Monday, December 31, 2012

Highlights of 2012

Wow, last day of 2012. 

Each year I have recapped my year by month on the ol' blog, but this year I wanted to change things up. Instead of summarizing each month for you, I have compiled a list of my favorite highlights from this past year.

I really had a phenomenal year and I can safely say it has been one of my best years yet! Thirty is treating me just fine and if this is any indication what my thirties will be like, well, sign me up!

As a person I grew personally, physically and professionally and I have never felt better about myself. This year I did everything from wrap up classes for my Master's degree to running my first ever long distance race to meeting someone special and opening up my heart. In no particular order, here are what I consider the highlights from 2012....
  • New Friends! In 2012 I met this girl and this girl. Yep, two local bloggers here in Des Moines have completely won me over and I have not stopped marveling at what wonderful and fun friends they are! Manon and Chandra are best friends that use Twitter as much as I do, and naturally we all ended up following each other. As conversations became more and more frequent through those 140 characters, we naturally ended up hanging out in person and quickly grew to be IRL friends. I have never felt so blessed to have such amazing new friends in my life!
  • A new relationship. Along with meeting new friends this year, I also met a new guy that has completely stolen my heart and I can safely say I am head over heels for this funny guy! We met online (shocking, right?!) and we first got to talking about running. Quickly we found out that we had a lot in common and in person we clicked right away (so important for me). He has made the last half of 2012 incredible for me and I have never felt so smitten! We spent the holidays together and I pray that we spend many more together.
  • Wrapping up my Master's degree! This year I finished all of my classes and accomplished my goal of maintaining a 4.0 while in grad school (my heart flutters a little bit every time I see 4.0!). All that is left is my student teaching experience and then I will be a fully licensed K-8 teacher! I am so thankful that although I have an undergraduate degree in something other than education, I am still able to pursue a career in this field while also receiving a degree in higher education. I have never felt so blessed and so happy in a career!
  • Babies! There are five girls in my close group of friends and we've all been friends for about a decade now. One of us finally decided 2012 was the time to create a new life! Our good friend Katie gave birth to baby Dylan at the end of October and he is such a cutie!
  • Reading over 70 books. Yep, this year I was able to make time for something I love to do. Reading. In 2011 I set a goal for myself about halfway through the year and I was looking forward to see what I could accomplish in 2012 if I set a reading goal. Having a concrete goal really pushed me to read more and I could not be happier or prouder!



          2012 Reading Challenge


              2012 Reading Challenge


            Amber has
                completed her goal of reading 70 books in 2012!





            71 of 70 (101%)


              view books



  • Running. This year I took running to an entirely different level. I always dabbled in running and would occasionally work on Couch to 5k, but I never really tried that hard or pushed myself. After my friend Emily urged me to sign up for the Dam to Dam 20K, I thought, "what the hell, why not??" I signed up for the race, trained and ran my first ever race on June 2, 2012. Yep, you read that right. I consider D2D to be my first real race. I had participated in 5Ks before, but never with a clear goal in mind (besides make it to the finish, but I usually walked). Since Dam to Dam I have completed a half marathon and various other small races. Currently I am working on a sub 30 minute 5K! 
  • Blogger weekends. This year I only had one blogger meet up, but it was a memorable one! Back in January I met up with Lisa, Becky, Lesli and Donna in Chicago for a weekend of fun and it was amazing! It is crazy to me to think that I met Becky IRL for the first time in 2012, it feels like I have known her for years and years. Ahhhh, the joys of blogging. :)  I think about this weekend a lot and hope that we can do it again someday. 
  • Vacationing in Washington D.C. Becky graciously invited me to stay with her and her husband and she put together the most memorable trip for me in our nation's capital. I got to spend some great quality time with Becky and I finally got to meet Mandy!! I quickly fell in love with the city, its rich history and my time there. I have no doubts that I will be back someday to see even more!

  • Working with the I Have A Dream Foundation here in Des Moines. Through a blogging connection, I met Brianne, who works for the IHAD foundation and she asked me if I would be interesting in helping with an after school program at a local middle school in the school district that I grew up in. It took me about 1.2 seconds to say YES! and although I had *way too much* on my plate this semester, I enjoyed every Wednesday I worked with these special students. 
What a wonderful year! 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Book Club Friday

Hi! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday! Mine was fantastic, probably the best I have ever had and I cannot wait to share all the details with you later!

I am sure I am not the only one feeling this way, but today does NOT feel like Friday! We got back from Spencer yesterday after spending Christmas in the boyfriend's hometown, and all day yesterday I was confused on what day it really was. I have to keep reminding myself what day NYE falls on, because I just cannot keep it straight! That is what you get when you work the *oddest* hours ever!

Good thing it is Friday though, because Friday's mean book club! Today I am linking up with Heather for her weekly meme where bookish bloggers link up with their reads for the week.

For my local book club, Books 'n Bars we are reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I have been itching to read this since it was released and was really excited when it was so well received when I suggested it for our December read. We do not meet until January 2nd to discuss the book, and I am so excited to talk about it!

Wild is a memoir about a woman that hikes the Pacific Crest Trail. Alone.

Cheryl Strayed hikes over 1000 miles over a 3 month time period from the Mojave Desert to the Oregon/Washington border by herself. She had no experience with long distance hiking and decided to embark on this journey as a way to pull herself out of a deep depression and drug addiction after suffering from a divorce and getting over the death of her mother.

What I enjoyed the most about this book was reading about Cheryl's determination and her drive. This book was so inspiring because she decided on a goal and she set out determined to finish it. NO MATTER WHAT. The obstacles that she encountered were life threatening and this made many parts of the book so gripping for me. I could not put it down and I just had to know how each day went for Cheryl. It really made you stop and marvel at how much we really are capable of in life.

I also really enjoyed learning about the PCT and I have officially added "hike a day on the PCT" to my lifelong bucket list. People that take up long distance hiking have such a unique culture among them and I really loved learning more about the sport (or hobby?).

If you are a fan of memoirs and enjoy inspiring books that make you feel like "I can do anything!" this is the book for you!

What book did you read this week? 

Friday, December 21, 2012

2012 book review + Snowpocalypse 2012!

Late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning, Iowa got hit with "Snowpocalypse 2012," getting dumped on with 13 inches of snow accompanied by some crazy winds. All of the schools shut down and many businesses had a snow day as well. I spent the entire day inside reading and watching Christmas movies, except for the few times I had to let the dogs out and when I went to use the apartment complex's gym. It was kind of heavenly. After a crazy busy semester I am welcoming down time with open arms.

Also, I am loving that I am able to keep my blog up to date these days, I have missed writing and all of you lovely readers these past few months. I am still unsure of the fate of this blog once I graduate and begin teaching full time, but I promise I will always keep everyone in the loop.

Last year after being inspired by Lisa and Stephany I posted my top ten books read in 2011, and I just had to do it again. I loved looking back on the books I read in 2012! There were some definite similarities and trends from both years, mostly in the amount of YA I am consistently reading.

The rest of this post is pretty "bookish" so if you're not interested, stop here. ;)

On Goodreads, I made a goal for myself to read 60 books. I quickly blew that goal out of the water before the fourth quarter of the year began and then I changed it to 70. I am reading 68 and 69 right now, listening to 70 in the car and Little Women will hopefully be 71, which is our pick for #twookclub this month. Now that I am on winter break, I am a reading machine and am prepared to blow my revised goal out of the water! It is crazy how the simple act of setting a goal can completely change the outcome. My interest in reading has always been the same, but with a goal for a number of books I wanted to read, I was motivated to read even more! (Now, I just need to apply this theory to running... The boyfriend thinks my goal of "finishing a race with a smile" is not a good enough goal. ;) )

So, what did I end up reading in 2012?? Here are my top 10 picks of 2012.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Looking For Alaska by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

The Violets of March by Sarah Jio

Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio

Room by Emma Donoghue 

Bungalow by Sarah Jio

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan 

On The Island by Travis Garvis-Graves 

What were your favorite reads in 2012? 

Today I am linking up with Blond Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Wine & Canvas Girls Night Out

About a year ago I read a post about some bloggers in Houston that got together for a Wine & Canvas party and I thought it sounded so cool, but I quickly discarded it as anything that I could do. My sister got the artistic talent (although she vehemently denies it. She’s wrong) and I got the love of words and language. Art and painting was never something I had a natural talent for, but I did still enjoy it, I just did not enjoy not being good at it.

I’ve never considered myself a super creative person, I would be lost without Pinterest and sometimes I think I will make the worst elementary teacher because my room will probably not be all cutesy homemade crafts all over the place (well, except for what the kids do!).  But, what I can do is follow a model (I’m a pro at tracing!) and follow directions.  I may not be able to come up with the idea or see the vision in the first place, but I can sure copy what you do! (Ha.)
When one of my good friends asked me if I wanted to do a Wine & Canvas party, I was kinda skeptical. What if my painting looked terrible? I don't know if I can paint those pretty pictures I always see online. Well, I was dead wrong when I thought I could not do it. Someone asked if I could follow directions and when I said yes, he told me that I would have no problems.

And, you know what? He was absolutely right!

Last Thursday night about 25 people showed up to Mimi’s CafĂ© in West Des Moines for a night of wine, painting and fun. I went with three close friends of mine and, like the teacher’s pets that we all were (not) we sat right up front and (im)patiently waited for the hosts to get started so we could paint this:

Cue nerves. 

You want me to paint that?? You are not serious. I thought we were painting a tree? I can do trees. My sister and I practiced “happy trees” with Bob Ross all the time back in the days when the only channels we had were on basic cable. I don’t remember doing “happy flowers” …

Luckily, my friend was right, and after about 2 hours of following directions I ended up with this: 

Do my flowers look happy?? :)

Wine & Canvas really was as simple as "following directions" and as long as you paid attention, you were fine! Also, they use all acrylic paints and couple that with the canvas and the paint can be pretty much "erased" with water and paper towels if you make a mistake. I actually had to do that once, because one of my brushes was too wet and it dripped across my painting and spread! I cleaned it up and voila! I was fine. 

In addition to great directions, the artists used measurements such as the brush handle or fingers instead of inches. This made it much easier to gauge where to begin painting. 

The four of us hard at work on our masterpieces!

But, besides all the painting stuff, we had the best time giggling over flower petals that looked like inappropriate male parts (we’re immature) and drinking $5 wine flights (score!) we all left declaring that we wanted to do it AGAIN and SOON. 

Another shot of us hard at work. 

Wine & Canvas just started in the Des Moines area and I highly suggest you GO. I guarantee you will have a great time and you will leave feeling like the next Picasso! Wine & Canvas would be great for a girls night out or a date with your husband or boyfriend (I swear, guys would enjoy this!). There was a couple sitting near me, and at the end of the night, the woman looked at her boyfriend and said, "If you had done this for our first date I would have married you by now!" I cracked up!

Read other reviews of Wine & Canvas DSM here and here.

 Cannot wait to do this again!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Never forget.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Life isn't fair.

Friday morning as I was sitting in a Family and Consumer Science classroom substitute teaching and the students were working on their sewing projects, I was casually scrolling through Facebook. I noticed a friend of mine's status was something along the lines of "Shooting kindergartners?? Really?!"

My entire body went cold and I just knew it was bad.

I then went to Twitter because I knew I would get the most up to date news there and that is when I found out the horrible news. I looked up and one of the kids looked back at me, and I must have looked pale because he asked what was wrong. I just smiled meekly and said nothing. A few minutes later everyone in the class was aware of what just happened due to their own phones buzzing on their desks. These students were older of course, all sophomores, juniors and seniors. They have seen bad things happen, many directly to them. I did not address it with the class, I just allowed them to take a break from their assignments to watch You Tube videos, text loved ones or scroll through Twitter and Facebook.

I got left off easy.

But, what will all the kindergarten teachers say to their kids tomorrow morning? How can this possibly be explained? My heart breaks for all of the families missing their loved ones right now. My heart breaks for the family of Adam Lanza. My heart breaks for the children who are undoubtedly terrified to return to school tomorrow. I picture the kindergarten students I will be working with next semester in my student teaching placement and I consistently have to fight back tears. Obviously God has plans, but this just is not fair. Life is not fair. I can only take solace in knowing that the 28 people that lost their lives Friday morning are in a better place and at least those young children were able to go to heaven together. 

As I sat in that classroom looking around at the students I just met that day, I wondered what battles they are fighting. Do they have everything they need? Obviously Adam Lanza did not. I am not pointing fingers, but clearly someone dropped the ball here. To be able to commit such a heinous act, you have to be completely out of your mind. To give in to the devil so terribly, so horribly gruesome and heartless your mind is no longer yours and is in the possession of something much more evil. But, on the other hand, could it have been prevented? Absolutely. What mental help was he receiving? What was he not receiving? We have come a long way in treating mental illness, but we have so much further to go.

This school did everything right. There was nothing more they could have done. The office staff was clearly very smart and they saved lives by turning on the intercom so the entire building could hear what was going on in that office and take cover. What else needs to be done though? I have wracked my brain and gone as far as saying every school needs metal detectors. Every school needs security and weapons. Is that really what we have come to?

And clearly, yes, we have. We live in a scary world. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Book Club Friday


What plans do you have this weekend? I have big plans of seeing The Hobbit (at the Imax theater, woot woot!), laundry, perhaps some wedding dress shopping (no, not me! My best friend is getting married next year!) and just overall relaxing! Not to sound all high and mighty, but I deserve it. It's been a hectic semester!


I cannot believe I am succumbing to this AGAIN, but today for this edition of Book Club Friday I am talking about the second installment of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, Fifty Shades Darker by E.L. James.

I know. I see you shaking your head.

Or nodding enthusiastically.


Same as the first book, I did not love it, but I did not hate it. I do want to know what ends up happening so I have decided I might as well finish the trilogy. I am also enjoying the parallels with Twilight. Considering this book is fan fiction (and I saw the interview with E.L. James and Barbara Walters where she did admit it was fan fiction!) it makes sense that there are a lot of similarities and it is kind of fun reading them.

If I could give this book 2.5 stars, I would. I ended up rating it 2 stars on Goodreads and after seeing the author's interview last night, I have to say I am kind of intrigued by her. I love how confident and nonchalant she was! I do not think that sexual lifestyle is normal, but I am also the type that thinks, "Whatever floats your boat...," what you do behind closed doors is not my business!

Here is the summary from Goodreads:

Daunted by the singular sexual tastes and dark secrets of the beautiful, tormented young entrepreneur Christian Grey, Anastasia Steele has broken off their relationship to start a new career with a Seattle publishing house. But desire for Christian still dominates her every waking thought, and when he proposes a new arrangement, Anastasia cannot resist. They rekindle their searing sensual affair, and Anastasia learns more about the harrowing past of her damaged, driven, and demanding Fifty Shades. While Christian wrestles with his inner demons, Anastasia must confront her anger and envy of the women who came before her and make the most important decision of her life. Erotic, sparkling and suspenseful, Fifty Shades Darker is the irresistibly addictive second part of the Fifty Shades trilogy.

I am very curious how they will do this movie. I am sure there will be a lot of inferring and drawing your own conclusion because there is way too much they could not show... even in a rated R movie! Guess we'll find out...

Have you read this series or considered reading it?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dear Santa,

Dear Santa,

Here is my Christmas wish list. Please and thank you.
  • Nike Fuel band
    • I think these are so cool.  These bands track all of your movement, kind of like a really advanced pedometer! You can set daily goals for yourself and monitor your progress. All the data also syncs up with your phone so you can also track calorie intake as well. A good friend of mine has one and she loves it! 
    • I just love these! My books have overflowed from my two bookshelves to my desk and it is really out of control. I'm in desperate need of book ends to keep them all together.  
  • Running pants
    • Most of my running pants are capris, which are not helpful for outdoor running. I really need another pair of full length running pants for those extra cold days! If you have tips on which pants are the warmest, please fill me in...  
  • Mug holder from Etsy 
    • My parents had this exact mug holder when I was a kid, I could really use something like this. Our cupboards are so full of coffee mugs and it is ridiculous! I'm just waiting for one of my favorite Fiesta mugs to fall out and break, so this is practically a necessity!  
    • I could really use a new pair of Ugg boots. They're so comfy and cozy, but the only pair I have are too big and I hate wearing them. These are really cute and would go with everything! 
  • And of course my Christmas list would not be complete without .... BOOKS! Discovery of Witches, My Year With Eleanor, and MORE.... I could keep going in this category, but I'll stop for now. :)
 What's on your Christmas list this year? 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Test time

It is finals week for me and today I have two finals, then tomorrow and Thursday I have one each day. I'm not worried about them, but it is still that looming anxiety that I cannot seem to shake. I just want the test to be over!

I really hate testing. Yes, strong enough to use the word hate. They are a horrible way of showing skills and, in my opinion, they do not tell the instructor that much. Not near as much as you learn through formative assessment. Also, I am a horrible test taker.

But, the other day, I found myself piping up in class about how some high stakes assignments and tests can be good. My justification was these types of situations teach kids what it is really like in the real world. Most of the time we only get one chance to nail a presentation or make a killer impression at a job interview. High stakes IS real life and some high stakes is good. But, a lot of high stakes, like what kids have these days, is NOT good!

Are you one of those mythical creatures that is good at taking tests? What are your favorite ways to prepare for a high stakes situation?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Weekend Play-by-Play

I have missed you all so much! I have so much to do in preparation for finals this week, but considering how much I have thought about blogging, I knew getting a post out of my head and published would do a lot for my mental clarity!

So, here goes! This isn't deep, so set your expectations low... I figured I would give you a peek into my somewhat low-key weekend!

For the rest of the year I picked up overnight shifts on Thursday and Friday nights, so Friday after getting home from work I decided to stay in and just take it easy until 10:30 when I had to head to work. The money is so easy and I just cannot resist overnight shifts. I usually take a Tylenol PM or extra melatonin and I sleep relatively okay.

Saturday morning I was scheduled to work at another site, so I left the house I did the overnight at and went to straight to working with another lady for 5 hours. Luckily, she wanted to go to the YMCA and she is very independent so while she walked on the track for 30 minutes, I was able to run on the treadmill. Paid to run? Yes, please!

I still hate the treadmill though. The only good thing about the treadmill is I can read while running. If I didn't have that, I don't think it would even happen.

After leaving work at 1:30 I headed home to bake some cookies for a cookie exchange on Sunday. Side story: Once a month my grad school friends get together and watch a 90s movie (it all started when we realized only two of us had seen Heathers), eat brunch, drink mimosas and have glorious girl time. It is heavenly! This month we decided to incorporate a cookie exchange in honor of the holiday season and, I have to admit, at first I was a little panicky. I don't bake! I don't think I have baked since I was a kid and mixed up sugar and salt! Luckily, Pinterest came to my rescue and I baked these adorable peanut butter cookies and chocolate covered M&M pretzel rods. They were a huge hit!

And, there was only one casualty! (I went to pick up the cookie when it was still too warm and it broke in half)

Oh, and the movie we watched this time around was Clueless. Seriously, this is the best monthly brunch EVER! Next time, which will be the first weekend in February, I am hosting and we are watching Romeo and Juliet - the Leo and Claire version. Can. Not. Wait!

So, after I baked the cookies, I lounged around for awhile before heading over to the boyf's house to stay in and watch a movie. Neither of us felt like going out so we opted to stay in. He had a race to run in the morning and I just plain didn't feel like it. I have been very anti-social these days. I blame finals! We watched Finding Forrester and I cannot believe I have never seen this movie! I loved it and want to watch it again soon.

Sunday our brunch went spectacularly! We all had some good laughs at how obsessed we were with Clueless in the 90s and we ate some really yummy food and cookies. My reindeer cookies were a big hit and I just might have been bitten with the baking bug... I'm going to have to scope out some healthier versions though because my waistline cannot take it!

Late Sunday afternoon and evening I spent the time studying and reading (dragging my way through the 2nd Fifty Shades book - ugh!) with Redzone on in the background - my Fantasy Football team is kicking butt this week! I dragged myself away from Christian Grey, my textbooks and football just long enough to make a huge pot of chicken tortilla soup packed with veggies. I wish I had snapped a picture of it! But... I didn't. So, instead I will leave you with this picture of plum brandy that a grad school friend gave me for Christmas. She made all her gifts this year and I was so shocked when she gave it to me! It is really, really good!

Thursday, December 6, 2012


I am about to wrap up my last semester as a regular graduate student and on January 28th I will begin working side by side with my mentor teacher(s) in my student teaching experience.

All I can think is... "Whoa." (said in a Joey Lawrence voice of course)

Reflecting on this prompted me to go back and look at what I wrote about when I first began this graduate school journey back in the fall of 2010. Here is the post from the first week of classes. It seems like so long ago! I cannot believe how much has changed since then and how much I have changed!

For example, in that post I complained about my classes being with undergrads and grads in the same class. Looking back on that complaint now, I feel bad. Yes, it did surprise me, but now that I have spent so much time working with some amazing undergraduate pre-service teachers, I am grateful I was in classes with them! Many of them are so much more mature than I was at ages 19-21.

I also talked a lot about work and the struggles of being in charge of a management team of four adults and then a staff of 20-50 and theeeeennn managing a three million dollar store. Oh, gawd, I SO DO NOT miss that at all! I am very much looking forward to only managing classrooms of children for the rest of my career and I have no desire to be in administration and manage adults AGAIN.

Adults are way worse than children.

I digress.

Last weekend I got my student teaching placements and I will be with a 3rd grade teacher in a suburban district for the first 8 weeks and then I will be with a special education teacher in K/1st grade (omg) in a urban district for the last 8 weeks. I am so excited and I feel extremely fortunate in my student teaching placements! I had originally requested to be with a specific teacher, but that teacher will be out on maternity leave, so that did not work out and I did not have any other suggestions, so I basically told the student teaching coordinator, "I trust you. Place me with someone who is a good fit." I'm pretty sure she did!

I have not met the teacher at my second placement yet, but I met the teacher at my first placement today and I am almost positive we will get along great! First of all, she is from my boyfriend's hometown and they know each other! Small world, right? In addition to that, she's also my age, which I really like. I have seen enough "veteran" teachers to know that I don't get along very well with inflexibility or people that do not adapt to change well.

(Then again, when I'm older, I probably will not adapt to change very well either!)

So, in the past 2 1/2 years I have learned so much and have met so many really wonderful people. With each step towards being fully licensed to teach elementary school, I am even more certain that I made the right decision to switch careers!

If you could switch careers and realistically do something different, what would it be?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Hello, hello!


I have missed blogging so much and I cannot wait to be back on a regular basis.

In the meantime, if you are a still reading and would like a Christmas card from me, please fill out this form!

Thank you and I will be back very soon with a lengthy update!

Monday, November 12, 2012


Cough, cough...

Oh, hi.

Just checkin' in here to say "hello-I'm-still-here-but-super-busy-so-goodbye-until-next-time"

I have been reading a lot of your posts, but most of the time it's super early in the morning and I have one eye open and I have barely moved and probably couldn't even type out a coherent comment, but I really am commenting in my heart and it is the thought that matters.

(Okay, that was bullshit. Forgive me?)

I am reading your posts though at 6am with one eye open from my phone...

This time around I really did it. I really went overboard with the commitments and I am like a chicken with my head cut off. I love it though. I am at my best when I am insanely busy and I really do enjoy it. There have been some really exciting things going on in my life and I promise when I am back to blogging full force in four weeks (when the semester ends, hallelujah) I will let you in on everything!

In the mean time, I'm still tweeting every so often, still posting on Instagram randomly and updating my Goodreads with my good reads. So, find me there, mmmmkay??!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Book Club Friday!

Hello, Friday!

Hope your weekend is starting off better than mine. Yesterday I got some really shocking news and am still reeling from it a little bit, but... things will be okay. As much as I hate the saying "Everything happens for a reason," I do believe it's true.

I just kinda want to punch anyone that says it or slap myself when it crosses my mind. 

Anyway. On to Book Club Friday! This weekly feature is hosted by Heather and is one of my favorite weeklies in the blog world (shocking, I know).

I am still in the middle of five books (yes, FIVE) and it's driving me nuts. Three are for grad school and two are for fun. The two for fun (because, let's face it, they're the most interesting) are 11/22/63 (still) and Life of Pi. 

Life of Pi is for Books 'n Bars and we meet next week to discuss, so I thought I would talk about it now. I am only about halfway through it, but I expect to finish it this weekend. I have to admit I found the first part a bit dull, but now that I'm further into it... I cannot put it down or stop thinking about it.

The book is about a sixteen year old boy name Pi who's family owns and operates a zoo in India. They decide to move across the world to escape the uncertainty of India and sell most of the animals to zoos in North America. They board a ship with most of the animals bound for North America and...

...then the ship sinks.

All that is left is Pi, a bengal tiger, a hyena, a zebra and an orangutan on a lifeboat. Eventually, the group dwindles further and all that is left is Pi and the tiger, who's name is Richard Parker. 

The story is so far captivating, educational and sometimes gory. The author does not hold back and the amount I have learned about animals and their prey is pretty astounding. I'm not sure how they will do this on the big screen, but I am very excited to find out!

Definitely pick this book up if you're looking for something a little different to read, and if you're in the area and would like to join us for Books 'n Bars please contact me for more information. We would love to have you!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

On being proud...

I felt a little silly putting my splits from the half up here on Monday, I mean, they're nothing to brag about, RIGHT? I averaged over a 12 minute pace, which compared to so many other runners, is a pretty average to slow pace.

But, wait, they ARE something to be proud of. Why would I compare myself to other bloggers/runners that have way more experience on me? Why wouldn't I put them up on the blog to share? That does not make sense and is the fast track to dragging myself down.

Sure, averaging a better pace is something to work towards, but feeling bad about my pace or, worse, hiding it and not talking about it at all, ruins the experience for me. I love sharing this with experience on here and, better yet, documenting the experience so I can remember all of the details. I'm a pretty numbers driven person, so not analyzing the data from races is something I just don't think I can avoid (although I did for quite a long time!)

I was emailing back and forth with Stephany on Monday and she complimented me for putting those numbers up there. She mentioned how we see so many 8-9 minute pacers in the blog world, and, although that is great, it was refreshing to see a beginning runner put their splits up for once.

This conversation really made me feel better. After I hit publish on my race recap, I felt really anxious. What would people think? Would they wonder why I was putting up those numbers up? Would they smirk, considering me an imposter and not a real runner?

Seriously! How ridiculous are those thoughts?! They're pointless, and stupid.

The good thing is, I realize how absurd they are. I realize how silly that was to think that way, and as soon as I began to think, "why did I put those numbers out there for everyone to see???" I thought....

"....because it's reality. That's why." 

I have not met a single veteran runner that is NOT encouraging and motivating. Every single runner I have come across has been so motivating and helpful. Never once have I got the feeling that I couldn't do it or that this sport required some special natural talent that I might not have.

I'm not sure what I will do next yet, but I do know that long distance races are not in my near future. I do want to do some more smaller races, maybe some 10k's and lots of 5k's. I want to keep running, and so far training for something has kept me motivated, so I'm a little nervous about not having something to train for. I will have to figure out what to do keep myself out there and running.

Thank you everyone for your sweet comments on my last post! They really made my day!

Monday, October 22, 2012

More running in the cornfields...

Whispering: You guys... I ran 13.1 miles yesterday.

I cannot believe I have completed my first half marathon.

It was technically my second long distance race, but the race I did earlier this spring was Dam to Dam and it was 12.4 miles just shy of a full half marathon, making yesterday's half,  my first half marathon!

Going into the race I had planned to run my typical ten minute intervals like I do all my long runs, but lately I have been running my short runs during the week without stopping to walk. We started the race and I figured I would just run the first three miles or so and see how I feel... after ten minutes passed I didn't feel like stopping at all. Then twenty minutes passed, and thirty, forty, fifty, sixty...all the way up to 2:10....  and I was still running! After I got to mile 7 and didn't stop, I began to think this could be either the smartest thing I have ever done... or the dumbest.

I was worried I was dumping too much into the beginning of the race and the second half would suck. I told myself at mile 10, I could stop and walk, but mile 10 came and I still didn't want to stop (go ahead, make the Forrest Gump jokes. I was thinkin' it too!)

I barely stopped for water (which bit me in the ass later) until mile 11. This was when I stopped to walk and drink water and eat an orange. I tried to get going again and find my groove like before but I just couldn't get moving. As soon as I stopped to walk, it seemed out of "nowhere" all the ache and soreness seemed to appear. I walked most of mile 11 and then for the last mile I ran.

Looking back, I did not drink enough water during the race. I took water with both GU packets, but barely any at all. My stomach was upset and the water and and GU was NOT helping. The entire race I was just focusing on how it was FINE and I did not need to stop and use the bathroom.... 

Here's how it all split out for me:

Mile 1: 11:38
Mile 2: 9:56 (no idea why this was so fast. Must have felt really good here!)
Mile 3: 11:40
Mile 4: 11:43
Mile 5: 12:21
Mile 6: 12:19
Mile 7: 11:39
Mile 8: 12:06
Mile 9: 12:39
Mile 10: 12:40
Mile 11: 12:32
Mile 12: 12:36
Mile 13: 14:04
Mile 14: 11:28

You might be wondering why I go through to mile 14. Well, I use the app Runkeeper (if you're on there, come be my friend!) and it said I ran almost 14 miles, so I'm not sure about that... but you can see  that 14 minute mile where I stopped to walk. It was actually mile 11 and then I picked it back up for mile 12. 

I really had such a good time, and I am incredibly proud of myself. For Dam to Dam (which was in June) I ran 12.4 miles in 2:50 and I hit a major wall at mile 9. I could not go anymore and I walked the rest of the way. For this half marathon I finished at 2:47 (10 minutes over my goal, but that is OKAY) and I am so incredibly proud that I ran the first 11 miles. I am in shock that I could keep going and so overjoyed with that feat! It is a little heartbreaking that I was just shy of running the entire thing, but considering I did not think running the entire thing was *ever* a possibility, I will absolutely take 11! 

Last fall when I was taking the PE Methods class I struggled to run ONE mile in under 13 minutes. A year later and I just ran 11 of them in a row at around a 12 minute average. Isn't that insane?! I am so in awe at what we can do when we put our minds to it and I am so grateful I have this ability. I will never take it for granted again.

I have so much to recap from this weekend, so I promise I will be back this week with a very picture heavy post recapping more about the half, my weekend with Lisa and much more!

Oh, and the headline is deceiving.... we did not see a single cornfield on this course. ;)

Friday, October 12, 2012


Hello, Friday!

On Wednesday, it occurred to me about midday that it was, in fact, the middle of the week already and I immediately thought (and almost said out loud), "WTF?"

(And seriously, my mouth has been terrible lately. Considering I work with kids, I'm pretty good at keeping it clean, but lately... Oy. Constant sailor talk in my head).

So, Wednesday has come and gone, Thursday came and went almost just as fast and now it is Friday! Today I'm subbing at a local high school in English (woot, woot! Fave subject!) and then this weekend I have some pretty low key plans... Planned Parenthood book sale Saturday morning while working with a client, a six mile (or so) run, Sunday Funday watching football at Buffalo Wild Wings and possibly seeing The Perks of Being a Wallflower at Fleur Cinema (it is FINALLY out in Des Moines this weekend. Finally.)

I like weekends like that. Just busy enough!

Ok, that intro was longer than I intended. It has been way too long since I have linked up for Heather's Book Club Friday, which is probably because I do not have time to read. I have been "reading" 11/22/63 since September 27th and am just barely past page 300 (yikes). I have one class that has an insane amount of reading to do and all of the reading is dense and extremely dry. It's been kiiiilllling me.

I did however make time to read Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio last weekend because it came in at the library and I could not wait to pick it up. I ADORED The Violets of March and The Bungalow, so I have been on pins and needles waiting for this one.

It did not disappoint.

Sarah Jio tells the best stories in the most historically rich eras. I adore historical fiction, and although this is not technically historical fiction, the story is told through two different time periods. I love reading books like this and visualizing the parallel lives during two very different time periods. Sarah Jio nails it every time and creates characters you cannot help but adore.

This is one of those books I would recommend if you're looking for light fiction that you can lost in and devour in a relatively short period of time (and I would say that about all three of her books!).

From Goodreads:

Seattle, 1933. Single mother Vera Ray kisses her three-year-old son, Daniel, goodnight and departs to work the night-shift at a local hotel. She emerges to discover that a May-Day snow has blanketed the city, and that her son has vanished. Outside, she finds his beloved teddy bear lying face-down on an icy street, the snow covering up any trace of his tracks, or the perpetrator's.

Seattle, 2010. Seattle Herald reporter Claire Aldridge, assigned to cover the May 1 "blackberry winter" storm and its twin, learns of the unsolved abduction and vows to unearth the truth. In the process, she finds that she and Vera may be linked in unexpected ways...

What have you read lately that I should add to my TBR list??

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Racing... alone?

If there is one thing I have learned about myself since taking up running, I have learned that I am motivated by races.

It's not necessarily the actual race and the thrill of my time placing somewhere along side other runners, it is more along the lines of the social atmosphere that comes with the race.

I like getting up early and meeting runner friends at the site. I like going out the night before to carb load, and to trade stories during training. I guess you could said I like the comradery that comes with racing.

Earlier this year I made a goal for myself to run "12 in '12." Twelve races for the 2012 year, inspired by Kyria. Since the beginning of the year I have ran 5 races and I am not sure if I will make it to all 12, but if I don't make it, I will be very, very close. (honestly, a major fact is the cost. It adds up!)

My question is, clearly I like to make racing a very social event. I like to run races with other people, and although I do not mind doing things alone, I do not really prefer it. I have not stopped to really consider running a race (like a 5K, something small) alone. Until today. I was reading through Runner's World, one of my newest running obsessions, and I saw a post about running a Thanksgiving 5K. That was something I always wanted to do, but then I thought, wait? Who would run that with me?

Now, why did I just think that??

The funny thing is, when I am actually running and training, I would rather run by myself. I hate the feeling of holding somebody back, and it is something I am sure I will get over with time (and as I get faster) but for now, but I enjoy running by myself or with Zeke.

So now, my question is why do I not go ahead and sign up for races? Why am I waiting for others to do it first?

Do you make running social? Do you tend to run races with other people or sign up alone? 

PS: the half marathon is 11 days away. After that, I promise my posts will not be laced with *everything running*

Monday, October 8, 2012

On Friday I took the day off of subbing and I attended the American Heart Association's "Go Red For Women" Luncheon and I had such a great time meeting other bloggers, listening to women's stories and testimonials and learning more about spreading awareness about heart health!

 Me, Nicole and Brianne sporting some stylish RED gear!

Listening to other women tell their own stories got me thinking about my own. I may be young (and look even younger) but it is NEVER too early to begin thinking about your health and being a healthy role model for my kids (students and my own) someday is something that I take very seriously. How can I expect my kids to live a healthy lifestyle if I am not modeling that for them?

Last year about this time I took one of the many methods courses to obtain my elementary education degree and one of them was the PE/Health Methods course. I took this class early because I knew we had to do the fitness test several times throughout the semester, which included running that dreaded mile. On the second night of class we ran the mile, timed one minute of push-ups and one minute of sit ups. We had the option of using Drake University's state of the art scale that measures body fat and muscle. On this night I realized that taking this class early was a blessing and not only did I get it done early, it made me realize what an unhealthy life I was living.

My mile was horrible. I struggled to run it in 13 minutes and I finished right at 13:13. This was not too surprising, and although it was a slap in the face, I was expecting it. Now skip ahead to the end of the class that day when my body fat was measured, and that was when the real wake up call happened. I know women are supposed to have more fat than men, but when I received my percentage all I wanted to do was cry (and I did).

Luckily, I was alone with the professor (who is a woman only a few years older than me and someone that I have come to find so inspiring and I just adore her). Luckily, she was so sympathetic and so nice about it. Never once did I feel judgement from her about not leading a very active life. (Yes, I am "active" as in I did not sit at a desk every day, and my career before education was on my feet all day, but I did not make fitness a big priority at all).

I was in denial about how healthy I was, and living life like things were fine. Actually, things were not fine. I have a history of diabetes AND heart problems in my family and taking care of myself physically is not an option if I want to prevent these diseases.

From the luncheon I learned that 80% of coronary heart disease is preventable and one in four women will die each year from heart disease. Although both men and women have heart attacks, women are more likely to die from a heart attack.

The facts are pretty scary.

There are SO many small things we can do to prevent heart disease. Of course, being overweight does make you more susceptible to heart disease and increases your chance of getting type 2 diabetes, but acknowledging this about yourself is the first step. Like myself, I was in denial and sometimes it takes a very stark realization to make you wake up and change your lifestyle.

Try walking. Walking is the best exercise with the lowest drop out rate and is absolutely an acceptable method of exercise. I read a study once that researched habits of people that were a healthy weight and people that were overweight. They found that the healthy weight group walked more in their everyday life. Park far away from the door, take the stairs, go for a 10 minute walk on your lunch break. Every little bit helps.

And it will be worth it in the end.

Find out what motivates you. For me, it started out that I did not want to be a bad example for the kids in my life. Today, it is still that, but it has turned into so much more! I hope you figure it out, too!

What keeps you motivated to stay healthy (besides the obvious reasons)? Have you ever had a wake up call like I did during PE Methods?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

New habits are... good for your brain?

Hey, hey, heeeeyyyy... Ya'll get me twice in one week. Don't you feel special?

(you totally should) 

Tonight I bought new running shoes, and as I left the store (which was Kyle's Bike's and Running Store in Ankeny and I got Brooks instead of Asics this time. Thoughts?) I was reflecting on how many new things I have learned this year. Willingly, I have picked up at least two new hobbies and I am starting a new hobby this semester...

So, obviously the first hobby is running. I can honestly say that I loved running when I was training for Dam to Dam. This time around training + grad school + trying to work 30 hours a week = insanity. But, I do still like running and I do still want to continue the hobby.

The other hobby is knitting (I'm pretty horrid at it right now, but I'll get better). I took a class at Hill Vintage and Knits and I really like it! I wanted to learn so I can (obviously) make cool stuff and hopefully someday teach my own children.

The third hobby is chess. Yes, chess. Why chess? Well, let me tell you.

This semester I am working with the I Have a Dream Foundation here in Des Moines and helping with an after school program at Callanan Middle School. These kids are some pretty serious chess players (and if you're familiar with Des Moines Public Schools and aware of the demographics at this school, that is a pretty spectacular skill these 7th graders possess!)

Wednesday was our first day of the program and I knew going into it that learning to play chess was going to help me get an "in" with these kids. I immediately asked one of the kids to teach me all they knew about the game. I am not-so-good so far, but I not-so-much caring because I'm learning and I will get better with time! I'm really excited to be working this group of kids and for THEM to teach ME something!

So, there you have it. Running, knitting and chess playing! Hey, learning new things and creating new habits is good. It creates new neural pathways in the brain which keeps your brain strong and healthy and .... I'll stop geeking out here. ;)

What new skill have you learned this year? What is one hobby that you have always wanted to start, but just have not gotten around to?

PS: I will totally be back with a review of the Brooks running shoes. I learned quite a bit at the running store tonight - including the fact that I was in shoes an entire SIZE TOO SMALL. Thanks, Scheels.