Saturday, January 29, 2011

Run With The Nuns

The name itself was enough to get me to sign up!

This morning, I ran my 2nd 5K. It was at beautiful War Memorial Park in Bay Pines, which is about 20 minutes away from my apartment in St. Petersburg.

Such a beautiful setting for a run. Roughly 2 miles of it was paved, while a section went through a trail through the woods. As the name indicates, the park was made to honor war veterans, so flags, plaques, and other things were there dedicated to former soldiers.

The run itself was fairly solid. I felt great for a mile, but when I heard my time at mile 1, I knew I had come out too strong. By mile 2 I was just about done. I had to take 2 quick walk breaks at about 2.2-2.3 and 2.7-2.8. But by the end, I was able to push it and had a strong finish.

Time : 32:12

I think it's a good thing that I'm slightly disappointed with this. It will continue to motivate me to keep going. The time is somewhat decent, but the fact I had to stop running a couple times is a little frustrating. Now I'm thinking I shouldn't have taken that month off after the last race and over the holidays. Oh well - at least that won't happen this time around - my friend found a recreational running club in Tampa that I will be starting with, and my next race is Feb. 19th, so I can't really afford to take a long break after this one. Plus, with intramural basketball, volleyball, and badminton, I should be staying pretty active.

The coolest part about the race is the NUN! There is a woman dressed in a nun outfit that rides around on a bike cheering people on. And not just cheering. Singing! The first time we crossed paths, she was belting out "You Raise Me Up!" She made the experience amazing! It was fun talking to her for a few minutes after the race.

My last thought is about how close the running community is. I realized it as I was watching the little award ceremony at the end, but the majority of the people that ran stayed about an hour after the finish to cheer on those that did exceptionally well. There were so many conversations happening. I talked to a couple people and we exchanged brief recollections of our race. Everyone celebrated each other's PR's. It was so refreshing! Even as someone who is new to running in races, I instantly felt connected to all these other people. From the old man who said he trained half of the people that won their age groups even though he had no idea who they were. To the 10 year old kid that beat my time by 8 minutes. To the 70ish old lady that kept pace with me for most of the race. To the hot girl that I passed toward the end. To the badass tattooed guy that finished top 3 overall.

Such a close-knit and inspirational community that I am glad to now say I am a part of.

Such an inspiring group - this old man was top 3 for 70-74. The tattooed man first place overall. Woman in the pink with the visor's 2 kids won top 3 for their age group. Man in yellow's 2 kids were 2nd & 3rd in 10 & under. Surrounded by awesomeness.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Half A World Away

I got some exciting news over the past week!

In January 2009, I went to Uganda to help build a school through UWRF and it's involvement with Building Tomorrow. Through the experience, I met some amazing people!

We spent 2 weeks digging, moving bricks, hoeing, wheelbarrowing, doing some pretty intense and dirty work in the hot African sun. It seemed like this little building that was sprouting out of the ground was going nowhere...

Then, after completion in August 2010, the doors were set to open. And over the weekend, pictures were posted of the finished building.

Building Tomorrow Academy of Gita
supported by the University of Virginia

For the past several years, we did fundraisers at UWRF. We tried everything. Everything from reaching out to the high school to benefit concerts with Shawn Mullins to pancake breakfasts to biking the distance to Uganda to carnivals to selling Amy's amazing book purses. Everything.

Finally, we raised enough funds (along with the city of Indianapolis) to support a school. As of January 16, that school is now OPEN! Here are some pictures from the grand opening, which even featured the Vice President of Uganda.

Building Tomorrow Academy of Jomba
Supported by the University of Wisconsin - River Falls and the city of Indianapolis

"Thank you the City of Indianapolis and the University of Wisconsin-River Falls"

This feeling is unbelievable.

I find it so hard to imagine that after all these years, this process is complete.

The money. The events. The meetings. The ideas. The phone calls. All of our work from thousands of miles away.

The dirt we dug helped lay the floor that the kids will learn on.
The bricks we carried are now the walls of a school that they never had before.

My sweat. My soreness. My blisters. My blood (I'm accident prone). My heart and soul are in those buildings.

I am so proud of all the people that were involved, everyone that supported our efforts, and for all of us that were able to travel to Uganda (or attempted to) during UWRF's trips there.

Everything has made a world of difference, and for that I say

(thank you)

Our work is done.

But for these kids, the impact will last a lifetime.

To donate to Building Tomorrow,
please visit the website

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Today, I went to the grand opening of the new Salvador Dali museum.

Salvador Dali is my favorite artist. Most known for his surrealist style and being a complete weirdo, he has been one of the most influential artists of the past century.

So, when I moved to St. Petersburg and found out that they had a museum with the largest collection of his work outside of Spain, I instantly fell in love with it. Better yet, it was on the USF-St. Petersburg campus where I work.

For the past year and a half, I have been waiting for January 11, 2011 - when the museum would be moving down the road to a new location. I watched the building being constructed. I waited. And waited.

Today, it finally came.

The day's events started with a parade. It marched right by my building, so I was able to join in the march to the museum. Everyone in the parade had some of the craziest costumes you will ever see - all in Dali's surreal style.

We walked to the new location, where they did all of the ceremonial ribbon cutting and all the boring stuff. So I went back to work, but I got a wristband that would let me into the museum later in the day.

A few hours later, I returned.

I was lucky enough to be one of the people let into the collection on the day the museum opened.

By this point, I'm sure you're thinking... wow Jeff, you're such a nerd.
Don't judge me!

The inside of the building is amazing. Aside from all of the chaos of the other people inside, it was amazing! The staircase and the windows are the coolest parts. The gallery space is large enough to hold many of his paintings, as well as a lot of sketches that he has done. It also featured a local middle & high school surrealist project. And although I've seen it several times and heard the stories, I still got chills when the docent was explaining my favorite painting there, The Hallucinogenic Toreador (upper right painting- in real life, it's about 20 feet tall, and everything that Dali has hidden and the meaning behind what he included will make your jaw drop.)

Ok, so I scored major nerd points today, but it was so cool!

"There is only one difference between a madman and me. The madman thinks he is sane. I know I am mad."
"Each morning when I awake, I experience again a supreme pleasure - that of being Salvador Dali."
"I don't do drugs. I am drugs."
-Salvador Dali

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Less is More

As I begin my last semester of grad school, I realize that there's a few things that I hope for. Accomplishing certain things will simply come down to how I spend my time.

Here's what I want:

Less time sitting on my couch in my apartment.
More time for running, gym, volleyball, badminton, kayaking, etc.
Less time alone.
More time with friends.
Less time worrying about the future.
More time focusing on the present.
Less time on facebook.
More time reading and writing.
Less time settling for routine.
More time making each moment special.

Finding a balance to life...

Essentially, it's less time for ordinary. More time for extraordinary.

More moments like this.
(1/7 - first day back in FL)

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Moment

This is something I've heard a few times over the past few years:

"You should start a blog."

"Why? I don't have a baby..."
"(Insert some other smartass comment here)"

"I want to know what you're up to"
"You do some cool stuff. People would love to see it"

"I'm not that interesting"
"Nobody would read it."

Ever since I started this, I have been apprehensive. Who would read this? Does anything I do really matter?

Last night, I had one of those moments that helped provide some clarity.

Rewind to Dec. 10th when this message came to me online from one of my friends:

i dont have a lot of time to talk, or to explain it, but i want you to know that you´ve helped me a lot in the last week. (even though you probably didnt even notice) i love you and am glad that after over 10 years that we are still friends.

This message came from one of the best friends I have ever had. I've known her since middle school, and she's always been such a big part of my life. Unfortunately, I don't get to see her very much because she moved away. Then I moved away. So every year or two, we usually get to see each other.

Twice, while home on break, I saw her.

And I asked her about it.

She just spent the past few month in Peru having the most amazing experiences you can imagine. But as she was getting closer to coming back, things were a little off. A recent breakup, readjusting to what life would be back home, going back to school full time, minor apartment dilemma... things were a little out of whack. She told me that reading my blog was the perfect thing for her. There were so many doubts, so many questions, and as she read, it struck something in her. It reminded her that she is not stuck in any situation- there is so much out there. It reminded her to never settle and to always keep looking for amazing opportunities. She told me she was proud of me for all of the things that I have accomplished. She told me that it inspired her to stay motivated so she can accomplish the things she wants in her life.

(Side note- I am horrible at receiving compliments, recognition, praise, etc. so although this was one of the most beautiful moments I've ever shared with a friend, it was torture!)

I was in shock.

I told her (and I've told her before) that she is one of the most amazing people I have ever met, and that her ability to move away, start over, her sense of adventure, and her love for living life is one of the things that has always inspired me.

A truly touching moment between two people who make each other jealous because of all the amazing experience and opportunities we've had.

I had no idea that me writing down random things could have any impact, but I'm glad it did.

That conversation inspired and motivated me even more.

So this is my promise. For me, for her, for everyone that stumbles across my site. I will continue to look for experiences and opportunities that will help me grow. I will keep challenging myself to accomplish my dreams, reach my goals, and live MY life. I will not stop living life to the fullest. I will make the most of this thing called life.

More importantly, I hope you'll promise to do the same.

And to my friend that I shared this moment with:
You should start a blog, and I love you

Sunday, January 2, 2011

11 for '11

I feel like most people use this time of year to make goals that may or may not last.

I feel like the best method for follow-through is to just throw it all out there. Take risks. Share with people.

They say that your chances of accomplishing goals becomes exponentially greater if you write them down. Even more so if you some tell people. Even more so if you tell LOTS of people.

So with this (not that lots of people will read this), here are 11 goals that I hope to accomplish in 2011.

1. Accomplish (as much as I can of) the Florida List
2. Earn another 4.0 spring semester
3. Become a Master (graduate from grad school)
6. Run a race every month (mostly 5K, some 5K w/ obstacles, & hopefully a 10K+)
7. More running goals- Run 211 miles, run for 10 miles, sub-7:00 mile
8. Complete P90X (I was 0/4 in 2010)
9. Lose 50+ lbs.
10. Visit 5 new states/countries
11. Smile and laugh. A lot.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Whole bunch of 1's


New year. New hopes. New ambitions. New opportunities.


As every year passes, I spend a lot of time reflecting on how the previous year went. I also reminisce about the moments that made the year special. Because no matter what, even when bad things happen, there are so many positive moments that make life special.

I wanted to share my favorite moments of the past year. Keeping in mind that there infinite moments that I have enjoyed, some I have forgotten, many that I could have done without, but all making a piece of this thing called life.

My Top 10 of '10:

10 (tie). Jingle Bell Run - It's not very often that personal accomplishments make me proud, but this one does. My first 5K. My first race. Decent time too! To me, this is great not only for the race, but also for what the future will hold if I keep this up.

10 (tie). CSA Open House - It was so amazing being a part of Open House for our grad program, and being a resource for many that were looking at USF for grad school. I met so many great people, and it has been wonderful getting to know the ones that ultimately chose USF even better as this year has progressed.

9. Elton John Concert - This concert might have been my favorite of all time. It was that good. For an old(er) man, he can still rock it! Such a fun night with great friends.

8. Crystal River Excursion - Spent a weekend camping and learning about environmental impact in rivers and how it affects wildlife, including the manatees. I am so proud of my friend Colleen for organizing such a great weekend!

7. James' Wedding - One of the late 2010 moments was one of the best. A weekend filled with love and laughter. Can't beat that!

6. Swimming with manatees - My friend Amma and I found a place where you can snorkel with manatees. Turns out they're even bigger than me. So incredible to get up close to the gentle giants.

5. MN Trip - Took a couple grad school friends to Minnesota to show them home. Saw so many great MN friends. Got to play tour guide and do lots of fun touristy things in my own backyard.

4. Alternative Spring Break- Spent spring break in Cumberland Island, Georgia helping with the restoration of some of their historical preservation efforts. One of the most unique places I have ever been, with crazy wildlife, wilderness, and rooted in American history. Such a great group, and I learned a lot about myself as a leader through the process. I love team LEAD!

3. Space Shuttle Launch - I have ALWAYS wanted to see a space shuttle launch. The experience was unforgettable- from a 2AM road trip across the state, to embarrassing moments, to the deafening power of the shuttle taking off. A truly once in a lifetime moment.

2. Happiest Place on Earth - I go to Disney way too much. Since last December, I have spent 16 days there. So many people ask if it gets old. The answer is a definite NO. Every trip has something new. New people. New rides. New celebrations. Something unique and memorable happens every time. Some of the favorites include ESPN the weekend, HAB Disney Day, Brandon's visit and seeing Team Eschenbauch, and my parents coming to visit. Calling out Chad Ochocinco, a random lady "adopting" Amma, Angela's child-like wonder, dominating Justin at Buzz Lightyear, learning from Vince & Julia, teaching Peter Pan how to fly, Alice calling us out for being lost, JJ's excitement for Fantasmic, Laura passing out, Eargate scandal, getting fairy dusted by Tinkerbell, a Whoopi sighting, and finding random things to celebrate... it's pretty much my second home in Florida.

1. New England Summer - This was one of the best summers of my life. I spent my summer doing an internship with the Orientation program at Roger Williams University in Bristol, RI. First off, this was probably the most incredible group of students I have ever seen. almost 50 people making up the most dysfunctional yet closest family and sharing so many memories with each other. I will remember them forever! Also, the entire summer was filled with unforgettable moments and so many once-in-a-lifetimes. Best roommate ever, aquarium trip, Newport mansions, several boston trips, Jenna & Doug's engagement, Sox game at Fenway, 4th of July in Boston & Bristol, being in the longest-running 4th of July parade in the country, beach day in Maine, NYC with Rose, parents coming to visit Boston, and an epic road trip back to FL. One of the best summers of my life!

Thank you to everyone who shared these moments with me, as well as all of the others that made 2010 a great year.

I am looking forward to the many adventures to come in 2011.

I hope you'll share them with me.