Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring Reading Challenge 2010

Those of you who know me know that I LOVE to read.  Like many of you, I never have enough time to read (I would if I did absolutely no housework, cooking, grading papers, or sleeping).  Katrina @ Callapidder Days (a blog I follow-- ) asks her readers each March to post their Spring Reading Lists to encourage reading and to push herself to make time to read.  It's also a great way to find new things to read.  In June, she asks her readers to post their progress and reviews (if they wish) of the books they read.  
Well, of course I wanted to participate and would love it if you did, too.  So, if you've been meaning to get to that stack of books collecting dust on your nightstand, now's the time!  Make a list of books you want to read (or finish reading) this spring. Fiction, non-fiction, advice, how-to, YA, whatever you want is fine.  Your list can be as long or as short as you’d like. (Also, feel free to modify your list during the challenge if it’s not working for you.)  Post it, or a link to it, in the comment box below this blog.  In June, I will post a blog of my progress and reviews of the books I've finished and will invite you to do the same.   My list isn't long since it's softball season (although with "kid pitch" softball, I could probably finish several books on the bleachers), graduation season (oh, the stress!), and sinus headache season (I feel one coming on just at the mention of it).   I hope you'll join me.  It wouldn't be fun all by myself.  Please don't make me play all alone.  :)  And, be sure and brag if you'll be reading on a Kindle or other electronic book reader (see blog archive for my Kindle envy issues). 

Ready, Set,... READ!!!   
1. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout               My sister bought this book for me for Christmas and I just started it this week.  It won the Pulitzer in 2008, so I thought it was worth a read.  I'm not sure how I like it yet.  It's an odd story.  The setting is in Maine.  Thirteen stories are woven together around the title character.  She's a very complex lady and I think I might end up liking her in the end.  I'll let you know. 

2.  Love & War:  Finding the Marriage You've Dreamed Of by John and Stasi Eldredge                                                                                      Since I haven't read the book yet, I'll post a review.  From Publishers Weekly Starred Review. The Eldredges' newest book has bestseller written all over it. The pair addressed men and women separately in Wild at Heart (John) and Captivating (Stasi) and now put that knowledge together in a book on marriage. Christianity, they say, is a love story set amid war, with marriage a living, breathing portrait laid out before the eyes of the world so that they might see the story of the ages. For them, marriage is the perfect storm that brings together basic differences in men and women, individual styles of relating, sin, and brokenness. ... They are honest and forthright, never skirting a difficult issue; instead, they offer hope, insight, and their own lives as examples of what God can accomplish. Their summation of marriage: It can be done. And it is worth it. So is this book.  
I don't read a lot of books like this, although I probably should.  But, I am looking forward to this one.  I feel I should probably read Captivating and Wild at Heart, also.  My husband is a big Eldredge fan, so maybe he'll read this after me.  That's the point of a marriage book, isn't it?

3.  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows                                                   I've had this book for awhile and am looking forward to getting to it this spring.   The word "charming" is often associated with it in the reviews I've read.  I love historical fiction, so I'm sure this will be an educational and fun read.  I find it sad that Mary Ann Shaffer died before the book, her first novel, was published.  I'm sure she would have enjoyed it's popularity and great reviews.           

4.  Maid to Match by Deeanne Gist                       This book is not released until June 1st or it would have been higher on my list.  I have read all of Deeanne Gist's books and have thoroughly enjoyed each one.  She's a great story teller and she does a lot of historical research for each book.  I'm really looking forward to this one.
I would love to post more, and I have others in the stack; but, I'm trying to be realistic.  Remember, you can update your list at anytime.  I'm looking forward to seeing what you are reading, so be sure and comment below.  Happy Spring!!!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

What running has taught me...

November 2, 2009 @ 3:20 p.m.:  My first run.  It was terrible.  I could barely run for one minute.  The Couch 2 5K plan didn't quite fit my condition.  It was more like Coma 2 5K.  I hated it!  My almost 41 year old body reacted strongly against my plan to be a "real runner".  If it hadn't been for the group accountability, it would have been my last run.  Now, I've been running for more than four months.  I've battled very painful shin splints, asthma flair ups, interruptions in my training schedule, and unusually bad weather--but I didn't stop.  I've also finished one 5K and am training for another in a few weeks.  I won't go so far as to say I like running, but I don't despise it anymore.  I actually, kind of, sort of, almost look forward to it on some days, and I always love the way I feel afterwards.  My progress has not been as swift as I had hoped, but I don't want to go back to my pre-running self.  (For those of you wondering, this skinny running girl in the photo above is NOT me.  I do have those pants, though.)

On my run today, I was thinking of all the "lessons" I've learned since I've started running.  They may not "rock your world", but I guess they're worth mentioning.  I ran long enough to come up with 9 lessons. 

1.  Change is hard.  Any change is hard.  I have to make the daily decision to keep making the change; to move.  Some days I move slowly and I don't get very far.  Other days I could move faster and farther if I just had more time.  The point is, I choose to move.  It's never easy.  I have to plan time to run, and somedays it's a real sacrifice for my family.  The change has to be a priority, or it will never be a reality.  If you decide to change something, just know it's going to be hard.  It's why the vast majority of New Year's resolutions are broken in the first few weeks.  Change is just stinkin hard.
2.  Most of the tough stuff is in your head. How many times have I lost sleep over something that turned out to be much less than I had feared?  My mind can get away from me so easily.  I guess I'm a worrier, a fidgeter, and a "worst case scenario" kind of person.  My mind can totally defeat me before I've ever left the starting gate.  Running is hard physically (and I mean hard), but the real challenge is mental.  I have always hated running, mostly due to the fact that running was the punishment for  negative behavior throughout my school athletics "career".  "You missed five foul shots!  That's five killers (or suicides)!"  "You took a third strike!  How about you run laps until you throw up!"  Fun stuff like that.  Mentally, running = failure.  I had done something wrong, so I had to run to make up for it.  I had to overcome the negative mental association I had about running.  I think I've done it, but it's still such a mental task to run.  There are some days when I'm aware of every single step and every labored breath.  Running on a treadmill is a particularly difficult task for me.  It's sooooo boring!  I try to watch television, but I don't run in my glasses and I'm so blind I can't tell what's going on.  I'm trying to train myself to think about anything BUT the running.  I'll let you know if I ever succeed with that one.  Running outside gives me something else to focus on (birds, the breeze blowing my curls, trees, a vicious poodle biting at my ankles...distractions.  The mental challenge is by far the greater battle, as it often is for me in life.

3.  Knowing someone is counting on you to show up is a lot of pressure.  I mentioned that I began running with a group.  I can't tell you how many times the only reason I was showing up to run was the accountability to the group.  Just that little push from a "teammate" may be all you need.  It's much harder to bail when there are other people planning on you being there.  We've talked about how we keep each other going.  We send uplifting emails and texts; we have matching shirts and headbands.  None of us have quit, so I guess the group thing really works.  I had tried to run on my own before joining this group, but I never made it more than a few days.  Now, we have bonded over our pain and the fact that we never want to return to our pre-running selves.  We can't imagine having to start over.  Working with a group just makes me perform better.

4.  I'm a better Mom because I run.  This can be a tough, guilt filled, lesson.  Let's face it, running is more time away from my kids.  It's time just for me.  It's more time away from my responsibilities.  I have less time for laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc. because I choose to run.  But, I think I'm a better Mom because I run.  I have more energy and it relieves a lot of stress.  My daughter is proud of me and I think I'm a better example for her.  I don't want her to wait until she's three weeks shy of 41 to get active.  I hope we'll be able to run together soon.

5.  Goal setting is really important.  If my running group had not set a goal to run a 5K, I'm not sure I would have stuck with it.  When we actually did run the Scenic City 5K in February, we had a blast!  Who would have thunk it?  We immediately registered for another race to keep a goal in front of us.  I live most of my life minute to minute without a gameplan.  I don't recommend it.  I wonder how many people go through life with no goals?  I hope to do a better job of goal setting in the rest of my life.  But, right now I've got a race on April 17th to train for and I want to beat my previous race time.     

6.  Change one thing at a time.  Now that I'm a "real runner", it's time to change my eating habits.  If I had tried to "diet" at the same time I started running, I would have failed miserably.  My appetite has increased because of the running, so I can't imagine how challenging it would have been to lowered my calorie intake when I was starting out.  Now, it's time.  I can't justify the bags of Christmas/Valentine's Day/Easter candy and Girl Scout cookies any longer.  I've got to learn to eat for "fuel" instead of just "filling the tank".  I think people often try to change everything that's wrong at one time (think New Year's Resolutions).  Running has taught me to take on one challenge at a time.

7.  Results take time.  I'm not going to run a 1/2 marathon anytime soon.  It's still a challenge for me to run the first mile.  Running has taught me that real change takes a lot of time.  I've read that the majority of new runners overtrain and are then plagued by injuries.  Most of them quit.  I really wish I could take a six mile run a couple of times a week, but I'm just not there yet.  I do try to push myself to do a little more each week, but I'm trying to be patient with my progress.  I think people like to see quick results.  I know I do.  But, I want to make a life change so I guess it's going to take more than four months.

8.  Rest is essential.  I don't rest well.  I often have trouble sleeping and, as I mentioned, my mind never seems to slow down.  Once I'm awake, I'm awake (thanks Mom!).  Running has taught me how important resting, mind and body, really is.  I've slept a lot better since I've been running.  I also need a break in between runs.  If I push myself too hard, I just can't perform.  Some days I'm so tired, I'm happy to get one mile under me.  Those are the days I didn't respect that rest is essential.  I see a lot of people never take a minute to rest.  Our lives are so out of control busy that we've adapted to not resting.  That was me until I started running.  Now, my body won't let me not rest.  I'm still not good at clearing away the day and really relaxing, but one thing at a time.

9.  Every breath is a gift.  If there's one thing running will teach you quickly, it's that breathing is way underrated.  We become so unaware of our breathing that we don't even realize when we're holding our breath.  I used to take aerobic classes (ugh!) and the trainers would often say, "Don't forget to breathe!" or "Don't hold your breath!"  It sounded odd to me at the time, but then I would catch myself not breathing.  I took a few Yoga classes (another story for another time) and so much of the focus is on breathing.  A good, deep, cleansing breath is wonderful--but sometimes hard to come by.  I am trying to learn to breathe "correctly" while I run.  Because of my asthma, this has been a challenge.  There are times I've almost hyperventilated because I couldn't get a deep breath.  Very frustrating.  On days when my breathing is good, I can run so much farther and I feel so much better.  Each deep breath is rewarding.  Now, I'm trying to concentrate more on my regular breathing during the day.  Call it relaxation or whatever, but I think I was going all day most days without taking a deep breath.  It's just another change I'm working through.  But, running has certainly taught me that every breath is a gift.

I am really glad that I laced up my spiffy new running shoes a little over four months ago and started running.  I am really proud that I've kept it up.  If you've always wanted to run, find a few friends and form a group, set a goal, and push each other.  If I can do it, anyone can.  Take it, literally, one step at a time (just like life).  Run a race and proudly wear your t-shirt.  Who knows who you could be influencing? 

See you on the road...

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Angry youth....

For the very few of you who actually read this blog, I apologize for my long absence.  It's my "worst time of year" as far as work goes, so blog time has been scarce.  But, I have had several bloggable things running through my mind for awhile now.  This one floated to the surface this morning. 
Back in January, I and five other teachers chaperoned our school's senior trip to Walt Disney World.  We do this annually and usually have a nice (but excrutiatingly exhausting) time.  This year was no exception.  The weather was close to perfect, the crowds were very manageable, and the kids (as far as I know) were "good". 
Disney World is one of my very favorite places.  My first visit was when I was nine years old and there was only the Magic Kingdom.  Who knew there could be anything more?  Epcot was newly opened by the time of my senior trip, and it blew me away (still does).  Now, with four parks, it's a lot to cover in the three days we have for the senior trip.  The students sometimes complain about being tired, but they love Disney.  Even the most synical of kids can be caught getting his picture made with his favorite character.  There's a special feeling at Disney....  It's just a happy place.
So, when the six of us were leaving Epcot on our way to dinner on the last night of the trip (by the way, we ate at Ohana and you MUST, I mean MUST, eat there if you can...oh my), we were shocked to see a teenager up ahead of us in the crowd wearing something very "un-Disney".  He looked like a normal teen boy, probably fourteen or fifteen years old.  He was with a group of four or five other "normal looking" teen boys.  But, he was wearing a black hooded zip up sweatshirt with large all capitalized white letters on the back that said:


Now, we were shocked; and it takes a lot to shock people who work with teens.  What thought processes, assuming there was thinking involved, does someone go through when making that purchase?  Who says, "Now that's what I want to spend my money on."?  And then, who chooses to wear it to Disney World where little kids are everywhere?  I bet parents were having to explain that boy's sweatshirt to their kids all over Disney World that day.  I mean, what a statement. 
So, being educators, we decided to try to figure out what was going on with this kid.  One chaperone even wanted to try to catch up with him and have a chat  to see what was going on in his head (certainly not me--I wanted to rip the jacket off of him and report him to Mickey Mouse for a bad attitude).  But, it got us talking.  What would make someone wear that statement plastered across his back?  We tried to spin it positively:  maybe he would be so happy that you lived such a wonderful, Christian life that he would break dance on your casket in celebration of your eternal reward in Heaven.  We decided that was a stretch.  We thought it could be a band name and asked some of our own "skater dudes" if they'd ever heard or seen anything like that.  They had not and acted kind of surprised that someone would wear that (I hope none of them rushed out to buy one).  We couldn't come up with anything other than the statement the shirt made:  this was an angry kid.  So angry that he plastered it all over his back and wore it to the "happiest place on earth".  How many other angry kids relate to that message?  Scary.  
If we all had to wear across our backs in giant block letters our true feelings about life, the human race, society, etc., I wonder what statements we would be making?  On some days, I'm sure mine would not be very nice.  I guess we would know people on a different level where they couldn't hide their true feelings.  Hmmmm... When someone does something awful, like this week when the guy opened fire on the guards at the Pentagon, you often hear the people interviewed that were "close" to the person say things like:  "they never would have thought it was possible", or "that's not the person we knew", or "we never saw that side of him".  Maybe this angry kid at Disney was doing us all a favor by wearing that jacket.  His message was clearly delivered.  I still don't like his jacket, nor the people who manufactured it, nor the store that sold it to this kid, but it does make you think about the message you're putting out for the world to see.  Maybe it's not plastered across our backs, maybe our faces, or tone of voice, or body language reveal enough.  The impact was strong.  It's been almost seven weeks and I still think about that kid's sweatshirt.  Message delivered.  I wonder what messages I've delivered over that time?  Do I really want to know?