Thursday, November 28, 2013


Throughout the month of November, I have been enjoying reading all of my friends' "What I'm Thankful For" posts.  While I did not participate in that Facebook fun, I have been reflecting on everything for which I am thankful.  And, I thought I would turn those thoughts into a blog post.

So, here they are (in no particular order).

1. I am thankful for The Boy.  Tony and I are so perfect for each other, and I am so lucky to have found him.  He is one of the smartest people I know, he is a hard worker, he is a huge nerd, and he cracks me up.  We can have fun classing it up out on the town, hanging out with a group of friends, singing karaoke at a dive bar, or chilling in our sweat pants on the couch.  He supports me in everything that I do, including handing me Twizzlers and Advil during a six-hour marathon, and he always has my back, telling me that I'm right and everyone else is wrong (even when sometimes it's the opposite).  He is thoughtful and compassionate and loving.  And he fixes my car.  :)  I am so thankful for him.

2. I am thankful for my mom.  My mom is my number one supporter in everything I do.  She is selfless, brilliant, strong, creative, and goofy.  She is the first person I call for advice, she has cheered for me in nearly every single major race I have run, and she talks me off the ledge.  I love spending time with my mom, whether it be shopping, looking through magazines or websites, running or walking, cooking, knitting, watching TV, etc.  We are pretty much the same person, so we have fun doing anything.  I am so thankful for her.

3. I am thankful for my dad.  My dad is the smartest person I know.  He can answer any question that I have, teach me about the most random topics, and drive me crazy by telling me to "look it up."  He is level-headed about everything, listens to me whine about stupid things, and always only sometimes tells me to "buck up."  My dad cracks me up with his silliness and comforts me with his deep voice and big bear hugs.  My dad is an amazing man, my hero.  I am so thankful for him.

4. I am thankful for my sister.  Erin knows absolutely everything about me (probably more than she wants to know at times) and loves me regardless.  She is kind, sensitive, and compassionate.  She cares so deeply about everyone.  She is one of the goofiest people I know and has a smart (yet super silly) sense of humor.  She is the best shopping buddy in the world and was the most beautiful bride.  I am so thankful that Erin is not only my sister but is also my best friend.

5. I am thankful for my brother.  Alex and I have always been close (and teammates in ganging up on Erin), but I think that the older we get, the better friends we become.  My brother is super smart and challenges me all the time, and I love the informed debates conversations that we have.  Alex is kind and compassionate and generous (though he may beg to differ on all accounts), and I know he has my back in any situation.  I am so thankful that he is my brother, and I know that he (very soon) is going to be the best dad.

6. I am thankful for my sister-in-law.  I could not have been more excited when Aly said yes.  I mean, I was pumped that my brother was getting hitched, but I was even more thrilled that Aly was officially going to be part of our family.  She fits in so perfectly with all of us: she is silly, smart, and sassy.  She is a huge nerd and gives the best book recommendations of anyone I know.  She cares so deeply about everyone, and I feel like we are more than just "in-laws."  I am so thankful for Aly and know that she is going to be an amazing mommy.

Image stolen from the Book of Faces.  Thanks, Lucy!  :)
7. I am thankful for my brother-in-law.  Tim is the most perfect match for my sister.  He is so ridiculously goofy, he is sensitive just like Erin, and he cares so deeply about others.  I love that we can laugh until we cry while playing Cards Against Humanity, and I love that we can chow down on greasy food and watch Parks & Rec at 2 a.m.  Mostly, I love that Tim loves my sister, and I am so thankful that he is in our lives.

Thank you, Wedding Photographer, for letting me steal this pic.
8. I am thankful for BFF.  Katie is more than just an ordinary friend: she is a sister.  Katie knows far too much about me -- and, like Erin, Katie loves me anyway.  She is the easiest person in the world to talk to, and she gives the best advice without making me feel like a nut-job.  She is the best travel companion, whether we are flying a few hours or we are driving cross-country (and getting lost along the way).  She loves me even when I am difficult to love, and she supports me in every aspect of my life.  I met Katie five years ago, and we have been inseparable ever since.  I am so incredibly thankful for her.

9. I am thankful for my soon-to-be-nephew.  I cannot even tell you how much I already love this child -- pretty much more than anything.  I seriously cannot wait to meet him and buy him all of the cute baby things I can find afford.  I know that Alex and Aly are going to be rock-star parents.  I just wish they lived closer so that I could snuggle my little nephew every single day.  December 8th (or whatever date he decides to make his debut): get here already.

10. I am thankful for my kitties.  Even though one of them is obese (according to the vet) and is kind of a jerk (according to everyone else), and even though one of them has intimacy issues (according to my dad) and is kind of a prissy little girl (according to everyone else), I love them to pieces.  I'm so glad they are going to live forever because I would be absolutely devastated if something happened to them.  I may talk to them more than a normal person should, and I may miss them like crazy when I'm gone, but I don't care: they're a part of my family, and I love them.

11. I am thankful for my job.  Teaching is hard -- really hard.  And it's kind of a thankless profession a lot of the time.  However, I am very thankful that I have had the opportunity to teach for the past nine years.  I have encountered a number of amazing individuals who have taught me so much, both about myself and the world around me.  While there continue to be major demands on teachers and on the curriculum, I am thankful that I am able to use my creativity to develop rigorous and relevant lessons that sometimes engage the students.

12. I am thankful for my students.  Right now, I am thinking specifically of two students.  While I cannot go into much detail for obvious reasons, I will try to mention a bit about each.  The first girl is one that I had several years ago, one who became a young mother of two and who has worked her tail off to graduate (this December); I am so thankful for everything that she has taught me, and most of all, I am so, so proud of her perseverance in the face of great adversity.  The second girl is one who is currently in my class, and one who is succeeding due to a number of barriers; she is relatively new to the country and is not afraid to ask for help in getting involved in positive extra-curricular activities, most of which will only benefit her academic success.  I am so thankful that she trusts me enough to confide in me and that she is not afraid to ask for help.  While those two girls are on my mind at this particular moment, I have taught over 1,000 students over the years, all of whom have affected me in one way or another.

13. I am thankful for my health.  Far too often, I take for granted the fact that I am healthy, that I can see, that I can hear, that I can walk, that I can think, that I am not dependent on medications, etc.  Every day, I am trying to be more cognizant of (and therefore grateful for) my health.  While I may complain about how my "throat hurts" or my "contacts are annoying" or my "tummy is too chubby," I need to instead focus on how healthy I truly am -- and how thankful I am for that.

14. I am thankful for the ability to run miles and miles at a time.  While it would be difficult for me to go out and run three miles today (due to months of zero training), I know I could do it.  I know that these legs have carried me 26.2 miles, that this body has made it through several half marathons and countless smaller races, and I am so thankful that I have been able to do that.  And, I am thankful to have spring races to look forward to so that I get my butt back in gear.  :)

15. I am thankful for Erin Gruwell and the Freedom Writers Foundation.  The first reason I am thankful for Erin and the Foundation is because without them, I would not know Tony (see Number 1) or Katie (see Number 8).  I met both my boyfriend and my best friend because of my involvement with this non-profit.  For that, I am indelibly grateful.  The second reason I am thankful is because the methodology I learned while I was at the Freedom Writers Institute significantly impacted my teaching: I began to focus on the idea that everyone has a voice, the idea that all students have advanced degrees (in the streets, in video games, in athletics, in drama, etc.).  I began to reconsider the purpose of education and the way in which curriculum should be conveyed.  Because of that professional development, I became a better teacher, and for that, I am thankful.

Here I am five years ago.  How time flies...
16. I am thankful for book club.  I love meeting with an intelligent group of women once a month to talk about books, to drink wine, and to eat yummy food.  It's a nice break from the craziness of life, and there's not a whole lot better than time with girlfriends.  I am thankful for the diversity of the women in my book club, the fact that few people know each other outside of the group and that we meet and talk like old friends each month.  Lindsay, Olivia, Katie, Kate, Emily, Alicia, Leslie, Beth, Mindy, and Maggie -- I am thankful for you.

17. I am thankful for my education.  I am thankful for my liberal arts education at Drake, especially classes such as Literature of War, Latino Literature, and Community Writing, classes that challenged my ideologies and core beliefs.  I am thankful for professors like Beth Younger, Nancy Reincke, Jody Swilky, and Elizabeth Robertson, educators who pushed me to become a strong writer, reader, critic, and teacher.  I am thankful for the opportunity to earn two Bachelors degrees as well as a Masters degree in disciplines about which I am passionate.  And, I am thankful to my parents, my scholarships, my loans, and my grants that made all of those degrees possible.

18. I am thankful for the opportunities I have had to travel professionally.  I am so grateful to Des Moines Public Schools for trusting that I can represent them well in national presentations in cities such as Chicago, Memphis, Boston, and soon (hopefully) Atlanta.  I am thankful that the district has given me the opportunity to learn in places such as Charlottesville, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and New York City.  Without the great opportunities for professional development, I doubt I would have been able to travel to these fantastic places; and, I believe that almost as much learning happens from the city as it does from the seminars.

19. I am thankful for the seasons -- and to live in a place where I can see the seasons change.  As much as I complain about standing outside in 105-degree heat and 99% humidity, and as much as I complain about sprinting to my car in a windchill of -30, I am thankful that I live in the beautiful Midwest and have the opportunity to see the seasons change each year.  While I think I'd love living in a city with year-round 75-degree temperatures, I know that I'd miss the spring, the summer, the fall, and yes, even the winter.

20. I am thankful for a roof over my head and food on my table.  Teaching in an inner-city school has made me so thankful for what I have.  I do not have to worry where I am going to sleep tonight.  I do not have to worry about whether I am going to have food for breakfast tomorrow.  Knowing that shelter and food are not certainties for a lot of my students breaks my heart and makes me wish that I could do more for them.  It's a lot more difficult to turn a blind-eye toward poverty and homelessness when it affects those whom you love.

21. I am thankful to live in a country where I am free to believe what I believe.  And, as much as I may disagree with them, I am also thankful to live in a country where everyone else can believe what they believe.  I cannot imagine living in a place that does not allow for free thought, that does not allow for dissenting opinion.  I believe that true learning occurs when people discuss difference in opinion, and I am thankful that I have that opportunity in America.

22. I am thankful for the opportunities I have had to see the injustices in the world.  While I certainly wish the world was a better place and strive to make it so on a daily basis, I am grateful to have seen what is wrong with the world so that I am aware of what needs to be changed -- and so that I can better inform myself and others around me on how to make that change.

23. I am thankful for the beauty in nature.  The expanse of the ocean and the peaks of the mountains never cease to amaze me.  It is because of the wonders of nature that I am certain there has to be something greater than us.

24. I am thankful for cabernet (and tempranillo and merlot and pinot noir and malbec and syrah).  I love relaxing with a good book and a glass of red wine.  (Kind of like I'm doing now -- minus the book, plus the blog.)

25. I am thankful for book stores.  However, my bank account is not thankful for them.  I would urge you all to buy stock in Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as much of my income is funneled into those two companies.

26. I am thankful for celebrities who use their position to promote social justice.  I am thankful for artists like Macklemore and Matisyahu and Daughtry and Mat Kearney who strive to impact positive change with their songs.  I am thankful for actors and actresses like Wentworth Miller, Jodie Foster, and Ellen Degeneres who stand up for equality.  I am thankful that companies like JC Penney and Cheerios defended their "controversial" advertisements.  I am thankful that these people and companies try to make the world a better place, even though they may gain "haters" and, in turn, harm their careers and/or businesses.

27. I am thankful that I live in a state that believes in equal rights.  Love is love, yo.

28. I am thankful for my friend group.  I am thankful for Mindy, Juan Carlos, Eric, Alicia, Katie, Shaw, and Tony.  I am thankful that we get together fairly often for dinner and that we can sit around watching football and having a blast.  I am also thankful for so many amazing friends: Maggie, Melissa, Lindsey, Cindi, Chris, Rich, Mark, Cindy, and so many more that I cannot even begin to name.

29. I am thankful for my extended family.  My grandma, my aunts and uncles, my cousins -- people who I love dearly and wish I could see more than I do.  I love spending time with them and wish that we weren't spread out all over the country (although it does make for fun travels).  And on a related note (perhaps we can call this "29.5," I am thankful for cell phones, email, Facebook, and blogs, all of which we use to keep in touch).

30. I am thankful for yoga pants and tank-tops.  Seriously.  I like being comfortable -- and, more often than not, change into this outfit within five minutes of walking into my apartment.

I am thankful for so, so much more.  But as this post has already taken me hours to write, I must call it good for now.

If you have not yet listened to Josh Groban's song Thankful (you've had six years to do so), I strongly encourage you to listen to it tonight.  Here's a bit to get you started:

Somedays we forget
To look around us
Somedays we can't see
The joy that surrounds us
So caught up inside ourselves
We take when we should give.

So for tonight we pray for
What we know can be.
And on this day we hope for
What we still can't see.
It's up to us to be the change
And even though we all can still do more
There's so much to be thankful for.

There truly is so much to be thankful for.

I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving and were able to spend it relaxing with those you love most in this world.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

12 Things

I've been gone a while.  And, I have no excuses.

Well, I kind of do.  I've been working through some things negativity lately, some of which I may write about when I find the words to do so, and some of which I may not.  I have not yet decided.

But for now, I wanted to write something a little light-hearted and completely not related to fitness or healthy living.

I'm sure y'all have seen the status updates on the Book of Faces: "Here are 17 facts many people don't know about me.  'Like' this status, and I'll give you a number."  I "liked" a friend's status, but only because I thought what she shared was interesting.  Clearly, I did not read the instructions.  She sent me the number "12" last night.  Since I think that'd be an awfully long Facebook status, I decided to write a blog post.

Here goes!

1. Before I went to a Kid Rock concert, I learned every single lyric to Picture, just in case the female vocalist lost her voice last minute and he needed someone to step in to replace her.  (The replacement would be found via a karaoke contest through a local radio station, duh.)

I'd totally be his Sheryl Crow.
Alas, he did not utilize my angelic voice for that concert, but I did get a decent rendition down for our semi-regular karaoke adventures.

2. My first job was as a soccer referee.  While it paid well, the toll it took on this sensitive girl's emotions was just not worth it.  How middle-aged parents get off screaming obscenities at a 15-year-old girl is beyond me.

3. I used to absolutely despise broccoli and cottage cheese, and now they are two of my favorite foods.  My intense hatred of peas, on the other hand, will never change.

4. The first author I ever met was Vicki Grove, and her books (The Fastest Friend in the WestGoodbye my Wishing Star, etc.) were some of my favorites growing up.  I remember being starstruck when I met her -- not once, but twice -- and thought she was just about the coolest person in the universe.  It would be so cool to talk to her now (and read her books again!).

5. When I was younger, I watched the movie Now and Then on repeat.  While I had the entire movie memorized, I tended to focus on this scene:

Devon Sawa was soooooooo dreamy.

6. My favorite smell in the world is my mom's bathrobe.  ( I sound like a creeper.)  My mom used to wear a peach terrycloth robe, and it had the best smell, likely because she put it on every night right after taking a bath.  When she got a new robe, I took the old one and put it in my closet at home, trying to preserve that smell.  (Yep........super creepy.)

7. I love traveling, and outside of the United States, I have only been to Germany and the Caribbean (Grand Cayman, Mexico, and the Bahamas).  One of the places I would love to visit most in this world is West Africa, specifically Sierra Leone.

Seriously, how pretty is that?!
8. If I ever leave my career in public education, I would like to work in the prison system.  (However, The Boy is not so sure he would like that career choice for me -- something about safety, blah blah blah.)  At Drake, I took a class called Community Writing, which was a collaborative writing circle between the women at the university and the women at the women's prison.  It struck a passion in me, to say the least.

9. I sure had to "kiss a lot of frogs" (as my mom so lovingly put it), but I finally found my Prince Charming, the man of my dreams.  We met in 2008, reconnected four years later, and have been so happy ever since.  I love our story and would not have it any other way.

Hands off, ladies.  He's all mine.
10. I dropped AP Calculus in high school.  I mean, I was going to be an English teacher and therefore didn't need to take it, it was hard and was going to be too much work my senior year of high school, and I wanted to take more art classes.  Well, you know what they say about karma.  As soon as I got to Drake, they told me I did, in fact, have to take calculus since I tested out of algebra.  I went to every single "supplemental instruction" session, bugged my professor to no end, harassed upper-classmen to tutor me, and ended the semester with an A.  Now, I have no idea what calculus is.

11. Ever since seeing the movie How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, I have wanted a blue kitchen.  (Kate Hudson has a blue kitchen in that movie, I swear.)  Someday I, too, will have a blue kitchen.

12. If I have the time to do so, I would much rather take a cross-country road-trip than fly.  I think exploring new parts of the country -- even if it is just driving through -- is so interesting.  When The Boy and I drove from Long Beach to Des Moines, we were in awe of the desert heat in the middle of Nevada, the amazing rock formations in Utah, the mountains and valleys in Colorado, and the expanse of the prairie in Nebraska.  And when BFF and I drove from Des Moines to Daytona Beach, we loved counting the federal penitentiaries, the adult superstores, and the Waffle Houses.

I hope you all have been well, and hopefully I'll be back soon to write some more.

Peace out!