Monday, October 30, 2017

This I Believe

Every year I tell myself I’m going to keep up with my blog during the chaos of volleyball season, and every year I fail to keep that promise. I tend to forget just how crazy my schedule is at the start of the school year, and blogging is without a doubt the first thing to go. And I wish I could say I was busy doing all these crazy exciting things, but I’m just trying to keep my head above water with all that I’ve got on my plate. I’m not sure what has prevented me from getting a firm grasp on my schedule this year, but I've definitely had a tougher time of it.

And I plan on – one day in the near future – writing a whole post that gives an update on how my fourth (my first year kiddos are seniors!!!) year of teaching is going,

the whole point of logging back into my blogger account is to share what is, without a doubt, my favorite essay of the year: This I Believe. I have posted about it before, but I think this year’s due date came at the perfect time. I love that this essay is our first big writing assignment of the year because it allows me to get a glimpse into my students’ writing skills, yes, but even more than that, it allows me to get to know them in such a way that I learn what matters to each one of them. It offers them the opportunity to share with me a story or an experience that has led to that belief. And man, do I get some incredible stories. They are real and raw and vulnerable and funny and passionate and every year I am truly humbled that they are so willing to share their stories with me. Because their stories matter. I was grumbling about the nearly 130 essays I wanted to finish grading before the weekend ended, but at the end of the day, I cherish the opportunity to provide feedback to every one of my students. And shout out to Google Classroom for making that back and forth conversation SO incredibly easy. 21st Century Learning, for the win!

Anyway, I told myself that I would write a new This I Believe essay each year to share with my students as we began this project. Last year I wrote about running in the rain as a means of conveying the belief that the magic happens outside of our comfort zones. This year, I took one look at my overflowing letter basket to know that handwritten letters would be my vehicle to talk about the idea that it’s not necessarily the words we say that mean the most, but the time given to physically writing them out.

I believe in handwritten letters.

In a world that is so laden with technology, the seemingly simple act of a handwritten thank-you note or birthday card tends to be replaced with a quick text message or a Facebook post. Sure, the ease with which we can type out a text is a definite convenience in our jam-packed, busy lives, but there is something about putting pen to paper that makes whatever is being communicated even more personal. It’s the loopy way she writes her L’s, or the way his handwriting is only legible if we close our left eye that forges a connection more special and long-lasting than opening a Snap.

Both of my grandmothers were (and are) big on the art of handwritten letters. My dad’s mom lives in Philadelphia, and at the start of each new month she sends me a simple note, often written on a piece of scrap paper, wishing me a happy month. She has never missed a birthday, nor a holiday. And I’ve got a whole basket overflowing with 25+ years’ worth of notes and cards scribbled in her thin cursive.

My mom’s mom passed away a few years ago, and she was without a doubt my favorite person on this planet. She lived just 10 minutes down the road and I saw her virtually every day, but she never overlooked the simple joy that came from looking through the pile of mail in the entryway and seeing a card personally addressed to me. Now that she is no longer with us, I cherish every word she ever wrote even more so than I did when I first read them.

Maybe it’s something about the older generation that has the insight that some of us “youngins” may be lacking. We grew up in a world of instant gratification, multitasking, and never-ending to-do lists. They grew up in a world that required patience and cursive and taking the time to do things right.

It’s not even what the letters say, as many of them are variations of the same message. It’s the time a person took to write me a tangible birthday card filled with sweet words as I celebrate another trip around the sun. The time a person took to encourage me through a tough season. The time a person took to congratulate me on a job well done. The time a person took away from doing something for his or her own benefit to do something that would make my day. I believe in handwritten letters, and I believe in taking the time to brighten someone else’s day by letting them know that they are more than worth a couple minutes of my precious time. It’s not the message that we remember; it’s the time and energy that went into it.

Many of my students’ essays unsurprisingly blew mine out of the water, and some of them have stories at 14 and 15 that I still can’t quite wrap my head around at 25, but I think if I expect my students to be vulnerable, I can do just that by modeling it for them. And I more than needed the reminder that came from reading these essays that teaching is such an absolute privilege, no matter how trying some of my days may be.

Oh, and how about those ASTROS! 27 outs to earning history. This World Series run has been nothing short of thrilling, and it could not have come at a better time for this city. Just like Jose Altuve, I literally love Justin Verlander, and here’s to hoping he can seal the deal tomorrow night!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

20-Minute Park Workout

Hello, and happy Tuesday! Whew, life has been a whirlwind ever since my last post. I feel like I've aged about ten years, and it has only been a little over a week. The good news is that Houston is continuing to recover and rebuild post-Harvey while at the same time watching Hurricane Irma wreak havoc on Florida and the Caribbean. It is both devastating and astounding to me that weather can do so much damage in such a short period of time, but if there's one thing I've learned after experiencing it firsthand here in Houston, it's that so many around the world will do whatever it takes to lend a helping hand. You guys were here for us in one of our darkest hours, and we will continue to be there for you.

A gem recovered on demo day
And building off of that hurricane talk, we had our FIRST day back on our campus as an entire faculty yesterday! Many of schools around the city had either their first day of school, or their first day back at school yesterday after a very long two weeks off. Bellaire High School, unfortunately, was not one of those schools, but we are all feeling very fortunate that we get to get this party started on the 18th, and that we get to remain on our campus. It's tough being up there without any kids, knowing that we should be well into the swing of things and embarking on week three of the 2017-2018 school year, but I continue to be so inspired by the spirit of the people with whom I get to work. We've got our work cut out for us moving forward, that is for sure, and I'm not even sure we fully comprehend just what it's going to look like as our 3500 students arrive on campus next Monday, but we're ready. We were ready three weeks ago, yes, but we've got a newfound sense of what the words "strong" and "community" mean, and our Bellaire community (really, you could call it a family) is as strong and united as ever. This year is certainly going to be significant, and we are more than ready to open our doors for our students. Well, our building isn't physically ready yet, but it will be. We have an amazing crew who is working so incredibly hard to get everything back to what it was pre-Harvey.

Friday before Harvey -- all was still calm
Well, calendar, it was nice knowing you
And to continue on with the positive thoughts trend, the weather in Houston has been FANTASTIC lately. Upper 60s in the mornings and staying in the 80s in the afternoons. And the best part is that there has been endless sunshine. I have been doing many of my runs outside as opposed to on the treadmill, and being humbled all the while, and been trying to spend as much time outside as possible. It's rare that we are treated to such weather this early in September, so I'm determined to enjoy it while it lasts. I have also really been trying to be "all-in" when it comes to marathon training, and that includes going the extra mile - pun intended - with my workouts. It's not just running that is going to get me ready to try for that elusive BQ, it's also building strength and watching my diet and being disciplined with recovery. I'm still working on the last two. But I have been getting better about the strength training aspect, and I have a quick workout to share with you guys. It honestly probably took less than 20 minutes, and I completed it at my neighborhood park.

There were a couple of pieces of equipment needed -- a resistance tube and a resistance band, but seriously, you can find these at Target or any sort of equivalent store. Also, Amazon, duh. I'm sure you have done or seen most or all of these exercises before, but I have provided links to video demonstrations to all of them below:
It will certainly get your heart rate up! Take advantage of the cooler weather and get your workout on -- I guarantee you won't regret it.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Six Years

Guys, fitnessandfroyo became a thing SIX years ago. I had just started my sophomore year of college, and I distinctly remember sitting at the front desk of Scottish Rite Dormitory, working my two-and-a-half hour weekend shift when I decided to stop thinking about starting a blog and just do the dang thing. 

If you guys know me at all, or at least have been reading this blog for any number of years, you know that fitness is my thing. Or, at least it’s one of my things. I’m extremely passionate about living an active and healthy lifestyle, and after consuming a number of healthy living blogs, I decided to start my own as a way to share my passion with the four total readers I probably had when this blog made its way out into the Interwebs. Actually, fitnessandfroyo started out as a way for me to share workouts and recipes, and occasionally an update on the life of a college student living in Austin. Well, it has since transformed into more of a record of my life – and this blog has seen me through college and my college graduation, adventures abroad, living with nine girls, the beginning (and end) of a long-term relationship, the start of my career (adulting, am I right?), three volleyball seasons, a number of half marathons, my first full marathon, the sweetest puppy addition, life in Austin, life in Houston, victories, failures, and everything inbetween.

It may seem self-centered to some, and sure, I’ll give you that, but I have so enjoyed being able to look back at this seemingly transformative time in my life. It’s fun to see how I’ve changed, and also where I’ve stayed the same. And while blogging has never been number one on my priority list, and there was even a time when I thought I was done with it forever, I always seem to find my way back. Writing is often how I deal with and process major life happenings, and that’s exactly what I’m here to do.

ANYWAY, in the back of my mind I knew I wanted to post on the six-year anniversary of F&F. I missed celebrating five years because #volleyball, but I also have another reason for posting. A reason I would be very surprised to learn that you had heard nothing about: Hurricane Harvey. The storm that devastated quite a bit of our great state of Texas. And if I’m being honest, I’ve tried extremely hard to come up with the right words to express the impact this Hurricane has had, but I can’t. I’ll try my best, but I’m sure I’ll leave much to be desired.

(Source: ABC13 Houston)
I’m going to go ahead and assume that you have seen at least some coverage of Hurricane Harvey. You couldn’t turn on the television without seeing coverage, and you certainly couldn’t check social media without getting the latest update. I think I’ve stared at my phone more in the last week than I ever have, but social media was so incredibly helpful in keeping up-to-date with the storm. That being said, I’m not going to give you a play-by-play.

I will tell you that I initially brushed off the first mention of the storm when I was walking into a district training at an alternate campus. I was walking in with a teacher from Westbury High School, and we were talking about how ready we were for students to be back on campus. He then said something along the lines of, “Well, I doubt we’ll even have school on Monday.” To which I responded, “What?” And he proceeded to tell me about this storm that was brewing in the gulf. I didn’t think much of it, because typically when we make a big deal about the weather, nothing really happens. My dad later texted me and told me to make sure I didn’t park my car on my street this weekend, as we were supposed to experience some flooding. Later that night I was texting with a few friends and they convinced me to rush out of my apartment at 10:30pm (Yes, me, out of my apartment at 10:30pm. That’s when you know it’s real.) to the nearest grocery store to stock up on food and water for this storm. We didn’t yet know it was a hurricane.

Well, Harvey started picking up speed, going from a tropical storm to a category 4 hurricane seemingly overnight. The first day of school was canceled (okay, postponed), my volleyball tournament and all regular season games were canceled until what we originally thought would be Tuesday, and all HISD employees were forced out of the building by 10:30am Friday morning.

Well, the rain really picked up Saturday evening, and then it didn’t stop for the next four days. FOUR DAYS. Catastrophic flooding. 51.88 inches. More than 20 TRILLION gallons. 185,000 damaged or destroyed homes. And I could go on and on and on. The numbers are staggering. But I don’t want to talk about that. You have likely seen the stats, and you likely know that the country has never seen quite anything like this before.

I truly don’t have words for the devastation I have now seen firsthand. I feel a little bit guilty that my apartment was almost like nothing ever happened. Safe, dry, and I never even lost water or electricity. Other parts of my neighborhood weren’t quite as lucky, nor were my parents, but I honestly don’t think you could drive through any part of Houston without seeing remnants of the destruction Harvey brought. Homes, businesses, schools. Some homes are total losses, some schools and businesses are closed indefinitely, and many are facing months and months of repair. Neighborhoods that had never experienced flooding were underwater. Bayous were overflowing right and left and you simply couldn’t get anywhere in this city unless it was by boat. In fact, boats became the most common mode of transportation for a few days. My dad thinks it will take at least ten years for this city to go back to its pre-Harvey state, and I don’t doubt it.

My favorite running path
But what I think has been the most incredible thing of all – if anything positive has come out of this tragedy – is seeing the way people have come together to help, serve, and love one another. Seriously. I don’t think this country has ever faced more turmoil than it has in the last year or so – at least in my 25 years. Tensions were high, comments were nasty, and it seems as though we were more divided than ever. I say “were” because I really don’t think it’s like that anymore. Before the rain ever stopped, people were out there weathering the storm. Saving family members, neighbors, pets, complete strangers. Our first responders worked around the clock without so much as a break or a complaint. 

(Source: Steve Johnson)
Volunteers at some of the major shelters were TURNED AWAY because there are more than enough, which just speaks volumes to the spirit of this city. Donations have been pouring in from all over the country. 

(Source: J.J. Watt)
You can’t drive down a street in this city without seeing large groups of people helping friends and neighbors carry out furniture or tear out drywall. Meals are being cooked and delivered. Laundry is being done. And the best part of it all is that there’s no “us” or “them” here. We’re ALL in it together – regardless of race, religion, or political status. Houston is the most ethnically diverse city in this country, and we have shown solidarity through it all.

(Source: ABC13 Houston)
(Source: ABC13 Houston)
My heart broke multiple times seeing what weather was able to do to my beloved city, but my heart also swelled knowing that I get to share this city with such incredible people who are more than willing to go the extra mile. My faith in humanity has been restored, and though Houston is down, we’re definitely not out. In fact, I think there’s more reason to have hope than there ever has been before.

We’ve got a L O N G road ahead of us in terms of recovery and rebuilding. It’s definitely going to be a marathon, not a sprint. But there’s not a doubt in my mind that we will rebuild even stronger than before. And while we’re at it, we’ll show the rest of the country how it’s done. I won’t lie and say that I’m not nervous to stand in front of my newest crop of students (hopefully) next week, many of whom have experienced three rounds of this devastation in three years. Quite a few of them had some sort of damage to their homes, and some of them lost everything. I don't know the right words to say. It’s going to take time, care, empathy, patience, gentleness, warmth, routine, positivity, and a whole lot more as we move forward from here. But the sun has shown its face and I have so much hope as we all move forward together.

(Source: Michael Ciaglo)
Whew! If you’ve made it this far, I salute you. And though I absolutely CRINGE at the thought of anyone reading My First Post, I have to reward you with the post that started it all. Unsurprisingly, not much has changed. I do, however, prefer football to baseball (but no one even mention the latest Longhorn loss), volleyball is obviously still a part of my life (coaching and a little bit of playing!), 

and while I may not be working at Stratford, I’m doing exactly what I thought I would be doing, precisely where I’m supposed to be. I’m still running, tardiness will always be my biggest pet peeve, and I’m watching Harry Potter as I type this post.

And if you are still reading, and feel compelled to give to one of the MANY relief efforts out there, here are a few that I personally would recommend:
Beltway 8 at Memorial as of Saturday evening (Source)
This list is just a few of the plethora of ways to help our beloved city, and I’m sure many of you have already helped in some way, shape, or form. But like I said earlier, this is a marathon, not a sprint, and it’s going to require a lot more than just a week or two of volunteering and giving. Much love to you ALL! Thanks for reading this little blog of mine. Your sweet feedback truly means the world to me.

Monday, July 31, 2017

2017 Summer Reads

Hello, all! I'm just popping in for a quick post today -- a round-up of the books I've read (so far) this summer. I'm going to try and squeeze in one or two more before school starts, but you just never know with volleyball and inservice. At any rate, I've got a solid number of books on my to-read list, so I'll never be bored in line at the grocery store!

One of my favorite things about summer (and let's be honest, I have many favorite things about summer) is that I finally have an excuse to read, read, read. I definitely read during the school year, but I maybe finish one book every couple of weeks. Maybe. And I hate to admit that weeks go by where I don't read even one page. But summer allows me the time to dive deep into the books that have been gathering dust on my bedside table, and this year I decided to put together what I'm going to call a reading roundup. Hopefully this post inspires you to pick up one or two of these books -- they're pretty much all over the place -- or at the very least, inspires you to pick up any book at all. 

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
GoodReads Rating: 4.8/5
My Rating: 4.6/5
What I Loved: If I could teach this book, I would. Actually, I'm trying to work it into my curriculum for this year because it's so incredibly relatable. The characters are resilient, funny, authentic, sassy, broken, and at the heart of this book is a reality that so many in our country are unfortunately facing each day. It tackles racism and police brutality in a way that's not preachy, and it's a YA book that truly educates while still reading like a story. There's a great family and community dynamic running throughout this book and I believe it's an incredibly important read for everyone.

The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
GoodReads Rating: 4.0/5
My Rating: 4.7/5
What I Loved: First of all, Shonda Rhimes is an incredible human being. There's no denying that. Shonda was incredibly vulnerable in her anecdotes while still being undeniably funny. This book really had an upbeat, feel-good "you-can-do-it" vibe to it, which is right up my alley. As someone who is so quick to say no to things that are outside my comfort zone, much like Shonda, this book opened my eyes to setting aside any instant fears and take a chance every now and then. It reiterated the importance of taking care of myself and that it's more than okay to ask for help. And that saying "YES!" can be as simple as sitting at home playing dolls with your kids. A quick and enjoyable read.

11/22/63 by Stephen King
GoodReads Rating: 4.3/5
My Rating: 5/5
What I Loved: This is not my usual read. But this is also not Stephen King's usual genre. I'm not a big history buff, but I am incredibly fascinated by all things Kennedy. Ultimately, an English teacher by the name of Jake Epping is coerced into going back in time to try and stop the JFK assassination. But in the half decade that he spends in the past, he finds other occurrences to alter along the way. This book is incredibly suspenseful and I found myself sitting for hours flipping page after page. It's historically accurate, it's engaging, it's got a sweet little love story woven in, and it had me longing for the simplicity of a time period I never even experienced in the first place. I finished it a couple of weeks ago and cannot stop singing its praises.

Jackie's Girl by Kathy McKeon
GoodReads Rating: 4.1/5
My Rating: 4.3/5
What I Loved: As I mentioned above, I am incredibly fascinated by all things Kennedy. And I actually read this book before I read King's. It's a coming-of-age memoir by the woman who became Jackie's go-to gal, as you might call her, and I really enjoyed the more private look into Jackie O's seemingly glamorous life. Kathy provided Jackie and the kids with a very sweet and loyal friendship, and all the while Kathy gleaned quite a few valuable life lessons from Jackie. A sweet and charming read.

Good as Gone by Amy Gentry
GoodReads Rating: 3.5/5
My Rating: 3.7/5
What I Loved: When I picked this book up at Blue Willow Bookshop, I had no idea that this book would be set not only in my city, but in the very area of Houston in which I grew up. So that was fun. This book was full of twists and turns, which normally, I love. This one was just a little bit too unrealistic for me, though, and while I really enjoyed the chapters told from the point of view of the kidnapped daughter's mother, the chapters told by the various faces of Julie were a bit hard to follow. It's a very real look into the relationship between a mother and a teenage daughter, and that may have been what kept me reading to the end.

Sad Perfect by Stephanie Elliott
GoodReads Rating: 3.8/5
My Rating: 4.2/5
What I Loved: This book deals with some incredibly difficult topics. A teenage girl who is fighting an eating disorder - AFRID, one I had never heard of - dealing with anxiety and depression, and has a fairly dysfunctional family to boot. I love that Elliott decided to tackle these topics because they're real and raw and it's important to bring them to light. And while this book definitely takes on a more serious tone, the romance between Pea and Ben is cute enough to induce a few "aww" moments, and make you wish that every Pea had a Ben. What's most interesting is that this book is told - very well - in the second person.

The End of Average by Todd Rose
GoodReads Rating: 4.0/5
My Rating: 4.6/5
What I Loved: The teacher in me loved this book. But I think those in virtually any profession would enjoy it. Without using such strong words, it's essentially about how ridiculous it is to use the average when talking about anything. And it's crazy to really sit and think about how often we use the "average" measurement -- when talking about height, weight, GPA, performance, salary, IQ, everything. It got me thinking about how much my students miss out on because they are given this label - how far above or below this average they are - because so much of what we do is geared to fit the "average" student. As it typically is with clothes that come with a one-size-fits-all label (they never fit all), a one-size-fits-all is about the worst thing we could do in the education world. I enjoyed how Rose brought in examples from all areas - history, science, education, business - to support his claim that it's about time we do something about this flawed system. 

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
GoodReads Rating: 3.7/5
My Rating: 4.7/5
What I Loved: This book was SUCH a page-turner. This author's debut novel had me hooked from the get-go, and I devoured it while riding Chicago's CTA. Not everything is as it seems for Anne and Marco Conti, who seemingly have it all when they leave their six-month-old baby as they go next door for a fancy dinner party. Though they have the baby monitor, somehow baby Cora is snatched from her crib. But what I really loved is that both Anne and Marco have their own secrets that they couldn't possibly have the other find out, which just goes to show that no relationship is as picture perfect as it looks. The ending was pretty crazy and unexpected, but it's a psychological thriller I'd definitely recommend. 

Peak Performance by Steve Magness and Brad Stulberg
GoodReads Rating: 4.3/5
My Rating: 5/5
What I Loved: Honestly, this was probably my favorite book of the summer. I could relate to it on so many levels. I will admit that I picked it up for running purposes, but it's truly applicable to so many aspects of life and I guarantee you'll get something out of it. I could probably write an entire blog post about this book alone, so I'll keep it short and sweet here. If you want to get better at anything, you have to push your mind and/or body past their comfort zones. But you also have to give your mind and/or body rest. It again preaches the idea that growth comes from a struggle, and it forces you to really take a hard look at yourself and what drives you. What are your strengths and weaknesses? What works best for your personality? An excellent book with easy-to-apply information.

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
GoodReads Rating: 3.9/5
My Rating: 4.5/5
What I Loved: If this book doesn't make you think twice about getting married, I don't know what will. Jack and Grace are another example of the picture-perfect couple, but you learn very quickly that Jack is out of his mind. He is an absolute control freak and won't let Grace out of his sight. Essentially, he's holding her captive while still forcing her to portray the role of the perfect housewife. And honestly, what got me was that this situation could happen all too easily to anyone. All it takes is a handsome man with a charming smile to make a woman fall hard. I didn't feel as though there were any plot holes, and my heart was racing as I read on to find out what would happen next. 

Grit by Gillian French
GoodReads Rating: 3.4/5
My Rating: 3.6/5
What I Loved: Okay, just being real here. This was probably my least favorite book of the summer. I didn't hate it, but it didn't captivate me the way other books I read did. I enjoyed the very real relationship that between Darcy, Mags, and their cousin Nell. As well as their mothers who live right next door to one another. Darcy, our main character, is kind of a rebellious teenager who doesn't have a great reputation around town. Of course, this is set in a small town in Maine where everybody knows everybody's business. The pain each character experiences and the way this pain is dealt with felt very real to me, and I appreciated how French tackled some of the more difficult subjects - rape and complex relationships and rumors and slut-shaming. 

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
GoodReads Rating: 4.0/5
My Rating: 4.6/5
What I Loved: I loved going to Chicago and knowing a good chunk of the city's history thanks to my reading of this book. I didn't know I was as into architecture as I apparently am, but I think what really hooked me was the drama running through the construction of the 1893 Chicago World Fair with the serial killer H.H. Holmes posing as a pharmacist and used his charming personality to lure young women into his trap. Daniel Burnham is a name I heard many times throughout my time in Chicago and it is evident that he is an absolute genius and I loved how the city's history was only enhanced by the description of how difficult a task pulling off the construction of this World Fair was. But it still read like a (terrifying) story when you have the absolute chaos precipitated by Holmes.

Love Lives Here by Maria Goff
GoodReads Rating: 4.5/5
My Rating: 4.8/5
What I Loved: Maria Goff is Bob Goff's husband, and you guys, I am obsessed with all things Bob Goff. They live their lives with such whimsy and while Bob is all things spontaneous and energetic, Maria errs on the side of quiet and intentional. Maria talks all about remaining focused on what's important when the world is busy throwing all these distractions at us. This book reads like an encouraging and honest conversation that made me want to start living a more full and present life where I love and care for others extravagantly and purposefully. 

Bob and Maria Goff (Source)
The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs
GoodReads Rating: 4.4/5
My Rating: 5/5
What I Loved: Wow. All I have to say about this book is that it's beautiful, heartbreaking, filled with joy and sadness both, funny, real, raw, honest, and makes you appreciate the life you're living right now. The good days as well as the bad. Nina was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 37 and while at first it seemed like just "one small spot", it quickly turned into a cancer that would never really get better. Nina is actually the great-great-great granddaughter of Ralph Waldo Emerson (yes, that one) and his work, and the importance and beauty of literature in general, is threaded all throughout this memoir. Nina truly had a bright outlook on life and her diagnosis, and she found the beauty in the midst of suffering that will hit all of us in one way or another. A book that touched me far more than I anticipated, I would highly recommend this book for everyone.

Okay, clearly you can see that I'm a huge fan of psychological thrillers. What that says about me, I'm not entirely sure. My friend told me it means I have a pretty boring life, which may be true, but I'll take that over leading a life like any of the ladies in these books! I am all over the genre spectrum, though, and I am always in the market for new book recommendations, so if you have any favorite reads, PLEASE send them my way. Happy reading!

Things I'm Loving Friday LVII

Happy FriYAY! It has been a crazy week of volleyball tryouts and two-a-days, and now we head out to Cypress to compete day one of the pre-season scrimmages. It's kind of a whirlwind trying to get freshman ready to compete in this fast-paced introduction to the world high school volleyball, but I'm excited to see what today brings. And while I'm doing that, enjoy some of the things I'm loving this week!

Run Fast, Eat Slow
When a four-time Olympian and American record holder (Shalene Flanagan) joins forces with a chef and nutrition coach (Elyse Kopecky) to create a beautiful cookbook full of healthy recipes for athletes, you know you have to check it out. This cookbook features step-by-step recipes that really squash the idea that eating healthy has to be boring and bland, or that you have to follow some strict, joyless diet. There are so many misconceptions out there when it comes to fueling your body, especially for females, and this cookbook is full of recipes that show you that it's okay to indulge while giving your body the right nutrients. The photos are fantastic, these two women looked like they had the time of their lives writing this book, and each recipe is Shalene-tested and approved.

Cult of Pedagogy Podcast
Okay, maybe only my teachers will be interested in this one, but honestly I think there are episodes that any parent or businessperson can also relate to. I've mentioned before on the blog that I'm not a huge podcast listener. Like it really has to engage me for me to continue listening. And this one absolutely does. I know people love podcasts because they can listen to them while they're driving, but with this podcast all I want to do is write down everything I hear, so it works best for me when I listen to it while walking my dog. Anyway, this podcast series has so many fantastic ideas - from classroom management to teaching strategies to personal wellness to the use of technology - and each episode I have listened to has left me feeling nothing but energized for the upcoming school year. Jennifer Gonzalez is upbeat, gives practical ideas and advice, and keeps me coming back for more. Definitely worth a listen, even if you're someone who claims to not be a "podcast person".

I only just started listening a couple of days ago, but here are a couple episodes I loved:
   Episode 33: Five Powerful Ways to Save Time as a Teacher
   Episode 57: Nine Simple Solutions for Common Teaching Problems
   Episode 60: Six Ed Tech Tools to Try in 2017
   Episode 67: What to Do on Lame Duck School Days
   Episode 71: Why It's So Hard for Teachers to Take Care of Themselves

Gatorade Commercial: The Secret to Victory
I'm not sure how I missed this commercial when it first came out, but ever since I saw it on TV a couple of weeks ago, I have been all about it. It features star athletes such as Michael Jordan, Peyton Manning, and Serena Williams, among others. The whole message is if you want to find success, you first have to experience failure. MJ not making his varsity team. Manning going 3-13 in his rookie season. Williams being on the wrong side of the biggest upset in her sport. But aren't these names some of the biggest in sports? Using failure to fuel growth has kind of been my mantra lately, and this commercial did nothing but get me pumped for volleyball season, the new school year, and marathon training.

Russ Rose: Commitment
Russ Rose is a legend in the college volleyball world. And rightfully so. He has coached his Penn State team to seven national championships and has earned the respect of so many across the country. And when Russ Rose was asked to pick one word for "The Word on Coaching" series, his word of choice was COMMITMENT. He talks about being all-in, about being focused on the end goal and distancing yourself from distractions. Of course, he's talking about the work his athletes put in on the volleyball court, but it applies to so many areas of life. If you want to be the best you can be, you've got to commit. I think the best compliment I have received as of late is someone telling me he has always been impressed by my commitment to my training. Maybe I'm not the best runner out there, but I'm going to do whatever it takes to reach my goal. Whether that's with running, teaching, coaching, being a dog mom, whatever. If you want to be the best, get out there and work hard. It's not supposed to be easy.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: The Illustrated Edition
It is no secret that I am a Harry Potter junkie. Like I have to tell myself that there are so many books out there that I want to read and while I will most definitely get something new out of re-reading the Harry Potter series for the umpteenth time, it's probably not the best use of my time. BUT then I was introduced to the illustrated editions of each Harry Potter book and you guys, they are absolutely BEAUTIFUL. I am trying to be good and only purchase one of them at a time (as of today, only Sorcerer's Stone and Chamber of Secrets have been released), but these are going to make a most excellent addition to my coffee table. And I might even bring them up to school for some of my more reluctant readers. Obviously these books are wonderful for any age (because 25 is not too old to read a picture book), but these would be perfect if you are looking to open up the magical world of reading to a young one. Bravo, Jim Kay, for so beautifully bringing the wizarding world to life.

Have a fabulous Friday!