Friday, April 21, 2017

Things I'm Loving Friday LV

Happy Friday! Whew, this is my first full week at work in two weeks thanks to my brother's Aggie Ring Day and Good Friday, and I am wiped out! Add in the fact that I graded 48 character transformation essays in a 24-hour period, as well as did quite a bit of work for our Romeo and Juliet unit, I am more than ready to wind down and relax in order to get ready for yet another full week. It's like I think the spring semester is going to be a lot more chill than the fall because I'm without the busyness (word?) of volleyball season and STAAR is officially in my rearview mirror, but that's never actually the case. When will I learn? Anyway, I've officially began reading Romeo and Juliet in two of my classes, and while I'm always super nervous to start, I quickly remember why I love teaching Shakespeare. Besides, my students get a kick out of all the sex and drug references that are made throughout the play.

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But for now, enjoy another round of Things I'm Loving Friday!

Eating Disorders and Running
I listened to this podcast on one of my early morning walks with Mack, and it held my attention the entire time. And I think I've mentioned before that I'm not much of a podcast person. But this one focused on a topic that is near and dear to me: running, and it also focused on another topic that maybe isn't so easy to talk about: eating disorders and disordered eating. While I've never had an official eating disorder, I've definitely had my fair share of food and exercise struggles. Who hasn't, right? In this podcast, a couple of Runner's World employees, as well as a former NCAA All-American runner at Michigan State sit down and open up about their own personal experiences with disordered eating, as well as its prevalence within the sport. It's something I struggle with every single day -- I am such an active person, running and walking many miles every single day. And I know enough to know that if I want to be the best runner that I can be, I have to fuel my body. The fear of weight gain is always there, but ultimately my desire to reach my highest potential is greater. This is a fantastic listen for ANY athlete who may struggle with this same sort of issue.


Hilly 10K followed by Blue Bell ice cream

Find the Good -- Heather Lende
A poster for this book caught my eye while leaving the University of Washington bookstore over spring break, so I made a mental note to check it out once I got back to where I was staying and could put a little bit of juice back into my phone. This book is small, but it's full of meaningful messages. The author is an obituary writer in a small town in Alaska, which, after reading this book, I find to be a super interesting job. We know how easy it is to harp on the negatives -- the news is full of it, and sometimes life just doesn't quite go our way. I know I'm one to complain a little bit too often at times, but this book stopped me in my tracks. We are all writing our obituaries every single day, and we have the chance to change our story and find the good in anything that may be thrown our way. A quick, uplifting, wisdom-filled read that leaves you feeling as bright as the book's cover.



Thirteen Reasons Why -- Jay Asher
Because I'm around high schoolers every single day of my life, this show has been all I've heard about for the past week or so. I mean, my students are obsessed with this Netflix original series. And while I can't vouch for the television series, I will talk about the book. I actually read it for the first time when I was in high school, and I can honestly remember not really loving it as much as I did the second time around. I think I didn't get as much out of it when I was a high school student because, as ashamed as I am to admit the fact that I was stuck inside my own little bubble of happiness, I didn't actually think that was something that could happen where I lived. Which is silly and naive, but you better believe I found it to be incredibly powerful as a high school teacher. While I have no doubt that the show is a little bit cheesy, I think it's the storyline that really packs the punch. What may seem harmless and funny to you may actually have a huge - negative - impact on another person. And those things can pile up. Unfortunately these feelings and emotions that Hannah Baker, the main character in the book and show, are all too real to so many teenagers, and it's so important to step back and think about the impact -- either positive or negative -- your words or actions may have.


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Jordan Hasay
This girl is my new hero. She is a 25-year-old first time marathon runner who was the third (first American) female finisher at the 2017 Boston Marathon with a time of 2:23. I mean, WHAT! That is absolutely unreal to me, and after doing a little bit of stalking (okay, a solid hour after school on Wednesday -- I have no shame here), she seems like the most humble, hard-working, down-to-earth, speed demon of a young lady who was made to run the marathon. Not even three weeks before Boston, she raced her way to a 1:07 half marathon finish in Prague, and she did all of this just five months after losing her mother unexpectedly. She gave a very emotional post-race interview, and I am excited to watch her running career continue to take off.


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Uh Oh -- Junior Doctor
If you are not familiar with the Discover Weekly playlist on Spotify, go make yourself familiar with it. Spotify is one of the best investments I have made (okay, maybe that my parents make but that's because I signed up for it when I was still on their paycheck, shhh), and while the weekly playlist can either be hit or miss, occasionally I find a song that I just jam to on repeat. It doesn't matter if I'm on the way to school, doing my weekly meal prep, cleaning, or running, I can listen to it over and over without getting sick of it. This is one of those songs. It's just so incredibly catchy, and I find myself cranking the volume every time this one comes up on shuffle. Or every time I put it on repeat. But I digress. It's upbeat, energetic, and has that cheesy "happy first love vibe" to it. It's definitely not a new song, but I find some of my favorite music discoveries are actually rediscoveries.



Momentum Motivate Wraps
If you haven't noticed by now, I am such a sucker for cheesy quotes. I know many will roll their eyes, but I take many of them to heart. So, when I saw on my Instagram explore page (it's getting semi-creepy how much social media knows us) an avid runner showing off one of these bracelets featuring one of my favorite quotes, I thought it was fate when I saw it at my local Fleet Feet just a few weeks later. It feels just like a ponytail holder, but it gives me that little bit of added motivation when I look down and see it during a run. This is one of my go-to in-my-head quotes these days, as I have set my sights on the 2019 Boston Marathon. And half the battle is believing that I can do it. These wraps are made for active people (therefore, they can handle sweat), and they come in many colors and sayings. Guarantee you'll find one that fits your personality and mindset.



And with that, I'm off to school for what will hopefully be a fantastic Friday. Have a great one!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Seattle Recap

Hoppy Easter, every bunny! I bet you’ve never heard that one before, huh? I hope you have enjoyed a wonderful day with family and friends, celebrating our risen King. I attended a church service last night, so because my pastor said so, I stayed in bed a few minutes longer this morning and didn’t feel one bit guilty.


Anyway, it’s been almost a month since I arrived home from my first trip to the Pacific Northwest, and I’m just now sitting down to write this recap. While I would have loved to take you through a day-by-day of my time there, that’s probably not what you want to read, and that’s something I’ve kind of gotten away from with this blog. Hence, the ‘recap’ in the title. But long live my Barcelona play-by-plays. Anyway, I’ll take you through some of the highlights (and lowlights…) as I relive my time in this beautiful part of the country.

First up, Seattle.

I managed to score a direct flight from Houston to Seattle on the first Monday of spring break. My uncle so generously offered to take me to the airport, and my only complaint is the fact that I had both a window seat and a 40 oz. water bottle on a five-hour flight. I tried not to bother my seatmates too much, but they tell you to stay hydrated while flying, right?


I got to Seattle around 6:30 PST, and it took me a little while to get from the airport to where I was staying in Northern Seattle, but it allowed me a fantastic sneak peak of the city in which I would be staying for a few days. I think my Lyft driver was secretly laughing at me as I made comments about the beauty of my surroundings every few minutes. It’s truly such a beautiful part of the country, though, and so unlike Texas in so many ways. Mountains and greenery and fresh mountain air all greeted me as I walked around exploring the quaint little neighborhood in which I was staying.


Which brings me to my next point. I was staying a little bit north of Downtown Seattle, but I cannot say enough good things about public transportation in Seattle. As someone who is so intrigued by and such a proponent of public transportation, you would think I would use it in my own city. But, because public transportation typically takes longer than driving from Point A to Point B, I usually reserve figuring out the bus or subway system for when I’m on vacation. When I don’t feel like I have to be somewhere at any certain time. I didn’t love the bus system in Portland, but we’ll get there. Anyway, it was a quick 20ish-minute bus ride to Downtown, and I used that time to whip out my Kindle and get through one of my three-and-a-half books of the trip.

Downtown Seattle is where I spent much of my time, and one of the first stops on my list was Pike Place Market. Pike Place Market is all that you have heard it is and more. It is a four floor farmer’s market, and it is absolutely unreal. It’s one of those places in which you can spend hours, and that’s just what I did one day during one of Seattle’s infamous torrential downpours. There’s produce and seafood and restaurants galore. There’s booths filled with handmade crafts, shops specializing in books, comics, art, and so much more. There’s flowers and fish-flipping, ice cream and chocolate, and fantastic views across Puget Sound. It’s crowded much of the time, but you would be missing out bigtime if you passed this place by.


One of my favorite things about Seattle was the walkability. I love Houston, but walking is not a big part of our city life. And though I was huffing and puffing one more than one occasion after tackling some of those Seattle hills, at least I got myself a fantastic butt workout. From Pike Place, I was able to easily visit the famous Gum Wall – no, I did not contribute – caught a glimpse of the Seattle Great Wheel, and spent some time just walking along the waterfront. It rained much of my first two days in the city, and while that was kind of a bummer, I feel as though I got the authentic Pacific Northwest experience. And I listened to my uncle who advised me against bringing an umbrella. Only tourists do that. So, it rained on my parade a bit, but I enjoyed having many of the cobblestone streets to myself for the afternoon.





Other downtown hotspots? Well, of course you have heard of the Space Needle. What is Seattle without it, after all? But I was told that the Space Needle is a bit on the overpriced side, and it’s another one of those touristy things to do. I’m certainly not opposed to being called a tourist, because that’s 100% what I was, but a little birdie told me that the view from the Smith Tower beats out the view from the Space Needle seven days out of the week. So, I made my way over to Pioneer Square and started the self-led tour. Right away I knew I had made the right choice. It had a very 1920’s feel to it, which happens to be my favorite decade, and the elevator up to the Observatory flooded back all the memories of my time spent riding the SRD elevator on move-in day. And while I can’t speak for the views from the Space Needle, the views from Smith Tower were unreal. It was one of those rare sunshine-filled days, and I could see for miles. I was trying so hard to catch a glimpse of Mt. Rainier – and the men at the bar inside couldn’t help but chuckle – but the clouds just wouldn’t lift. Other than that, I highly recommend checking out the Smith Tower Observatory. Stay for a while and have a drink or two – there are some truly fascinating people who live in Seattle.








From Smith Tower, I just had to swing by the Seattle Public Library. Hands down one of the coolest buildings I have ever been inside, and it was some of the very best people-watching I have ever done.  Each floor offered something different – I saw endless colors, interesting art, unique architecture, and of course, books on books on books. An afternoon well-spent for this bookworm English teacher.


And I didn’t just stay in Seattle. I took a ferry ride – sidenote: travel by ferry is the coolest – over to Bainbridge Island one morning, and spent a couple of hours walking around and exploring the quaint little island. On the way back, I braved the cold for some incredible views of the skyline approaching downtown Seattle. My fingers were frozen, but my photographer heart was happy.





One dreary afternoon took me to the beautiful University of Washington campus. For whatever reason, I absolutely love walking through college campuses, and this one did not disappoint. I can’t even imagine going to school on a campus as beautiful as that one. I was a little too early to see the cherry blossoms lining campus, but the architecture, greenery, and views blew me away. The star of the show was the Suzzallo Library Reading Room, which was something straight out of Hogwarts. I feel pretty confident that I would have spent far more time in the library if something that looks like this had been available to me.





And though it was a bit of a trek, I couldn’t help but make the trip out to Tacoma to see for my own eyes the high school and stadium used in one of my all-time favorite movies – 10 Things I Hate About You. I had zero shame in asking a student to take a picture of me in front of the absolutely stunning high school, and though I didn’t walk inside, I can’t even imagine what it would be like to attend and/or teach at Stadium High School. And Heath Ledger, you are forever in my teenage heart.




Finally, I can’t end this post without touching on what I came to the PNW to do: run. Seattle always tops the list of fittest cities, and I certainly understand why. Obviously the walkability factor has a lot to do with that, but there is a plethora of parks, and there was no shortage of people running, biking, or simply taking an exercise class. And I felt right at home, as one of my favorite things about traveling to a new city is exploring the city while on the run. I find some of the most hidden gems while running, and though it may take me a little bit longer to find my way back home, I consider it time well-spent. Tuesday’s wet sock-filled run took me to Carkeek Park – a quiet park filled with hiking trails, side streams and creeks, and even a beachfront. The hills were plentiful, but they offered me the time to stop and take in the beauty of my surroundings. And it was a hop, skip, and a jump away from where I was staying. 



Thursday took me to the highly recommended Green Lake Park, and you guys, I am green with envy toward those who get to start their days there each morning. This three-mile loop afforded me some of the most magical views, and on that first mile I probably stopped every 50 feet to take yet another picture. It was the happiest, most joy-filled run I had taken in a while, and it left me feeling great about Sunday’s half marathon. Stay tuned for more on that.







I absolutely fell in love with the Emerald City, and I was so bummed to bid it farewell on a perfect sunshine-y day. But because this post is already long enough, I’ll save Portland for a post of its own. Have a great rest of your Easter Sunday – He is Risen, indeed!

Friday, April 7, 2017

Things I'm Loving Friday LIV

Happy FriYAY! This week has been a bit of a crazy one -- Tuesday we were given an unexpected surprise in our water being shut off and everyone being immediately dismissed around 10:45am, Wednesday we administered the SAT and had 15 minute classes, and today, I'm taking my first day off of the year. Mack and I used the unexpected free time to hit the dog park near my apartment, and I used Wednesday's SAT break to catch up on a little bit of school work. And while I hate missing school, it was nice to be able to turn off my 4:27am alarm. My fingers are crossed that my kids behave for the sub, and get some work done in the process!




But without further ado, here's another round of some Things I'm Loving on this sunny Friday!


9 Habits of Highly Successful People, From a Man Who Spent 5 Years Studying Them
My principal tweeted out this article, and when he tweets, I listen. Or read? Anyway, I love articles like this, as they force me to take a step back and look at how they play out (or don't play out ...) in my own life. While getting up early, exercising, and pursuing my own goals are my strengths, focused thinking and avoiding time-wasters are at least two items that I could improve upon. 



Garmin Forerunner 235
It was suggested that I invest in a watch with heart rate capabilities, so, while I loved (and still love) my Forerunner 10, it wasn’t getting me the data I need. So, I took to Amazon and found a refurbished (that was my first problem – never go refurbished just to try and save money) Garmin that would supposedly give me my heartrate. For whatever reason, this watch wasn’t the most user-friendly, and it gave me a heart rate that meant I would drop dead, so I did my research and forked over the big bucks for the watch I really wanted in the first place – the Forerunner 235. And guys – I am OBSESSED. It’s a beautiful frost blue color, it is super user-friendly, and it counts my daily steps. I’m turning into one of those Fitbit-type people – obsessed with getting my steps in each day. Kidding, but most importantly, it is giving me the (accurate!) data that I need to take this Boston dream one step further.


Roll Recovery R8
This is a modern-day torture method, I'm convinced. But it's one of those "it hurts so good" kind of things. But it still hurts. But gone are the days of awkwardly positioning yourself on a cylinder of foam in order to roll out your quads, hamstrings, or IT band. The R8 adjusts to anyone’s body, and while I’ve never had a full-body deep tissue massage, I imagine what the R8 does is pretty close to it. It’s easy to transport, it’s easy to use, and you can reach virtually any part of your body with this contraption. I’m hoping that regular use of the R8 will help keep me injury-free as I log more and more miles. And while the price tag may seem high, it’s far cheaper than a weekly massage.

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Body Language Matters
Geno Auriemma, head coach of the uber-successful Connecticut Huskies Women’s Basketball Team, made this speech a year ago in a Final Four press conference, but it is currently making the social media rounds. Probably because it’s extremely powerful, and it’s one that I think I might start off this next volleyball season with. Auriemma brings up the valid point that so many athletes these days are so wrapped up in their individual play, and how they look when they’re out there on the field or court, that it stops being about the team. It’s the age-old statement that body language absolutely matters. Auriemma says, and his players know he’s not messing around, that if a player’s body language is bad, they’re never getting in the game. And if somebody’s not engaged in the game, they’re never getting in the game. Ever. It always has been, and it always will be, about how the team performs. It can be hard, especially in a me-me-me world, but it’s the humble, team-player, gritty ones coaches are after.


18 Chances You Will Not Regret Taking in Life
This is an older article, but one that I hadn't seen until just recently. But I love it. The author’s grandmother (and aren’t grandmothers the absolute wisest?), advised her grandson to not live life worrying about taking a chance and failing, rather, to jump on the plentiful opportunities life gives you. You never know what you’ll discover, and it’s all about appreciating the little things in life. Some of my favorite takeaways (and the things I need to continue to remind myself of) – You are your own biggest obstacle. If it doesn’t scare you, it’s probably not a big enough dream. Embrace the hard. Learn from your failures. Be present. And finally, a smile and a kind word go a long, long way.

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And on that note, I'm off to College Station with my parents to celebrate my brother getting his Aggie ring. No, I won't be wearing burnt orange, but I will be sure and hook any down-turned horns that I may come across. Have a great weekend!
 
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