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!


Concerts as an Adult

Recently, I wrote about the twenty-fifth anniversary of Automatic for the People, reflecting upon how the experience of enjoying music has changed dramatically since I was in high school.  Last night, Liam attended his first “real” show.  Back in June, it seemed like a fine idea to see  Blind Pilot on a Tuesday night. When the day of the show arrived, we were reminded that we couldn’t hang anymore.  We were some of the first people there, managing to score front row seats at the old theater.  I had the foresight to pack Liam’s Kindle to play while waiting for the opening act and in between sets.

Mike and I used to be able to attend concerts and sporting events on weeknights without thinking twice about it.  This time around, the only reason I was able to convince Mike to attend was because it was at a venue with seats.  When the opening act, Charlie Cunningham, began, Liam was mesmerized that a man with a guitar could make such beautiful music.  We all started to crash while waiting for Blind Pilot to come on stage; we let Liam buy a fountain soda and some candy, hoping the sugar boost would last through a few songs.  Mike and I giggled to ourselves as we eavesdropped on the couple behind us talking about where they were going to dinner after the show.  We are proud of ourselves is we stay through the encore these days.  In a seemingly previous life, we always used to stop for a bite after shows.

Blind Pilot is amazing to see live!  Mike and I saw them last year in Boston; seeing them front row was spectacular! Although Liam loved seeing the entire band and all of their instruments, he was crashing. Two songs in, he curled up in his chair and told me, “We can stay for the whole thing, Mama.  I don’t mind.”  Even though there was no way I’d ever keep him out that late, I was touched that he offered.  We snuck out at the end of that song.

In the foyer, Charlie Cunningham was hanging out.  We talked to him for a few minutes.  He was honored to be Liam’s first show and took a picture together.  Liam told him about his piano lessons.  Charlie and Mike talked about London.  He was incredibly gracious and easy to talk to.  Liam managed to score stickers from the Blind Pilot people.  Even though I said he didn’t need one, I caved and asked him to pick out a t-shirt. He chose one with a boat on it and their hometown, Astoria, OR, the town where the Goonies is set.  It was a great first concert experience, one I hope he doesn’t expect this if we go see Taylor Swift next summer!

Although Liam is usually well-behaved, he was exceptional during his first concert.  He was fine with waiting (because he could play his X-Wing game) and was polite during the shows.  He talked all morning about getting to meet Charlie and talking to him about piano lessons and music.  He was excited that he had his picture taken in front of the theater marquees, “Just like you and Daddy did at Hamilton!”   Liam asked if we could go see both bands again when he is a little older and can stay up for the entire show.  I love that he and I share a love of music. He has pretty impressive taste in music and enjoys discussing the differences between Guns N Roses and the White Stripes.  I’m looking forward to having a concert buddy as he gets older.


Today is the last day for WBRU, our local college radio station.  Everyone on Facebook is acting like it is the end of the world.  Honestly, radio is no longer the way I listen to music.  Ten years ago, I invested in an iPod and spent hours downloading music and creating playlists.  The internet further changed my listening habits with the creation of Pandora and Spotify. Once I had a Spotify Premium account, I increased my data plan on my phone and streamed music all the time.  For the past two years, I’ve relied on my Amazon Echo to fill my home with music.  If someone recommended a band or artist to me, I could find them easily online.  I’ve discovered some of my favorite bands this way.

Radio took a backseat to how music filled my life.  In the car, I listen to CDs, books on CD borrowed from the library, and NPR.  (Even Liam asks me to leave it on the “news.”)  I rarely listen to the radio.  During my commute, I would sometimes turn on the radio and scan stations for a traffic report if I found myself crawling up 95.  Now, I have an iPhone that can inform me where the problem is, how long it will take to get through it, and suggests alternative routes.  Radio can’t do that.

BRU was a huge part of my formative years.  I turned to them to teach me music worth listening to: REM, Pearl Jam, They Might Be Giants.  As a teenager, I would call them over and over to request songs and artists, assuming that would never realize it was the same person calling four times in an hour to request the same Presidents of the United States song.  I heard songs I loved and had to wait until the end of the music block in hopes that the DJ would reveal the title and artist.  No Shazam back then.  It took months to learn the title of “How Soon is Now?”  The radio station shaped what I heard and who I became.  We went to their events.  We tuned in, eager to buy whatever music they were selling.


A picture of myself with two of my closest friends in high school.  I keep this in my class as a reminder that I used to be a teenager myself. I am the one on the left, sporting a unibrow and a Chili Peppers T-shirt. 

Fast forward twenty-five years.  We’ve come a long way since trying to find 95.5 on a tune-in radio, moving the antenna and hoping to get the signal as I moved around my shared bedroom in Burrillville.  And now we are upset that they’re shutting down.  We’re acting like the boy we all had a crush on who strung us along then got upset when we started dating someone else.


Unfortunately, we forgot about radio. We subscribe to satellite and streaming services.  (In college, I remember the morning DJs on the drive to class talking about XM Radio, explaining that people would pay for radio the way they pay for cable TV.  At the time, we all thought it was a ridiculous idea.)  On the occasions it’s on, I remember its joy when they play a forgotten favorite. From now on, I will have to rely on following the right people on Spotify to surprise me with classic songs.  Or, I will have to continue my current habits of Spotify, books on CD, and NPR.


Taking a break from Hamilton the Revolution to enjoy the last few days of BRU