Wednesday, March 30, 2011


I'm not a risk-taker.  Not really.  I make calculated decisions to take "risks" (note the air bunnies) that I know are not quite so risky.  Par example:  I know that every roller coaster in Disneyland will move enough to get my heart pounding, but not so fast as to create an ohmyGodI'mgoingtodierightnow fear.  This past weekend the kids on our trip convinced me to go on Tower of Terror one time; I agreed, but on the condition they understood that I would be genuinely afraid and genuinely feeling the aftereffects of ohmyGodIdon'tlikedroppingelevatorsI'mamotherforcrap'ssake as soon as we got off the ride.  I'm good for one of those experiences per year.  I have successfully filled my quota and I may be taking applications for next year's ride soon.

Having a motorcycle in our family pushes me to the absolute limits of comfort.  Though I'm more used to it now because we have one, I have very distinct feelings about what is and is not okay in my little anxious heart.  I will never be at ease with it. Helmets and protective clothing are a must, but I also know that I'm much more comfortable cruising surface streets than freeways.  A jaunt down I-5 in San Diego with a buttload of semi trucks was enough to cure me of any illusions about how comfy I'm going to be chillin' on the back of a bike at freeway speeds.  It felt like human Frogger.  My bravery only goes so far.

A couple of years ago I took some dance students to Disneyland for a workshop.  This only added to the fanatic admiration I have for Disney; the instructor was so good with the kids.  She asked them about why people like to ride the "E ticket" rides--what makes them worth waiting in huge lines?  The answer was the thrill.  People like to be pushed to their limit, to have their heart race and their blood pound.  When we watch a good dance performance, we get a thrill too.  (And I would add that from a performer's standpoint there's equal incentive for a thrill.)  That's why it is a dancer's job to look like she is having the most fun any person could have in her life.  It makes the audience experience the thrill right along with her.

I love to be on stage.  I'll cop to it:  I'm a total attention whore under the right circumstances.  It still gets my heart racing (even for a silly thing like dancing with other teachers) and I still want to do a good job.  But I've been there enough that I know I can control it... there's no way it can end badly because just getting out there is the whole deal.  It's a safe risk--I'm addicted.

Thrill-seeking doesn't seem to look great on me.
Tomorrow night we have our annual Staff GQ and I'll be dancing with my teacher buddies.  I'm exhaustipated, but I can't wait.  It promises to be hilarious (see picture above referencing the Creep) and I know it will be a thrill.  If only I could develop some super duper patience.  The waiting is killing me.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


This is a total "what I'm up to" blog post and not a "see what a hard-working writer I am" blog post.  I'm okay with that, just so you know.  I'm watching United States of Tara with E and I've got one eye on the computer.  I missed John Corbett.  Anyway.

I haven't opened my laptop in two days, which for me is akin to two days without coffee.  It left me feeling a little wonga. I figured it was time to dive back in.  That way when the stuff hits the fan this week I'll be re-plugged.

The Mock Trial trip was a complete success.  It was the kind of trip that leaves me feeling like it was a privilege to attend rather than a burden to work.  The kids did an amazing job all weekend and made it to the final round.  They ended up placing second in the state.  We ended up at Disneyland the same night which made for the longest... day... ever... (though any day ending in Disney is a win) but I high-tailed it back home yesterday and back into the world of dancing teachers and (wait for it) the busiest week ever.

There seems to be a theme here.

This Thursday night we have our annual Staff GQ at school--the teacher dancing group I've been directing for a few months will be performing.  This week is filled with all kinds of finishing-up and tying of loose ends.

It was nice to go to Disneyland but like our trip to Hawaii last year, it left me missing Hank and Ad somethin' fierce.  I got to meet up with a former student who works there, though.  That was ten kinds of awesome.  Good to catch up, good to have a Disney hostess.  I don't think I want to go back to Disneyland without E and the monkeys anytime soon, though.  Too sad.

On a happy note, I keep forgetting that I got accepted to one of my schools already.  Then I remember and it's awesome like my 90's dance skillz.

That's all for tonight, Internet.  I tried to go to bed at 5:30 and E told me that was a little ridiculous.  I think 8:30 might just be in the safe zone.  I'm going to go find out.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Long day, good day... and it ain't over yet.

We're just heading into Round 4; looks like we're on a winning streak. The kids have done the same great things all day that we saw last night. They've been tested with all kinds of curve balls and they have shown the same composure and great teamwork under all kinds of stress. I'm a hungry hungry hippo, but I'm feeling like a proud team mama bear too.

I'm anxious to see how this round turns out. The teams for the finals will be announced at 10:00.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


If you dance with the same group of people long enough, you learn to sense where they will move.  Like a mother scooping a wayward toddler leg in mindless anticipation, you reach out to support your fellow dancer before she can fall.  In improvisation this is especially true.  One must learn to catch a hurling body or trust enough to fly confidently toward a partner's strength.  Physical and mental connection are paramount.  Wordless exchanges happen in the eyes.  A glance to a fellow dancer says I'm here; I'll make this look good to the audience and I'll be good to you.

That's the kind of teamwork that's difficult to teach.  Often dancers don't discover it until they've been dancing for a long time, but a taste of that group magic holds addictive power.  Once you've had that support onstage it is all you pursue: a zen state of achievement and encouragement.

At last night's opening round of the state Mock Trial competition, I saw our students do that dance. Each person's bright performance said to the others you can do this too, I've got you.  As a teacher I'm humbled that they're capable of such great work.

I can't wait to see what they do today.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


After a day of driving (well, riding) I'm happy to enjoy a little silence before my roomies arrive. This feels like the calm before the storm, which is good. We managed to avoid an actual storm in the mountains and it sounds like we left the worst of it at home.

This weekend promises to be full of action; I'm chaperoning a school trip. Next week looks to be equally packed.

Now if you 'scuse me, I think I'll see about a nap...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Preaching to the choir

Tonight as I was browsing Barbara Kingsolver's website I came across an answer to an FAQ that sums up everything I want my life to be, everything I want for my writing. And like everything Ms. Kingsolver writes, these words speak perfectly to a part of my soul I can't even describe.

Do you go through a lot of drafts?

Gazillions. I adore revision. Whether it’s a two-page article or a 500-page book, I rewrite endlessly. I may rewrite the first paragraph of a novel fifty times before I’m satisfied. I comb through a manuscript again and again, altering every sentence a little or a lot. I don’t print out every draft on paper, or I’d be mowing down forests.
Pounding out a first draft is like hoeing a row of corn – you just keep your head down and concentrate on getting to the end. Revision is where fine art begins. It’s thrilling to take an ending and pull it backward like a shiny thread through the whole fabric of a manuscript, letting little glints shine through here and there. To plant resolution, like a seed, into chapter one. To create new scenes, investing a character with the necessary damage, the right kind of longing. To pitch out boldly and try again. To work every metaphor across the whole, back and forth, like weaving. I love that word “fabrication,” because making an elaborate fiction feels so much like making cloth.
Perfectionism is my disease. Revision is my milk and honey.

Amen, sister.

1 out of 5 [so far] ain't bad!

"Dear Heather...

I'm pleased to tell you that you have been accepted into the Chatham University Low-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing. Congratulations! The university's formal acceptance letter will follow from the College of Continuing and Professional Studies Dean's office."

::giggle, grin.::

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Happiness is...

Twinkle shares her sunbeam
sharing a sunbeam with your cat.

Monday, March 21, 2011


My senior AP kids posed this question to me last Friday and I promptly told them to knock it off so we could get back to the lesson actually let it turn into a big discussion because sometimes that just happens. They wanted to talk about books--even if it was off topic I had to run with it.

Anyhoo, the question of the day was this:

Mrs. P, if you could be in a relationship with a literary character, who would it be?

Can you see why this took me way off topic and distracted me from my intended lesson plan about Animal Dreams? Rest assured, I dealt with Codi and Doc Homer with great aplomb today to make up for it. Seriously, I live for this kind of hypothetical. You also need to know that I live for making my answer too long and having too many caveats. Okay, now we can move on.

Remark #1: I already know what it's like to be in a relationship with a literary character. His name is Gluten-free E and he is (minus a hunting cap) in every way Holden Caulfied. Like, every phony-hating way. I don't mean that as a dig or a compliment, but E would be the first to tell you he's HC. For a brief moment I even floated the idea of naming Henry Holden because of it.

Remark #2: I wish Dumbledore wasn't (ostensibly) gay or really old, because he would make a really great life partner. But honestly I'd still probably choose him because I'd want to get my hands on the Pensieve. I think he'd be a great companion and very loving. Dumbledore is my runner up.

Remark #3: Most of the guys in the books I read are pretty messed up. That eliminates a lot of choices.

Remark #4: I could go for Mr. Darcy, but I'm not as big of an Austen fan as you might think. Okay, I say Mr. Darcy but only if it's the BBC, Colin Firth Darcy. Oh wait, that's more of a TV character, right? Okay, then, just Colin Firth.

Remark #5: This is off topic, but I want to be Scarlet O'Hara. She gets a few different guys and she gets to wear a dress made out of curtains. Win-win.

Remark #6: I can tell you who I would not go for in a big way: Bigger Thomas... or Meursault. Horatio might be good, because he's still alive at the end. There's something to be said for not dying, plus Horatio was pretty smart.

Remark #7: If it was someone from Romeo and Juliet it would have to be one of the fightin' cousins. Romeo is kind of a turd. Beowulf? He killed the dragon--that's always nice. I'm not sure about that Viking boasting though. Sure honey, you killed another monster. But did you take out the trash yet?

Remark #8: Atticus Finch. That's my answer.

Remark #9: If I'm going back to Harry Potter characters, I'd say Sirius Black. I was so sad when he died.

Remark #10: Can we talk about which literary character I'd most like to punch in the face? Because I have that answer at the ready. Daisy Buchanan, hands down. Homegirl needs to get it.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Elusive sleep/ There's an app for that?

I decided to spend the last $1.07 (well, my last $0.99, actually--seems like you can't buy any songs for under a dollar anymore so the balance has been lingering) of an iTunes gift card on the Sleep Cycle app and test it last night.  I'm not convinced it is going to do anything for me other than a few "oh cool" moments, but it was kind of neat to see what it showed about my sleep last night.  Seems like it matches up with when I know I was awake because of the storm.

What I'm really looking for is the app that gets your pets to sleep through the night without whining three times at the back door to go potty in the rain.  (Yes, he doesn't get water late at night.  Doesn't always help.)  I'm hoping that same app has a function that allows your allergy-suffering husband to breathe like a normal human rather than an asthmatic bear, and that the app encourages your children not to have nightmares, crawl into bed with you at 3:00 AM, or stick their knees into your back.

I'm sure you can't get enough of my whining lately, but in the current era of hip pain and work stress, I need to add lack of decent sleep to the list.  Indulge me.

I'm pretty big on sleep on a normal day.  I nap way too often for a grown up.  I go to bed really early.  I think I probably need about 10 hours a day, either through night sleep or napping.  Usually the kids and I hit the sack at about the same time.  But for unknown reasons lately, I am getting no solid blocks of sleep.  It's making me cranky, can you tell?

On Friday night E was gracious enough to sleep on the couch so I could try to get a good block.  I fell asleep pretty quickly, but he came in to "drop off" the cat at about 1:00 AM and I thought it was time to get up for work.  Fail.  I did go back to sleep but I didn't make my mark of sleeping straight through.  It didn't happen last night either, even though he wasn't home.  The storm outside sounded like it was going to push the hot tub through my bedroom wall.  Sigh.

Often times it goes like this.  The dog whines at the back door to pee.  So I let him out.  And then I go to the bathroom because I'm up and if I don't go now I'll just have to go in ten minutes which will mean getting up again.  The cat yells at me in the bathroom because she wants more food.  Then I let the dog back in and get back in my bed.  Then I lay there and listen to E's snoring or allergy breathing.  The dog starts snoring and or passing gas.  Then I get mad that I'm wide awake.  Then the cat decides to lay on my head/stomach and purr.  E sticks his elbow in my eye.  Then I get mad again.  Then I start counting hours until I have to get up.  Then I lay there for two hours.  Then I get up early because I've had enough of everyone.

Henry was never a good sleeper as a baby.  Actually that sentence shouldn't be in past tense or limited only to when he was a baby.  He isn't a good sleeper now.  But the years 2005-2008 were the worst because he (and I were screaming at alternating intervals from 12:00 AM to 6:00 AM.  This feels like that again.  If I can just get Hurley, Twinkle, E, Henry and Ad to all settle and stop making nighttime into personal party time, I'm going to be a much happier camper.

Otherwise, as I told E Thursday night, I want a pair of earplugs.  And my own room.

With a lock.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Lazy Time

Photo on 2011-03-16 at 19.40 by _AlisGraveNil_

Two weeks until the end of March and I'm gearing up for a wild ride. Once Monday hits, I go nonstop until April 1st. I'm working hard at doing NOTHING today, and I'm gonna do the same thing tomorrow, too. If I decide to go crazy I might grade papers, but I'm not promising anything.

I told Henry that we're wearing sweatpants and we're not leaving the house all weekend and he grinned from ear to ear. I think we can all use a little rest time. I'll admit to not being real sad about his baseball game getting rained out today. So often we're scheduled down to the minute... it's nice knowing that the calendar is clear for the rest of the weekend.

Here's to sweatpants, TV and being lazy. Wahoo!

Friday, March 18, 2011


This was on Twitter yesterday. It was consequently my quote of the day in my classroom:

We like someone because.
We love someone although.
~Henri de Montherlant

Of course that meant I had to spend all day answering questions about it. First were my seniors, who sort-of understood it, but thought that it was about how you would love someone although they are a convicted felon or they have a drug problem. (Which they of course thought was unwise.) They still live in the checkerboard of black and white--extremes only. I was happy to share that I thought there were plenty of greys that might make someone a little more challenging to love and might be worth the trouble.

None of my freshmen got it. They're still in the stage of relationships which says if you do something I don't like, we cannot ever speak again. I remember those days. E and I broke up our junior year of high school and spent a good six months pretending like the other didn't exist. We'd walk by each other and stare blankly. I hear the same thing from kids all the time: "she used to be my best friend." In my adult reality it hasn't been easy to suddenly drop people. Even people who have hurt me deeply or with whom I have had to change my relationship are mostly still in my life in some capacity.

Anyway, I'm getting off topic. All day as I've been explaining the quote I've been thinking about marriage and the many althoughs that exist between me and E. I remember right after we went to Retrouvaille that I thought there was something so different about knowing he would choose me--choose to love me--when he least felt it. While it's a dreamy thing to think that someone would be infatuated with you for the next fifty years, it's not very plausible. (I laugh sometimes when I see status updates on Facebook from my former students that are along the lines of if you're not head over heels with each other forever, it isn't worth it. I don't laugh to be mean, but it is interesting how life changes over time.) I know that when I make that choice to choose to love E although _______, it changes me. So does loving the rest of my family that way, as does making that kind of choice in my other close relationships.

Love although. At Retrouvaille I remember evaluating the commitment I felt to E in light of what I felt for say, (another different but strong family relationship with) my sister. She doesn't stop being my sister if we get mad at each other. E does not stop being my E if we get mad. Making that conscious choice strengthens the bond in a relationship. It sure applies in so many parts of my life too. I see it having the potential to be huge when my kids are teenagers. :)

Loving although takes the pressure off me to be perfect or to expect perfection in others. I am definitely of the "if it can't be perfect, why try" school, and that has the potential to ruin relationships. I have to fight against it. But knowing that I'm loved in spite of my less-than-awesome qualities means I can be my true self. I think it's easy, also, to say you love someone else in spite of how they can be sometimes. It's another thing altogether to realize that there are even a handful of people in the world who love you in spite of what you can be.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

This one time...

Yeeks, my week is going from crap to crappier.

Totally couldn't hang in a dance rehearsal today after school. Totally ran out of energies and maxed out on hip pain.

My plan to deal is this:

1. Eat a lot of pizza.

2. Don't run.

3. More pizza.

4. More of not running.

Okay, wait. Before I started in on #1, I videotaped myself doing the rest of the dances so the ladies could practice our routine. Maybe this way I can not do anything until Tuesday. Maybe that way my hip might stop being the hip of a brittle old granny.

I videotaped on my laptop. THEN I started in on #1. Since it's St. Patty's maybe I'll sub some "special" coffee for #3 later. You know, go crazy. Then again I might just pass out in a pizza coma at 7:32.

I thought you might enjoy some screen shots of my weird solo dancing.

I feel like I am really channeling my inner Biebs in the first one:

Who rocks the sweatpants like nobody's business? Someone else, I think.

Aand The Creep. My arms are T-Rexin'...

That's enough for now, Interwebs.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

These are a few of my favorite things...

When I was a kid my mom used to sing the songs from The Sound of Music to me if I couldn't sleep. I actually didn't see the movie until I was out of high school, but I have a fond memory of all the songs. It works, too. I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don't feel so bad. Har har har. I'm serious.

Last night was a bummer night. It's been a bad week. In an effort to remember that life is good no matter what the future holds, I've been clinging to some of my favorite things (like Hanko and Roo). Here are some of the other things making my world a little brighter tonight.

"Tulip trees", or (as I now discover they are actually called) Saucer Magnolia trees. Best part of any run lately, hands down. My favorite flower is a purple tulip and this is like a whole tree full of 'em.

Husbands in baseball hats. Yum. Particularly husbands in baseball hats, wearing Harley shirts and playing with kittens. And particularly husbands wearing baseball hats that they bought to match their son's baseball team. Adorbs.

The smell of rain on asphalt.

Cadbury Mini Eggs. This one year after we got married, we got about 15 bags for Easter and we saved them in the freezer. They didn't freeze so well but we didn't care so much. I was convinced I was over them until E brought a bag home today. Om nom nom.

Modern Family. Consistently hilarious and consistently (and eerily) relevant to our lives. I'm about half convinced someone has a hidden camera in our house that they're using for Phil/Claire material.

Claussen Kosher Dills. Balm to my wounded soul.


This week there have been metaphorical dog bites and bee stings. I've been feeling bad. Mostly I've been feeling worried. Tonight I am going to soak up all the good this house has to offer. Then I'm going to eat some smoked pork shoulder. Couldn't hurt.

Here's to remembering that there's joy in small things.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Code yellow

Stress this week is a yellow.  Which means 7, if you haven't been paying attention to my special brand of crazy.  We're quickly approaching an 8.

Nothing is wrong, per se.  I'm just amped up.  Agitated.  Busy.  I'm that kind of busy where I have a bazillion tasks that need doing and I end up staring at my to-do list like it's one of those 3-D posters from the early 90's.  Remember those?  The magic picture ones?  That fad sure faded, right?

Speaking of yesteryear, my Tetris obsession continues.  I think it has temporarily replaced crocheting as my do-while-watching-TV pastime.  We sat and watched Band of Brothers yesterday for the first time (we're on ep 2) but I was so anxious the whole time that I couldn't just sit.  I felt like I needed to be doing something with my hands.  That show appears to be amazing (as promised) but it's hard to watch.  I'm officially a baby.

I'm not really sure where this post is going, sorry.  This month is just going to take a lot of energy.  I know it's totally worth it.  Plus it's only a month, right?

I finished Jane Eyre yesterday so I'm trying to decide what to read next.  I have Major Pettigrew's Last Stand in the Kindle but I'm not hooked yet.  Might give that a try.

Might play some more Tetris.

What are you reading?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Book review: Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

You know the type. The books every woman between age 13 and 99 has read at some point in her life. Books like Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre. I read them but I must confess that I probably read all three of those when I was too young to understand them. There was a period between Anne of Green Gables and Native Son when I was wholly unsure about both my tastes in literature and what might be appropriate reading material. (I don't recall teen fiction being in existence in the 90's.) Most of the time it went something like this: Do I own it? Have I heard of it? Then I'm reading it. I remember really struggling with the language of Robin Hood until my dad explained that older stuff is just tougher to understand. So much of what I read back then didn't stick.

I'm going to add another caveat to "these type of books" by saying that they're also the kind of free downloads that Kindle owners use to pad their virtual libraries. I have to be careful because if I get too many books on the list I want to shut down and play Tetris all day, but I allow myself one new book and one freebie at a time. That was how Jane Eyre made it to the list. I decided it was time to revisit this particular classic.

And I don't mind telling you (though this is surely the longest introduction, ever) that the fact that there's a new Jane Eyre movie out soon influenced the decision. I saw the 1996 version with K when I was in high school; it was a first taste of a decade and a half of movie-going with K and she has become my go-to movie-recommender. I have positive associations with Jane Eyre already, but I didn't remember much. It was time to take another look. This was the first book I've ever read across three different modalities (is that the right word?): my Kindle, an actual book, and an audiobook. I just picked up wherever I left off with whatever version was handy. How 2011 of me. Sometimes I'd play Tetris and listen to the audiobook, which I basically consider the best idea I ever had. Ever.

On to the book review. I enjoyed this book in a way that I couldn't have at thirteen.

Jane Eyre uses many archetypes that we see in other stories: the orphan coming of age, the wicked aunt/cousins, a mysterious man with a dark secret. What I liked about it was that none of that seemed forced or stereotypical. Jane is independent in a way that I didn't expect. She is strong willed, blunt, and capable. Some of the choices she makes set her on a path to poverty, but she chooses what she believes is right over her own security. In that respect it's very different from other stories of women during that time and novels that concentrate on finding one's worth through marrying "right."

I won't go into a long description of the plot because this is a book I feel like most people have read. Maybe not. But I also think one of the best things as I read it this time was that I had no memory of the plot whatsoever, from either the movie or the book itself. I was constantly surprised by it, which made me laugh since I had encountered the story before.

The language of the book is pedantic (shout out to the AP English class of 1997) but it didn't interfere with the my comprehension. I loved the version I downloaded because the narrator had a smooth and soothing voice. Reading it was the same. Though it is heavy on description, a few of the scenes like Mr. Rochester's proposal, the exchange after Jane discovers his secret, and the one when they meet again all managed to keep me completely on the edge of my seat. It was a nice balance.

I love to read books that take me to an entirely different place. This book was transportive. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I'm glad I gave it another read before I see the new movie.

My recommendation: A must-read for your list of must-reads.

Eight at the Lake

Sunrise over Lake Natoma. Click photo for source.
I love running.

Yesterday Kel and I did eight miles out at the Lake just after sunrise. The crew teams were gliding across the lake but we had the trails almost entirely to ourselves. It was still, sunny and fresh.

I have a new attitude about running since my injury. I already know I'm not going to win any time trials. When I think about what I want to get out of running, it's two things: longevity (in life and the sport) and health (also in both life and the sport). I want to be running, walking, jogging into my retirement years. I want to be crazy-free because I can run my worries out. I don't want a health scare in my fifties that forces me to make a lifestyle change. I've decided that the time I spent comparing myself to others and beating myself up about times and not being good/fast/strong enough is just wasted energy. Besides, what would I rather do: PR in a race this year but injure myself and be forced to take time off (or quit altogether) or enjoy my runs, gain strength slowly and be able to run for a long, long time.

That answer is so easy. My heart rate monitor has helped to show me what a good pace is, anyway, so the new attitude is this: run at my own capacity, but don't push it because I know I'll regret it.

Kelly agreed to run S-L-O-W with me yesterday and slow I was. I didn't look at my pace at all but I tried to keep my HR around 85% of max because I knew I could sustain that over the whole run without having to walk. I was able to run the whole thing and feel great at the end. No hip pain. Our average pace (by my Garmin, when I got home) was about 13:33. For Kelly that's a lot slower than usual, but we had the best time chatting it up. We both agreed that it felt like a really nice run overall. I'm thankful she wanted to take it easy (and I'm laughing as I type that because any time I run 8 miles feels like the opposite of easy, no matter the pace!).

I told Kelly I'm way too big a fraidy to run on the trails by myself. Too afraid Rapey McRaperson or Scratchy McBobcat is lurking behind a tree for me. BUT--with a buddy, there's nothing I love more than being out in a natural setting to run. After my swan dive at the corner of MainStreet & EverybodySeesYouPDawg on Thursday, I appreciated a smaller audience of only wild turkeys and squirrels. And I didn't fall this time. So there.

The other thing about yesterday is that it's kind of magical--like, hugging a unicorn under a rainbow magical--to spend a few hours in nature like that, sweating it out, and then to be finished with both your workout and your zen time by 8:30 AM. So you could, let's say, go to your son's baseball game and then come home and nap the afternoon away.

I was after a little quiet time this week and I feel like I accomplished it. The more I can get out on the trails to run, the better.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Mighty, fallen.

By yesterday afternoon I was exhausted and cranky.  I could barely get my act together and finish my day teaching, but I had a half hour meeting after school that lasted an hour.  I was all kinds of unmotivated as I drove home, but I tried to remember something that I read on Zen Habits yesterday:

Just step out the door.

He is right, you know.  Just step out the door and something good is bound to happen.  I've heard so many runners say I never regretted any run, and it's true for me too.  Even the crappy ones when I quit early are still runs when I tell myself it was better than finding myself at the bottom of the Cheetos bag.  I could just step out the door, I knew that I would find more to be happy about than I could complain about.

I feel like this run would have been Bob Ross-approved. Plenty of "happy little trees".

I had the best run.  It was supposed to rain yesterday (it might have sprinkled a little in the afternoon?) so the sky was dotted with some happy Bob Ross Clouds and a bluish-gray beast.  I said a quick prayer that the angry one wouldn't get any more angry, and I set out.

I am the captain of the I heart my Garmin fan club right now.  Running with a heart rate monitor has seriously changed how I run and what I recognize about what it feels like to run at the right pace.  Since I started wearing my HRM I have not had to walk on any runs.  I feel like I understand pacing now.  I feel like I am finally able to figure out what my own perfect pace is, where before I had been arbitrarily picking a number (say, 11:00/mile) and saying "yeah, that's my goal."

What a nerd.

Anyway, the funny thing is that I thought I wanted a Garmin so I could see how fast I was running.  I'm actually not so interested in my pace or speed as I'm running.  Those things are nice to see when I get home.  But when I am out on the road I keep the screen set on the HRM for about 90% of the time and I wait for the "auto lap" feature to tell me when I've hit each mile.  I've been running a route I know really well, anyway, so I don't have to look to know that it's a mile to the first driveway into Savemart or two miles when I hit the end of the fence at the junior high.

Last night I did another tempo run using my HR as a guide.  I tried to keep my HR between 65-75% of max for my warmup and cooldown miles, and then I ran two miles in the middle where I tried to keep it between 85-95% of max.  I'm using info I got from the website.  Those two miles in the middle were "comfortably hard" but I was really enjoying the smell of (almost) rain, the blooming trees, the Coldplay in my ears, and my non-chafed thighs thanks to my tight-covered legs.

My splits:

Mile 1: 12:41
Mile 2: 11:10
Mile 3: 11:25
Mile 4: 13:20
Avg pace: 12:20

Slow but steady, right?

It was going great.  So great, in fact, that I was thinking I'd do an ooey-gooey blog post about my awesomesauce run and how zen I was... and then I ate big pavement at almost exactly the two mile mark.

It wasn't as spectacular as my first fall--alone and in the dark at 5:30 AM--the one that left me with a stiff ankle and a fear of running before work.  I didn't hurt myself too bad, either, but since I landed this spectacular slow-mo fall right at the corner of the two major cross streets in town I am sure someone at work is going to say "OHMYGOD, Mrs. P!  I totally saw you laying on the sidewalk yesterday!"

My pride hurts more than my hands (which took the brunt of it), and I am mostly happy I didn't rip my one expensive pair of running tights.  I actually kind of can't believe that I have only fallen twice while running for two years.  I fall more times than that during any given morning teaching English.

I still don't regret it and it was still a really good run.  But for my moment of glory on the sidewalk, I didn't have to take any breaks.  I felt so good when I got home.  This run was exactly the quiet time I'd been craving.  Just get out the door.  Good mantra, right?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Quiet Time

Quiet time in my happy place

I love being a coach.  For about the bazillion and a halfth time, yesterday's Girls on the Run lesson shined a big mirror at my own life.  I'm sure it was great for the girls, but I keep chuckling to myself a little bit about how much I need these lessons, too.

Many a time I've learned more from teaching than I imparted.  Sometimes that's a terrifying responsibility, but I love the challenge.

Nineteen and newly engaged, I traveled with a friend to be a counselor for Ballet Magnificat's summer dance intensive in Jackson, Mississippi.  I wore a mask of a smile to hide my embarrassing feeling of inadequacy as a leader.  I was sure that I'd be found out as a not-good-enough Christian.  Some of the young girls in my group who seemed like they had the God thing down--and I thought for sure that I'd never be able to keep up or provide them any new food for thought.  I stayed up late into the night making notes about each lesson and trying to anticipate the spiritual questions they'd have.  It ended up being fine, but I was grateful for the framework and eventually grateful that I was pushed to teach something that was just beyond my sphere of comfort.  I grew so much in those two weeks.  Those lessons were for me, too.  There are still times when this is what it feels like to teach high school.  Learning and teaching are friends that often walk the path together.

Yesterday's GOTR lesson was on taking time out, taking time to be still.

I know that before I could articulate this as a need in my life I could only recognize the crazy that blooms in its absence.  When I don't (or can't) take time for quiet, I fall apart like a pile of rocks.  One thing begets a crazy emotion and suddenly everything is the worst thing that ever happened.

As I said Tuesday, I'm at the stage where scheduling the quiet has to happen.  I even made myself write a found poem yesterday so I would have to stop and do something calm.  Sure, in the glowing days of summer it's easy and natural to meet quiet wherever it appears.  I don't have to think about thinking time because I'm home, wrapping myself in the comfort of family.  I'm outside in nature all day.  But March... oh, March.  Ain't nothing gonna happen in March--and I mean NOTHING--unless I pencil it in.

Yesterday we talked to the girls about using a run to quiet their minds.  We had them run alone and in silence for 40 minutes.  If you've ever been around elementary school children you know how challenging this was.  They did it.  I was proud of their commitment to the task.  After the run we had them lay down and do a simple relaxation meditation where they visualized their worries in a box and pictured themselves lifting each thing out one at a time to put it down.

You have to believe what you're teaching or it fails.  Teaching has to be authentic, which is why teaching these kinds of self-reflection skills is so challenging.  I was reminded that we each carry around a box of worry that needs emptying on a regular basis.  My goal for the rest of the week is to spend more time in mindful quiet.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Found poem: Jane Eyre

No contact strikes the fire from you that is in you.

An unflushed cheek,

A coruscating radiance of glance.

Disease had thus become an inhabitant of Lowood,

Death its frequent visitor.

Ere long, steps retreated up the gallery towards the third-storey staircase.

There was gloom and fear within its walls.

On hayfield and cornfield lay a frozen shroud;

There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.

Jane Eyre, who had been an ardent, expectant woman--almost a bride.

Jane Eyre was a cold, solitary girl again.

Drifts crushed the blowing roses.

Ice glazed the ripe apples,

Her life was pale.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Writers' block

Writing is like squeezing a sponge. Most of the time you dunk it in the bucket of frothy bubbles, lift it up and squeeze out just enough to do. Most of the time you don't really need that much water to get the job done anyway. Dip and squeeze. Dip and squeeze.

But sometimes you wring the sponge dry; it surprises you with how much it held. It's empty. Desiccated. You have to hold it under the water a while and let it soak if you want to use it again.

My sponge needs to soak. I wrung every last word out of myself for my writing sample and since I completed it I haven't had much to say. Blogging motivation is never an issue--I always want to sit down and write but I don't always have something to write about.

I have passing thoughts.

Like how the whole Charlie Sheen thing makes me mad. The very same media that's putting him on show will be the media to lament his demise at the hands of those who exploited him. It disturbs me.

Like how sometimes the issues in education astound me with how far they reach, but sometimes something as simple as a flea infestation can bring my entire week to a grinding halt.

Like how the Northern California March weather also disturbs me with its bi-polar inconsistency.

Like how I saw the parents of a friend from Elementary school when I was running in the park, but I chickened out on saying hello because I wasn't sure I looked like a grown-up version of Heather, age 8.

None of these are blog posts, though.

Neither is a description of how I cut a lackluster treadmill run short and stretched my hamstrings on my bed as I typed. Neither is a foodie post detailing my intervention-worthy consumption of Reeses' peanut butter cups in 48 hours. Neither is a catalogue of the reasons I love my demanding little Twinkle cat.

I could resort to a detailing of my week thus far. Last night's Mock Trial county finals made me proud of my school, my colleagues, my mentors, my kids. Then I came home and barfed. Yeah, real barf. Don't know why. Dichotomy, thy name is PDawg.

My lack of ideas also generally parallels some disquiet in me. On the short list is the fact that I can't decide if I should post my short story here. Fiction makes me feel vulnerable, but I have this nagging voice that says I shouldn't pout around about lack of ideas when I have 6000 words sitting on my hard drive. (I originally typed "heart drive"--it may be more apt.) E and I are slugging through a more challenging time in our marriage. And my classroom has fleas.

Prior experience has taught me that time will bring ideas. Time running. Time sleeping. Time playing with the kids. Lack of time has been a theme for the last few weeks and it isn't going anywhere. I'm in the stage where "quiet time" has to be something on the calendar.

Monday, March 07, 2011

He doesn't look six to me.

Birthday Boy had a little too much birthday by last night.

He ended things by nearly falling asleep at dinner, pouting, and falling into bed.

He seems much better after a lazy day of Legos and cozy pants at home with Daddy.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure he is going to make it.

New birthday shark, Sharp Tooth. I'm kind of digging Henry's hair. Has a definite Biebs McGee kind of vibe (well, before the Biebs cut his hair and turned into Emma Watson).

This is his "Mom, please stop doing Jazz hands" face.

My baby boy. *sigh*

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Eight miles

I made sure to stretch it out after yesterday's long run.  I've been really good about stretching lately.  Of course this means I haven't remembered to make my bed or take my vitamins.  I can only handle so much at once.  You might think I'm a fan of post-run stretching because I was a dancer for all those years.  You would be wrong.  I hate it.  The last thing I want to do after I get home from a run is more work.  Check out my stats on the computer?  Totally.  Shower?  For sure.  Eat my weight in Cheetos?  Hells yeah.  Stretch?  Not so much.  But I'm finding that it makes a huge difference in how I feel, so I'm doing it.

You can't make me like it, though.

So, anyway.  My run.  I did eight miles yesterday in the beautiful sunshine.  I meant to head out really early but I woke with a massive headache so I didn't hit the road until about 10:00.  I was able to run the whole time.  I didn't ever have to walk, which (if you've ever been a n00b runner on a longer run) is a huge deal.  It means I'm pacing myself much better with my heart rate monitor.  I did choose to walk twice--once when I accidentally shut off my Garmin about two miles in and I had to fix it, and once to eat a Gu and wash it down with a little water, at about the halfway point.  I ran a negative split run, which really means I was pacing well.  My later miles were faster than my earlier miles.  Good stuff.

Guess what?  I really like running.

I tried again to focus on my heart rate rather than my pace.  The end result was a pace that was about on target with what I hoped it would be, anyway.  I'm really trying not to push it at all as far as my speed.  I think when I was training before my half in the fall I was trying hard to keep up with Kelly (who is faster than I am--even after multiple foot surgeries!) and I didn't let my body get strong enough first.  I hope the combo of stretching, PT, and careful pacing is going to make me strong and help me get through a longer year of running this year.

E and I talked about the marathon thing and I decided I'm not going to try to run SD.  Though it would be a good first full marathon and I'd love to go, I am going to be on a school trip the entire week before.  I don't think a day of driving plus a day of flying will do my body any favors.  So for now I guess I'm looking to CIM... It still seems way too far away for me to hang in there and stay motivated, so I am going to keep looking at other races in the meantime.  There's just nothing local over the summer.  Frustration!  Maybe some half marathons.  I don't know.  Maybe I just keep running because I like it.  Ha.

My training plan right now is one I made on Runner's World Smart Coach.  I like it so far and it seems to be the right amount of running days.  I substituted dancing for a recovery run this week since I had extra practice and I felt fine on my long run.  Once dancing calms down at the end of the month I think I will start adding runs on consecutive days.  Right now I'm still staying away from that because I'm so afraid of what it will do to my hip.

So, yeah.  There you go.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

March 5

Today was a Hanko Day.

He asked me about when he was born and how long we were in the hospital.  He asked about when Lucky Puppy got there.

He woke up at 6:00 and asked for a present... then a doughnut.

He played Donkey Kong all day.

He chose Rango and Chevy's for our family night out.

He ate a chicken taco and wore his sombrero like a champ.

He asked his sister to have a sleepover in his room.

It was a good day.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Oh, now I remember what this was like.

I haven't opened my computer at home since Tuesday night. Weirds. Gawd, this week was killer. Good, but killer. Luckily nothing overlapped with anything else, but it was a standard-issue "run from one thing to another to another" week. I would say there was a time a few years ago (when I was directing the dance program and teaching full time and volunteering to do way more things at school) when every week was one of these weeks. While I'm thankful that life is not as hectic anymore, I think I'm less equipped to handle it (and more apt to complain).

Grumpy McTiredpants. Like that? Totally bringing my A game in this pic.

This morning as I was in the shower, I had a thought. This kind of crazy schedule is terrible for my health. Let me back up by saying that I only slept last night from 10:00-1:30 and then again from 4:00-6:00. I had a really screwy bout of insomnia that wouldn't go away until I up and moved myself to the couch. I was stuck in a loop in my head and I couldn't turn my thoughts off. So this morning was a rough one, and I was thinking about how hard this kind of schedule is on my body. I feel like poop. My back hurts, all I've had to eat for about five days is processed food and soda, and my weight which had been consistently in the 143-148 range for most of last year is up at about 155 again for the last week. I just feel gross and unhappy with myself.

I miss vegetables.

I did run this week which I am thankful for. I got plenty of exercise. But I wasn't able to get to a lot of things that I wanted to get done and I've been walking around with a nagging to-do list in my head since Monday. I read a quote earlier this week (I wish I could find the exact quote or remember where) that went something like this:

Any day when you are too busy to run is a day when you are too busy.


BUT I am determined not to continue to be down. Since I had this crazy busy week, I thought it would be good to remind myself of all the wonderful things that happened. Busy doesn't mean bad at all. Sometimes busy just means you're fitting in more awesome, more real life.

Good Stuff This week

-Ad ran 2 miles for the first time at Girls on the Run
-Henry and I sat in the sunshine and did his whole homework packet for the week

-Got to dance with my friends at school
-Had the opportunity at a meeting to be honest about some things that are bothering me
-RAN (like, the whole thing with no walk breaks) FIVE MILES. The hip felt great. No pain.
-went to Thai food for E's 32nd birthday

-Got to dance with my homies at school again
-Coached Girls on the Run--which I am LOVING--and saw Ad run 2 miles AGAIN. This time faster!
-Got to see our school's Mock Trial team shine at county competition

-Burned through some serious work obligations and was able to stop worrying over them
-Danced with mi amigos AGAIN at school
-Saw our school's Mock Trial team AGAIN, felt glad that I am lucky to teach kids who are so dad gum smart, felt lucky to be a part of a long-successful program like MT

-Ate some delicious fried food
-Took a big fat nap
-Anxiously awaited Henry's report of his first baseball practice

This week is packed with real life and family. We're going to celebrate Henry's 6th birthday (JEEZ!) and I'm planning a wonderful 8 miler in the morning tomorrow. Life should be back to normal--back to manageable--by Monday.

Thursday, March 03, 2011


Happens to be
Unbelievably busy. I'm so
Reliably over-
Scheduled. Am forcing the happy
Dance to happen

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Run Tunes

Great run tonight! I'm really trying to monitor my heart rate with my Garmin and it's helping me maintain a more reasonable pace. I managed to run the entire five miles, which is totally awesomesauce for me. ESPECIALLY given that I haven't done anything over 3.3 miles since my injury in October.

I. Was. RunNANG, JenNAY.

Tonight I had the chance to listen to some music I've downloaded recently and I found that three of my new songs were unexpectedly good running songs.

I now present to you: Running Songs that Don't Seem Like they Would Be Running Songs

Sweet Disposition by Temper Trap

You know, from that Diet Coke song that plays at the movies.

Mellow, but with a nice beat in the background that makes you feel like YOU are in the Diet Coke Commercial. Good times.

The Big Bang by Rock Mafia

I don't think you know this one from anything, but it's good.

Good for when you've got that Kill Bill whistling song stuck in your head and you need a new one to replace it.

Dog Days Are Over by Florence and the Machine

You know, that song on the Eat, Pray, Love Trailer.

Good for when you want to pretend you're Julia Roberts-ing on your adorable bike through Bali (on your way home to Javier Bardem). Yeah, I said it.