Sunday, November 29, 2015

Getting Prepared

I love Christmas. I really do.

This morning we almost didn't go to church. Trey and I didn't have Sunday school because so many people are out of town. Also, he and I both have colds. Also, it's raining and cold and gross outside. We slept past the 8:00 service (our usual), and I just don't love the contemporary service at 9:30 (it's not my thing, no hard feelings if it's yours), so we almost didn't go.

But I'm so glad we did.

The sermon was titled "A People Prepared." I was reminded that last year for Advent season I challenged myself to write something reflective of the season every day. You can find those posts here (scroll to the bottom to get to December 1st). But I've hardly thought about what I might do to honor the season this year. I haven't thought much about getting prepared for the arrival of the Christ child.

If I'm being honest, the past several months have probably raised more questions in my faith than anything. Don't get me wrong, I am firm and true in my belief of Christ as the Savior of the world and my eternity in heaven because of that fact. But I've questioned a lot. I've questioned what Jesus would do about Syrian refugees, about terror in the world, who he would support as a leader of our country and what really qualifies a person to do that job (would he insist that only a Christian is qualified? should that even be a talking point of a presidential candidate?), and on and on.

Other people seem so sure of themselves on issues like these. I think I've read scripture references (mostly on social media) that support both sides of every issue, and it feels like everyone is 100% certain they are right and that God agrees with them. And I'm still just baffled most of the time. I've wondered if maybe my faith isn't as strong as these people who are so certain when it comes to world issues.

Enter this excerpt from this morning's sermon notes: "Advent doesn't depend on our faith. It's about God's faithfulness."

What a good word.

My God IS faithful. All the time.

And now I am inspired to create a plan for my Advent this year. I want to share a couple of options I've found.

First, there is the phenomenal scripture writing plan from my friend Shannon. She posts one every month, and this month someone has even translated it to Spanish. You can find it here on her web site if you're interested.

This Advent study popped up on my Facebook feed just as I sat down to write this post (no kidding). It's from New Life Church in B/CS, which is led by parents of some of the kids at my school. I haven't read it all in detail, but it's definitely a good option.

I've got a little more than 24 hours to get my plan together.

I love Christmas.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Time Tucker Made the Seventh Grade Basketball Team

First, I don't often write about my kids' adventures and shenanigans like I did when they were little. This is for three reasons. 1) If I only write about good things it seems like I'm one of those people who thinks my kids are perfect and I live my whole life with the sole purpose of seeing them be perfect. This is decidedly not true. 2) They are too old to think it's fun to have their every move - good or bad - documented and shared with the Internet. Of course I read their texts and direct messages and check their phone histories, but they need some privacy for goodness sakes!  3) The world has earthquakes and terrorists and tsunamis. Anything I may choose to write about sometimes seems silly and trivial in contrast. We live a good life. I don't want to sound like the world around me is minor and our silly stuff is major. I am well aware that this post is about seventh grade basketball.

On to the reason I'm here...

Last week it came up in conversation that I wrote in a journal to Tucker when I was pregnant with him. I continued writing to him until Keaton was born (surprise!). This blog started in 2008, so I guess nothing really important happened in the three years between. Anyway, Tucker got out the book and read through it, and I realized again that there are some things that should be written down, shared with my grandkids when they ask me about their dad when he was a kid. You know, when Trey and I are too senile to remember anything.

So I'm documenting the time Tucker made the seventh grade basketball team.

Boys basketball tryouts at our middle school are hard core. I don't know exactly how many kids try out, but I think it's somewhere between 60 and 90 (depending on who you ask and how dramatic they feel that day). The try outs last four days with cuts each day, and by the last day they are down to 26. I am impressed and fascinated that so many kids try out. I don't think at 12 I had the constitution to show up for something with bad odds like that. Honestly, I don't think I would have even tried out.

Of course Tucker wanted to try out, but maybe for the first time ever in his life, he was nervous. The minute the last football game ended, he started asking where and when he could go to practice shooting. On the first night of tryouts, he came home from practice and then went to the court to shoot for another hour. He obsessed.

He started talking about basketball shoes, and because I'm such a supportive mother I told him it would be wasteful to buy shoes until he made the team. He didn't argue, which is like a weird miracle these days.

On day two of tryouts, I asked if he thought he had a shot. He explained it like this: "There are kids who aren't going to make it. There are kids who are going to make it. There are kids on the bubble. I'm on the bubble." On day three of tryouts, the other two guys we carpool with got cut. It's like Tucker was holding his breath, all the time thinking, shooting every minute he could. I've truly never seen him so nervous.

This is stressful for a mom! (poor me, right?) Tucker is the kid for whom things tend to come easily. He doesn't seem to work too terribly hard on things like schoolwork and still does well. He can sometimes give off this very irritating over-confidence. Whether he made the team or not, this was becoming a good life lesson for him.

It's hard to watch your kids learn lessons.

On the last day of tryouts, four guys were going to be cut. Tucker was focused and maybe a little scared on his way to the gym. For his mom and dad, it was a long two hours.

He came out to the car when we picked him up, handed me a schedule, and said, "Looks like you need to add some money to your budget for basketball shoes." Then he asked if we could go to the gym so he could work on his layups.

Of course I acted cool about it, but I was really, really happy for him.

And so in these years when my almost-thirteen-year-old son has the "I know everything and you're an idiot and how dare you tell me what to do" disease, I will remember these moments. Moments of uncertainty that highlight his ability to work hard even when the outcome is not likely to go in his favor. His ability to handle pressure. His ability to recognize his own weaknesses and desire to work on them until he can't anymore.

When I want to throat-punch him and his smart mouth and when I'm yelling at him about how little effort he puts into anything that isn't a sport, I will remember that somewhere in there is a kid growing up into a person I'm happy to know.

As a concluding side note, I love basketball. Really, really love it. Trey has already informed me that he may not be able to sit with me at games. If you hear a crazy lady yelling during the CSMS seventh grade B team on Monday, there is no need to turn around and see who it is. It's probably  me.

Sunday, October 25, 2015


This morning I ran a half marathon.

I wrote this blog post on April 7, 2015 about my plan to become a runner. On April 15th, I wrote this post about being stuck and not being able to run more than a quarter mile. Then I really started battling the words in my head, the negative self-talk that can take over when I'm not paying attention. All because of running.

If you've followed my journey at all, or been around me for any length of time, you know that I have persisted in this whole running thing. When July in Texas brought 100 degree heat and 150% humidity, I started getting up at 7:00 to run. When I officially went back to work in August, I started getting up at 5:00 in the morning to run. I don't really do mornings before there is sun, so this was quite a feat. It was dedication on my part. I finished the Couch to 5K app, and then decided I needed another plan to follow. I'd gotten up to about four miles on my weekly runs, so I decided that I would attempt to run the BCS Half Marathon in December. I downloaded Run Keeper and started on the training plan for a run-walk half.

My awesome friend April would get up even earlier than me and drive to my house to run with me. If I ever wanted to sleep in, I knew I couldn't because April would be in the driveway. Then she moved to Spain (for real), but I had enough routine that I could continue my week day runs on my own. My training plan eventually said that I needed to run eight miles. Eight. Miles.

Um, no.

As soon as I recovered from my denial, I decided I needed a plan. I hadn't been taking water on my runs, but eight miles needed water. And a bathroom. And a planned route so I didn't end up eight miles from my house with no way home. I started asking lots of questions to my friend Erin, until she finally offered to run with me (I think I wore her down subliminally!).

I was quite surprised that on that Saturday, I ran eight miles. It was shocking, really.

Then 9.5 miles.

Then 11 miles.

Erin knew I had signed up for the Nutrabolt 10K in October, and asked me why I wasn't doing the half instead. The truth is that I had planned to do a half in December, not October. But as we ran 11 miles together and she offered to run the race with me, I realized that I WAS ready for a half marathon, so I got to work on changing my registration.

As it turned out, I missed the cut off by a couple of days. But I had gotten excited about it, so I finally relented and registered for the half at full price. With my registration for the 10K I made a donation to Mercy Project and got a really cool Nathan water bottle. Probably the most expensive water bottle I'll ever own!

As the race approached, so did Hurricane Patricia. I became increasingly anxious about the weather. It hadn't rained since May or June, and we were projected record-breaking rainfall in the days surrounding my first half marathon. It was hard to get mad, though, because people were experiencing real, life-changing danger as a result of the hurricane. For me it was just a little race.

I went to pick up my race packet on Saturday, and the rain was so hard and the roads were so wet that I was convinced they would cancel. I alternated between being angry that I had trained for something that wasn't going to happen and being happy that I wouldn't have to run in the rain and wind.

On race morning, I checked my phone about 5:15 a.m. and was surprised not to see an email about the cancellation. Then when my alarm went off at six, I was again surprised - no email. No cancellation. Erin texted to say if I wanted to skip it she'd understand, but I couldn't do it. I knew I'd be mad at myself if I wimped out, so I got dressed and got on the road.

It was cold. Windy. Wet. Dark. Before the race started I commented that this was probably the craziest thing I've ever done by choice. The rain under the streetlights made it look worse than it felt. Finally, we ran.

For the first few miles, we tried to keep our shoes dry. But after running down a street with water running in puddles across it, we gave up. The rain let up a little, then it picked up a little, then it let up. It was always raining, but not consistently. At some point I felt like my jacket was drying out, but another little downpour took care of that. I don't think I knew how wet I was until we made a porta-potty stop. It was surprising to see how drenched my pants were. Let's just say that pulling them back up was quite a challenge!

Mile 8 was hard. I considered sitting down on the side of the road, but I didn't. Once I saw the mile 10 marker I felt good. Three to go!

Then the "rolling hills" that I knew would be near the end were more like mountains. I said some bad words. A little past mile 12, the rain and wind really picked up. It was the windiest, coldest I'd been the whole race. I knew that Trey and the boys were going to meet me at the finish, and I thought about how hard it would be not to just jump in the truck if they happened to pass by us.

But Erin encouraged me and we persevered. Near the finish I could see my family, and that made me really, really happy. I was proud that I didn't just sit down on the ground once I crossed the finish. I really did think about it. Really.

We picked up our shirts, got our beer steins and got in the beer line. I don't drink beer (not on principle but because I don't like it). In that moment it actually sounded good. Especially with the pretzels I knew were at the next table. When they asked me what kind I wanted, I told them "the lightest beer you have." The few sips I had weren't bad.

I had planned for us to finish in about 2:41. Our time was 2:32. I liked that a lot.

And now the top ten things I learned about running a half marathon:
1) In January, I couldn't run for two minutes without stopping.
2) In April, I couldn't run a mile.
3) Intervals are cool. I run distances in 5 minute run/2 minute walk intervals. I can go farther, faster with that plan.
4) Running distances is better with a friend. I really like my alone time, and I don't ever mind running by myself during the week for 4-5 miles because it clears my head and helps me get ready for my day. But I can't imagine running for hours alone. It would be boring. And when one person wants to quit or take it easy, the other person can push her. Running with a friend is good.
5) During wet, cold races, the volunteers are in much worse shape than the runners. We were warm while we ran, and after a while you don't notice the rain as much. If I were standing still I would have been miserable.
6) Races stop traffic. It happens. In one instance, a police officer had stopped traffic for us to run past, and the lady in the very first car rolled down her window to cheer us on. That was awesome. She could have chosen to be grumpy about the interruption in her day, but instead she put some positive out in the world. High five, lady in the car!
7) When you're running in the rain you're pretty warm because you're running. Then you stop, and you get really cold because your clothes are soaking wet. No hot shower ever felt as good as the hot shower I took when I got home. No. Shower. Ever.
8) I am spoiled. Trey let me take his truck home because I was almost out of gas and he wanted to fill up my car. Then he went to the grocery store - my usual weekend chore - because he's the nicest person I know and I'm spoiled.
9) Running 13.1 miles burned somewhere between 1600 and 1700 calories. I might eat all day long.
10) Anyone can run a half marathon. Maybe not tomorrow, but it's possible for anyone who puts in the work. I couldn't run for two minutes in January.

My calves hurt and my feet are sore and I have a knot in my right butt cheek (weird, right?), but check it out. I'm a runner.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Three Random Facebook Posts Consolidated to One Blog Post

Three short, unrelated posts.

Keaton was helping out at my office today. We went to Lowes to purchase some shower board to have slates made for the classrooms. When I told Keaton what we were doing, he had some input. "I have an idea, Mom. It's pretty progressive, and may require you to expand your budget, but I think you'll see that it's totally worth it."

Um, are you 25 and selling me insurance?

His idea (because it seems rude to leave you hanging) is to make the slates double-sided and in third and fourth grade add notes about place value up to the ten thousands so that kids can reference it quickly when working on problems.  Not a bad idea! I'm wondering if he's had a teacher do this for him before. If so, great job, teacher!

I'm kind of impressed with Tucker today. It's the 16th weekday of summer, and the kid went to three days of football camp at A&M, spent four days on the couch with a fever, and still managed to finish two summer school classes as of this afternoon. As a reward, he gets to start working out at 8:30 every morning to get ready for fall football. I think he's excited about finally being able to lift weights. He's a good kid, even if his twelve year old brain is kind of like spaghetti most of the time.

(I should mention that he took two 7th grade courses this summer so he could free up some time for fun classes.)

I heard Joe Cocker sing "Get by with a Little Help from my Friends" on my way home. It made me remember a TV show that my parents used to watch called Tour of Duty because I thought it was the theme song. Only I was wrong, and the theme song to that show was Painted Black by the Rolling Stones, and the Joe Cocker song was the theme song of The Wonder Years. This made me think of a cop show that my parents used to watch after I went to bed because I wasn't old enough to watch it. They may have recorded it on their VCR. Then I checked Netflix for several of the 80s TV dramas I couldn't watch because I was too little, and none were there. Tour of Duty, China Beach, Moonlighting...not there.  Who do I call at Netflix to get those? I'm going to feel so cool when I finally watch them. Don't tell my parents.

Friday, June 19, 2015

A moment to get political...

I know I'm not special in this regard, but I am troubled and saddened by the recent racially motivated shootings in a Charleston church. I think I'm most saddened because I am not shocked. This should be an unbelievable, shocking event. I should be checking Snopes to see if it's really true, but I'm not. It's not shocking. It's sadly believable that something like this could happen in 2015.

I've prayed for the families of the victims and others in the community that must surely be reeling. And I've spent some time questioning my own behaviors - both conscious and unconscious. I've paid more attention to the things I laugh at on facebook and the songs that play in my car. I believe that the world has good, well-intentioned people who think racism is wrong, but I also believe we have to continually monitor our cultural outtakes and intakes to make sure we're moving forward in the battle against racism instead of becoming complacent because the 1960s took care of all of that. We all have that responsibility and owe it not only to the victims in this shooting but to all the people who experience prejudice for any reason. This is what I can do right here in my hometown. This is how I can make an impact in this struggle.

Not surprisingly, I've read lots of articles about the murders and what our elected officials have to say about them. Our president used a portion of his press conference to advocate gun control, and I felt exasperated. I believe that bad people will always have weapons, and taking guns away from good people won't fix that. Either way, proclaiming that racism is wrong is something that we should all be able to agree on, and I didn't like that he - even if for a moment - used this tragedy to further his political ideals. 

Then, I see our former governor and Republican presidential candidate's interview. I must admit, when someone posted his quote on facebook I immediately assumed it was made up - a meme that some random person posted that went viral. He used the word "accident" when referring to the murders. His people say that he really meant "incident," and as a person who often has the wrong word come out of my mouth I can sympathize. However, his response was embedded in a rebuttal to the president about gun control. I really, really wanted to tell him to shut up.

This is not about politics. It's about people. Stop using this tragedy to beef up your arguments. Just stop.  Say you're sad and that we have to all really examine our conscious and unconscious behaviors. That we're all in this together. That hate doesn't come inherently - it must be taught, and we have to teach people about respect and kindness instead. Then stop. For goodness sakes stop. 

I always vote. Always. My parents always vote, and I for sure remember my mom taking it very seriously. Last week (before the murders) Trey shared a quiz with me that would supposedly help me decide who I would vote for out of the candidates currently in the presidential race. The answer I got?  None of them. I matched most closely with a candidate I've never even heard of, and it was only around 32%. Every other candidate was less. I felt disillusioned. 

So here I am. I am a 38 year old white, middle class female with a master's degree. I was raised Baptist, but now attend a Methodist church. I believe in the Bible, the power of prayer, and that Jesus came to save me. I believe that making more rules won't make rule-breakers suddenly follow the rules. I believe the most powerful thing we can do sometimes is listen to each other. I believe in the power of empathy. 

I believe that the government should treat all people equally and afford the same rights to all, even if their religion or lifestyle disagrees with mine.  I believe women can do anything men can do and should be compensated just like men would be compensated. I believe that the best way to change the world and protect it for future generations is through regular, ordinary people caring for each other and raising kids who care for each other and their environment. I believe that we are better together than we are divided. 

In the political world I'm afraid I've become an oxymoron - that I'm not allowed to be and believe all of these things. It's weighing on my heart today that there are some things in our world and our country that really need fixing, and with the political melee that has become our normal I just don't see it happening. 

And that is all I have to say about that. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Keeping up with the words in my head

If you've been around me at all, you've heard me talk about how much I love Brene' Brown's book Daring Greatly. It's been so personally meaningful to me, which is an articulate way of saying that Brown calls out my crazy and gives some suggestions on what to do about it.

A little back story. My dad has often used the saying "borrowing trouble" referring to worry. When Trey and I first got married, I borrowed trouble as a hobby. I planned for every single thing in my life to go terribly wrong, mentally prepared myself for the aftermath, and created a step by step process for picking up the pieces. Trey used to remind me over and over again that I was making stuff up to worry about, and he was right.

Recognizing that borrowing trouble was one of my brands of crazy helped me train myself not to do it as often. Through a lot of practice and prayer, I gradually figured out that I absolutely shouldn't worry about things I can't control. I also trained myself to take my mental obsession over something awful and pray constantly about it. I'm not perfect now, but I'd like to think I  mostly kicked the habit.

Nowadays when I worry it's about something I've said or done that may have hurt someone else or caused an unnecessary conflict or just sounded or seemed dumb. I can obsess and second guess my own actions like a pro. For reals.

Enter Daring Greatly. One of the points in the book is that we shouldn't treat ourselves more harshly than we treat others. We shouldn't say things to ourselves that we would never in a million years say to another person. For example, I would never say to someone "Huh. That shirt kind of makes you look like a sausage." I don't remember ever thinking that about another person. But I look in the mirror and hear those words in my head sometimes. (Sorry for the mental image of me as a sausage, but I've got to be real here.)

And so tonight I realized that my adventures in running have been great training for my self-talk. Sometimes this is what happens in my brain: "My legs hurt. This is awful. I can't run. I shouldn't have had that diet coke today. Whatever made me think I can do this."

But I would never, never, never say those things to someone else. I would cheer, high five, and whoop and holler like a wild woman.

What I'm really working on hearing in my brain is more like this: "I have SO got this! I feel great!  Look how far I've come! I bet today is a new distance personal best for me."

Let me tell you what a difference it makes!  Now I catch myself whining in my head and instead sing along to my music (today was "Rockin' the Suburbs" which was hilariously appropriate for my idyllic little neighborhood run on well manicured sidewalks). I imagine that the texts I hear beeping on my phone are friends telling me I'm a great runner. I wave at cars passing by and smile at kids on bikes. I start having fun.

I am 38 years old, and I truly think I'm just now figuring this out. So, of course, my very next thought is "We have to teach the children!" Forgive yourself. Say nice things to yourself. Give yourself a break often...a lot...all the time.

So do it. This week, think about the things you say to yourself. If it's not something you'd say face to face to someone else, then cut it out!  Say something nice instead. It will make a difference in your day. I promise!

By the way, tonight I ran 2.5 miles. That's my longest EVER. And I can't wait to run tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Wanna Be Runner

Since I posted just eight days ago, I've been stuck. For the life of me, I cannot consistently run more than a quarter mile. I simply cannot do it. After every run my shins hurt and I'm tired. Here are the top ten negative thoughts running through my head regarding running (hehe...see what I did there?):

1) Maybe almost 38 is too old to start running.
2) It's because I'm running alone. I can't do this by myself.
3) This is a terrible idea.
4) I can't do this.
5) I should lose 25 pounds and then try again.
6) Do I have asthma?
7) Do I have some kind of weird syndrome that makes my feet land funny when I walk?
8) Stress fractures are a thing. Maybe I have one in my shin. Will my leg eventually just break in half if I keep going on it? I bet that really hurts.
9) What if I'm some kind of medical freak that is incapable of running and as a result running will kill me?
10) I need one of those full body medical scan things before I run again.

Here are the top ten positive things I've thought about running in the last week:
1) It's raining!  I have an excuse not to run today!
2) Praise God that run is over.

(turns out I could only come up with two)

A friend (and marathon runner) has gently reminded me several times that I may be trying to do too much. True to form, I've thought "What? ME?? Do too much? Take things to the extreme? You must be out of your mind!  I would NEVER do that!"

She's probably at least a little bit right. I sometimes think I'm known for my patience professionally, but it's not something I can claim personally. I like to call it "task oriented" because that sounds better that "ridiculously impatient."

Last night I decided I needed to do something different.  What I'm doing worked well a month ago, but I'm stuck and it doesn't work anymore. I needed to change my instructional strategy, if you will. So I downloaded the Couch to 5K app, found a starting point that was a little behind where I felt like I was in my training, and started there. I used it today for the first time (week three, day one), and it felt good.

So I don't know if this will really make me runner, and if it works I have no idea how long it will work, but I'm giving it shot.

And now 2 school related thoughts:
Sidebar: Do engineers and dentists and bus drivers relate everything in their lives to their profession like educators do?

1) All learners begin with different skill levels. Some of them, like me as a runner, start out behind. An instructional strategy may work for them for a while, and they may make great strides, but when a kid is stuck it's our job to recognize it and make a change. Do something different. Try something else. There's no guarantee that the something else will work, but we have to be willing to keep trying until something does work.

2) As a learner, I have two speeds where I'm comfortable: fast and stop. When I felt myself moving too slowly or getting stuck, I just wanted to quit. I made excuses. I thought of rational arguments about why this isn't good for me. A part of me started to believe that this task is impossible for someone like me. Some of our kids will feel this way, and we have to help them see that slow and stuck are okay speeds, too, for a little while. We have to help them find success even if it means backing up -- like today's workout that felt good enough to make me want to run again tomorrow. They need to see progress, and we need to find ways to show it to them.

I'm still a wanna be runner. And maybe when I can finally call myself a runner I'll decide I'd rather be a cyclist or a swimmer or a great nap-taker (that one sounds good!). But at least I'll know I can do it!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

I Think I Can. I Think I Can

So I've randomly decided to become a runner.

Last year I became quilter, so I needed something else  to become this year, I suppose. The truth is that I really like doing stuff that's hard. Except when I hate it.

My initial goal was to run two miles without stopping. I am fully aware that for people who run regularly, this is like saying I set a goal of ten jumping jacks. Don't judge.

I started off running moving myself two miles on the treadmill, alternating one minute walking with one minute running. Then I increased to two minutes running, one minute walking. Can I tell you that running for a full two minutes just about killed me? It did. My nose was running faster than my body, and I'm pretty sure the Aerofit folks were standing by with some oxygen or maybe an AED machine. At first it really, really sucked. Did I say really? Well, I meant it.

Then I increased again. Then again. Then one day, accidentally, I ran a whole mile. Shockingly, when it came time for me to walk, I didn't want to. I am ever the planner, controller, scheduler and this was certainly not planned, controlled, or scheduled. I wanted to run, and I felt like I had conquered the world!

(cue reflective music to accompany wise quote)
"Sometimes the best things in life happen spontaneously." ~Stormy Hickman
(end reflective music)

I don't know how much longer it took me to run two miles without stopping on the treadmill, but it wasn't very long. Maybe a week. Off to goal #2: Run two miles outside.

I decided to run on a track because I am severely task oriented and knew I would be able to clearly see how far I had left to run. Also, as a school employee formerly of the high school nature I have access to some tracks because I know some peeps. To the track I went.

It sucked a lot.

I was hot and sweating and tired and good Lord the shin splints! My plan was to run a lap and walk a lap, but that pretty quickly turned into run 200, walk 400, try not to cry, run 200,  "Stormy Gale, you are not a quitter!," walk 200, run 100, walk 400, crawl to car.

I have not been back to the track.

Instead I mapped out a little route around my house that covers 2.5 miles if I do it twice. I began alternating running a quarter mile, walking a quarter mile. I realized immediately that my running pace was too fast. On the treadmill I ran two miles at about an 11 minute pace, and I was running my quarter miles at about a nine minute pace. I knew if I wanted to run for longer stretches I needed to slow down. As much as I tried, I just could not slow down. I was suffering by the end of every run. Also, good Lord the shin splints.

But I'm a resourceful gal. I started icing my shins after every run and applying Pan Away Essential Oils (some new voodoo I'm into). Then I did me some googling and found a web site called JogFM. I used it to make a playlist of songs on my phone that are at an 11 minute mile pace. That was a couple of weeks ago, and since then I have consistently run at a pace between 10:30 and 11:10.

(cue reflective music to accompany wise quote)
"Music can inspire us do things we don't think we can." ~Stormy Hickman
(end reflective music)

I coaxed my sister into running a 5K with me on March 28th, and we agreed that we would walk as much as we needed. It was a great race, and I felt good. We finished in 35:40. I am still super proud of that for my first 5K!

I continued to run 4-5 times the following week.

Then we were in Rice for Easter. Wendy (who, did I mention, is four years younger and four inches taller than me) asked if I wanted to do a 5K Fun Run, and I quickly agreed. The voices in my head were supportive. "I am a 5K rock star, man!  Did you see me last week? I wasn't even last!"

And so on the freezing cold morning of the race, it was freezing cold. In the 40's, I think. Cold. I decided to put my race t-shirt on over my dry fit and under my jacket because I needed the extra layers. Someone announced the pre-race warm-up, so we made our way there. A crazy excited trainer person made us do jumping jacks and high knees and lunges (lunges are from the devil, by the way). I was quickly becoming unmotivated tired angry. "DOES HE KNOW WE HAVE TO RUN AFTER THIS?" I may have said that a little too loudly.

Once the pre-race personal training session was over, they made a couple of announcements. The first was about some giant dogs about half way through the course that would probably bark and chase us "but don't worry they won't bite." The second was about how the county had grated (graded? who knows.) the gravel road the day before, so be careful.

The race began, and Wendy and I ran through the sandy, boulder filled road. I know it sounds like I'm exaggerating, but clearly I do not embellish with these blogs posts. It was like basic training on a rocky beach in the Antarctic.

Wendy didn't want to leave me behind, but I told her it was fine and she took off ahead while I walked. I ran a little in the ditch when it was flat, but mostly I just walked. Good Lord the shin splints. At one point I felt discouraged. The voice in my head said, "You are not a 5K rock star. It was beginner's luck. A fluke. This running business is not for you." Then another voice in my head said, "Shut up, stupid voice. This road sucks. I might injure myself and then how will I run?" I didn't have headphones, but I cranked up my music anyway for all the world to hear, and decided to walk my happy self right on through the whole thing. (I did run at the end because the road was flat and because you have to run through the finish, right?)

On Easter Sunday (the next day), I took the day off from running. By Monday (yesterday), my back was still sore and my shins still screamed, so I took that day off, too, feeling a little defeated.

Then, this afternoon I had a quick conversation with someone I admire a great deal. She's 65 and was encouraging me to sign up for the Aggieland Triathalon. She's registered for four triathlons this year. I told her I'd been running and gave her the short version of my journey so far, and she said, "I'm just not that competitive. I want to enjoy my walks and bike rides." It was a small moment in a small conversation, but it got me.

I came home and ran. I walked a quarter, ran a half, walked a quarter, ran a half, etc. All the while I kept telling myself to stop thinking about shin splints and paces and just enjoy myself. As a result, I ran more than I ever have on this particular course.

Tonight, no shin splints.

I started this whole thing with how I like to do things that are hard. Some people have to do hard stuff because of physical disabilities or learning challenges or whatever else. My mom has MS, and do you know what she does? Yard work. Volunteer work. Raising two grandkids. When things are hard, she keeps going. That's what hard work looks like. I expect it from my children, from my students, and from the staff I have the pleasure of working with. The least I can do is expect it of myself. I can make an effort to find things that are personally challenging and not give up. I can commit to finding joy in the challenge.

So I'm becoming a runner. I'll be 38 in a couple of weeks, and while that's not old I don't ever want to be too old to try something new. I don't ever want to think I can't.

Because I think I can.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Spring Break Mom of the Year

I have been a good mom this spring break. For real. I made throw pillows and cupcakes, cleaned out the garage, took two hikes at a local park and took the kids geocaching twice (okay, one of the hikes was also one of the geocaching things, so I guess I'm double dipping...whatever), started Keaton's quilt, went to TWO Aggie baseball games with the boys, and even bought and arranged new fake flowers in the living room. I'm practically a sitcom.

When I learned that it was supposed to rain all day today I promptly decided that I would be lazy as long as possible. I managed to stay in bed until 1:30 p.m. It was like college (college for people who didn't work full time in college, not my college, but whatever). I did get up to go buy the boys donuts (another reason I'm the mom of the year), but rather than getting dressed I just put a jacket on over my pajamas and went through the drive thru. I got up one other time to heat up a slice of leftover pizza which I then ate in my bed.   I saw Jennifer Garner cry on the Today Show and Michael Strahan get all uncomfortable when Erin Andrews said borderline inappropriate things as his guest host. I played Candy Crush. I read Scary Mommy blogs, including this plea for women to sit when they pee and the hilarious Ten Things I Want to Say to My Gynecologist. I watched a few episodes of my new favorite show The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. It was fantastic.

Until the darn sun came out.

"It's not raining!  Let's go geocaching again!"

I was kind of starting to get a headache from all of the blood in my body being at laying down level for so many hours, so after they begged for five minutes (or maybe 45 minutes, I wasn't really paying attention), I decided to pull myself out of bed and defend my self-imposed title of Spring Break Mom of the Year.

We got on our bikes (first time for me since last fall) and went in search of treasures. That's when I immediately found myself in the movie Stand By Me, and I was not one of the cool kids like Will Wheaton or River Phoenix who I'm pretty sure I loved when I was ten. Only I'm not sure if there were bikes in Stand By Me so maybe I'm thinking of The Sandlot. Whatever. It was like I was being initiated into a bike gang by my kids.

They constantly darted in and out and around each other almost crashing. One of them whipped over in front of me and slammed on his brakes. The other one almost took out my spokes with the pegs on his bike. They weaved and circled and sped. My only other group riding experiences are 1) with my favorite girls where we casually ride and chit chat and enjoy the sunshine and breeze and zen of the world, and 2) at the Spa Girl Tri where the women would kindly say "on the left" as they approached and cheer for you if they passed you, shouting encouraging, affirming words. But these boys...these boys were doing some sort of rough housing on bikes and didn't even know it was happening.

After I finally caught my breath, I said in the most demanding voice I could muster, "You guys cannot keep doing that!  It's not safe at all!"

Keaton replied with a roll of his eyes, "Mom, This is what we always do."

That did not make me feel better.

We hunted for several geocaches. First, we stopped at the park and pretty quickly found one that was not easy. I was pretty impressed with us. Then we moved on to one that is allegedly at the front of our subdivision (near the lions), and I made the boys give up because cars were flying through the castle so fast that it made me nervous.

(Yes, we live in a subdivision whose entrance is guarded by giant stone lions and you have to drive through a castle to enter. It's beyond ridiculous.)

Then we went to the back of our neighborhood and met up with my niece, and the four of us wandered on foot through the mud to what I'm certain was the right location but we never found the item. Then we headed home, but included a quick rest stop at the fountains. We sat under the pavilion, sun shining, breeze blowing. It was idyllic.

Then Tucker started ramming Keaton's bike with his front tire. Keaton asked him to stop. He didn't. Keaton yelled at him to stop. He didn't. I finally told him to "STOP IT!" and he replied with "I did stop, and then started again. And then I stopped again. And then I started again" all while ramming the bike to the rhythm.

And so I took his bike and threw it into the pond. Not really.

I asked which way they wanted to go home, and Tucker left. Keaton wanted to take the sidewalk, so he and I headed that direction. Tucker was far off the other way when he noticed that we were not following him. He pantomimed something like "Why aren't all of you following me? I'm twelve now so I'm totally in charge of this family and everyone should just do exactly what I want without questioning me."

I pantomimed back "Your brother and I are going this way and you can go how ever you want and I'll see you at home and you are not the boss of me."

Then Keaton and I pedaled home. About halfway, he started repeating, "My back is hurting so much." and "Ouch! My back!'

I ignored him as long as I could and finally took the bait, "What's wrong with your back?"

"I slept on a basketball. Long story."

And that was the end of it. Totally normal, right?

Anyway, today I made my mom effort, and now I've even checked my email for the one time per day I've allowed myself over Spring Break which should be for bonus points or something. I just made some delicious Vermont maple and sea salt popcorn from Quinn Popcorn, and I'm getting back in bed. I have more Kimmy Schmidt to watch.

And I think I see a rain cloud.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

When your superpower tries to kill you

Tonight I had a breakthrough at the grocery store. Okay, well, it wasn't exactly as dramatic as a breakthrough, but I learned something new about myself. I'm almost 38, so learning something new about myself is pretty significant. I've been around a long time.

I am organized. I've cultivated this gift my whole life. When something is complicated and detailed, I can't wait to get my hands on it and get into an Excel spreadsheet. In fact, I've commented that if I can't make it make sense using Excel, then it's likely not a solvable problem, and I wasn't kidding. It's like a superpower.

My current job has me working through several detailed processes, and my current project is ordering every piece of furniture for an entire elementary school. It's fantastic. I methodically review every detail and submit changes in the form of - surprise! - an Excel spreadsheet. (This is my organizational method rather than the furniture vendor's, but I'm certain that he's impressed and thinks I'm brilliant and the world's very best school furniture customer ever in history. That's what Excel can do. Organization is powerful stuff, man.)  My first round of changes was approximately 307 line item additions and deletions, itemized by construction room number and room name, and with detailed explanations of the products in question. It was a thing of freaking beauty. For real.

Now to the grocery store.

As long as I can remember, I have loaded my groceries onto the checkout conveyor the same way.
1. Cold items first. I have a giant insulated bag that I want them to go in, so it seems easiest to put them first so the bagger can put them directly in that bag.
2. Boxy/canned type things next. They are durable and aren't damaged if you bang them around a bit.
3. Gatorade and paper towels, etc. These things are also not damageable. I can fit 2-3 six packs of Gatorade in one reusable shopping bag.   Yes, I want them in a bag. That's why I brought all of these bags. Because I want my groceries to go in them. Grrr...
4. Fruits and vegetables next. I don't want them smushed. Also, I don't use the plastic bags in the produce section because it seems silly to bring reusable shopping bags and then fill them with small plastic bags. I can place the apples together, limes together, etc., to help the checker.
5.  Breads, chips, etc. I really hate when my bread is smushed. It makes me angry. Raises my blood pressure. Makes me sweat. I place bread products carefully last on the conveyor so that the other items don't get pressed into them at the other end.

Going grocery shopping stresses me out more and more each week, mostly because of the check out situation. Just the thought of going to the store makes me anxious, maybe takes years off my life. I have a system, and I'm doing my part. It never, never, never, never goes according to my plan. Sometimes an employee comes over to help me unload my cart, and it sends my blood pressure racing because they don't do it in order. Often I angrily bag the Gatorade and paper towels myself when I get to the car, using one of the many extra bags that the grocery store folks left unfilled while placing several random items in my cart all alone...some Gatorade here...some toilet paper there... Sometimes the bread bag makes it in the cart ahead of the cans bag, so I fluff up the bread and rearrange those items to minimize damage on the drive home. Top heavy bags also must be reorganized so they don't topple over. Basically, I re-bag most of my groceries in the parking lot. This is totally normal, right?

Today's kind-of-but-not-really breakthrough came when I made a choice to haphazardly place my groceries on the conveyor. I don't know what got into me. I just put items on up there in whatever order I picked them up from my cart.

In no particular order.


It was strange. I may have felt a little free. I'm not lying when I say that I smiled all the way to my car. All I could think is that I felt like Superman, who had spent his whole life learning the perfect way to make kryptonite only to find that he'd developed a terrible allergy and now it was choking him to death! (That's a pretty ridiculous, awful analogy and Superman never made kryptonite, but if he did make it then the analogy would work. I promise.)

What I learned about myself? My organization superpower has taken over my grocery shopping and made me loathe and despise what should be an easy chore. I have officially over-organized.

I still rearranged a few groceries when I got to the car and bagged my Gatorade and Kleenex and paper towels. While you might think this was my over-organizing again, it was simply evidence to me that my obsession with check out order was really, truly pointless. I'm left wondering what other areas of my life I've devolved to a spreadsheet and then stressed out about. I suppose that gives me even more to learn about myself, doesn't it?

Now, I wonder if I can do it again next week...

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

How He Loves Us

People. I have not blogged this year. I haven't written anything at all. That's pretty bad.

I have had many things in my head. In fact, I was certain I had blogged a couple of times in January, but it seems that the words in my head never made it out onto paper (or my monitor, as it were). I should do better. I think writing is good for the brain and good for the soul and good for educators.

Here's the reason I logged in here today:

On the way to work I was praying for some people - an overworked husband, a former student who may have lost her way, a very cranky Keaton, Tucker with fresh spacers in his teeth for braces next week, myself for the constant voice in my head saying "don't screw this up" following every thought - and I heard a song I've heard a million other times. I had no idea the name of the song or even who sings it, but I know all the words. Today they struck me differently than they had before.

Some research determined that the song is David Crowder's "How He Loves Us." Here's the lyric that caught my attention:
He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy
When all of a sudden,
 I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory
And I realize just how beautiful You are
And how great Your affections are for me.

In recent months I've read a lot about restoration, be it in articles or things friends share. There's no underlying drama here - I don't feel like I'm in great need of being restored from something terrible - but I feel like we, as Christians, constantly either need to be restored to a place of greater faith or we need to be a vehicle for God's restoration to others ("vehicle" sounds too mechanical but I can't think of a better word).

I am a believer in the joy that comes from a relationship with Christ. I believe this joy is always attainable. It's always there. We should live prepared for it, always believing that something wonderful is about to happen because wonderful things happen all around us every day. Surrounded by God's presence we should stand amazed.

Back to the song. God loves us so much that if we let him, he will restore us into something better every day.  Our afflictions will be so eclipsed by God's glory that we will be unaware of them. We won't even notice them anymore. They will have no power over us. 

My current affliction is worry. I'm not sure what yours is, but I hope that today you become unaware of it. I hope, too, that we can be hurricanes of God's love to those who need to be restored. 

"Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit." Psalm 51:12