Random Things Making Me Happy

Baseball is back!

We look like babies in this picture!

I love baseball! Loving the Red Sox was a non-negotiable while Mike and I began dating.  We can compromise in other areas, but the man I married needed to be a Sox fan. Baseball played a huge part in our dating. One of our first dates was to Fenway; we’ve been countless times since. Mike and I even had Red Sox undertones at our wedding. We took Liam to his first game when he was only a few months old. While he appreciates the excitement, fanfare, and $5 hotdogs more than the game itself, Liam enjoys visiting Fenway. Opening Day signifies that summer, with her long, warm days, is quickly approaching. We are attending our first game of the season this weekend. I am beyond excited to continue our Fenway traditions, even if we are supposed to get some snow that morning.

Assumptions are never a good idea!

Yes, Liam did line up the garbage cans

Through my years of teaching, I’ve learned to meet students where they are and help them fill any gaps in their learning. I’ve also learned not to make assumptions about what they know, as backgrounds and learning experiences vary. Wednesday afternoon, Liam, Banjo, and I walked home from school. As we walked into our house, I asked Liam to grab the trash bins from the curb and line them up by our house. He lined up the trash bins, just as I asked. I giggled, reminded the importance of explicit directions. As I finalize my last project of the year, I am reminded to not only be clear with my expectations but also to remember the importance of modeling and support each step of the way to help my students achieve.

Rainbow clouds!

While I was pregnant, Mike’s Aunt Char was very sick. She tried to hold on long enough to meet Liam but passed away when I was six months pregnant. After her funeral, I saw rainbow clouds for the first time. It seemed like a sign. Since then, I have only witnessed rainbow clouds a handful of times. Once was at Mackerel Cove while we were all playing on the beach. Once as I drove to Target to get Liam new pajamas the night before he had to have his ear tubes surgically removed (I was a nervous wreck), and once the other morning while driving to school.  I am a big believer in signs but cannot figure out why I saw rainbow clouds at that moment. I know about science and such, obviously, but I just like to think of such occurrences as signs.

I learned to make GIFs!

animated

Banjo manages to sit moving just his tail. It is the cutest thing to watch. I managed to get it on video and loved it so much that I downloaded a GIF-making app and made him a GIF.

Half-Marathon and Banjo Training

It’s been two weeks since Banjo joined our family. It feels like he’s been with us forever. We are learning each other’s ques and setting in nicely. He’s a happy dog, eager to learn, please, and rid the world of squirrels.

Last week, Banjo and I went for our first run. We did okay, but he pulled quite a bit. We made it about a mile and a half before we were both done. Two days later, my shoulder was still sore. I saw someone running with their dog using a belt leash. After scouring reviews on Amazon, I ordered one designed for large dogs.  We took a quick walk, following our usual route. It was so much more comfortable than pulling him on his leash! Yesterday, he and I set out using the belt leash. I love that it has pockets. I was able to fill one with animal crackers (his incentive of choice), one with waste bags and my phone, and one for my water bottle. (I don’t know how people run without water.)

 

Banjo was very attentive when he discovered my pocket full of crackers!

 

We had a great run! We went a longer route than we usually do during our walks, covered over two miles. We definitely could have gone longer, but I didn’t want to push it and I needed to pick up Liam. I turned on my interval timer but didn’t need since Banjo kept stopping to smell and mark things. He and I kept a 12:33 pace, right where I aim to be during short solo runs.  Best of all, I could truly be “hands-free” while running; everything fit in the belt!

 

While running with Banjo requires adjustment, I’m glad he and I settled into the routine that works for both of us.  I will miss afternoon runs on the Boulevard, but it is nice to have a running buddy for my short, weekday runs!

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.

What am I Thankful for this Year?

I know, it’s a totally clique prompt, but I’m going with it.

Mike

Right at the top!

Mike supports me in every possible way.  While I didn’t need his permission, he gave me his blessing to sign up for BRG and take a class at Bryant this spring.  Some weeks, I was out of the house four nights.  He never complained.  A year ago, we spent four days in the hospital while he recovered from an appendectomy. We laughed through much of it, confusing the nurses.  We left the hospital thankful not only for his health, but that we were able to get through a scary, stressful time.

He’s funny.  I genuinely love spending time with him.  He is a great father.  I am thankful for him and our great marriage.

Liam was in my tummy in this picture; I wouldn’t know that for another week

My In-laws

My in-laws are amazing!  My father in law is one of my favorite people in the world!  They are supportive and involved.  They are fantastic grandparents.  My mother in law will play with Liam for hours.  They both give great advice.  When I am thankful for my husband, I am also thankful for the two people who raised him.  They are the reason he is so wonderful!

My Friends (old and new!)

The few years after having Liam were so lonely.  Facebook exacerbated the situation by informing me everytime people went out without me.  Over the years, I’ve made some life-changing friends.  They support me and challenge me to try new things.  They offer different perspectives.  They allow me to vent when needed put push me when it is time to move on. Most importantly, they make me laugh!  Whether we are running, doing yoga, putting together an event at Liam’s school, or sitting around a fire in someone’s backyard, laughter is always a significant part of the festivities.  I think about where I am right now, fully aware that my friends helped me more than they’ll ever know.

Booba!

My kid is amazing!  I know, every mom has to say that.  I love this little seven-year-old child of mine!  He’s smart, funny, and observant.  He is kind, even when he doesn’t realize I’m watching.

Teaching

My work is challenging but rewarding.  My kids are amazing and make excellent observations about their world. I am also blessed with fantastic coworkers and a lot of autonomy.  I spend more time with my colleagues than I do with my family.  I’m thankful to spend my days with great people.

My Health

I often complain about my body, fully aware that I need to change my diet to change my body.  However, my body is healthy and allows me to run and practice yoga.  It allows me to take walks with Liam and Mike.  It may be bigger and softer than I’d like it to be, but I am thankful to possess a healthy, able body.

“Good Start!”

While doing research for his I-Search paper, a student asked me to look at his research organizer.  He had one bit of information for each of his five research questions.  Knowing he needed at least two to three answers for each of his questions to formulate a valid, well-rounded response, I told him, “Good start” and began asking clarifying questions to gather more information.

“Really?  I thought I was done,” he told me as we wrapped up the check-in.

From across the room, another student chimed in, “Don’t you hate when she does that?  ‘Good start.’ ‘No, I’m showing her because I’m done and she always says ‘Good start.'” There is nothing more humbling than learning about an annoying quirk from a group of teenagers.

It wasn’t until he called me on it that I realized how often I use the term “Good start,” in both verbal check-ins and while communicating via Google Docs.  I often joke with my students about a magical place called “Done.”  They all want to be there.  For them, “Done” is place that means they can relax for a minute and exhale before moving onto their next goal.

It makes me wonder, when are we “Done?”  In yoga, we are never “done.”  That’s why it’s called practice.  In the ten plus years of practicing yoga, I’ve never been bored; there’s always something new and another challenge.  Running and weightlifting have changed my yoga practice.  While my legs are stronger than they’ve ever been, I’m aware that I am not as flexible as I used to be.  I was close to being able to do a split; that went away when I began running three times a week.  While some flexibility fled, I find I get more from my sessions now.  My body craves the stretching and movement.

When it comes to running, I am aware that I will also never be “done.”  I’m inspired by progress to become faster and stronger. It is such a great feeling to feel better while running or to go a little faster than you’re used to running.

With both my students and Liam, I spend a lot of time talking about growth mindset, a term coined by Carol Dweck.  She talks about the power of the word “yet,” as in, “I can’t do that yet.”  Because I loop with my students, we can talk about progress and how far they’ve come in the months and years we’ve known each other.  When he gets frustrated with a new concept, I remind Liam of his progress in ninja skills classes and elementary school.  “Remember when borrowing numbers in subtraction was tough?  Now, you can do it without any problems.  You’ll get this!’

My running friends and I often remind ourselves of our progress.  We remember when the thought of running four minutes was terrifying.  Now, we regularly run three miles without stopping.

So this makes me wonder when I will be “done” when it comes to running, weightlifting and yoga.  In my weightlifting, my goal is to do a pull-up.  I can deadlift 200 pounds but can’t do a pull-up.  I signed up for a 10K next September.  There is talk about a half marathon next summer.  How far will go?  I have a plan to reach these goals?  What’s next?

If Your Kid Does Something Cool and You Forget to Take Pictures, Did It Really Happen?

So I am the mom who didn’t take a single picture of Halloween.

There was a rush to get ready and out the door to meet at our neighbor’s house for a few games before trick or treating.  Because Liam’s school didn’t have power and was canceled, he went to work with Mike for the day and didn’t get home until after 5:00.  We were convincing Liam to eat so he wouldn’t get tired and grumpy while walking around with his friends.  There was Liam’s sudden request for me to wear my Pikachu costume with him.  I was going to try to avoid dressing up.  He asked me.  At seven, he’s not going to ask his mama to dress up with him much longer.

The boys played a few games, a donut eating contest and bobbing for marshmallows, and were on their way. Liam said “Thank you” at every house, even when he didn’t think I was listening.  He really is a polite kid!  After about an hour in, he started to get hungry and whiny.  Because he ate a huge lunch, he wasn’t hungry at dinner and ignored our request to “just eat a little something.”  He made the decision to power through.  The kids had a blast!  We are so fortunate for fantastic neighbors and a neighborhood that really gets into the Halloween spirit!  Houses are decorated, and people are friendly.


It wasn’t until we got home and I checked my Facebook that I realized I hadn’t taken a single picture of Liam in his costume.  We were so busy having fun that I forgot to capture it!  I love looking through my Timehop pictures on Halloween to see how much Liam has grown.  Next year will have a year missing.  It is what it is.  We have a picture of him wearing his costume at a trunk or treat event at the school last Friday night.

Somewhere out there are pictures of my sister and me on Halloween.  I know that we don’t have photos from every year.  My dad has moved a handful of times since my mom passed away; I don’t even know how many pictures he has left.  I love our cheesy photos in front of the fireplace wear quintessential 80’s Halloween costumes.  There was one year I was Strawberry Shortcake, and she was a Monchichi.

When I realized I had forgotten to take pictures, I felt a pang of disappointment.  There have been plenty of moments that didn’t make it to the camera.  I’m thankful for a night that was so fun, we were too busy enjoying it to stop and take pictures! Honestly, my only regret of the evening is telling Mike to take the remaining Halloween candy with him to his office.  I know I cannot trust myself with copious amounts of candy, but I wish I had saved a handful of Milky Way bars before banishing them from our house!

 

How Writing is Helping Me Deal With Anxiety

Like many others, I struggle to balance anxiety and worry.  One of my favorite insomnia and Shavasana activities is worrying.  I worry like a champ!  When I have nothing to worry about, I dig into my worrying archives.  Nothing completes an hour of productive yoga practice quite like replaying an incident that happened ten years ago instead of emptying my mind and relaxing.

I’ve managed to learn my triggers and adapt.  I no longer find issue politely declining social invitations that don’t interest me.  I find that I feel better when I work out and eat a healthy(ish) diet.  I feel calmer when my world around me is neat and organized.  Mike understands this and helps so much with housekeeping and household maintenance.  I need to make time for Mike and Liam.  This is not a chore; rather it is something I need to be conscious of when planning our week.  When something happens that might cause an anxious reaction, I’ve learned to breathe and rationalize as best I can.  These tricks make being me much easier.

I’ve managed to find friends who get me.  We all have our own pasts and issues and understand each other.  That being said, we also push each other.  During the past few years, I’ve done so many things I would never do without a gentle push: traveling solo to California for a week to facilitate for Summit, jumping into the ocean during winter, cutting my hair shorter than it’s been in years, joining the Beginner Runners Group, signing up for BoldRDash, running over the Newport Bridge.  I’m thankful to people who challenge me to try new things. Many of these events have helped my anxiety and confidence.

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The first time I jumped into a perfectly cold ocean in the winter!

 

That time I went to California by myself for a week but ran by myself every night

This summer, I began writing again for the first time in years.  I wasn’t sure if I was going to share my thoughts.  If I decided to share, I wasn’t sure how to begin that process.  Once I had some vulnerabilities on the internet, I wasn’t ready to just share the blog link on my Facebook page.  While running last week, I mentioned that I had been writing about my process of becoming a runner and agreed to share my blog with my friend.  The feedback was so positive, I shared it with a few more friends.

 

What started as a document of my journal to become a “real runner” has become one of my most powerful tools for managing my mind and quelling anxiety.  Writing helps me sort out my thoughts to find positivity and growth.  Writing adjusts my perspective of the world.  I find myself looking at the world differently, examining daily aspects of my life for inspiration.

 

 

Did She Smoke?

Seven and a half years ago, my mother lost her battle with COPD.  She had been sick all of my adult life, managing to hang on through my wedding and pregnancy.  After refusing my offer to postpone, she passed away on the evening we held Liam’s blessing.


The transition of being someone whose mother was sick, whose mother had just passed, and someone who lost their mother years ago was a difficult one.  Liam doesn’t remember anything about his nana.  I make myself remember the sound of her voice.


In a recent interview, Prince William discussed his mother, stating that he was fairly certain that his late mother would have been a grandmother who drove him nuts, the type who would stop by at bathtime, get the kids wired, and leave.  I love that he admitted that he didn’t always look at his mother with rose-colored glasses; deceased parents aren’t always perfect.  It makes me wonder about the relationship Liam would have had with my mom.  She loved kids.  I know Liam would have loved her.  Being 1,500 miles away, they wouldn’t see each other as often as they’d like, but I know she would’ve talked to him as much as they could.  When she was sick, she used to listen to him take bottles, happy and content just to hear the slurping noise.

Whenever I have to tell someone that my mom passed away when Liam was four months old, I always get a sympathetic, “poor baby” look.  There are always three follow-up questions:

“How old was she?”    (58)

“Was she sick?” (Yes, she had COPD and was on dialysis.)

“Did she smoke?”

When I confirm this, there is always a knowing sigh, almost in relief, as if to say “that explains everything.”

Yes, my mom smoked.  Yes, she knew it was bad for her.  Yes, she tried to quit, once managing to go almost a year without a cigarette.  She struggled with depression, most of which went under-diagnosed and mostly untreated.  After her death, I learned that things about her childhood that she never disclosed, reminding me that she was much stronger than I realized.  She was the person who would do anything for anyone.  She was the mom all of my friends when to when they had issues with their own mothers or boyfriends.  While she was sometimes simple and naive, she found the best in everyone.

There are many debates about healthcare costs and how much the companies should pay for people who do not take care of themselves.  I totally understand the need for that argument.   That being said the fact that my mom smoked doesn’t make losing her any easier for those who knew and loved her.

#Automatic25

Last week marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the release of REM’s Automatic For the People.  I remember my parents giving me permission to go take the public bus to Providence to go buy the album on the day it came out.  We were living in a rural area, so this bus ride took well over an hour.  We walked around the East Side, by Brown University, thinking we were worldly and grown up.

 

Michael Stipe and I shared a moment at the last show they played locally in 2008

Automatic was a much darker album than their previous Out of Time and the first release since huge breakout success.    I was instantly mesmerized by Michael Stipe’s dark lyrics and deep voice.  We quickly memorized every song, singing them from the back of the room before the start of English class.

 

For me, REM was an integral part of my childhood.  I fell in love them in ninth grade with Out of Time.  Automatic solidified their place in my heart.  It’s hard to believe how much music appreciation has changed since the invention of the internet.  Back then, we had to rely on MTV News, 120 Minutes, music stores, and magazines to learn about new artists and releases.  Nothing was “Googleable.”  One of us would learn a new bit of information about tracks, release dates, or possible tours and call the rest of our group, feeling powerful with news to share:

“I was at Strawberries today.  Automatic is going to be released October 5.”

“The title name comes from a dinner they used to go to in Georgia.  When we get our licenses, we are totally driving down there for breakfast.”

When I look back on how much harder it was to be a music fan those days, it reminds me how important music was to all of us.  I think about the afternoon I spent sitting at my kitchen table with cassette player, notebook, and pencil, determined to learn the words to “It’s the End of the World as We Know It.”  While music is still important, I wonder if I would ever be able to have that love of music again. Now, I no longer need to do that; I can Google the lyrics to any song.

REM was the soundtrack of my teenage angst.  Their music got me through what are supposed to be the best years of your life but, unless you’re the star in a cheesy high school comedy, rarely are.  I remember what part of my life each new album narrated for me.  The Monster tour was my first grown-up arena tour.  I had to go to Filene’s a few days before the show to obtain a wristband, granting me a place in line but not guaranteeing tickets.   I was the last person there to get tickets to their three-night stay in Mansfield.  I remember hugging a tearful girl behind me in line, thankful to provide comfort but more thankful to have tickets.  These days, I’m upset if I am placed in a virtual waiting room for tickets; how times have changed!

REM continues to be an important part of my life.  I have a playlist of their music set up for my runs.  This is evident by my tattoo of REM lyrics.  I had wanted to get something in my mom’s memory for a while.  The song “Sweetness Follows” discusses the family’s reaction to the loss of a father.  The lyric “live your life filled with joy and thunder” resonates with me.  My mom overcame a lot of challenges, some of which I didn’t learn about until after her death.  In spite of these difficulties, she never got bitter or sour.  My mom could find the best in anyone and the good in any situation.  I remember that when things start to get difficult and I need to remember the positive.

Mike traced the words using one of the last letters my mom sent me.  She had a very distinct backhand, the result of being a left-handed Catholic School survivor of the 1950’s.  While Mike traced the entire line, only the words “Joy and Thunder” fit nicely across my foot.  I found a fantastic tattoo artist who took the time to listen to me and had a steady hand for the work.  Two years later, I have never once regretted this tattoo.  After spending many years listening to REM via her daughter, Mom was not a huge fan.  She also hated tattoos.  Getting an REM tattoo in her memory seems an ironically fitting commemoration to her.

Part of the celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of Automatic for the People includes the release of two previously unreleased tracks that didn’t make the album.  The first, Mike’s Demo Track, I immediately downloaded.  A few later, I can’t bring myself to listen to the second track.  It’s weird knowing that this there is a good chance this is the last time I get to hear an REM song for the first time.  (Does that make any sense?)  So for now, I will keep that gem hidden from my Spotify until a time when I really need it.

Can We Get Back to Running, Please?

Kudos to anyone who gets my Hamilton reference!


Last week, I pondered what makes me back off, slow down, or let go.  Do I do these things when I absolutely have to or am I giving up too soon?  When I drop from the monkey bars, could I go reach for one more bar or am I just letting go and dropping to the ground because the task is difficult?  How do I know when to let up? I pushed through the discomfort last week while working on the monkey bars and was able to reach two more bars.  That seemed like evidence that I should push myself in the following day’s 5K.

During Wednesday’s monthly 5K, I pushed myself in the beginning.  I can keep going, I told myself.  This lead to horrible burnout and my slowest time in weeks.  My third mile was over a minute slower than my first.  My plan to challenge myself backfired.


We had a busy weekend with horribly cold, rainy weather.  I didn’t get out to run.  Tuesday and Wedsenday had other afterschool responsibilities, so I did not get to the Boulevard.  My bag is packed and I am ready to head over after school today.

In adapting to the Summit Learning Platform, I’ve worked a lot with my students on perseverance and growth mindset.  This research carried over into parenting.  Now, it carries on to me.  How do I challenge myself?  How do I respond to setbacks?  I see progress in yoga and weightlifting (180-pound deadlift!!!); what is my plan for making progress in running?  I’ve been stuck at 12:30 pace for weeks.  I want to see improvement before the Monster Dash at the end of the month.  The first thing I need to do is up my practice.  Next week’s schedule is free of meetings and obligations.  I can head out twice after school.

I’ve managed to continue running after completing BRG.  I’ve managed to create a schedule adapting to summer and the start of a new school year.  Soon, I will need to manage through cooling temperatures and shorter days.  For now, I need to continue to challenge myself and reach the next round of goals.