Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Major Award

I got a MAJOR AWARD in my email inbox today!

No, not that kind of award.  It's not FRAGEEEEELAYYY.

I got IN to the Run for Regis Trail Half Marathon that I was previously waitlisted for!  Me so happy!  Me so happy!

Now, um, here's the problem though...I haven't run on trails since my pancake trail run with my buddies, like, 2 months ago, and I haven't gone more than 8 miles in forevah.  Um, I guess I'd better get on that!

Yippee yahoo--it's a Christmas miracle :)  Can't wait to run with all my friends on the beautiful course!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

This sums it all up

I always enjoy Christmas, of course, but there's something pretty amazing about celebrating Christmas with your 5-year-old and almost-3-year-old.

I think magical is the right word.

Merry Christmas, and I hope Santa was good to you!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What I've Gotten Myself Into

On April 20, 1999, I sat on our dilapidated plaid couch in the living room on 15 E. Vine Street.  I was two weeks away from graduating with honors from Miami University with a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education and a double-minor in History and Political Science.

I remember staring at the TV screen, slack-jawed, in disbelief.  I had on a green backpack.  It was a sunny day.  I was getting ready to head out to one of my last classes as a student; the last before I was in the front of the room.

What is happening?

What have I signed up for?

I remember people saying things to me like, "Aren't you too smart to waste your career on teaching?"  Some professors even tried to talk me out of it.  I remember an Econ professor specifically trying to convince me to switch.  "It's, of course, noble and all, but aren't you concerned...don't you worry about...wouldn't you like to do more?"  That was always the theme. 

I was going to waste it.  My career, my brain, my time.

But it was noble and all, and don't get me wrong, they always said.

My first year teaching was both the most wonderful and most awful year of my life.  I questioned what I had gotten myself into.  I had 168 students in 6 classes.  I was completely, utterly overwhelmed.  I was far from home, and I was homesick.  I was maybe, if I was lucky, 2 days ahead of the kids. 

I started to get paperwork together for law school.  I started to look into the LSAT.

But as the year went on, I figured out how to stay afloat.  My mom would tell me advice and when I'd call, crying, saying "I have SO many papers I don't know what to do with all of them and how do I sleep and eat and how do I create more lessons when I'm buried under these papers?" I remember her saying "Stop giving them so many papers!" 

So simple.  It was an "aha" moment that year.  I didn't have to do paper pushing. I could come up with meaningful assessments that were based on discussion, on analysis, and on higher-order thinking skills.  You know--what I was trained to do.

So I did.  And I loved it. And I realized that there was nothing--NOTHING--else in this entire world I wanted to do.  I loved working with the kids, even if sometimes they drived me nuts and I drove them nuts. And although I relocated back to Cleveland at the end of that year I cried--really hard, actually--when I packed up that room at Oak Hills.  Big fat tears rolled down my face when I read the cards the kids gave me and the scrapbook they made me. I still think about those kids often.  Many of them have families of their own now; I know of at least one who is a history teacher himself.  They will always be my first class.  My first year that taught me so much.

I like to think I've gotten better over time, or at least I sure hope so.  I refer to my students as "my kids" even though I was barely older than them when I started.  I'm now 13 years into this career--1/3 of the way done, if I am lucky enough to keep doing this. 

There is still nothing in this world I'd rather do.  Despite the fact that I just read this article on the careers that give you the least return for your degree, and Education is #6.

Are you sure?  I mean, it's noble and all, but....don't you think...wouldn't you rather...

No.  Actually, no. 

And from what I've seen, most of us here would answer that the same way.  I was born a teacher.  That's what I do.  I know it may not "make sense" from a financial standpoint, but to do anything else would be a waste of my time.

I am here because I love it.

On October 2, 2007, I became a mother.  I once heard that being a mother meant your heart forever walks around outside your body, and I think that's the closest I can come to describing it.  In one instant, one moment, my entire framework changed.  My wiring changed.  My students were still "my kids," but Jackson became my heart and soul walking around, throwing temper tantrums, giving me hugs, digging mudpies, and spotting trucks.  One moment, and my heart wasn't mine anymore.

Jackson is now five.  He is sweet and strong-willed and determined and strong and funny and silly and inquisitive and five.  Five.  He is one year younger than most of the children killed in Connecticut.  Had he been born a few days earlier, he would have been in kindergarten this year.  But I got one more year to shield him from this world, this evil that I can't even talk about.  One more year before I really have to let him know what he's getting into. 

I purposely stayed away from the news the past five days.  Yesterday, at lunch in the lunchroom, I politely excused myself when people began talking about it.  Because I can't.  I can type this and I'm only crying a little, but if I try to open my mouth and say these things either I will cry uncontrollably or go off on a vulgar, profanity-laced anti-assault weapons rant which I think we all know isn't necessarily the easy answer anyway.

I keep thinking of those parents who have gifts in their attic to wrap, like I do, that now don't matter.  That still have crafts hanging on their fridge with little handprints on them.  That, like me, probably got frustrated last week when their little girl or boy didn't want to wear THAT dress or put on THAT coat or eat that for dinner and NO! I'mnotgoingtobednow and suddently wish they could have that argument again, just once, just one more time.

The parents whose hearts that were walking outside of their body are now gone, and never coming back.

The brothers and sisters who are left behind. 

I don't know how I'd feel if I didn't have a 5-year old right now.  But having one made this feel like September 11 felt when I found out Kelly was on American Airlines Flight 11.  All I can see is her face in that plaid seat on the plane, forever.  And all I can see is my Jackson in a classroom.  Terrified.  Forever.

Some want to arm teachers like myself.  I respectfully disagree.  First off, I am trained as a teacher and as an educator; not as a marksman.  Nor do I ever want to be. 

The one story I did listen to, and really read, was of Vicki Soto.  And it's given me nightmares lately (I haven't slept much since Friday) because I know I would do the exact same thing.  If anyone were to threaten my kids in this classroom, I would snap into a fit of rage and I would do anything--ANYTHING--to stop them.  And I think all of us would.  Matt and I have even talked about getting some rope ladders for our rooms (both on the 2nd floor) to get our kids out safely, because like hell we're going to sit in here and passively wait to get shot.  Simply locking the door and turning off the lights doesn't guarantee anything anymore.  Not against this kind of illness and this kind of evil.

I would do what Vicki tried to do, and I wouldn't think twice about it.  Because I know that when I send Jackson to kindergarten next year, his teachers would do it, too.  We would all take a bullet for your kids.  Our kids.

I don't know what the solution is here; there are so many failures and so many heartaches on so many levels.  It is not an easy answer--that's for sure.  I think we have to change our entire culture, which of course is pretty much the hardest thing to do in the universe.  We have to change our attitude and our treatments toward mental health issues, we have to change our culture of consuming violence, we have to change our culture that says those who work with kids are wasting their time and those who can, do and those who can't, teach.

I know I'll be quite vocal in the coming weeks to my lawmakers on my thoughts of what to do to move forward.  I won't share them here; that's not what I wanted to write here.  I think I just needed to vent a bit on how it's been as a teacher and a mother of a five year old to watch these five days unfold.  And wonder what we've gotten ourselves into.

And how, ultimately, we can all get out.

Friday, December 14, 2012

An Early Christmas Gift!

Okay, so I am officially really really excited!

I found out that due to a rather lucky break, I qualified for the USAT Age Group Nationals next year!
Um, yeah, I didn't believe it at first, either
How excited was I? So excited that I seriously thought it was a scam and asked Coach Emily if it was for realz.

Me? Really?  

Turns out I qualified at Vermilion...and I had no idea that the race was even a qualifier!  Shows you how clueless I am.  Even though my age group was REALLY small, I won it, so I lucked out and got myself a spot!  So, I understand that part of this is selling their race and all, but for someone like me who doesn't get out much and races mostly small and local, I think it sounds pretty fun. Now, operation "Don't Finish DFL" will be in full effect.  Because, as long as I can get in on registration day, I am totally going!  Driveable?  How can I pass this up?

I never qualify for anything except free shipping!

What totally sealed the deal was that my teammate, the super awesome Rural Girl, will also be heading up, so it's going to be EPIC.  Unfortunately, it's the same weekend as the Dells, so I won't be able to see my other Wisconsin Homies.  But Michelle and I will still REPRESENT, yo.  

I know it's a little silly, but I'm kind of ridiculously excited about this.  Yippee!

Provided the world doesn't end next week, 2013 is gonna be pretty awesome.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Ridiculously Grateful and Stuff

So I've been having one of those weekends (last weekend was like this, too) where I've been so lucky to be surrounded by good friends and family and lots of fun stuff.  It's been really busy, but also really awesome.  Work has been challenging and also insanely busy, yet really fulfilling.  I know I am very lucky and blessed to have a job that both challenges me and one that I really do enjoy.

So I'm feeling a bit like a cheesy sap lately.  Aw, shucks.

Last weekend, I had my super fun race followed by pancakes with friends, and then on Sunday I headed to a baby shower for a tri buddy and got lots of great time with some awesome girls.

Some of the coolest--not to mention fastest!--chicks I know
I feel like now that life has settled in I've done a better job of getting out and being social.  Last year I was sort of in survival mode and I think I sacrificed girl time quite a bit, and that's just no good.  No good at all.  I really am a fun person if I can get out!  HA! So I've been really enjoying hanging out with some fabulous ladies and meeting some new ones, too.

This weekend, I had a date night with Matt on Friday where we went to Michael Symon's local place, B Spot, and I ate myself silly.  I got a big fat cheeseburger, some amazing Lola fries (seasoned with rosemary....pure heaven) and a nice fat beer.  It was delicious and worth every single calorie.

Then, we went to go see this, FINALLY:

Not only do I not risk losing my APUSH Teacher Card after having two weeks go by before I see it, but it was AMAZING.  If Daniel Day-Lewis does NOT get an Oscar for this, there's something seriously wrong with the universe.

Yesterday we had Breakfast with Santa, to which the five year old was still not *quite* sure about the big guy, but Little Bean LOVE!LOVE!LOVES! Santa:

No fear, whatsoever
Bug isn't entirely sure, and Bean's Santa's BFF
Then last night, we got to head to a friend's party where Santa made yet ANOTHER appearance!  This time, Bug warmed up a little bit and actually (for the first time ever, I think) sat on Santa's lap:

Heading to the Cleveland Triathlon Club Winter Banquet tonight to see a few more cool tri peeps!  So this will round out the weekend quite nicely.  While Matt's at the Browns/Chief's game, I'm going to head to a friend's house to do a combined playdate/make a meal for our new Mommy friend Karen who just had baby #3--a little girl!  Yay!  

Somehow in there managed to squeeze in a good run with Ana, a good solid trainer session in the basement, and a swim in which I even busted out a few 100s with a halfway respectable time.  Oh, yeah, and one more thing....

...I'm down 9.5 pounds.  


So I'm feeling pretty good and pretty excited for the tri season!  This whole "train-like-a-triathlete" thing is making me pretty happy.  I didn't realize that running less might be the key to having more fun with workouts.  Further proof that I do, in fact, have "exercise-induced ADD" and that I am a triathlete at heart, fo' sho'.  

Getting pretty stoked already for the Evotri trip to Chattanooga in April and Rev3 next year!  

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Race Report: Reindeer Run 5k

So, it wasn't a PR, or really what I know I can do.

But I am really still happy with this one.

I know!  Doesn't really make sense, does it?

I shall explain....

I headed out to Lakewood Park to do what's become somewhat of an annual tradition with my running buddies:  the Reindeer Run 5K followed by a gorging of pancakes at the Original House of Pancakes.  I am not entirely sure they don't put crack in their pumpkin pancakes.  I'm just sayin'.

Anyway, here I am with JenC three years ago running preggers:

And here's some pics from last year on my way to my current PR of 22:52!

Got up, rolled out, hit the bathroom nervously twice and then once more at a McDonald's on the way.  (Nervous stomach much?)

Met up with some awesome people including my rockstar Mom, the ol' college roomie DaisyDuc, and my former partners-in-prenatal-crime JenC and Bridget who are BOTH preggers again! YAY!  (Not me, though.  Sorry.  I love them and all, but not enough to have a third so we can time up our flip turns again.)

I tried to do everything just the way I did last year, when I PR'd by almost a minute over a time I never thought I'd ever be able to beat.  NO COFFEE, nice long warmup of about 1.5 miles.  Same old same old.

This time, though, I didn't have my super amazing pacer Nicole.  She did all the work for me last year so I could just zone out and follow.

This time I was going to have to do it on my own.

I definitely got stuck back too far, which got me in the first mile a bit, but I hit the first mile in 7:12.  Considering I was hoping for a 7:15 average, I was okay with that.  It felt hard, but not too hard.

I kept going and definitely felt a bit like I was slowing down.  Garmin showed me slowing down and I got pissed.  I tried to HTFU and just focus and pick people off.  Still, despite that, I definitely slowed down.  Mile 2 was somewhere around 7:25 (I can't find my splits as my watch went MIA).

At this point, I tried to really remember what my student said about "the race starting at mile 3."  I felt like I needed to pick it up so I really really tried.  The thing is, I was still being kind of hesitant.  I don't know if it's an endurance mentality thing I need to get over, but I never really felt like I put the hammer down and ran as hard as I could (until the last .1 mile when I was running well under 7 minute pace).  Mile 3: somewhere around 7:40.

I turned the corner and had way too much left in the tank (I do remember Garmin said average pace was 6:42 for last 0.1, so that's too much in the tank fo' sho').  I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the clock time and hit my watch at 23:06.  It wasn't my best, but it was only 14 seconds off my best ever. And I definitely haven't been doing much speedwork or pace work at all.  Just a few fartleks here and there but that's it.

I was happy with this.  Slightly disappointed I wasn't able to get 7:15s or run an even race again, yet reminding myself that to do that it's hard and requires specific training (tempo, speedwork, etc.) that I haven't been doing.  All in all, to be 14 seconds off my best on December 1 is not too bad.

Afterward, my super fun (and fast) friend ESpeed was attempting to make me feel better about my time (I think she thought I was really sad, but I actually wasn't!) and told me that I shouldn't feel too badly as now I have the kids and stuff.  Here's the thing though: I set the bar pretty high on this one, and I was just happy to be in the ballpark. 7:15 would have been very tough considering my best is 7:23.  I still went 7:27.  I do hate the "I-have-kids-now" excuse and try my hardest not to use it.

But I immediately caught her--and myself--and explained that this was actually a pretty awesome day for me.  I know to fast people out there, 23 and change isn't anything to write home about, but bear with me here...truth be told, I've gone under 23:43 in a 5K exactly twice in my life and once was last year and once was today.  And both times, I was significantly under 23:43. Age 34 and age 35, yo'.

What does that mean? A few things:

A) I must have totally been a slacker in my 20s (no surprises there) and
B) I can definitely go faster and
C) I need to give myself a big high five for doing this on my own this time.  Progress is good.

If that's a "bad" day, I can't complain.

I was talking to Bridget over pancakes because she's had some CRAZY improvement in her 5K times and she told me that she finally realized how to run a 5K when she ran with speedy fast Salty as a pacer at last year's race.  She told me that she was like, " THIS is how it's supposed to feel."  I don't think I really know that yet.  I'm too conservative of a racer, which suits me well in longer distance but makes these short ones tough.

After she has a baby in less than a month (!) she and I made a pact to pick out a 5K and she'll help me figure that out. When it comes to this distance, I definitely get by with a little help from my friends.

Final standings had me placing 8/127, but over a minute back of the first 7 girls.  Still, this tends to be a pretty stacked field and I am happy with that today!

If this is any indication of what's coming for next year, I think I am in good shape.  Plus, seeing a bunch of my running friends is always awesome!

Got home, hung with the kiddos, and then last night even had time for my newest obsession:

This *might* make my previous addiction to 24 seem like NUTHIN.  Sure makes for good watching on the trainer, though!

Happy first-week-of-December to all--get out there and do some training!