Every Runner Has A Story

Back in freshmen year of high school, I decided it'd be a great idea to join the cross country team at my school. I wanted to be different from my sisters/friends, and for some reason (I'll never know), I felt that running 2 1/2 mile races and training my butt off everyday after school would be a good way to do that...

God is funny, though. He has a way of revealing passions to us that we never really knew existed. I truly believe joining that team was the best decision I ever made for myself and my health... Even though the immediate effect of it wasn't ideal.

You can read my full story here, but long story short, halfway through that season, I began to have heat strokes during/after my races. Following those fainting spells and trips to the ER for severe dehydration, I'd spend days/WEEKS in bed praying for the migraines to go away. I was absolutely miserable, popping Advil every hour possible, and no one could tell us what was wrong.

I ended my season early and basically stopped all physical activity at that point. My symptoms began to pile on... My joints were always very hot and red, I was awfully nauseous, and I'd get terrible back and side pain at night. Low-grade fevers would pass by morning and certain pain would disappear by numbing areas with ice packs. I started skipping a lot of school because of pain. Still, no one could help me.

Finally, after blood tests, MRI's, CT scans, and x-rays, I was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis. My doctor immediately put limitations on my physical activity and recommended only walking and swimming as exercise. I was crushed that something I was so passionate about had been taken from me by a disease that was controlling every area of my life.

Fast forward two years and MANY trial-and-errors with medications later, (which would bring us to February '13) I decided to stop letting my doctor's and arthritis define me. I realized that only I know my body well enough to limit it and with that, I started to run again!

I started by running 1 mile. I started out at a slow pace because I knew I'd need to ease into things, but eventually, I was running about an 8 minute mile!

Only a few weeks later, I was running TWO miles at a time. I was comfortable and oh-so proud of how much I was growing. I was "satisfied" with and proud of that, but my ultimate goal has always been to run 5 miles. That's when I decided to slow things down and see just how far I could go...

One of my biggest milestones was reaching 3 miles. At that point in my journey, I really started to believe that giving up is not an option... That I am in control of my body... And that I am capable of so much more than I could ever imagine.

A few weeks later, I had a rough day at school and decided to take it out at the gym. I rocked 4 miles that night and could not believe it. That night, I seriously laid down thinking... HOW?! WHO AM I?!

Finally, just about two weeks ago, I Ran 5 Miles & Lived To Tell About It. I've reached a goal that I set less than 6 months ago, I feel healthier and stronger than ever, and my smile is just a tad bit more genuine because of how thankful I am to have earned this passion of mine back.

I'm grateful for the journey that's brought me to this point... I'm thankful for all it's taught me, and I'm so stinkin' glad that I can use my story to inspire, motivate, and encourage. I'm grateful that I CAN run - it's a privilege, it's a passion, and it's something that makes me who I am.


The Reason Behind The Smile

My friend Sarah commented on the post I wrote yesterday and said: "You are always kind. And smiling. I can just tell you wake up with a smile on your face and go to bed with a smile on your face. That is exactly who I want to be associated with!"

The first thing I did was bust into a smile. Go figure. The second thing I did was smile even bigger. Go figure. Even when I went to bed last night, I was still smiling about that meaningful little comment that turned my whole day around.

Eventually, the infamous late-night thoughts flipped on and I started to ask myself WHY I smile so much and why that comment holds so much truth when it comes to describing me... I feel like the answer should be more complex, but it's really not.

I smile because I'm happy.

I'm happy because I choose to be.

Many of you know of the struggles I've faced with my health and the battle that I fight everyday. While it has taken an emotional toll on me the past 4 years, it has also revealed to me some of life's greatest blessings.

No matter what decisions I've made about doctor's, medications, or treatments throughout my journey - the decision I made to be happy truly holds the most significance in my book.

My goal is to always share what's on my heart, and today, all I have to share is that.

Happiness doesn't come from having the best circumstances. It doesn't come from popularity. It doesn't come from the approval of others. It doesn't come from possessions. It doesn't come from perfection.

It comes from gratefulness. It comes from being 100% confident in the person that you are. It comes from pursuing your passions. It comes from accepting grace. It comes from making the decision to smile even when it's not easy.

Smiling may not fix all the struggles I face and it may not promise that things will automatically get better, but it sure does give me bright hope for tomorrow and makes "those" days a bit more bearable. 


Kill Them With Kindness

This post is sponsored by Nestle Pure Life, however all thoughts, views, and opinions expressed are entirely my own. 

"Kill them with kindness," she said. Over and over and over again.

My mom is one of those people that everyone loves to love. I'm not even being bias here... It's the honest truth. She funny, she's helpful, she's hard working, she's organized, she's generous. Sigh. The list goes on. You can't help but get frustrated with her at times because she's just so nice. She genuinely cares about everyone that crosses her path and wants to leave each and every person with a smile...

Obviously, growing up, the drama between me and my sisters/friends appeared to be never ending. Pretty typical for the tween years, I'd say. I wouldn't even be able to begin counting the number of times I went home crying to my mom about something someone had said to me, the way they looked at me, etc. Same garbage, different day in all reality.

While the situations changed, my groups of friends changed, my personality changed... One thing never did. 

"Kill them with kindness," she said. Over and over and over again.

I didn't understand that advice at all when I was younger, but now that I've grown up, I hold onto it pretty tightly. My sisters have even commented on how good I've gotten at actually doing just that.

I feel that there's a bit of a stigma with that old saying. Some say it's only being fake. Some say it's giving people permission to walk all over you. However, I could not disagree with either of those statements any more than I do already. I solely believe that there is not enough kindness in this world. There aren't enough people who set the bar high for treating people with respect, class, and dignity no matter what the circumstance. There aren't enough people willing to sacrifice their own selfish ways in order to resolve conflict. The world we live in is very me, me, ME. We need to stop underestimating our ability to treat every person that we meet or know with absolute kindness.

If we don't agree with someone's opinions or actions? We can still respect. We can still be kind.
If we don't understand why someone does something? We can still respect. We can still be kind.
If someone hurts us and doesn't apologize or make up for it the way we think they should? We can still respect. We can still be kind.

One of my most favorite quotes comes from an amazing speaker and author named Rick Warren. He says:

"Our culture has accepted two huge lies: The first is that if you disagree with someone's lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means that you must agree with everything they believe in or do. Both are complete nonsense. You don't have to compromise convictions in order to be compassionate."

I really don't know that there's any better way to put it. I am so thankful that my mother instilled gentle kindness in me. It has made a tremendous impact on who I have become and I couldn't be more proud of that. I believe it's one of the main reasons I have such a passion for working with young children and the mentally disabled. It's taught me compassion, patience, and grace. It's taught me not only to love, but also to serve. It's taught me that no matter what I'm going through, there is always kindness - whether it be in the form of a hug, smile, or simple compliment - and lovely little kindness needs to be passed a long.

This post is sponsored by Nestle Pure Life, however all thoughts, views, and opinions expressed are entirely my own. 


A Published Writer

After I got home from a day full of nanny duties yesterday, I was sorting through the papers on the counter when I saw a yellow envelope addressed to myself from Quite Magazine. I tore into it right away because I knew it was the first official print issue I'd been waiting to receive. Sure enough, it was!

I started paging through it, reading and admiring the colorful images. I had a smile plastered on my face and SO much joy in my heart for my sweet friend Morgan{founder + editor of QUITE.} That's when I stumbled across a page with my picture on it. My very own testimony in that itty bitty typewriter font. My blog URL beneath the image.

Tears literally filled my eyes as the words, "SAY WHAT?!" ran through my mind. It was so surreal to see my story in PRINT... In a Christ-centered magazine for women seeking encouragement in their lives... Doing EXACTLY what God had intended it to do all along...

Inspire. Motivate. Encourage. Affect. Touch. Reassure. Excite. Energize. Liven. Support. Influence. BLESS.

I remembered the e-mail I'd received from Morgan in November of 2012 asking me to send her a shortened version of my testimony + what God has done in my life. I remembered the night I wrote that article with tear-filled eyes and a grateful heart...

Immediately, I found myself praying over the tiny little print. Asking God to use it in even just ONE life. Asking Him to make sure it blessed someone. Anyone. I prayed "the scary prayer." God, have Your will in my life. Use me.

Even though I wrote out that story... Even though I've lived it... I reread it over and over again a bazillion times yesterday. Every time, the gratefulness in my heart multiplied by the thousands.

I'm not prideful of my story. I'm not proud of some of the choices I made while walking through some of those daunting valleys. To be completely honest, there are days I wish it all away. The pain, my diagnosis... Even some of the blessings God has so graciously given me. There are days I just wish life {and my situation in particular} was easy.

Looking back, though, I'm completely, entirely, and wholeheartedly grateful that God doesn't promise easy. He doesn't promise that we'll make it through tear-free... Pain-free... Temptation-free. He only promises that He'll never leave our side.

There is something so beautiful and secure about that promise. I just want to soak that truth up today and everyday.

I could not be more grateful for His love... The love that has seen me through, brought me here, and made me into who I am... He is good. So good.

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Real Weekend Fashion

Let's just be real here... I mean, Saturday's? Saturday's are lazy days. No questions asked. Comfy clothes are necessary, doing my hair isn't listed anywhere on the agenda, and something about running around barefoot is an absolute must.

I'm working til 1 today, then I'm off to Old Navy to snatch some last minute jewelry for my senior pictures! I'm looking forward to embracing the second day hair with yet another headband, spending one-on-one time with the clients I work with, and getting a chance to catch up with my family later!

That's why this day calls for REAL Weekend Fashion complete with a brand new headband from the ever adorable Regan. I fell in love with her shop ReganEdesigns in a heartbeat - her headbands are well made, easy to wear, and comfortable. Plus, we all know I'm all about the second day hair and I'm always looking for ways to cover it up. ;)

Headband // ReganEdesigns
Top // Old Navy
Bracelet // Molly Suzannes
Jeans // Kohl's

Glad I found yet another saving grace to add to my collection of accessories that are easy to wear when I'm lazy, lazy, lazy. Just keepin' it real here. ;)

Rock the second day hair and kick off your shoes, peeps. Happy weekend!


Crying About The MN Weather + Beach Essentials Giveaway

I.AM.SO.SICK.OF.MINNESOTA.WEATHER. Newsflash, bud. It's JUNE. In June, Kenzie doesn't have school and would like sit outside in her swimsuit with a kiddy cocktail. All day.

This Saturday, I'm supposed to have my senior pictures too. Naturally, though, it's supposed to rain... Lovely. And since you want to be sunkissed tan for those bad boys, I'm more than likely going to need to get a spray tan tomorrow. Shooooooooooooot.

Since I'm a cranky Kenzie about this darn weather, I'm glad this amazing beach essentials giveaway is going live today! Myself, Hallie, Samantha & two other gorgeous ladies have brought you the chance to be the most stylish and fashionable lady of the sand with our BEACH ESSENTIALS giveaway!

Beach Essentials Prize Pack:
- Customized Monogram Beach Towel {Courtesy of Candice & The Pink Sand Dollar}
- 2 colors of your choice from Essie's Summer Collection
- Sunglasses of your choice from Target
- Tervis Tumbler of your choice (Valued up to $25.00)
- O'Neil Aztec Beach Tote

While one of you ladies wins this awesome bundle, I'll be dreaming of relaxing, soaking up the sun, and of course, spending the day at the beach! {Even though Minnesota is being a brat right now...}

The sun goddess that takes this bundle also gets to design all customizable items to her choosing! All you need to do is enter via the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck, pretties!

Giveaway run through Wednesday, June 19th at 11:59 PM EST.  A winner will be announced via email after all entries have been verified.  Giveaway is open to US residents only


I Ran 5 Miles & Lived To Tell About It

Sometimes, I get these crazy ideas in my head. I'm tellin' ya, crazy. Last night at work, my oh-so-wonderful idea was that when I got off at 8, I was going to go run 5 miles. WHAT?

I went home, changed into my gym clothes, kidnapped my best friend Amy to come along, and we were off. We had some well needed girl talk on the way there which helped keep me distracted from what I was about to do. HA!

Got to the gym, pranced in the doors, and hopped on that treadmill right away. My biggest fear was that the gym would close before I had the chance to finish. {FYI: Our gym closes at midnight. I was obviously overthinking it + underestimating my ability to actually do it. Haha!}

Mile 1 one was alright... The hardest part of my runs always seems to be finding my pace and getting in the groove. Once I get past that, it's all good.

Mile 2 was okay... I had figured out my pace by this point, but my sides started cramping pretty early. I just kept pushing through because I knew it'd go away but it was seriously hard! I just kept telling myself to keep moving.

Mile 3 was AMAZING! The cramps went away and I was feeling great! I think I just needed to hit my halfway mark to stay motivated!

Mile 4 was up and down. One second I didn't think I'd be able to finish, the next I was jacking up my speed on the treadmill a bit. The last half mile was fantastic!

And just like that... I RAN 5 FREAKING MILES.

This is a huge milestone in my running journey because immediately after being diagnosed with juvenile arthritis in 2011, my doctor's said no.more.running. I took nearly 2 years off, but now that my body has adjusted to medication and the initial swelling of onset has gone down - I CAN DO IT!

I went to bed last night covered in ice packs because my knees were already burning... Burning usually foreshadows swelling and I did not want to see that. ;) Haha! I laid down to watch The Lucky One and fell fast asleep before I knew it! The best part? I woke up this morning to no excess pain, swelling, or redness. In other words, Kenzie - 1, Arthritis - 0. 

Reality... Haha!
Today, I plan to run 3 miles at some point and sign up for my first 5K. EEEK! :)


"You Blog?"

Just this year, a lot of people "found out" that I'm a blogger. I blame Facebook and the way it constantly promotes your page's posts... Which only a blogger would love. ;) It never fails, though. Every time someone new "finds out", there's the dreadfully repetitive awkward conversation...

"Soooooooo... You blog?" To which I respond... "Yes! Yes, I do!"

Some people actually care and aren't just curious. Those conversations are actually enlightening because I LOVE sharing the things I love. The people I'm close with tend to think it's pretty rad, but people I don't know very well often give me the dazed bug eyes...

"Sooooooo... What do you write about?" To which I should REALLY respond... "My life, mostly. I also take a lot of selfies and pretend I'm fashionable + fit!" (HA!)

My favorite one has probably been... "Oh my gosh! Kenz! I saw you on Pinterest last night! Cute outfit! Why haven't you ever worn that to school?" Yes. Guilty. Sometimes I DO spend my afternoon throwing on a bunch of different outfits + having my best friend Amy snap pictures just so I have outfit material to work with for the next few weeks... Only a blogger...

I think my parents know I blog, but it's not something we talk about at the dinner table all the time if ya know what I mean. It's just kind of an unspoken subject. They're busy and I'm looking like a fat lard on the couch doing blog stuff CONSTANTLY. Oh, except for when I'm taking pictures of myself at the gym. Only a blogger...

I  had a conversation with my sister this weekend about blogging in general. I explained to her the idea of advertising and how there's actually ways to make money off of blogging. She was completely FLOORED by the idea and now I'm pretty sure she thinks I'm some sort of con artist...

Anyway. Life's crazy. And yes, I blog. Don't mess with me or you'll probably be the subject of my next post. ;) Hope you enjoyed a little blogger humor this morning... I also hope it's beautiful wherever you are!

Do your friends/family know you blog? Have you ever had an awkward conversation with someone who "found out?"


Summer Fitness Goals + Rewards

Last night, I was stalking my bloggy friend Rachel who's currently in the midst of getting FIT and rocking it! I saw a post of hers where she laid out all of her fitness goals and what she's going to reward herself with when she gets there. I fell in LOVE with that idea. What better way is there to map out my fitness goals for the summer?!

Goal: Attend my first three yoga classes with Karin at Return Yoga! I'm actually really excited about this one, I'm just a teeny bit nervous because there's always that point you have to push yourself past before meeting someone new... I plan to have this one accomplished by next Friday, though!
Reward: A new pair of yoga pants straight off the racks of TJ Maxx! (I still like a killer deal!)

Goal: Reach the halfway point of the C25K program. I'm typically a naturally motivated runner. I'm passionate about it, I love to do it... The only problem is that sometimes my pain limits me and I get caught up in the expectations I have for myself. I feel like following a laid out program will be an easier transition!
Reward: It Doesn't Get Easier, You Get Stronger tank from Abundant Heart.

Goal: Register for my first 5K! Eeeeeeek! This will actually require me to find one in my area as well. I'm going to need some encouragement to complete this one. ;)
Reward: Get a new pair of running shoes. I've been eyeing up the yellow Nike Air Pegasus' for awhile. :)

Goal: Run 15 miles in 30 days. I've seen a lot of the #30MilesIn30Days floating around on Instagram, but I know that goal is not reasonable for me right now. I think 15 miles is the perfect place for this girl to start!
Reward: Finally purchase myself a !

Goal: Complete The 300 Challenge. Oh, Lordy. I know this one will be painful. But seriously - it's time to get some ABS up in here!
Reward: Get myself a SkinnyMeg approved sports bra... And I better get started on this one ASAP because a need a proper sports bra BAD, BAD, BAD.

I'm excited to see where I'm sitting next week at this time! This week, my focus is on yoga and getting some miles under my belt. Let's see where that takes me, shall we? :)

Now: to hit the gym today and keep working on these abs! I'm retaking my ACT tomorrow morning - somebody pray I don't lose my mind during those 4, seemingly endless hours. I'm gonna need some serious yoga to unwind me after THAT.



We're Moving

A lot of you don't know that I'm 17 years old. I live with my parents, two sisters, and brother. We have a nice house in the country with about 10 acres of land. We have a dog, I have a horse. {Yes, I can say I because I pay all of his food + vet bills.} 

I mean, it's not like you would have any way of knowing that I'm 17 + it's not exactly necessary... But I'm just sayin' - for future reference - YES, I'm a teenager. ;)

Anyway, A few months ago, the "moving talk" started in our house. Currently, we live about an hour from where my dad works and my mom commutes about 15 minutes to where she does. My younger sister, younger brother, and I commute about 15 minutes to our elementary/high school. My older sister attends college about 15 minutes in the opposite direction. We live in the middle of a lot of stuff in our area, and it's really pretty nice. To sum it up, I love it here and I've grown up here my entire life.

The attachment I have to our home is unlike anyone else's in my family. I believe that because our house burned down on my 10th birthday. We temporarily moved in with an aunt and uncle of ours, then into a 2 bedroom town home, and finally into our rebuilt and slightly renovated home on the same property it burned on. This property has always been the place I've called home.

When my parents first started the "moving talk," (the idea of my dad being closer to work, us being closer to school, downsizing a bit, etc.) I was ticked to say the least. I felt betrayed. Hurt. Scared. I didn't want to leave this place again knowing that it wasn't my decision and wasn't in the means of my control. In fact, I didn't want to leave it at all. This is the familiar. This is home.

Sure, we'll still be attending the same school. I'll still have all my friends. We'll still get to keep all of our furniture. Everything WILL be okay... It's just hard to move forward from something that you don't want to leave behind.

It took me a couple of weeks, many bad attitudes, and a few heart-to-heart's with my parents before I'm finally okay dealing with the idea of this whole thing. Let me just say, it's been a miserable few weeks... I've been up, down, and all around in terms of my mood. It's been hard.

The hardest part was coming home the other day and seeing that stupid sign at the end of the driveway. Ya know, the one with the realtor's face plastered on it. There was just something that made me feel it's all too real now.

I wanted to run away that day. Literally. But hanging out with one of my long time best friend's, Jaycee, really put it all into perspective for me. She and her family recently moved, too, and she gets it. Everything I told her about feeling attached to where we are now? She felt that way. She listened. She gave me advice on how to deal with it. She told me it'll all be okay. Ever since that talk, I HAVE felt that way. I've been okay.

Something about posting this today makes me a feel even more okay. I've been keeping it a real secret and I just want to have it out there so I can start dealing with it. I already know it's going to be a journey, but I also know it's nothing my family won't be able to handle. God has a plan for it.

And hey, if I get my own bedroom out of the deal, I won't argue too much... Ha! ;)