Five months ago, we lost our almost-six-year-old lab. He had been sick for months. We tried every reasonable possibility before making the difficult decision to let him go.  Losing him proved every bit as difficult as losing a human family member; we all cried for weeks.  I wrote about the pain of losing Outtie while it was still fresh.

Last week, I mentioned receiving an unclaimed property check, something my mom pestered me to investigate for years. It was not a significant check, but enough to think about how to properly spend it. We found a way to spend it that would’ve made my mom proud!

Mike and Liam missed having a dog. Outtie left a massive hole in their hearts. Since Mike and I grew up with dogs, we know how important it is for a boy to have a dog. Our neighbor informed us of a black lab named Banjo who is available through a local rescue. We spoke to the woman in the organization, who told us he is smart and kind but also still has his young dog hyperactivity.  We went to visit Banjo Thursday night. Yes, he is high energy! While he jumps, he doesn’t jump on people. He settled down in a few minutes.  It is clear that he is smart and eager to please.

Saturday, we went to pick up our newest family member. Liam was so excited when we walked to the car that he started crying tears of happiness. While Banjo is high energy, he is smart and eager to please! Within the first afternoon, Mike had him following basic commands: sit, stay, lie down, and wait. While he sits, Mike will throw a ball, and tell Banjo to wait. Banjo will not run after the ball until Mike says, “Banjo, go!” Liam wants to teach him to raise a paw. He can catch toys in the air, but not treats. Banjo needs some work on the leash; he really wants to catch squirrels and, once he sees one, needs redirection to keep from trying to run after them. His foster said that he caught a few while with her.  By this morning’s walk, he was next to me enough to let the leash slack a few times. I am hoping that he and I will eventually become running buddies; with some love and training, I know he will get there!


Getting ready to go home!


I can’t think of a better way to use the money my mom nagged me to track down!

I Went a Week Without Working Out… and it was Fine

What is that quote about the best-intended plans?

I had every intention of working out each day this week.  I have a routine established:

Monday: Strength Class

Tuesday and Saturday: Yoga

I usually get at least two in each week. However, all bets were off last week. On Tuesday, I had a faculty meeting after school and stomach issues that evening, causing me to miss out on both running and yoga. We got three inches of snow on Wednesday. I had a hair appointment Thursday afternoon. Friday, Liam woke up at 3 am with leg cramps, and I never got back to sleep. I had been keeping a cold at bay with plenty of sleep and Emergen-C; this night of lousy sleep was enough to bring on a full-blown cold. I skipped running Friday afternoon and spent the weekend on the couch. Mike was in Tennessee this weekend, making me unable to go out running even if I wanted to. I planned to do a few Beachbody on Demand workouts over the weekend, but I could not get myself off the couch.

So there you have it: why I didn’t work out for an entire week. While I thought I would be upset with myself and feel terrible, I am actually okay with this. I managed to keep my mild cold from becoming much worse. We watched The Martian.  I introduced Liam to Fuller House. I caught up with friends Sunday morning by helping at a fundraiser and attended a birthday party that afternoon.

Liam was very impressed that I saw the “Full House” houses at Alamo Park!

Because I didn’t work out, I meticulously watched my food intake, still managing to lose two and a half pounds this week.  (Having a cold definitely attributed to that weight loss. It’s not ideal, but I’ll take it this week.)

This is what I learned by taking a week off: I genuinely enjoy working out. I like seeing what my body is capable of doing and how I feel afterward. Working out is a want to, not a have to.  It is no longer a punishment for being idle or for overeating.  While I am happy when I have the time to work out, I no longer need to beat myself up if it just doesn’t happen.

Random Thoughts Thursday (on a Friday)

Today, I received a check from the state’s unclaimed treasury.  My name has been in the database for at least fifteen years. The amount was listed as “under $200.” When it was printed in the paper, relatives would call my mom, telling her they saw my name on the list.  (I don’t know if this sort of thing happens in other states, but it was a huge deal twenty years ago in these parts.) My mom would, in turn, call me, reminding me of my “free money.”  Whenever someone mentioned the list being in the paper, I would wait for Mom’s call. When I first made the list, for me to claim my money, I had to go to the office and fill out paperwork.  Later, I would also need to produce my marriage certificate to prove that I used to be the name in the database and find paperwork showing I once lived at my parent’s house.  I would set the intention to dig through records to find the necessary paperwork but never got around to actually doing it. Like all great information previously available in the newspaper, the database moved online.  Eventually, you could submit the claim via the treasury website, which I did a few months ago.  Today, I received a letter from the treasury department.  After years of my mom nagging me to file the claim, the case is closed.  It is bittersweet, that is one less thing for her to haunt me about.  I feel like I should do something special with the money, all $183 of it. I definitely need to spend it doing something with Mike and Liam.  That’s what Mom would have wanted me to do with it.

I love that Liam shares my weird sense of humor.  He and I can say something random and silly and manage to roll with it far longer than anyone should.  This morning, while trying to get him out of bed, he began singing about the need to stay under the covers.  We spent the entire morning singing a narrative of everything we did, titling our antics, “Friday Morning: the Musical,” sung to the tune of “Elmo the Musical.”

“Staying under the covers now!”

“Brush your teeth in the bathroom!’

“Did you get your socks on?”

Yeah, we are hysterical. Trust me, it was funnier if you were there.

Also, we picked right back up when we came home from school.

When I was sixteen, I began adding piercings up my left ear.   Every week or so, my mother would check my ear for extra piercings.  Luckily, she never committed the number to memory, so she never realized when she counted a new hole. I am thankful that sixteen-year-old me was wise enough to add all of these piercings in a straight line, allowing me to still wear studs up my ear as an adult.  I currently have eight holes in my left ear and four in my right.   I am also thankful that teenaged me was wise enough to rebel through piercing rather than tattoos.  Piercings are easier to change your mind about and remove.  There have been gaps of time when I’ve removed my earrings; no one can see the holes unless I mention it to them. (Oddly enough, my second tattoo, which I had done at age 38, contains REM lyrics in my mom’s handwriting. REM was my favorite band in high school, proving that maybe I could have been trusted to choose permanent body art as a teenager. However, anyone who knew me in high school knows that my fashion choices were not at all timeless.)


Ziauddin Yousafzai, Malala Yousafzai’s father, liked a Tweet I chared on my school’s Twitter! My students read her book. I took a picture of them during their Socratic Seminar.  I did not tag anyone in the Tweet, yet he managed to find and like it. The books influenced my students, bringing them to discuss women’s rights and other issues affecting the world.  As a teacher, there are few moments greater than when your students demonstrate the ability think critically about an issue. Not only did that happen, someone I greatly admire acknowledged our work!

I’m now finishing my third week of eating dairy-free.  We went out to dinner last Friday and I was able to find something to eat without issue.  My sinuses continue to improve, and my skin hasn’t looked this great since I was pregnant.  My stomach issues have not changed much, forcing me to continue my search for that culprit. I’m happy with my skin and running proves slightly easier (because I am breathing better), convincing me to stick with the dairy-free diet.

I love that being a teacher provides so many new beginnings.  For example, I get two starts to a “new year,” one in January and another in September.  A few weeks into January, a new semester begins.  I love the notion of beginnings.  They’re so hopeful.  At each of these beginnings, I assess and create goals.  Every September comes with the promise of keeping a sleep schedule, meal planning on Sundays, and keeping the house mildly tidy during the week.  (This year, I’ve actually maintained these routines!) January promises to stop eating the terrible diet that begins at Halloween and runs through New Year’s Day.  Ten days in the house allows me to clear through closets and various spots to get rid of items we haven’t used during the previous year. When we go back to school that first week of January, the house is at its cleanest.  The new semester brings a clean slate to think about successes, reflect upon my practice, and start anew.  I added a giant chalkboard wall to my classroom.  It contains the steps of the latest project, complete with final products, checkpoints, and due dates along the way. I am hoping that having an outline bringing us through the next two months will keep us on track, avoiding the inevitable panic scramble at the end of the semester.

“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”
― L.M. Montgomery

Making Winter Running Less Terrible

We are in the heart of winter.  At this point, we’ve experienced snow, ice, and bone-chilling cold.  Those first runs when the temperatures dropped shocked the system.  My arms and fingers went numb, my lungs ached.

I signed up for a 5K in Maine over Thanksgiving, thinking that merely wearing a few layers would make everything okay.  While my body managed just fine, my lungs were so upset with me!  For hours after, they felt like I had spent the night in a bar back in the days when people were still allowed to smoke indoors.

Over the past weeks, I’ve figured out a few ways to run in the winter without hating every moment.  I am by no means an expert, but here are a few of my insights:


I looked at getting a pair of Polartec running tights. Because I could not bring myself to spend that much money on pants, I began wearing my favorite Athleta running tights with a pair of sweatpants over them.  This worked perfectly! My legs have never been cold on a run! I’m so glad I tried this before spending a lot of money on pants I wouldn’t even wear all the time.

I bought a cheap Aeropostale vest before the 5K in Maine. Once I started sweating, it felt awkward. For Christmas, my sister bought me a nicer Columbia vest designed for working out in the cold.  I love this one!  I’m also spoiled with the pockets.  I can put my water bottle in one pocket and my phone in the other.  I will need to think about a way of carrying items when the weather warms up and I am not wearing layers.

Wearing two pairs of pants, two long tops, and the vest makes running in the cold manageable.  It was 15 degrees when we started yesterday morning.  Once we got going, many of us were just fine.  I grew warm enough to need to my hair up.

Knowing Your Roads

I tried to run around my neighborhood a few times while there was still snow on the ground but the temperatures were warmer.  This proved difficult because the sidewalks around the airport were not shoveled, forcing walkers into the main road.  The Boulevard in Providence is always well-shoved.  Because there is a bike lane, there is plenty of room for everyone, even if cars are parked along the road.  Knowing where I can safely run and stay dry makes winter running easier.  This weekend, I decided to take advantage of warmer weather and go for a quick run before taking Liam to a birthday party.  Because one of the backroads near my house was flooded due to rain and melting snow, I had to turn around and run the long way home.

Cold Weather Accessories

Mike needed a face mask while working outside during a frigid spell.  The only store around who still had them in stock was Lululemon. While there, I picked up a face mask for myself, headband-style ear warmers, and tech gloves.  Their tech gloves are the only ones I’ve tried that actually work on my phone.  I tried to find the links but, because they were on clearance, they’re no longer on the site.  The ear warmers are great for runs in milder cool weather.  My head gets too warm while running in a heavy winter hat.  The Lululemon ear warmers even have a slot to pull through your ponytail.

Not All Cold Weather is Equal

One of my better winter runs of the year happened during 17 cold.  However, there was no wind and it just began lightly snowing.  Because of the increased humidity, the cold seemed kinder.  Yesterday’s run brought the same temperature, but dry air and a sharp wind made it feel much colder.


This isn’t really a cold weather tip.  My Spotify running playlists were growing old and I was too lazy to update it.  A few friends mentioned they enjoy Audible.  I borrow books on CD to enjoy during my commute but haven’t tried them during runs.  Again, I am cheap and wanted to avoid buying an Audible subscription.  Overdrive, an app available through your local library offers the same service for free.  I did find that a lot of popular books are unavailable.  I put a holds on a few books from the Goodreads playlist in the hope that they will become available as I finish the first book I borrowed.  I set out Thursday with a book and was finally able to run farther! I ran four and a half miles, my longest solo run!

Running with Friends

This is another tip that applies to all types of weather, but especially helps during the winter. Yesterday, I met up with a few of my BFG friends for a morning run. If I wasn’t looking forward to seeing people I love, I would’ve stayed in my warm bed a little longer, then made a big breakfast. Running in the cold was much less painful while catching up with friends. I am beyond grateful for my running buddies!

My New Trainer Journal

I am a planner.  Last week, I ordered a journal to track my half-marathon training progress.  I enjoyed charting my runs and other workouts.  I’m looking forward to seeing growth!


We Are on a Break!

I recently decided to break up with cheese.  Well, Mike convinced me to give up cheese for a little while and see how I felt.  I had already decided to give up my small cup of ice cream each night.  (I’m working out like crazy and gaining weight, but that is another story.)

We spent ten days together stuck inside a tiny house hiding from frigid temperatures.  The weekend before Christmas, I made two delicious mac and cheese recipes for different sets of guests.  The first used cheddar cheeses and Sriracha, the other asked for sharp cheeses and pancetta.  I made pulled pork to top the cheddar mac and cheese.  Because I am terrible at math and following recipes, I gathered the ingredients based on their pre-shredded amounts. Once I ran them through my shredder, I had a ridiculous amount of cheese, which led to ridiculous amounts of mac and cheese.

Mike and I spent the following week eating mac and cheese, refusing to spend money going out to eat or grocery shopping when there was a fridge full of perfectly good leftovers. At night, we snacked on meats and cheeses after Liam went to bed.  We were on vacation! We could live it up!

My indulging caught up with me.  I gained five pounds.  This brought my weight right past my “Oh Crap” weight.  (Does anyone else have a weight hierarchy?  I imagine mine like the threat pyramid the government uses. It consists of Yay!, Good/Okay, Watch it Now/Reel It In, and Oh Crap.)

I also noticed that my face, which has been pretty clear, started to look like it belonged to a teenager.  More like, it belonged to an awkward teenager who had both pimples and laugh lines.  My biggest issues involved my stomach.  I won’t get into the details, but Liam and Mike became fearful of sitting near me.

While Mike and I were getting ready for bed, he mentioned the amount of cheese I had been consuming and asked if I had ever considered giving up dairy.

Anyone who knows me knows this would normally be laughed off.  I love cheese!  (By the way, there is a name for someone who loves cheese; we are known as turophiles.) However, I had read quite a few articles about the benefits of eliminating dairy, including improvements to skin, stomach, and sinuses.  My sinuses have been throbbing, causing me pain under my eyes and into my jaw.  Netti pots, Claritin, hot compresses, and nasal sprays are no longer helping.  I was planning to use the ENT referral my primary care doctor gave me at my physical.  I really try to avoid taking medications.  If giving up dairy would help me breath better and be pain-free, it’s worth a shot!

Now comes the difficult part, actually giving up cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products.  I use almond milk in my morning smoothies.  I can use that when having cereal and scrambled eggs. I purchased a plant-based butter type spread and soy-based yogurt.

I am now seven days into my breakup with dairy.  So far, it isn’t as bad as I feared.  It might be the placebo effect, but I swear that I am already breathing easier. I can breath deeper than I previously could. During my run Tuesday, I slowed down because my legs were tired, not because of breathing difficulties.  Today, I ran my longest run! However, I know the cheese fit will kick in soon.  While it is a bit too early to say whether it has helped clear my skin, I have noticed no new breakouts in the past few days.

This news is bittersweet.  I am glad that I am experiencing excellent results from giving up dairy.  Honestly, I was hoping that it would not work and I could go back to being my awesome, cheese-loving self.

How Blizzards Bring Out the Best of New Englanders

We never look forward to blizzards.  They’re a lot of work mixed with loads of downtime.  When weather forecasts warned that a major storm could hit, we immediately made sure we had basic necessities.  I’m lucky that Mike and I always have a stocked pantry, knowing we could eat canned soup or cereal is a snowstorm or hurricane hit.   Thanks to Liam and his games and toys, we always have a supply of batteries on hand.  We are avid campers and have a collection of flashlights.

At the first snow of the season, we learned that Liam outgrew his snow boots.  Tuesday, he and I went on a mission to get him new ones.  I’ve always managed to find them secondhand at odd times; no such luck hit this time.  We wound up going to LL Bean and buying him brand new boots.  We picked up milk, bread, and a few other things we might need if the storm gets worse.

Here’s the thing about Rhode Islanders and snow: we panic.  Some blame the Blizzard of ’78, when people were snowed in for days.  My eighth-grade history teacher told us the story of how she was stranded at school for a few days with a handful of kids.  The busses just couldn’t get to them.  My mom used to tell me that she had to send my dad out with a sled to purchase more diapers the one-year-old me.  Now, I find it funny that people rush to the store and clear the shelves.  Accurate weather forecasts provide plenty of warning and cleaning crews get us snowed out within a day.  However, people still race to Stop and Shop and pick the shelves clean.

Schools canceled the day before the storm. In my day, we had to watch the news that morning and follows the scrolling announcements in alphabetical order at the bottom of the screen, hoping to not miss your school district and have to sit there for another few minutes.  There was a bit of excitement as the announcements got closer to your district.  We also listened to an AM radio who read the reports.  (I have the hardest time trying to explain to Mike that the gentleman who read the announcements is a state treasure; he even has a beach named after him.)

The actual day of the snowstorm starts with nervous energy.  We turn up the heat a few degrees.  In case we lose power, this gives us a little more time to worry that the pipes will not freeze and burst.  We sit on the couch, drinking coffee and flipping the channels between local news and reruns that are syndicated on weekdays.  We let Liam play on his Kindle without tracking the amount of time.  He’s stuck inside for the day, he can play a little more than usual.  We read books.  We play games.  We act silly.  Liam reenacting his time on a mechanical shark at my college homecoming last fall was one of my favorite moments of the day! We watch cheesy movies.  At some point, we all venture off to other rooms to do our own thing.  Liam will go play in his room, I will find something to clean.  I love this time!

Snow days provide a great excuse to snuggle up on the couch and read

Mike tries to decide when to go outside and tackle the first round of snow blowing.  Even with a strong machine, heavy snow needs to be handled in shifts. When he heard our next door neighbor head out around noontime, Mike followed suit. While Mike took care of the driveway, I dug out our walkway and our neighbor’s walkway.  Liam came out with me, eager to play in the snow.  The snow was blowing around, giving Liam the idea to put on his swim goggles so he could see.  Sometimes, he is an innovator.


We went back inside to unthaw, sitting on the couch with our soft, fleece blankets.  At 4:00, we decided to head out again to dig out while we still had a bit of light.  Even though I shoveled four hours earlier, it looked like I hadn’t done anything!  I started digging out all over again.  A neighbor came over with his snowblower and finished the job for me.  Another neighbor cleared our older neighbors’ walkway.  Mike used his new snowblower on five driveways.  Neighbors came out and helped each other dig and clear.  We texted our neighbor, a hospital nurse who has to go to work, and let her know that her path and drviewat were cleared.  She called us a minute later to express her gratitude. It’s nice to know that actions can really change someone’s day.

While I don’t think many of us look forward blizzards, I think we enjoy the camaraderie that emerges during these storms.  We check in on each other before, during, and after the storm.  We look out for each other and help each other out.  We laugh and joke during a less than ideal situation.

Today, Liam and I will venture outside to dig a third time, this time to remove snow that blew back into the walkway overnight.  We will play board games, drink hot cocoa, and, even though I swear I will not indulge and overeat during these snow-ins, I will eventually suggest making cookies.  Mike and I will continue to check in with friends and family to make sure everyone is still okay.  Blizzards remind me that I am surrounded by amazing people, some by choice and some by chance.  New Englanders’ ability to handle copious amounts of snow and wind is another reason why I would never leave this area!

My Best Vacation Idea Ever!

The week before holiday break, I stalked the weather, hoping for a few warm days to go hiking or visit the zoo.  Each day revealed another unseasonably cold day.  I panicked, wondering what to do with Liam.  The three of us were home most of the week.  Anyplace indoors to entertain kids would be insanely busy.  (Not so secret information about me: I have zero patience for crowds.)  I looked into visiting Cape Cod during the week and decided to stay closer to home in Newport.  We were able to rent a room at the Holiday Inn Express at a very reasonable rate.  They had an indoor pool and free breakfast.  We splurged on a room with a jacuzzi, which Liam immediately at to explore.

We headed to Newport early and walked around Thames St, expecting to pretty much have the area to ourselves.  It was surprisingly busy!  After driving around a few minutes, I gave up and paid to park.  We had a nice lunch, walked around, and headed to the hotel for check-in.

We immediately changed and headed to the pool.  Liam was beyond excited to burn off energy.  We swam for over an hour and headed back to the room.  Since Mike and I really cracked down on extra expences and started watching our budget, we stopped ordering food and going out to eat.  That evening, we ordered Dominos for the first time in 2017.  Liam was amazed that we could have pizza delivered right to our hotel room.

Liam has minimum experience in hotels.  We often stay with relatives or go camping.   There were a few features he loved, such as the free soap and notebook.

“Can I keep the notepad?”

“You can.”

“And the pen?”

“Yes, buddy.”

“This is the nicest hotel ever!’

While waiting for dinner, we played Ticket to Ride. We bought it for Liam for Christmas.   It is a rare board game that I don’t mind playing.  Liam and I often play games at our favorite coffee shop; it’s nice to have a fun game at home.  After dinner, we headed back to the hotel.  This time, we had the pool to ourselves the entire time.  The depth varied from three to four feet, making it better for Liam, who could touch the bottom everywhere.

A few years ago, we stayed at a local Holiday Inn Express while getting through the local floods.  Each morning, Mike and I shared a tray of their cinnamon rolls.  Add some scrambled eggs and sausage, and we didn’t need to eat again until dinner.  We wondered why we worked fifteen hours a day in the basement and didn’t lose a pound.  Then we discovered that the cinnamon rolls have over 600 calories each.  We were eating a day’s worth of calories in the morning!  At the time, it was worth it to have the energy to work all day.  This time, we were much better, each eating only one.

We were able to hit the pool one more time in the morning.  There were two kids Liam’s age there; he was happy to have kids to play with.

This was such a great way to spend a day during a cold vacation!  We didn’t have to deal with crowds and it cost us less than going to dinner and a movie.  I’m so glad we decided to get away locally!

Staying Awake

I stayed awake until midnight! Not only did we stay awake, we stayed away at our neighbors’ house!

We are blessed with amazing neighbors!  We were so naive when purchasing the house.  We only looked at the house we were interested in buying, ignoring the houses around it.  (I’d like to think that if were anything totally suspicious to see, our eyes would have caught it.) We managed to get friendly, welcoming neighbors.  They’ve all become great friends of ours.  For the past few years, one house has hosted New Year’s Eve.  For lame parents like us, it is a perfect setup.  We can walk over and be social, but be home in our PJs by 9:00.  We went over fully expecting to follow that trend.

After talking, laughing, and eating for awhile, a few of us began yawning.  I looked at my watch to see that is was 11:00!  I was asleep last year at that time!  I seemed silly to pack up at that point; we were staying out and up! When we reached the one minute mark, my heart dropped for a minute, preparing myself for the fact that my mom was not going to call me in two minutes.  I was surrounded by friends, realizing I would be fine.

Liam loved the idea of staying awake.  He was excited to watch the ball drop and follow ed the adults’ lead, hugging his own friends and wishing them a happy new year.

For months, my friends have been telling me about a boot camp class offered by a gentleman who has been on American Ninja Warrior.  They giggle as they talk about how overwhelmed they were in their first class.  I have been nervously intrigued by this class.  After my panic attack inducing experience with my last new class, I was careful not to work myself up about this one.  Last night, I was finally able to give it a try! The class was fantastic! It was challenging but manageable! The class started with a reasonable warm-up. Being able to keep up reminded me that my body is changing and growing stronger. It was set up in rotating stations. While your partner was completing the exercise, you had to plank.  I am great with weights but terrible with body-weight exercises.  However, I am strong enough to hold planks.  When I woke up this morning, I immediately felt that I worked hard last night.  I’m so glad that I went!  Fabio kept the class interesting.  The fellow attendees were friendly and welcoming.  I will definitely attend again!

Ten years ago, most of my time spent with friends involved sitting around, eating and drinking.  I am beyond thankful for friends who push me to try new things, get out of my comfort zone, and make myself better.  Some of my favorite time spent with them involve running, hiking, practicing yoga, and lifting weights.  I am excited and nervous to reach the goals we’ve set for ourselves this year!  We have some big goals for the upcoming year; I’m looking forward to a lot of celebrations!