryan. Earlier in our relationship, we had the best week enjoying perfect weather, golf, four-wheeling, and time with family at that place. He was supposed to join me on the birthday vacation this year, but that didn’t happen. Instead, he stayed in Austin, and on the first night that I was gone, he started spending time with another girl (who I thought was a halfway-friend of mine — turns out that was wrong). I always felt a weird tension from her towards us, even a year or two ago. Turns out that female intuition is a really powerful, accurate thing. That “tension” was rooted in the fact that she had feelings for Ryan.
Before I left for vacation, we’d talked about moving back in together in September because we missed each other, and we agreed to “actually” work on things with conscious effort. My last post was written with hope: hope for the business, hope for the future, and hope for our relationship to come back even better than before. I came home to a different reality. Ryan picked me up from the airport, and that night, he told me that he needed time to “think.” Since then, he’s been with someone else, and I think I’m finally coming to terms with that. We formally called things off in mid-September.
It’s been difficult to swallow the fact that the person that was always by my side, encouraging me while I “found” myself, growing out of the food and alcohol binges of my college years and into a healthy adulthood, is gone. Part of me slipped back into those exact binges in August/September, but I realized that I was making matters worse for myself and bounced back. Acknowledging the fact that the person who held my hand through the last three years, whom I’d envisioned a life-long partnership with, isn’t there anymore has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I think the most gut-wrenching part has been living out these dreams without him around to experience all of this with. It hasn’t felt complete. But, I’m living through it, and I feel like I’m coming back stronger than I was at the beginning of this year.
I’d be lying if I said my heart was healed and I was over it. That will take time. But, things get a little better each day. Fortunately, I have a full life ahead of me. I have time, and that simple fact has gained more meaning to me in the last two months than I could have ever imagined.
In early-/mid-September at almost the exact same time that Ryan and I called it quits, an extended family member (my sister-in-law’s dad) was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Two weeks ago, he suffered a significant stroke and hasn’t recovered. He’s been unconscious, had a second stroke, and is now in hospice. After a quick but fierce battle with this ugly beast, we don’t think he’s going to make it out of it. The kicker? He’s only 55 years old, and is one of the sweetest souls I have ever met. Cancer doesn’t discriminate. Life is fragile.
Seeing my brother and his wife go through these last couple of months has been another rough pill to swallow, but I’ve picked up on a core value as a result: family trumps all, and each moment that you get to spend with them should be treasured. Seeing my parents step up to help take care of my brother’s one-year-old baby and feeling the support across our little army through this whole situation has given me a new appreciation for the people that I am privileged enough to call “family.” They were there for me when things got rough a couple of months ago, and now we’re banding together again. Life isn’t fair, nor is it easy, but when you have solid support to fall back on when you need it and faith that everything will pan out as it should, the struggles become an opportunity for growth.
Four straight months of stress, hardships, and more heartache than I’ve ever experienced have changed the way that I think, all the way down to the words that I use as I type this out. I’m choosing to let go of the “worry” and “fear” that I’ve held onto for the last few months. I’m making the decision to focus on the positive, which is ABUNDANT in my life, and trust that God has a plan that is far bigger than what I can see right now.
I’m focusing on what I can control while letting go of what I can’t change, and pouring as much “good” as I can into the things that I spend my time doing: coaching the morning boot camps at Plates on Plates, working my full-time corporate job, cooking on the weekends, spending time with my family/friends, working out, and going to church. Instead of telling myself that I “have” to wake up at 4:30 every morning and don’t stop working until 6:30 each night, I tell myself that I get to wake up every morning and help start a class-full of peoples’ days on a healthy, upbeat, energetic, and positive note. I get to make an impact. I have an opportunity to help others be the best versions of themselves. I’m privileged enough to have a stable career and a brand new business at 26 years old. I have the world at my feet and a life to be proud of.
This year hasn’t been easy, and I don’t expect next year (or any year, for that matter) to be a breeze. Life will have its challenges, and that’s all okay. It’s what makes us stronger; what molds us into the resilient people that we are. God gives us what he knows we can handle, and when we think we can’t handle it, he sends us what we need to get through it in the form of family, friends, and scripture. If you flip your perspective to valuing what you have in life and focusing on what you can control instead of worrying about what you don’t have/can’t change, everything shifts.
Replace “worry” with “focus” and “try” with “do” for the rest of this week. See what happens to your outlook.