The Boy Is Back

Stephen spent the last month in the field. From what I can tell, it was a lot of dirt in the face, driving around, hurry up and waiting, and being semi-miserable. He had a particularly rough go around with a cut hand and a bad case of what we think was pink eye. Ah, the life of a soldier.

bandits

Stephen was actually home for 2 days in the middle-ish, but the timing wasn’t great. (He got home the day before I left for Dallas.) I was pretty p.o.’ed at first. However, these days I’m choosing not to live life on the Army’s timeline. I’ve got goals and dreams and plans (like for my fall marathon!). If I wait for the Army stars to align, I’ll spend my whole life waiting.

This field problem was especially tough for me. I feel like a total tool saying that as most of my free time was spent watching Netflix and falling asleep on the couch with chip crumbs on my PJ’s. I mean tough emotionally. I never found a sweet spot. I never got in a groove. Instead, every day felt long. The way that I missed Stephen was sharp. My hypothesis is that when he’s gone for a long time, it’s easier for me to accept. Often times I’m eager to find that new normal. But for this? A month? No need to start a whole new routine. Trouble is, the old routine doesn’t work without him.

I’m at this weird cross roads of feeling a bit like I’ve outsmarted the Army (haha! You can’t stop me from making plans!) and like I know that the Army is the real boss (my emotions are at their mercy).

It was a lonely month of waiting. I’m really happy to have him back. Stinky, crusty, goopy though he may be, he’s mine.

Longish

I was up bright and early Saturday morning. It wasn’t to run, though. Shocker, I know. I actually had to go to the district UIL competition because I’m the coach of the school dictionary skills team. It made for a long morning, but my job was pretty easy, just lots of waiting. When I got home around noon, I was as pooped as if I had been the one competing! After lunch and a nap, I woke up not wanting to do anything. Stephen, however, gave me a pep talk, and I ended up going for an evening run.

I laced up my sneaks at 6:00 pm. It was breezy and everything was drenched in golden sunlight. As per a suggestion I saw on Emily‘s blog, I changed up my usual route by running it in reverse. My goal was to go as slow as possible in an effort to get time on my feet.

About 4 miles in, I fell into long run zen mode. I was staring out into the sun and my favorite quote from Perks of Being a Wallflower popped in my head:

perks1

Everything felt easy. My legs were moving without effort. My breath was calm. My mind was clear. I felt like I could have kept going indefinitely. It’s like when you get on that moving walkway at the airport. You can standstill while traveling down the hallway, watching everything you pass. Easy. This is why I love running. <3

I ended up going 7.33 miles. Not the farthest of runs, but that’s a long run for me these days. I’m trying to maintain a strong base without getting inured or burned out before marathon training kicks in. (The madness starts in June! Ack!) The idea of going on some very, very long runs (in the heat!) is daunting, but after a run like this one, I’m feeling a lot better about it. Endurance running is my favorite. It’s more enjoyable than speed work and racing and shorty runs. It’s my happy place.

crosswalk

The only picture I took on my run. I had more than a mile left, and I wished the run was longer. I love the sunshine and the shadows stretching out. 7.33 and thirsty for more!

Things That Bug Me (And Things That Don’t)

Today was a big day for the 8th graders I was working with. (Testing Day!) They were all eager to jump right into the test, but testing for the test administrator (aka me!) is rrrrrough. It means 4 hours of actively monitoring, walking, watching. No rest! No reading! No stimulation of any kind! I’d much rather be the test giver than the test taker, but still. It sucks. And that 4 hours of swirling around the room in circles gave me plenty of time to think about what I wanted to say on my bloggy today. And it’s mostly complaints. To sweeten things up, I’m alternating each gripe with something good. (or, more accurately, less bad.) Hey, y’all know what you singed up for when you decided to read my blog.

Something that bugs me: Adults who lack media literacy. I know the internet is a confusing place, but if you know how to share stuff on Facebook you obviously spend enough time online to know that not everything you read there is true. Yet people choose to post inflammatory links that are not true. Y’all, it takes 3 seconds to double-check if something is legit or not. Why is that so hard?! I expect this nonsense from my students, but not from grown ass adults. On a related note, I’m already sick of the 2016 election.

Something that doesn’t: My garden.

Grow!

Grow!

I begrudgingly helped Stephen build a garden in our backyard. I’ve discovered that I’m a pessimist because I was convinced everything would die. I guess that could still happen, but I think we’ll get to eat some of it. My favorite part of the day is looking at the garden after work to see how it has changed.

Something that bugs me: The idea of “promiscuous make-up.” I was listening to a podcast this week, when someone described a doll’s make-up as promiscuous. I’m guessing she was referring to Bratz (and we can call agree they are heinous), but huh? Make-up does not make one promiscuous. Not to mention, we are bombarded with messages about wearing make-up and those messages are followed up by all the ways that we are doing make-up wrong. Grr! Basically, she was just saying these dolls looked slutty. I thought that was a thing people didn’t say anymore. You want to know what I think slutty looks like? A suit and tie. As in, Don Draper on Made Men. Most promiscuous person ever. And the guy from The Wolf on Wall Street. Barney from How I Met Your Mother. That’s just off the top of my head!

Something that doesn’t: Megan’s wardrobe one Mad Men.

I want to wear this.

I want to wear this.

I almost wish it was 1968. Almost.

Something that bugs me: fast food never tastes as good in real life as it does in my mind. Like movie popcorn. So disappointing.

Something that doesn’t: Roasted veggies. I had roasted cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, and butternut squash as part of my dinner two days in a row. No picture because, duh, I scarfed it all.

Something that bugs me: Laundry. And dishes. And making the bed. Etc. etc. etc. I shouldn’t complain because it means that I’ve got a roof over my head and I can take care of myself. I’m still going to complain a little bit. These chores just seem like a hamster wheel. What’s the point?!

Something that doesn’t: Wear Blue: Run to Remember.

wbr2r

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the death of one of the people who I run for, CSM Martin Barreras. I plan to honor him by running a few miles. It’s something small, but it’s all I can do. It also serves as a nice reminder that all those other gripes don’t really amount to much.

Feeling Topsy Turvy

It’s been a nutty work week.

classroom

Even after relaxing yesterday and today, I still feel turned around!

You see, I normally teach 7th graders. We do reading and writing. I have one class period that is Pre-AP, one class period that I co-taught (meaning there’s an additional teacher in the room to help with the special education students), one class period is advisor (sort of like home room), and one class period of creative writing. That’s my normal week. It’s a full plate, but I like my plate, I’m used to my plate.

Last week, however, I didn’t get to see my kiddos at all. Instead, I had to create substitute plans for all my classes. I spent the days working with small groups of 8th graders. In Texas, 8th grade students need to pass their state reading test. If they don’t, they get the chance to take it again after some extra tutoring. That extra tutoring is what I’ve been doing. I was in a different room, on a different side of the school, with a different lunch period (!), working with different students for 6 days. I’ll be doing it again tomorrow, and on Tuesday, I’ll be administering the test.

My temporary room faces the mountains!

My temporary room faces the mountains!

No lie, I was scared. 8th graders are so…tall. And they think they know everything. (They kind of do.) I worried they’d go all Marabunta on me.

How wrong I was! I missed my students (and I’m eager to be back with them in my own classroom), but the 8th graders did not destroy me. Instead, we had fun together. I loved loved loved working with them. The small group setting (smallest group was 5, biggest was 12) was perfect. The students got a lot out of it. I was able to witness quite a few light bulb moments, the best part of teaching.

Monday is our last day of tutoring. It’s all about pumping up the kids and getting their minds right for the test. I wrote letters to each one of them. Their other teachers, friends, and parents wrote letters, too. I can’t wait to watch them open up their envelopes. These kids are so smart and so capable. Send some extra good vibes our way on Tuesday. They can do it, but now they have to prove it.

I should feel back to normal for the last three weeks in my classroom with my students. But it was fun playing with the big kids for a while.

Skyline 10k Race Recap

This weekend I hopped on a plane to spend the weekend in Dallas with my BFF, Mary Beth!

That's not MB. It's her oldest daughter Whitley. For the record, Whit asked me to cover her face like that. The sun was in her eyes.

That’s not MB. It’s her oldest daughter, Whitley. For the record, Whit asked me to cover her face like that. The sun was in her eyes.

Even though time together is fun enough on its own, we also participated in a race. Mary Beth and her girlfriends have been running together for months leading up to the Skyline Half. They picked an awesome race: the course runs along the trinity river right below the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. Race morning was an early one full of nerves and multiple trips to the port-o-potty. 10 minutes to 8:00 am we lined up. The sun had risen, the view of the city was unbeatable, and we were ready. Go time!

The race offered a half, 10k, and 5k option. The plan was to run the half. Mary Beth wanted to take it steady. The other girls decided to stick together, running a pace that felt right for them. They were ahead of us almost right from the start, but they were never too far ahead of us.

the start

the start

  • Mile 1: 12:14
  • Mile 2: 12:01

The first mile wove under the bridge, up and over, then back down below it again on the Trinity River Trail. I kept my eye on my Garmin. MB and I had discussed goal paces, so I aimed to keep us on track. More importantly, though, she wanted to feel good. Seems like a good goal to me! Immediately I felt the humidity. This desert living has made me weak to moisture in the air! I know the other girls didn’t love the weather either. They’ve been getting up at 4 am (!) for their training runs and are usually done before the sun.

I think it was around mile 2 that Mary Beth started to feel a not nice feeling in her knee. She’s had issues with it before, but I also know that she felt great on her 10 mile training run. Between then and race day her knee had revolted. She spent a few days at work not able to bend her knee at all. Even though she was feeling mostly good on Saturday, she wanted to be cautious.

  • Mile 3: 13:05
  • Mile 4: 14:10

We switched to the run/walk method during mile 3. Mary Beth was still feeling determined. Her lungs were good, she wasn’t tired. It was just the dang knee. I tried my best to find some encouraging words to keep her going and chatted away to keep her distracted.

I wasn’t sure how I’d like the course, but I ended up loving it!

The course map. I looked at this dang thing so many times on race day trying to decipher it!

The course map. I looked at this dang thing so many times on race day trying to decipher it!

The Trinity River Trail is clean and paved. It winds this way and that along the river. The double out and back makes it so you can almost always see fellow runners. At one point I exclaimed, “The day the Lord has made!” It felt amazing to be in Dallas, to be running, to be with friends. The highlight for me was the unbeatable view of the skyline for the entire race. (It’s aptly named!)

dallas skyline

  • Mile 5: 16:55
  • Mile 6: 18:04
  • Last .32: 18:19 pace

At this point, Mary Beth’s knee was giving her a heck of a time. There was no way she could go 13.1 miles without needlessly injuring herself. We decided to walk to the 10k point and stop there. It’s a tough call to make (especially when you feel healthy and strong in every other capacity!), but I know it was the right one. She was understandably disappointed. I was disappointed on her behalf. It was no skin off my nose, though. I had no goals or expectations other than to spend time with my friend. Mission accomplished! In fact, I think the last few miles were the most enjoyable because the pressure to try to power through and the agony of deciding what to do were behind us. We could just walk and talk and enjoy.

During the final mile, we were approaching a race photographer when a car came up next to us. It was Mary Beth’s husband! Perfect timing! I know I smiled that whole last mile. After finishing, we waited for the other two ladies, Lace and Katy. Family members and little kids kept us entertained as we hung around under the bridge near the finish line.

  • 6.32 mile finish time: 1:32:22
  • Average pace: 14:36

Lace and Katy both had strong finishes! Lace ran the last .1 with her sweet daughter (who I think is just four years old). Mary Beth jumped back on the course, running hand-in-hand with Katy to the finish. That moment really got to me. I know that Katy was tired and hurting and frustrated, and I felt inspired seeing her push through and touched that MB knew exactly what she needed in that moment. The power of friendship, the beauty of running.

Me, MB, Katy, Lace.

Me, MB, Katy, Lace.

I don’t think it was the race any of us had been expecting, but it was fantastic nonetheless. I’m really proud of these women. Lace and Katy are now first-time half marathoners, Mary Beth ran a smart race, and I just had a damn good time. I so glad they let me join their posse for the day.

We said our goodbyes, and I left with my mom.  She and her boyfriend took me to lunch and spent the afternoon hanging out with me. (I even got to use my mom’s shower. Clutch!) It felt fabulous to sit on my mom’s comfy couch and just be. All too soon, it was time for me to head back to the airport. I love the sweetness of visiting, but this particular visit was way too short! The running bug has definitely bit. I’m already looking up El Paso races later this month and preparing for the official start of marathon training!

Friday Five

Oh, sweet, sweet Friday. Last week seemed to whoosh by while this one dragggggged. Plus, I was busy every day after school which makes me cranky and overly dramatic. (Some peole may be wondering how that is any different than usual. Hah!) But finally the weekend is in sight! Huzzah! As your Friday treat, here are the 5 things that fell out of my brain:

1. Passive Aggressive Amy

stuff mom

I know, I know, I talk about podcasts all the time, but this one especially hit home. The Stuff Mom Never Told You ladies took me to task on passive aggressiveness. (Serendipitous timing considering Stephen had just pointed out something passive aggressive that I said. Sorry, Hon!) But seriously, it was one of those, “telling my whole life, with his words, killing me softly,” moments. The podcast is totally worth your time. And I’m not trying to be passive aggressive by saying that.

2. Rowing Machine

 row

I may have finally found a form of cross training that I’m excited about: the rower! Now, I’ve only used it three times, but that’s pretty much 100% more than I’ve ever cross-trained before. I even have a goal: 5 km. The farthest I’ve gone is 3.3 km. I know I’ve got more in me, and twice a week I’ll be trying to see what I can bust out. Will I finally get that toned back that I didn’t know I was supposed to be wanting all these years?

3. The Field

An old pic, but these are the loves of my life. I just want to jump on top of the dog pile!

An old pic, but these are the loves of my life. I just want to jump on top of the dog pile!

I’m already dreading Stephen’s next trip to the field. We’ve been pretty lucky in that since he’s returned from deployment, he’s been around a lot. Maybe the Army is telling me that I’ve been selfish. Still, there’s a part of me that wants to grab him and scream, “STAAAAAY!” Then I remember that he wants to do this whole soldier thing, and screaming in desperation is not cute.

4. STAAR

This week was our final round of standardized testing. Hallelujah! I don’t know that I could take any more testing, and I’m certain my students agree. Now the hard part will be keeping them focused for the next five weeks. It’s understandable; we put so much emphasis on the test that after it’s over, they don’t see the value in the work we are doing. Luckily, my team came up with a really fun project, knock on wood. (I always worry that calling something fun is the kiss of death in academics.) The students will be pretending to be directors trying to get their silent reading books turned into movies. They will cast the movie, create a sound track, make a movie poster, turn a portion of the book into a script, and write a persuasive letter to the movie studio. We only just started, and I already love it!

5. Mrs. Deeds

Earlier this week I happened to do a good deed. When I left for work, I saw a dog that I affectionately call Rover in the middle of the street. Rover lives two doors down, I see him occasionally perched on his fence. (That should have been a sign that he was going to make an escape!) I wasn’t sure if Rover was a friendly dog since my only encounters with him involve him barking incessantly as I walk bye and sweetly say, “Hi, Rover.” . Instead of trying to corral him, I knocked on the door where he lives. I was actually pretty nervous to knock on their door – I don’t know these people and it was early! His owners were probably quite surprised to have someone bugging them at 6:45 in the morning. It was for a good cause, though! Rover (whose name turns out to be Colt or Colton or something like that) hadn’t gotten too far, and after I let the owners know he was out, they were able to get him home. Yay for a happy ending!

And hopefully today is proving to be a happy ending to your week! Enjoy the weekend!

On Friends and Farewells.

Saturday was bittersweet.

wbr2r

It was the last Wear Blue: Run to Remember meet-up for two of my best girls: Julie and Jennifer. They are both fixing to move. Jennifer’s husband is getting out of the Army to go back to school in the mid-west, and Julie is PCSing with her man. On Saturday, I was running 11 miles (in preparation for the Skyline Half), so I ran 6 miles by myself before everyone else showed up. It gave me lots of time to think. I thought about how much I value the friendship I have with both women, how much I appreciate them, all the great runs and laughs we’ve shared, and how much I’m going to miss them.

Jennifer

At the German American Night Run 8k back in September.

At the German American Night Run 8k back in September.

Jennifer makes me think of the girl on the playground in kindergarten who would find someone standing alone and invite them to play with her. From the first time we  met at Wear Blue, she felt like an instant friend, mostly due to her outgoing friendliness. I can think of 100 million nice things to say about her. She’s well-read and well-traveled. She’s smart and kind and ambitious.

Jennifer is crazy fast (earning her the nickname “Fast Jennifer”) but she often opts to go slower so we can run together. She has pushed me to be a better runner. The German American Night Run was our first time to race together, and she helped me to finish way faster than I anticipated. She even had gas in the tank to sprint at the finish. Girl is a beast! My favorite run with her was a training run back in November. Or was it January? I’m not 100% sure. I just know that the two of us ran far and it was cold and windy and we should have been miserable. Instead, I had a blast! I smile thinking of us huddled behind a half wall as we took a quick break to eat our gu. Even with the wind blowing away our conversation, we talked every step of the way. I almost feel like I should pay Jennifer for all that she has motivated me!

Julie

Flying Horse half marathon.

Flying Horse half marathon.

We started as blog friends who lucked out when we both ended up in El Paso. I think we were both nervous about meeting in person for the first time, but we bravely convened at Starbucks and hit it off. Julie is an opinionated straight-talker, who tells it like it is. She is a deep thinker, multi-talented, a fantastic listener, and unabashedly honest. We are just the right amount the same to get along and the right amount different to keep our friendship interesting.

Julie understands my neurosis and struggles when it comes to running. I look to her to keep me sane. We’ve logged a lot of miles together. I will probably forever think of her when I take laps around the parade field on Main Post considering how many miles we logged there together. It was so much fun ringing in 30 with Julie at the Flying Horse Half Marathon, but my favorite run with her was a 10 Miler training run. Along with a few other Wear Blue-ers, we took on the task of running far in the heat of the July. The company made the 9 miles feel short and even though we ended up getting drenched in a summer storm, we were all smiles as we ran in.

I also owe Julie my thanks for her endless support during Stephen’s deployment. She was my battle buddy, my rock. She understood my fears, my joys, and she never once said, “It’s almost over.” She listened, and she comforted me, and I couldn’t have asked for a better friend during those lonely months. I’m honored and ecstatic to pay back the favor (in a small way) by standing up for her at her wedding later this year!

Julie, Jennifer, and Me the day before Bataan.

Julie, Jennifer, and Me the day before Bataan.

I will miss running with both women. Good running buddies are hard to find! We’ve seen each other’s highs and lows. We’ve competed alongside one another and we’ve cheered each other on. Saturday morning runs won’t be the same without them. More than the running, though, I will miss their friendship, their company. I think it was meant to be that we found ourselves all together in El Paso, a place that none of us would have chosen to live. This isn’t the end. We’ll find each other again, be it at a starting line or elsewhere.

As I drove away from post after our last run together (and after 2 hours of talking at Starbucks), I wanted to cry but I couldn’t. As sad as I am to say goodbye, I know that I’m so lucky to count them as friends. Bittersweet.