Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Favorite 15 in 2015

W O W, I cannot believe that 2015 is really coming to an end. It seems like just yesterday I was drinking champagne and ringing in the new year with two of my closest friends, dreading all of the 2014's I was sure to write on too many papers. And here we are, at the end of yet another year. A GREAT year, if I do say so myself. It started off a little bit rocky - having just gotten out of a long-term relationship, feeling extreme anxiety over returning to work - but I think 2015 ended up being one of my favorite years yet. And one of my favorite things about writing a blog has to be the ability to look back on my posts throughout the year. And looking back on posts from previous years. Does reminiscing on my nearly two-month stay in Barcelona ever really get old?

No, it doesn't. So, I decided to do something a little bit different to wrap up this year, by compiling a list of my 15 favorite posts of 2015. Does that make me a little self-centered? Maybe. But I had a little too much fun reading through my writing, and I know I'll love having all of them in one place.

  • This one touches on the pros and cons of social media, and how social media tends to only tell half the story. This one is a post that I couldn't even proofread for fear I would lose my confidence to hit "publish," but it's one of my favorites to reread today.

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week
  • It's no secret that I love fitness and healthy eating. But what is a secret is that I occasionally take it too far. While I by no means have an eating disorder, I also have to frequently remind myself that I am so much more than my body and my fitness level.
Being ruled by food is not part of that great story
Why I Run
  • It's also no secret that I love to run, but there are so many benefits to running that go further than just staying in shape.

Six Months, Six Lessons
  • This one was a fun one to write. I wrote this in my sixth month of working (as if I had all of the answers). But it's really cool for me to see where I was when I started - independent to a fault, afraid of failing, and a million other things - and to see how far I've come. And how far I still have to go.

Conquering Fears
  • I love this post. Because never did I ever think I would spend an hour under water. The thought of scuba diving absolutely terrified me, but with the help of a dear friend and some really dynamite instructors, I conquered a forever fear. And I can't wait for my next dive.

The Blog
  • Survey Sunday is probably the most consistent part of my blogging week, but even that falls down the wayside sometimes. But I love that weekly feature, and I loved sitting back and reflecting on how much this blog means to me, and how much this blog has grown - not only as a page on the World Wide Web, but how much it has grown me.

At First, But Now
  • What a shift in perspective and attitude. I'll be 100% honest - last fall, I hated my job. Okay, hated might be too strong of a word, but I'm not exaggerating when I say that I would pray for traffic on the Westpark Tollway in the morning (and those of you who know me well, know that I hate sitting in traffic). And I'm not sure it was the actual job that I felt uneasy about, rather, the thought of working at all. My whole life I'd been a student, in complete control of my success. And I was good at what I did. Suddenly, I was thrown into a whole new role. And there was a learning curve, and I didn't quite know how to handle it. But now, I'm grateful, and I no longer pray for traffic. I thank God for a job that brings me joy, happiness, and endless entertainment.

The Perfect Break, Part Two
  • Breaking in the GoPro with this post - days two and three in San Francisco with the best friends a girl could ask for. It was a long-long weekend for this worn-down teacher, who desperately needed a break after the pressure of the STAAR test. And it was a great-great weekend full of sunshine, ice cream, wine, bikes, and sunsets on the beach.

Bellaire Diaries
  • I think this one has to be my most favorite post of all. I had way too much fun writing about my first year of teaching. I thought the Bellaire gods were against me when my classroom was taken away from me, but I'm so glad it was. I continue to be thankful that I've got the best job in the world, and I certainly enjoy adding to the #BellaireDiaries tale. You just never know when your classroom is going to be 90 degrees and rising.

New York City: My Experience
  • Though it was not my first trip to the Big Apple, it was my first real trip to this incredible, one-of-a-kind city. I traveled solo, and loved every minute of it. The food, the tourist attractions, the walkability level. Though I could never call this city home, I would go back and visit in a heartbeat. I LOVEd it.

Sorry, I Can't; I Have Volleyball
  • Volleyball has forever been, and will forever be, my favorite sport. I have such fond memories from my time spent on the volleyball court, and I am quickly making even fonder memories as a coach. However, the volleyball hole is real. During volleyball season, I frequently find myself saying no. Either because I actually have a volleyball conflict, or because I don't have a volleyball conflict, but I just need one night to myself. Though most of the time it's because of volleyball. But I've learned that it's okay to say no every once in a while.

Monday Motivation: School Edition
  • This one came as a result of a failed Things I'm Loving Friday post (yeah, it's been a while, hasn't it?), and on the first day of school, no less. Actually, I hadn't reread this one until compiling this post, and I'm really glad I did. What a sweet reminder to carry into this new year. There are going to be hard days - I'm going to fail, I'm going to make mistakes, and I'm going to embarrass myself. And that's okay. Because there are going to be even more better days. And that's what makes getting out of bed at such an ungodly hour worth it.

This I Believe
  • This one kind of goes along with vulnerability. I absolutely love hearing other people's stories. I love learning what makes them who they are, what defining moments that person has had, and just what makes each person tick. So I love this essay that we assign to our students as the first essay of the year. It doesn't do much in the way of expository, but I love learning a little bit about my students. And as a model, I wrote my own, and I shared it with them. It wasn't easy for me, but as it turns out, they love learning about their teacher just as much as their teacher loves learning about them.

  • Thanksgiving is my hands-down favorite holiday, and I love any excuse I get to write down what it is I am thankful for. I should do it more often than I do, but Thanksgiving always gives me the opportunity to slow down, reflect, and just be thankful. I've got a little something up my sleeve in the form of a New Year's Resolution, but we'll get to that one in a couple of days.
Thankful for roommate reunions
Love Life List
  • This one is my most recent favorite post, but I think I am going to make it a monthly feature here on fitness & fro-yo. It was an easy and refreshing list to write - I simply numbered my paper (or my Word document) 1 to 25, and wrote down 25 things that I love about life right now. Big and small, there are lots of things to love about this one life we've been given.
Two loves: Mack and my horns
Well, that was a fun post to compile. Look for a typical New Year's Resolutions post to come in the next day or two, but until then, I'm off to cross the next thing off my list. Adios!

Monday, December 28, 2015


Happy MONDAY! I don't know about you guys, but I am LOVING that I still have one more week before I'm thrown back into the craziness of a new school semester. I understand that many of you guys probably don't have that luxury, but even Huffington Post says that teachers need a break. I love this article because I tend to get a little defensive when people point out how much time off teachers enjoy, but our job truly isn't sustainable for 12 consecutive months. Honestly, I'm sure there are quite a few jobs out there that aren't sustainable for 12 consecutive months, but hey, there are certain perks to working with children.

Without breaks, they would definitely meet my wrath
Anyway, I'm going to get off of my soapbox now, and share with you guys a quick warm-down workout that I completed yesterday.

It's pretty self-explanatory. I headed up the road to the MAC for a Sunday afternoon swim, but before I left, I made my way upstairs for a quick, total-body warm-down. It probably took me little more than 15 minutes, but it was 15 minutes well spent. I simply completed one set, gave myself 30 seconds of rest, and moved right on into the next set. Easy as pie, and something that could easily be incorporated into your everyday fitness routine. Hint hint: New Year's Resolutions are comin' in hot.

Alright, now that I've put that bug in your ear, I'm off to walk the pup and apartment shop with Nat. Adios!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Lazy Sunday

Happy Sunday from a very confused Houston! For the past week, we've been experiencing record highs - our Christmas day temperature was 82 degrees. Yesterday was not much better, but just about an hour ago, the rain blew in and the temperature dropped drastically. Apparently we'll be waking up tomorrow to temperatures in the 40's. Texas weather, am I right?
Two days before Christmas at Magical Winter Lights
Anyway, I've enjoyed a VERY lazy Sunday, but I couldn't let the day pass without touching base with you guys. My Sunday surveys are one of the few things I keep regular around here. So, enjoy!

Do you prefer coffee, tea, or neither?
I’m not a coffee drinker at all, and rarely am I a tea drinker, but occasionally I will be in the mood for a warm cup of tea. Though I have only found one brand of tea that I truly enjoy – Cranberry Celebration by Cheers to YouShout out to the Nutcracker Market for that delicious find.

What is your favorite dessert/treat?
I mean, hello, frozen yogurt! But I also love dark chocolate, and I can’t resist Pignoli cookies. Mandola’s in Austin, and The Dunlavy in Houston are two of my favorite Pignoli finds.

What is your favorite kind of animal and why?
DOGS. Because there is no love like the love of a dog. No matter how crazy of a day I’ve had, walking into my house only to be greeted by my precious pup will always lift my spirits.

If someone could describe you in three words, what would they be?
Determined, obedient, and thoughtful.

What is your biggest fear?
My biggest fear has to be not living up to my potential. In terms of my physical goals and my career goals and just how I treat other people. I don’t want to look back on my life with regrets. But so far, I can’t say that I have many of them.

Did you experience a healthy or happy tipping point in your own life?
Hmm, I’ve always been an active person. And I realized that when volleyball ended, I better find something to keep me in shape. Which is what led me to start running my freshman year of college. As far as a happy tipping point – I’ve always been a pretty happy person. I think my unhappiest was last fall, when I had just moved home and I had just started working and I was thrown into teaching and coaching and I just felt very alone. I dreaded going back to school for the spring semester, but I chose to approach my job with a better attitude, and it made all the difference in the world.

Have you ever broken a bone or had a serious injury?
I have never broken a bone (knock on wood), and I think the most serious injury I’ve had is the shin splints that left me out of the running game for three weeks. I’ve sprained my ankles a couple of times, and that broken toe in 2013 was a big bummer, but I’m grateful that it’s never been anything super serious.

What is your favorite childhood memory?
Man, I have way too many great childhood memories, and I know that I’m really lucky to be able to say that. I think what stands out to me right now are summer days at the neighborhood pool. In the mornings, I would ride my bike to swim team practice, swim for an hour or so, bike back home, wait for the pool to officially open, and ride my bike back up to the pool, where I spent the remainder of the afternoon. We would order Bucks Pizza, prank call people from the pool phone, mess with the lifeguards, and eat ice cream during adult swim. What could be better?

What are a few of your favorite movies?
Remember the Titans, The Breakfast Club, Inside Out, to name a few.

Do you prefer sweet, salty, savory, sour…?
This is a tough question! I was going to go with savory, but then I realize that I always try to add at least a little bit of sweet to my meals. Case in point: my oatmeal muffins that I make always include mini chocolate chips. The granola that I make always includes chocolate chunks. So maybe the real answer is: chocolate.

What are your current fitness goals?
I think the biggest one right now is the Houston Marathon. Which takes place three weeks from today. I had a really rough run last night, and it really brought down my running morale, until I realized that I needed to be humbled, I needed to give my body a rest, and I needed a little bit of motivation going into these final weeks of training. After the marathon, I’m not sure what my next challenge is going to be, but it’s sure to be something good!

And with that, I'm off to redeem my run from yesterday.  Here's to getting in at least three more posts before the year is up!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Student Quotes Year Two, Round Two

Happy Tuesday! And happy first official day of ... winter? I'm not sure how the weather is where you live, but it's about 80 degrees with 100% humidity here in Houston. Ideal Christmas weather, no?

But this guy found some Christmas spirit on our morning walk
But before this toasty Tuesday wraps up, I want to wrap up my third semester of teaching with yet another round of student quotes. I'm constantly reminded how funny high schoolers are, and though my students drove me up the wall these last few weeks, I also thank my lucky stars that I've got the very best job around. So, here's a little bit of lighthearted reading to enjoy on this Tuesday evening.

Your essay has me feeling some type of way
Number 2
Again, number 2
They love that candy jar
Great start to your essay
10. Student: "Miss T, you know how I can come to you for anything, right?"
Me: "Right."
Student: "Well, Kobe's retiring and ... he's my favorite player!"
As sad as I am to hear that one of the greats is retiring from the NBA, there's really not much I can do to help you with that one.
9. Last week was rough. Really rough. My students were ready for a break, I was ready for a break, but we still have final exams. In making them do their final exam reviews, one student asked me "Why I gotta have so much attitude," while another told me that "I was getting on [his] nerves." Sue me for making them do the work that is going to help them in the long run.
8. We were reading an article that talked about voting. I asked my students if they were going to vote when they became old enough. One student's response? "I'm not going to vote" ... "I'm going to BE the president." I hope you do, and I hope you remember me when you're in th White House.
7. We were reading The Odyssey, and we came to the end when we learn of Penelope's 100% faithfulness to her husband. And we can't say the same about Odysseus. But one student calls out, "Man, I need to find a girl like Penelope." That you do, sir.
6. We were FIFTEEN weeks into the semester. I've only been writing on the board all year. As I'm writing something on the board a student calls out, "Miss T, how long have you been left-handed?" #observant, right?
5. In my Reading classes, I gave my students a couple of days to catch up on missing assignments in all of their classes. A student asked me to give her all of her missing assignments, so I asked her to check GradeSpeed and tell me what she's missing. Her response? "Can you look? GradeSpeed be makin' me sad lately." Me too. Me too.
4. Again, in my Reading classes, we were doing a mini-research assignment. One of the events that could be researched was the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. I was sitting with a group of students so that they would remain on task, and one student turns around and asks me, "Wasn't it John Doe who killed Abraham Lincoln?" At least the John part was right.
3. We were reading a story that mentioned The Flying Dutchman. I asked if any of them knew what that was and, "DUH, Miss T. It was in an episode of Spongebob!" I mean, DUH.
2. I'm not entirely sure how this one came about, but I'm standing up at the front of the room when a student says to me, "You need to have kids; you're going to be a live mom." I honestly doubt that, but I'll take the compliment.
1. And the number one quote has to be when a student came to my room for lunch tutorials. She had quite a bit of make-up work to finish due to being absent from school a couple of days. In all seriousness she turns to me and asks, "Can I have your number? I need help. We can FaceTime." In your wildest dreams.

And then you can't forget the time a student calls out, "Miss! There's a roach!" And I literally jumped on top of a desk only to see that it was a miniscule insect crawling across the floor. One of my finer moments, that's for sure.

And that's all I've got for you guys today. Hopefully I can check back in with you guys tomorrow. Three sleeps to Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Love Life List

Just some Monday morning alliteration for your reading enjoyment. And hopefully something that gets your week started off on the right note. I got the idea from an Austin blogger named Susie Davis, who says she started these Love Life lists years ago. The concept is simple, really. She opens to the next blank page in her journal, puts the date at the top, and numbers the page from 1-25. Next to each number she writes one thing she loves about her life. She describes it a very settling exercise, one that forces her to focus on the good in her life, as opposed to harping on the things she doesn't have. You guys know that I am a huge fan of lists, and I love spending time thinking about what it is that is bringing me joy that day. Because while not every day may not be great, there is something great in every day.

Like goodbye kisses from this one

1. walks with sweet Mack

2. a guardian angel in Granny

3. shorts in December
4. roommate reunions

5. leaf piles
6. sleeping in
7. chocolate for breakfast
8. time to read

9. football Sundays
10. Mount Bonnell

11. co-workers
12. green smoothies

13. A Charlie Brown Christmas
14. Christmas break
15. running

16. oversized long-sleeve t-shirts
17. KSBJ Christmas texts
18. warm blankets
19. Felipe's Muscle Blast class
20. morning bike rides

21. Town Lake

22. baking Christmas treats

23. windows-down weather
24. forgiveness
25. personalized notes

I encourage you all to make a love life list - there's no way you can be in a bad mood after reflecting on the things that have made you smile recently. Have a great Monday!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Christmas Survey

Happy Sunday from my kitchen table. I just made it home from Austin for a roommate reunion weekend, and I'm about to head out the door again, but seeing as it's been a week since my last post, I wanted to get it posted.

Clubhouse girlies on Mount Bonnell
I'll do a full Austin recap early this week, but for now, here's our weekly survey. With a little bit of a Christmas theme, because Christmas is in FIVE short days. Good thing I've already got all of my shopping done!

What’s the best gift you have ever received?
Oh, man. I know that I lived a super blessed childhood, because there’s no way I can answer this question. I know getting my first “big girl” bike when I was about to turn five was probably one of the greatest gifts I ever remember seeing under the tree. I know my American Girl Doll - Samantha - was also a huge hit, but I definitely could not pick just one.

What is your favorite Christmas movie moment?
I have a couple –
  1. How The Grinch Stole Christmas – When the Grinch, after attempting to cancel Christmas for the residents of Whoville by stealing all of their Christmas gifts, sees them gathered around the tree, SINGING! That’s when he realizes that “Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more.”
  2. A Charlie Brown Christmas – Christmas is not about all of that extra stuff. It’s about getting together with your family and loved ones to celebrate the real reason for the season. Charles Schulz, you left a wonderful legacy.
  3. It’s a Wonderful Life – Because who can forget the classic line, “Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.”
When do you open gifts?
We used to open one gift on Christmas Eve, and the rest on Christmas morning. That tradition has kind of dissolved, and we simply open everything on Christmas morning. I don’t think the presents are as important as they once were to us, so waiting those extra couple of hours is no big thing.

Do you believe in Santa?
Funny story – one of my teachers in elementary school called my parents because evidently I was going around telling everyone in the class that Santa wasn’t real. Who knew I had such cruelty in me?

Not amused
What is your happiest Christmas memory?
My favorite Christmas memories have to be when allllll of my family is together. Or at least, a big part of it. See, most of my family lives in Philadelphia, so getting together for the holidays would most rationally mean us going to Philly. And holiday traveling is hard, and expensive, and sometimes (okay, all the time) stressful. And as much as I love traveling, I prefer to do it during off-times. So it’s not often when there’s a lot of us celebrating Christmas, but I sure do enjoy the times when it has been.

What famous person would you most like to encounter under the mistletoe?
J.J. Watt. I’m currently on a mission – along with a few co-workers – to date J.J. He has three criterion:
  1. Being okay with the craziness of his current life – CHECK. I need my own space, so that wouldn’t be a problem.
  2. Would be okay staying in and having a low-key Friday night watching a movie – YES, J.J., sign me up!
  3. Would enjoy a Saturday night bonfire –  I mean, I have nothing against bonfires, so..
Plus, he sees himself coaching high school football in the future. YES, YES, and YES!

When it comes to decorations, are you a Griswald or a Grinch?
Probably somewhere in between. I don’t want the decorations to look tacky, but I am definitely a fan of decorating. Some houses do this really well – there’s not too much going on, but they’re definitely in the Christmas spirit.  

If you win "Most Wattage," maybe you've done too much
What is your favorite version of a Christmas song?
My favorite Christmas songs are “Hallelujah, What a Savior” and “O Holy Night.” My favorite Christmas line of all-time has to be “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices!” How can you not get chills when you hear that?

Have you had any traumatic Christmas-related experiences?
I think one thing that makes the Christmas season a little bit difficult is the anniversary of my Granny’s death just four days before Christmas. This Monday will mark three years, and it’s still hard to believe that we do everyday life without her. If anyone was the definition of “Christmas spirit,” and the selfless attitude that comes along with it, it would be her. She loved seeing the look on your face when you opened a present, and she never expected anything in return, always expressing genuine surprise when anyone got her anything. Not that she didn’t think we wouldn’t get her presents, but she just really loved giving, and she never once asked for anything. Not one time.

What would be an age appropriate gag gift for most of your friends?
Hmm.. that’s a great question! Perhaps the World's Largest Coffee Cup, because my friends are all major coffee people. Or is the World's Largest Wine Glass an option?

Because we like wine
Would you rather be a partridge in a pear tree or a lord a-leaping and why?

Lord-a-leaping? That sounds active, and you know I’m all about that!

Catch you guys tomorrow! My goal is to post every day over break, but we'll see how long that lasts.