Soggy but Strong

It’s been a weird weather week here in El Paso. This wet stuff has been falling from the sky. Oh, you mean rain isn’t weird everywhere else? Well, we only get about ten inches of rainfall each year, so when the precipitation starts precipitating, people and animals start acting weird and things break. (Not even kidding. I was working at the library during some heavy rainfall last year, and it caused the phones to stop working and Fort Bliss ended up closing early that day due to the weather.)

Usually rain moves in quickly and moves right back on out, but this weekend the rain decided to stay. I was planning on running nine miles as part of my non-training training for the Ten Miler in the Heat with my running buddies on Saturday. When I went to bed on Friday night, I wasn’t sure if the run would even take place.

Saturday morning arrived and the sky was full of dark clouds. I assembled my usual running gear plus a lightweight jacket and headed to the meet-up spot. My fellow runners started to trickle in. The run was still on!

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I considered not running the full nine miles I had planned. The rain was light but constant, and it was cold out. I’m talking 70 degrees cold, people! I eventually gave in to positive peer pressure and took off for the full distance with three other runners.

The rain let up during the early miles of the run. Instead of getting drenched, we were dry and enjoying the cool temps. Julie and I kept remarking about how great we both felt compared to the previous week’s eight miler. That twenty degree difference is night and day when it comes to running! It even made crossing over the evil bridge seem doable.

The evil bridge. I hate it, but I love it.

The evil bridge. I hate it, but I love it.

We still took occasional walk breaks at my request. (I didn’t want to overdo it and crash at the end.) Really though, the run felt effortless. Each time I checked my Garmin, I was shocked by how far we had run. It was like my old DRC days when I could get swept up by the group’s current instead of dragging my body as it has seemed on a lot of recent runs.

With a few miles left, the rain returned. By the last mile, it was raining harder. Our response was to run harder.

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Our last mile was our fastest, and I could have kept right on going. This was a joyful run.

I needed a good run to pep me up for the 10 Miler in two weeks, but I also needed it for myself. I needed to feel the endorphin rush, to run out all my stress from the week, to turn off my brain and let my legs work, to get soaking wet but feel amazingly strong. Thank you, Mother Nature! This week, you had perfect timing.

I was so pumped from the run, that I killed my to-do list when I came home. (I even picked up the dog poo in the yard, I felt that fabulous!) I know the good fee fees won’t last forever, but I’m drinking them up while they do. Here’s to an awesome week!

Amy Reads: July

This month marked my return to working full time. In addition to work completely kicking my butt, it also seriously cut into my leisure reading. This month I only read three books. Three. That’s a paltry half of what I’ve been averaging, and they were all completed before work started up. It’s not for lack of trying – I’m currently a portion of the way into three different books. Yoinks! I know, I need to get it together. I’m vowing that August will be better! For now, lets look at what I read this month:

1. Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Hugette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr. (nonfiction)

empty mansions

Short version: The curiously true tale of a multi-million dollar American heiress, the homes she spends her fortune maintaining, and why they are all completely empty.

The verdict: 3.5 out of 5 stars. I feel the same way about this book as I felt about the Clark Rockefeller book – the story itself begs to be told as a book, but the book itself was a little lackluster. The first few chapters read a little too text bookish. Once I got over the hump, however, the story was compelling enough to keep me reading the 400+ pages. I was hoping for some larger revelation or salacious explanation. Alas, the mysterious life of Hugette Clark isn’t so much mysterious as it is just sad. Bonus points for old timey pictures. If you’re into nonfiction, American Ritchie Riches, and/or strange tales of real estate, you’d like this one.

2. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Fantasy/Magical Realism)

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Short version: Dueling magicians are locked in an epic magic battle as part of Le Cirque des Reves, but they don’t realize just how dangerous the consequences of their contest (and uncontrollable emotions) could be for everyone involved in the circus.

The verdict: 4 out of 5 stars. This book has some of the most beautiful descriptions that I’ve ever read. When it comes to “show don’t tell” as we explain it to seventh graders, this book nailed it. The storyline, although not something I would normally be drawn to, was also creative. While sometimes it reads like very good fanfic written by a dark pre-teen, for the most part, I thought it was subperb. If you’re already a fan of fantasy, I have no doubt you’ll love it.

3. The Art of War by Sun Tzu (military nonfiction)

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Short version: The legendary military strategist offers his insight into how to do battle.

The verdict: 4 out of 5 stars. I didn’t realize that this book isn’t exactly a book so much as a list of principles. That’s why it’s not a full 5 stars for me, although it is excellent. It’s almost eerie how relevant some of what Sun Tzu says still is thousands of years after he first wrote it. I got shivers a few times as I read something that was in direct opposition to the way our current war is being conducted.

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Total # of books read so far this year: 39

Total # of pages read so far this year: 11,368

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I think the key to picking up my reading pace amidst the craziness of life is that I need something really, really good. Hit me with your best book recs. I need high engagement stat!

The First Day of School

My feet are throbbing in post-long run kind of way. My shoulders ache. I’m hungry, really hungry. My eyes are droopy, and I’m ready for bed. Yes, at 7 pm. But I’m also so, so happy. In a heart full kind of way. In a can’t stop smiling kind of way. In a sigh of relief kind of way.

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Today was the first day of school. I loved it!

I didn’t do anything particularly amazing. We mostly just went over the rules, and not even in a fun way but in a boring way. Somehow that’s all it takes to make me deliriously, ridiculously happy. When the first bell rang, and the students came rushing down the hall, I couldn’t help but beam. My next door neighbor told me afterwards that he was jealous of how excited I was. It was like I was watching the Puppy Bowl or like my winning lotto numbers were being read off. I was just smiling and high fiving and welcoming kids and joking and loving it.

Since I got hired, people have been saying that I’d fall right back into the swing of things even though I took two years off from teaching. But I didn’t believe it. The too-loud voice of doubt in my head did some worried hand wringing and (in Piglet’s voice) thought things like, “What if you can’t do it anymore?” The closer the start of school got, the more advice I got, the more I felt like I just wouldn’t be able to do it, that I was incapable of teaching.

All that was washed away today. I have a long way to go. I’m not as good as I could be, and I’m definitely not where I want to be. But at the same time, I’m exactly where I want to be. I’m where I belong. I’m back in the classroom. I’m doing it.

Now I get to do it all over again tomorrow. Good night!

Friday Five

It’s Friday! I vote that we hit the ground running. Five things that just trickled out of my brain:

1. Teaching:

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I’ve been at professional development all week. It’s been awesome and has gotten me really charged up and ready for school to start, but I’m also up to my eyeballs in to-do lists right now. There is so, so, so much to be done. Thankfully, I haven’t found myself feeling too tired being on the go-go-go all day every day. Although, ask me again after the students arrive, and I might be singing a different tune.

2. Schmutz, to tell or not: Earlier in the week, I came home from work, looked at myself in the mirror, and realize that I’d be walking around for who knows how long with schmutz on my face! Argh! Don’t you hate that? No one told me. I don’t know that I’d tell an acquaintance that they had stuff on their face, but damn, I wish someone had told me. Now I’m Schmutz Face Girl. I’m like I Love Lucky but not as cute or charming.

3. Taco:

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I had my first taste of El Taco Tote recently. Me gusto mucho! This place is on every other corner in EP, but I never felt the pull to go there. (I’m a Taco Cabana girl these days.) Well, I went this week, and I loved it! If you’re familiar with Rosa’s, this is similar. It’s restaurant-style food in fast food clothing with free chips and a ginormous salsa bar. Upon tasting the deliciousness, I said, “This is dangerous.” I stand by that assessment.

4. Pigeon post: My love for yoga is still going strong. I dutifully show up twice a week and let the master yogi lead me through the flows, or whatever. Twice this week, she had us doing pigeon and holy mcmoly. It felt amazing! My hips haven’t felt this good in months. I’m thinking that will majorly help when I’m out running eight miles tomorrow with Wear Blue.

5. Homecoming:

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There are still months left in the deployment, but Stephen got an updated estimated “Adios Afghanistan!” date. I know that it could change, as these things do, but it’s a nice date. It’s a date I really like. It’s the McDreamy of dates. And it’s less than 100 days from now. I don’t want to pin my hopes on it, but too late. I know, I know, but, did I mention that it’s a really good date?

My Classroom

Earlier this month I got access to my new classroom for the first time. My initial feeling was: OMG I love this place! I took a deep breath in and exhaled joy. (I don’t totally know what that means, but I heard a yoga teacher say it. Just go with it.) I really do love the smell of my classroom, and the look, and the feel. I get all mushy standing there thinking about the learning that will take place within those walls.

Then I was struck by the sheer immensity of all that needs to be done before school starts later this month (!!!). “OMG yay!” turn into “OMG oh no!”

I did what any 21st century girl does when she feels overwhelmed: I complained on Facebook. I got lots of support and great suggestions, yet the one thing I really wanted (for someone else to set-up my classroom) didn’t magically happen. So I’ve been working on it myself.

Here’s the before:

class

This is the view from the front of the room looking toward the back. It’s big, right? There are currently 34 desks in there with space to spare. I shouldn’t need that many, but it’s crazy spacious! You can kind of see the shelf/cubbies lining the left side of the room. I’m very excited about that area. The right side of the room has windows. Ohhh, ahhh. I’ve got two white boards, one in the front of the room and one in the back.

I made a list of everything I wanted for my classroom and tried to organize the items by importance. With a budget in mind, I worked my way through the list until I hit my spending limit. I ended up shelling out $350 total between Office Depot and Target, and I purchased just about everything on my list! Huzzah!

After:

classroom

Yeah, it looks almost exactly the same. I know. $350 only goes so far in a classroom. Truthfully, I’m not completely disappointed. I mean, yeah, I wish someone else would decorate my classroom and that $350 would buy ten times as much as what it did. But I also know that once school starts, my walls will be decorated with student work and anchor charts. The kids will breathe life into it.

Most of the money I spent went to things that will be used by the students as opposed to decoration. My best score was stumbling on these individual white boards at the dollar spot at Target!

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A buck a piece for these babies, and I know they will get used. Other items purchased include: post-it notes, tape, scissors, desk supplies for me (paper clips, binder clips, etc.), pencil sharpeners, hanging file folders, and baskets for organizing things.

My biggest frustration is that my classroom library is pretty pathetic right now.

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Since I only have one tiny bookshelf, I’m using buckets as my classroom library instead. I just need more books! I donated almost everything from my previous classroom library around Christmas time when I had convinced myself that I’d never teach again. Oh, how wrong I was. I set-up a project on Donors Choose, a fundraising website for teachers, last week for a new classroom library. (I like it because the website works as an intermediary as opposed to personal fundraisers where you don’t really know what will happen with the money you donate.) In just a matter of days I had raised the full amount! That means that the 40+ books I picked out will be sent directly to my classroom! Can’t recommend the website enough. (You can see my project here if you’re curious.) That’s a huge relief. No class is complete without books!

There you have it. It’s a work in progress, but honestly, my classroom is ready for students. Now I just have to get myself ready!

Runners Tell All: Nutrition

Today I’m linking up with Runners Tell All. For the link-up, participants write about a specific running-related topic once a month and share their posts on Amanda’s blog. This month’s topic: nutrition.

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There was a time when I had this nutrition thing all figured out. I knew what worked for me, and I executed it with ninja precision. HIYA! See, like that, but with gu. Somewhere along the way, my body changed its mind, and I’m re-learning what works for me and what doesn’t.

Before I run

This part, thankfully, hasn’t changed too much. The day before a run, I eat the same stuff I’d normally eat. If I’m going to be running a longer distance (more than 6 miles) or racing, then I have pasta with a veggie mixed in for dinner. Too easy, right? My morning fuel is a piece (or two) of toast with peanut butter and jelly.

I’m not much of an afternoon/evening runner these days. It’s too darn hot in El Paso for that and when I was living in Germany, it was too darn dark. Way back, though, in my Allen days, I ran in the afternoon and even had a few night-time races. Randomly, I discovered that pizza lunchables (just go with it) made for the perfect evening fuel.

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During: hydration

A few years ago, I hopped on the Nuun train and haven’t hopped off since. I know that some people (me included!) don’t like the bubbly-ness of Nuun, but my insider tip (that I learned from a more seasoned runner a few years back) is to put the Nuun tablet in your water bottle the night before. When it’s time to run the next morning, the bubbles will be settled. Since I live in the land of no water fountains, I carry water on my person (I love saying that phrase!) in a handheld water bottle.

During: fuel

This is where things get all confuzzled. For years (YEARS!) gu was my go-to. Chocolate was my main jam, but peanut butter was good, too. My SPIbelt has little gu loops, so it was easy to carry and kept me going.

Gu-ed myself.

Gu-ed myself.

Somewhere during El Paso Marathon training, my tummy decided that it didn’t like gu any more. I’d feel bloaty and burpy and all kinds of not good. Upon a reader’s suggestion, I switched to Swedish Fish (yes, the candy) with great success. I’d pop one or two in my mouth every four-ish miles. Now that I’m training for a 10-mile race, I feel like I can experiment a little more. (Experimenting on say a 15 mile run is dangerous! I find it’s better to experiment on a shorter long run.)

After

So smooth! So healthy!

So smooth! So healthy!

After is my favorite part! During training, I usually follow-up a run with a good ol’ fashioned homemade smoothie. Depending on the distance I ran, you can swap out “smoothie” for “grape cream slush from Sonic.” If it’s following a race, however, all I want is Mexican food. Give me chips, give me salsa, give me a place to put my feet up, and I’m golden! Let’s be real though, all I ever want in life is chips, salsa, and a foot rest.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on nutrition/fueling/hydrating! What have you found that really works? What tips or tricks do you have?

Conversations With My Soldier: Vacation

Our post-deployment vacay is squared away!

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Back in April we were agonizing over our options. There were just too many possibilities, and it was making us more frustrated than excited. Turns out, one of my former colleagues is getting her feet wet as a travel agent, and she was willing to help us out! Via e-mail she asked me questions, did all the leg work, and produced multiple vacation packages to different destinations for us to consider. With the field significantly narrowed, Stephen and I zeroed in on the (hopefully) perfect vacation location: The Iberostar Grand Hotel Rose Hall in Montego Bay, Jamaica!

It makes deployment so much more bearable when you have something fun to focus on. We’re already discussing what kind of excursions we want to take and how many drinks we will be drinking. Stephen even bought himself some vacation shoes. I can’t seem to get him to budge on the speedo or full monty action though. He will most likely be sporting a regular ol’ trunks. Can’t blame a girl for trying!