Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Volume Two

As promised, I am going to review volume two of "The Life of Em" today.  But first you have to suffer through the usual:

Breakfast: oats in a jar

Lunch (this is a kind of oops): half of a 10-inch, thin-crust pizza from a "gourmet" place here in town.  I had the "Soprano" pizza (basil pesto, balsamic roasted chicken, roasted red peppers, marinated tomatoes, red onion, Asiago, and mozzarella).  I've also tried Il Figaro and Aphrodite, both of which are spectacular.

Dinner (again, oops): the other half of the "Soprano"

Snack: handful of caramel popcorn from the shop I worked at in high school (I was there over the weekend and just had to)

Workout: ran two miles + various sit-ups and crunches.  I didn't do as well on the running as I did yesterday (same time as Monday), but I attribute it to not eating as healthfully as normal as well as being ├╝ber-sore today.

After working out, though, I went to the store to grab another pound of carrots, some gum (gotta have it for working out), and coffee.  Those are the essentials these days.

Also, I attended my first meeting for See Us Run Des Moines, the program with which I'm running the marathon in October.  I cannot even begin to tell you how EXCITED I am!  I wish it started tomorrow.  But as a little preview of sorts, I'll be running a 5K on Saturday.  Eek!  :)

And now the moment you've all been waiting for: the release of Volume Two:

1. Poems, Prayers, and Promises, John Denver
  • When I was on my way to college, my mom gave me John Denver's Wildlife Collection because while she was on her way to college, my nana gave her a John Denver album.  Poems, Prayers, and Promises is my favorite of his songs because it is such a beautiful reflection of life.  I love John Denver, and I love my mama.
2. All Summer Long, Kid Rock
  • First, don't laugh: I believe that Kid Rock is the most talented musician of my generation.  I'm not a fan of his "rapping," but he has a beautiful voice, a kick-butt live show, and he can play every instrument on stage and play it well.  I love this song because I LOVE summer and the straight fun that this song exudes.
3. Into the Fire, Bruce Springsteen
  • I was a freshman in college on September 11, 2001.  Obviously it was a traumatic time for the entire nation; it hit me especially hard, likely because it was the first time I was away from home, I'm super close with my family, and I just wanted to be with them.  I'm pretty sure my mom called my boyfriend (who was at Iowa State) and begged him to bring me home for the weekend.  The Boss is one of my favorite artists, and this is a beautiful song commemorating the sacrifices of so many people that day.
4. Dear Mr. President (feat. Indigo Girls), Pink
  • College was the first time in my life that I was exposed to the idea that maybe the world was not as perfect as it was in my dream world.  I had some wonderful professors, specifically those in the English department, who opened my eyes to the injustices and the hypocrisies that surround us.  Being in Iowa during the presidential election is an unforgettable experience, and it is almost impossible to not get involved.  And Pink expresses my opinions of this time period so well.
5. Blowin' in the Wind, Bob Dylan
  • I believe I was born in the wrong decade; I'm certain I was a total hippie in a past life.  As with #4, this song demonstrates the frustration I developed with how the world is and the inequities that people have to face.  Furthermore, one of my most memorable projects at Drake was regarding the antiwar movement in my Literature of War class: we staged a sit-in, brought in a Vietnam War veteran, and led a great discussion.
6. Imagine, John Lennon
  • This is representative of my dream world.  "You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one; I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will be as one."  I know my head is often in the clouds, but if we don't dream of a better world and try to do everything in our power to make it happen, then what's the point?
7. Redemption Song, Bob Marley & the Wailers
  • Bob Marley is so chill, so peace-loving, and I selected this song in particular because it is my favorite and includes such meaningful lyrics.  One that I have displayed in my classroom with hopes of teaching my kids is, "Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery; none but ourselves can free our minds."
8. Stairway to Heaven, Led Zeppelin
  • My boyfriend toward the end of college and the first few years afterward introduced me to some great music, including Led Zeppelin.  This song is representative of that time period in my life, the many nights sitting on the disgusting couch of the fraternity house listening to this song on repeat.
9. The Star Spangled Banner, Jimi Hendrix
  • Again, this is commemorative of my college/early adult years, but it is also more than that: while I am disenchanted by many things our country and government do, I am also so indelibly thankful that I live in this country and that I am granted the freedoms and the rights that I am.  I always get the chills when I hear the National Anthem and get a little teary when it's played at the Olympics.
10. This Is How We Do It, Montell Jordan
  • In August 2008, I was granted the opportunity to become involved in the Freedom Writers Foundation, an experience that changed my life beyond belief.  First, it was the best thing that could have happened for me professionally: it bettered my teaching and so greatly improved my students' learning.  Second, I got to meet my hero, Erin Gruwell.  Third, my involvement in the Foundation introduced me to my bestest friend in the entire universe.  (Oh, this is a song from the movie.)
Erin Gruwell and me - look how short my hair was!
Me and BFF, Katie
I love her one million.
11. Changes, Tupac
  • There's a lot in this world that needs changin', much of which drastically affects my kids.  My degree in Urban Education and my work with White Privilege really made that clear.
12. Man in the Mirror, Michael Jackson
  • Again, our world needs a lot of improvement, and this song really speaks to me as to how that change can happen: it is inside each of us.  We can't look elsewhere for others to change the world: we need to look in the mirror.
13. For Good, Idina Menzel & Kristen Chenoweth
  • I love Wicked, and this song touched me: everyone we encounter in our lives affects us somehow, helps mold us into the person we become.  The majority of the people in my life have been wonderful human beings who I am so incredibly thankful to know.  However, I have also come across a few select people who have not been stellar individuals; while I am thankful they are no longer in my life, I believe I am still changed for good for having known them.  Lessons were learned, knowledge was gained, I was changed.
14. Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen
  • The only musician to make it twice on "The Life of Em" - Bruce!  I absolutely love traveling, and I believe this was mine and BFF's anthem on our road trip to Daytona Beach for Spring Break 2010.  
I believe this was hour 21.  I'm also certain we were at a stoplight...
15. One Day, Matisyahu
  • Most of the songs on this half of the album are centered on social justice and betterment of the world: interestingly, that is my passion and why I do what I do.  As soon as I played this song for my students, they asked for it to be repeated every. single. day.  I was happy to oblige.  It's a beautiful song about what is possible for this world one day.
16. Girl America, Mat Kearney
  • I love, love, love Mat Kearney, and this song illustrates so perfectly the issues that teenage girls (and likely women of all ages) have to deal with on a daily basis.  It is heartbreaking, and I try to be mindful of everything when I work with my girls everyday: we spend a great deal of time discussing expectations, double standards, and inequities - and how to combat them.  Empowerment of our young girls is so important...and so difficult.
17. Don't Stop Believin', Journey
  • This is the quintessential rock ballad, the only song that makes me go 90 miles an hour regardless of where I am.  It is my karaoke song, my number one request for piano bars and cover bands.  It made the album because it is pure fun - which is exactly how I like to think of myself.  :)
I hope you enjoyed a little look into my life.  Back to our regularly-scheduled programming tomorrow.  :)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Takin' a Different Route

Before I get started with the heart of my post, let me tell you about my day: I didn't get up at 4:30 like I thought I was going to, I ate a good breakfast (peanut butter toast), a good lunch (leftover slow-roasted tomato fettuccine and carrots), a good snack (cocoa-roasted almonds), ran two miles, and ate a good dinner (more slow-roasted tomato fettuccine).

Also, my legs are so freakin' sore.  Like, I can barely move.  Ow.

The end.

Now, I thought I'd take a different route for today's post.  I've been working on a couple of CD mixes, and I thought I'd share one with y'all.  This particular mix is a two-disc set entitled "The Life of Em" and holds the songs that have impacted me throughout my 27 years.

Here's "The Life of Em (Volume One)" - stay tuned for Volume Two tomorrow.  :)

1. For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her, Simon & Garfunkel
  • This song is kind of self-explanatory: it's my namesake!  For realz: my mama named me after a Simon & Garfunkel song.
2. Brown-Eyed Girl, Van Morrison
  • My dad always calls me his brown-eyed girl, and my mom is certain this will be the father-daughter dance at my wedding.
3. Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Israel Kamakawiwo'ole
  • Here's another one for my daddy.  My dad was a phenomenal violinist in high school, and the talent never left: he can pick up a violin today, having not played for several years, and sound perfect.  His song of choice is Somewhere Over the Rainbow.  This is what I think the father-daughter dance will be.
4. Ice, Ice Baby, Vanilla Ice
  • What a weird choice, right?!  My brother and I are were huge nerds, and we used to sing this every night while we were brushing our teeth and getting ready for bed.  Yep, there was even a dance involved.
5. You Got It (The Right Stuff), New Kids on the Block
  • Two words: Jordan Knight.  I mean, just look at him!  At six years old, I thought he was smokin':
6. Candle in the Wind (Live), Elton John
  • This song was influential for a few reasons.  First, I love Elton John.  Second, he adapted this song for Princess Diana when she died; yes, I woke up bright and early and watched the funeral.  However, the primary reason I selected this song was because I love Marilyn Monroe one million - so much so, in fact, that my brother sketched her portrait, and I've had it hanging in my house ever since:
Sorry for the poor-quality cell-phone photo.  How talented is Alex?! 
7. Halley Came to Jackson, Mary Chapin Carpenter
  • Every single time all five of us got into the car for a long trip, my parents whipped out their case of "trip music."  Mary Chapin Carpenter was a fixture for every. single. trip., as was Chris Isaak, John Denver, and Harry Chapin.  While I love these artists now, I did not so much as a tween.
8. Keep Me In Your Heart, Warren Zevon
  • One of my all-time favorite albums in the whole wide world is The Wind, the album Zevon wrote and released when he discovered he was dying.  I cannot make it through this album without crying.  While my parents introduced me to the album later in life, my nana died suddenly when I was in eighth grade, and it was such a sad time; she was such a hippie, and I'm sure she loved Warren Zevon.  Remember: enjoy every sandwich.
9. Friends, Michael W. Smith
  • All throughout high school, I was involved in Soul Seekers, a choir at my church.  Including me, my brother and sister, and our best friends, there were about 80 members from all across Omaha.  We shared so many memories; so many experiences, including seven of us getting lost in the Rocky Mountains; and so many stories.  Our two traditional songs were Friends and Pass It On.  Again, I can barely make it through Friends without sobbing uncontrollably.
10. I Don't Want to Miss a Thing, Aerosmith
  • My dad took me to my first concert: Aerosmith on their Nine Lives tour.  It was so freakin' awesome, and I'm so thankful I got to share it with my dad.  Likely as a result of that concert, Aerosmith remained my favorite band for many, many years (and still ranks quite high on my list).  While I Don't Want to Miss a Thing is not my favorite Aerosmith song, it is the reason I wanted to go to the concert (and is, shockingly, their only number one).
11. I Believe, Blessid Union of Souls
  • Another concert I went to in high school was Sweetstock 98, an outdoor festival-of-sorts that was put on by the local Top 40 radio station.  There I met Blessid Union of Souls and fell in love with them.  This particular song is my favorite today because it is all about equality, making the world a better place, and loving everyone: "I believe that love is the answer, I believe that love will find a way."
12. Waterfalls, TLC
  • In the mid-1990s, my uncle was diagnosed with AIDS, and that was a very difficult thing to deal with.  While he is doing wonderfully and is very healthy now, that has not always been the case: there were several rough patches that were very, very scary.  Because of the personal connection I have to HIV/AIDS, I have worked within my sphere of influence to educate others.  Hopefully someday this disease will be history.
13. Right Now, Van Halen
  • Another big part of my high school years was my involvement in DECA.  (Don't judge: I promise it was really, really cool at my school!)  My senior year in DECA was spent putting together a written research project; there were six of us in the class, and we were quite close.  We played the same songs over and over and over and over.  This was one of them.
14. Landlocked Blues, Bright Eyes
  • One of my best friends in high school introduced me to indie music, and we saw a couple of concerts together: Rilo Kiley at Sokol Underground, Bright Eyes at the Rose, and various local bands and Saddle Creek Records musicians at the Ranch Bowl (Omaha has a great music scene.)
15. The Execution of All Things, Rilo Kiley
  • See explanation for #14.  I couldn't choose between the two songs.
16. Young, Kenny Chesney
  • Again, this song has multiple meanings.  First, I love Kenny Chesney; he's my favorite country singer, and I can sing along to all of his songs.  Second, from age 16 to age 20, I dated a boy from small-town Iowa.  This song really reminds me of him, his friends, and the time we spent together.  We had a great time, a wonderful relationship, and I am thankful that he was a part of my life.

17. Corey's Coming, Harry Chapin
  • My mom and I were on a road trip together once (probably to Des Moines) when she introduced me to Harry Chapin, the best storyteller of all time.  If you've never heard it before, please listen; it's such a wonderful story.

That should tide you over for tonight.  Stay tuned for "The Life of Emily, Volume Two" tomorrow!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Photography Schmotography

I quit blogging for awhile and seemingly forget how to do it.  Today, I ate mostly healthfully (more on that later), but I did not take a single picture!  I did not even think to bring my camera with me - for those who know me well, that's a first!

I had every good intention to wake up at 4:30 this morning to hit the gym bright and early.  However, my body was not having it.  I spent ten days in Florida, followed immediately by a fully busy work week, followed by a quick trip to Omaha and a couple of late nights, and the list goes on.  So...I slept the extra hour and worked out after school today.

Breakfast: I had an epic oat fail in the kitchen but managed to throw together some oatmeal + mashed banana anyway.

Lunch: leftover slow-roasted tomato fettuccine, garlic bread, and carrots.  (What can I say?  I love me some carbs.)

Snack: cocoa-roasted almonds.  When I was in Omaha, I may have devoured half of my mom's stash, so she sent some home with me.

Workout: ran two miles + sit-ups, crunches, and push-ups.  I know two miles is NOTHING when I have to run a marathon shortly, but I'm pretty impressed with how I did...

Dinner: this is where it went downhill.  A friend with whom I worked out invited me to "Southside Mexican" with her and her family.  I said yes.  And gorged myself with tortilla chips and salsa (I was starving!) and torta.  Interestingly, one of my students told me today - completely out of the blue - that I had to try torta.  Sure enough, I randomly visited a Mexican restaurant today and just had to try it!


Because I failed miserably with photography today, I'll leave you with yet another Florida picture.

I cannot even tell you how much I love oysters.

I'm pretty sure I ate my weight in them.  (Please pardon the ridiculously horrific photo of me.)
Peace out, yo.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Okay.  I suck at blogging.  How do I kick butt for a few weeks and then slack off completely for two months?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Here's a little bit of what I've been doing instead of writing:
  • Educating the youth of America - research papers are hard
  • Heading hOmaha to attend a wedding reception, meet up with new and old friends, and chillax with the 'rents
  • Reading lots o' books
  • Signing up to run a marathon - yeah, I don't know what I was thinking either - and practicing for it by carb-loading
  • Traveling to exotic places like Key West, where a lot of the following - in addition to eating tons of seafood and drinking quarts of pina coladas - took place:
I'm such a nerd - Orlando airport.
Practicing my pirate skills - and probably getting lice.
Trying to look smokin' hot and not super sweaty and gross.
The sunsets are ridic - it just melts into the ocean.  Beautiful.

But now I am back, ready and rarin' to kick butt in the working out and eating well.  I mean, I don't so much have a choice anymore: after all, I'm running a freakin' marathon in six months.