Sunday, February 28, 2016

Begin the Week with Words

My AP class is finishing up The Scarlet Letter this week and they have made me most proud! They've read, analyzed, and discussed more than any book we've read yet this year. And it's probably one of the more difficult we've read. They've also taught me things I've never seen even though I've read it more than once. Want your mind blown? Read A Prayer for Owen Meany and then The Scarlet Letter. The same story, or characters at least, we swear.

The thing about rereads is that pieces stand out that didn't before. And as I read for Monday's class, a small piece stands out to me. I'm all too familiar with it and feel I understand Hester Prynne more than I ever have. And like Owen Meany, I don't believe in coincidence. There's a reason for everything and I'm sure the timing of this book's rereading for me is no different.

"The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers,—stern and wild ones,—and they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss."

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Workplace Health Hacks

As I've discussed on the blog previously, I've made an effort to better my health through better eating and exercise. The use of my Fitbit Charge HD deserves a tremendous amount of credit for my success in this because it actually shows me the results as they happen, hooking me immediately on my new routine.

However, one thing I've realized in using my Fitbit is that I do not move a whole lot during the school day. I walk into and out of the building obviously, but once in my classroom I walk the hallway and around my room very little. I tend to teach sitting on the top of a desk facing my class or standing. Knowing that movement of any kind helps in the achievement of health, I've been looking for ways to work my new healthy living into my workplace.

So when asked me if I'd like to spark a conversation on the blog about staying healthy at work, I was all for it. has a list of healthy snacks for different times, places, and needs. There's even a link there for Healthy Snacks for Work! After discussing some ideas about what I could do within the allowances of my workplace, they created this nifty graphic for me:

Some of these I already started doing last year and some I added this year. Last year was the first year in ten years I did not eat a single lunch from the cafeteria, packing lunch in hopes of somewhat healthier eating and saving money.This year I've improved upon that by not only packing my lunch, but consciously searching out truly healthy foods to pack, which ties into healthy snacking. Instead of boxes of snack cakes sitting in my desk drawer, I bring apples and peanut butter, mixed nuts, hard boiled eggs, string cheese, Greek yogurt, fruit, hummus wraps, and the list goes on. Because of vocal chord issues, my doctor told me to always have a non-carbonated drink at work (I'm a teacher - lots of talking and very little hydration have not been kind to me). so I switched out my PowerAde for water. The drop in my sugar in take and wallet out take made a huge difference!

Eating healthy is only half the battle though. I still needed that movement piece in my day. The only way to solve this was to purposely get up and move. Instead of saving errands for the end of the day or beginning of the next, I don't hesitate to run down the hall or downstairs at that moment since it means another flight of stairs and more steps. I try to walk around while teaching within my classroom a little more. Also instead of using the phone to call someone with a question, I walk to their room or office.

The eating is big and the movement may be minimal right now, but it's all improvement. Any improvement means I'm on the right track.

Any workplace health hacks you'd like to share readers? Thank you for sparking this conversation as I take my health journey!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Begin the Week with Words

Well, I didn't make it around to posting this week, but two good things happened. We are totally moved out of our house and it's up for sale and I started Voyager, aka Outlander #3. Hoping for an upswing in the schedule and reading time this week. And to set the mood, a wonderful quote from Jamie Fraser in the first season of Outlander (not sure it's a book quote though). I love the quote because it's Jamie Fraser...duh...but also, the ultimate romance/love and it feels to me like the way my husband treats me.

"She asked forgiveness and I gave it, but the truth is I'd forgiven everything she'd done and everything she could do long before that day. For me, that was no choice, that was falling in love." 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Begin the Week with Words

This week's quote is an excerpt from a daily devotional I receive by email, Wisdom Hunters. This is only a piece of the bigger topic discussed (full post here), but I like it because it's how I feel about relationships. Different levels for different types of relationships, of course, but the sentiment remains - show people they are loved.

"When we love someone, we live our lives in ways that show our affection to be true and genuine. We are especially attentive to the needs, concerns, and desires of the one we love. We learn to receive love and love in return, not simply by words of affection but through tangible acts of love, self-sacrifice, and faithfulness." 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

House Clean Out


We started cleaning out our entire house the first week of January. I've been feeling cluttered in our small space lately and we were interested in moving, so I decided to start with a thorough clean out. After all, we've been married 16 years and have lived here 12 without ever really cleaning out stuff (except toys) as it has accumulated. Then as January went along, we found a house and our bid was accepted! But it's a long road through the paperwork and renovations needed. And in the meantime, the house clean out has gone to a whole new level, with the goal of empty it and sell! (Totals are numbers of garbage bags).

4 Bedrooms = Trash: 5  Give away: 16
In the bedrooms we cleaned out the corners of the room where things get stacked, insides and tops of dressers and nightstands, under the beds, and in the closets. Bags and bags of clothes left the house and found new homes. A good number of odds and ends went to Goodwill and a stack of paperwork was shredded from the cleaned out filing cabinet.

11 totes of books from my shelves.
2 hallway closets, bathroom, living room = Trash: 5   Give away: 8
Ridiculous the stuff you find stuffed in drawers and the backs of closets. Hair ties and headbands I wore in high school (that's 20 years ago)?! Yea my girls wore them when they were little, but even that was years ago. Old tattered blankets, mismatched sheets, half empty bottles of lotions and perfumes long abandoned. My rule of thumb with the closets was that if we had gone this long without using something, we didn't really need it. Because there were some decorative items, I also took into consideration whether or not I'd be likely to use them in a bigger house. If so, I kept them, but I tried to be picky. The sad part was the packing of my books. I kept a small stack out with me, but felt the loss of my many shelves immediately.

Attic & Kitchen = Trash: 3     Give away: 6
There was much less going out of these rooms than I expected, but I do recall clearing out some kitchen cupboards once a few years ago. I found a few pans I can still use, like a bundt pan, just hadn't used them before and didn't realize I owned them. The attic surprisingly wasn't as much junk as I thought. There were a few boxes of decorations I hadn't used in the house cause of limited space, but saved for a new house. So, I figured since I've had them this long, I might as well keep them and see if they're useful when we move. Of course, it might matter that I didn't go through any Christmas decorations. With new space, who knows what can be used where, so I didn't want to throw any of those out now.

Total = Trash: 13     Give away: 30

One of many loads we hauled out!
And we haven't even done the basement yet! That's the goal of this week - finish off the clean out and pack the remainder of it. I estimate the trash going out from the basement will equal the total trash from the house, plus lots of giveaway. I don't plan on keeping half of what's in the basement. Otherwise, the upstairs is completely empty - unneeded items are in storage and needed items moved out to an apartment. The carpets have been professionally cleaned and house cleaners are coming in today. We've gotta get this sucker sold because, as you can see, this is NOT working wonders for my reading. At least it's not a slump, just too busy.

We still have a ways to go...anyone have any moving advice? I've only done it once, from an apartment, and hardly owned anything!

The advice I keep telling myself!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Begin the a Week with Words

Because I learned something of this, this week...

"Every trip you make with someone teaches you something important about the person you travel with—and about yourself." Loving Eleanor, Susan Wittig Albert

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

"Loving Eleanor" (Roosevelt, that is)

Loving Eleanor, by Susan Wittig Albert
Publisher: Persevero Press
Publication date: February 1, 2016
Category: Historical Fiction
Source: I received this galley from NetGalley at the request of the author for consideration of review.

In December 2013 I had the privilege of reviewing Susan Wittig Albert's historical fiction A Wilder Rose: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Rose Wilder Lane, and Their Little Houses. I loved the book, so when Ms. Albert asked me to consider a review of her new historical fiction, Loving Eleanor, I was more than happy to try it. I say try it because although I've read a great many awesome Eleanor Roosevelt quotes (I have one displayed in my classroom), I knew very little about her, her life, and hadn't really thought to read about her further. I was confident in Ms. Albert's ability to catch my attention though based on my previous experience with her writing. I also know that the construct of Ms. Albert's historical fiction is fictional, of course, but it is backed by an intense research process. In this case, some 3300 letters support the story Ms. Albert tells. You can read more about the story behind the book and the research process by clicking these links.

Loving Eleanor is well summarized on and not knowing exactly what the book would encompass, it helped me focus in as I began reading. I had no inkling that there had been rumor and/or knowledge of Eleanor having an intimate friendship with anyone, let alone a female journalist named Lorena Hickok. Aside from that, I ashamedly knew neither of Lorena Hickok (aka Hick), nor the amazing work she accomplished in the field of journalism for women. Living in the culture and times we do, I tend to take much of what I/females can do for granted. This book really helped me see the work and sacrifice women from different walks of life put into the freedoms I enjoy.

Lorena Hickok and Eleanor Roosevelt
Based on the summary, you get a good picture of what the story is about, so I won't go into further detail there. I have to beg forgiveness from Ms. Albert and my readers that, because the summary is very well written, I am about to go off on a tangent discussing my personal connection to the book. I'd rather speak to the ways in which I related to Hick because she is the narrator and her statements and feelings hit me repeatedly as I read. And isn't that what writing and reading are for? To make those connections.

As the lone female AP journalist in New York City, Hick is a strong, determined woman, an obvious relation for me. I have a family and always intended to, but my dreams and goals have always centered around my career work my way up through a PhD, to teach at the college level, to publish research and possibly even a story.

However, the story is told from Hick's point of view and it is her conflicting feelings that drew me in and made her seem so real. She loves her work and is at the top of the game, yet gives it up for Eleanor. Hick struggles with this decision even as she knows she will not have it any other way. There is no one for whom I'd give up my job (it kinda keeps a roof over my family's head), but I do understand the mixed feelings of sacrifice. Most everything in life requires sacrifice. Careers often cost money and time to prepare for and to carry out. Being a parent costs everything you have and even everything you are at times. Being a spouse and/or friend means extra effort in hard times and intentional thought toward the other person. And even as these things are sometimes hard, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Like Hick throws herself into her job and relationship with Eleanor, I too consider myself an involved person. My family, my close friends, my students/job, my church/God, and my causes/dreams are people I intentionally live for. I'm not saying I never makes mistakes, or even that I'm the greatest person to have around, I'm just saying that I throw all of my effort into the people in my life. If I claim love, caring, friendship, passion, I try very hard to be ALL in.

Also like Hick, I feel the hard side of such involvement. Hick often states herself at a loss and in Hick's case, some of it was due to Eleanor Roosevelt's obvious celebrity - she was the First Lady after all. Otherwise, it was the difficulty that comes with loving deeply: that not everyone does, and even those who do, don't always do so in the same way. Hick's discussion of her thoughts and feelings made me feel "not so out there," that such feelings are perhaps the human condition, something we all have in common.

Thank you Ms. Albert for another great story.

The Eleanor Roosevelt quote in my classroom

Monday, February 1, 2016

January Fitness Update

The most fun thing about fitness for me so far is seeing my stats on my Fitbit. I get weekly reports in my email and the app keeps weekly tallies available to look back on. Since some have asked for updates, I figured I'd do just that. Here's my total progress for the month of January according to Fitbit:

Steps: 170,644
It is so strange how many steps/movements we make in a day. I never realized that by 8am, I've walked hundreds of, almost a thousand, steps.

Miles: 76.75
Whenever I think of counting mileage, it's been within one walking/running trip. But Fitbit counts all movement and puts it into a total mileage each day, adding those days into weeks, and the weeks into a month. Makes sense - I feel like I'm actually doing something now and it pushes me to walk whole miles at a time as well.

Calories Burned: 62,379
I'm still learning the whole calorie thing. I've been counting calories the entire month and really have a better grasp on which foods are better because of less calories, as well as which foods are better because of nutrients, some even despite the calories. I mean, I could eat a sleeve of crackers in one morning at work! But paying attention now, I see there are actually seven servings in one sleeve, which equals 560 calories! Not only is that as much as a regular meal should be, but they're not healthy calories either. I've also seen how exercise and general movement (or lack of) affect the calorie count. Again, my goal here is to make this a habit, changing my eating so much that I can stop counting calories because my main diet is healthy to begin with.

Flights of stairs: 134
Not a fan, winds me fast, but definitely good exercise. This is always the item that hits its target least. In the whole month, only twice have I reached the set goal of ten sets of stairs in one day. Second best was nine in a day.

Active Minutes: 789
These are minutes where your heart rate was at a fat burning level. It includes your exercise time, but only the minutes where your heart rate was up. For example, I walked across the local college campus one day and it registered as 12 active minutes. I would've loved to have this Fitbit when I was a full time student! I'd be rocking the steps and active minutes.

Days Exercised: 15 
The Fitbit automatically records exercise after a set number of minutes of continuous movement/heart rate. (I have mine set at ten, the lowest, but I never exercise for less than half an hour anyway). I like the automatic record because it gives a true look at where your heart rate was, length of actual active time, and actual calories burned. You can also enter your exercise manually, if you weren't wearing the Fitbit for example. I've found when I do PiYo (Pilates/Yoga), it doesn't always register the exercise because there's a lot of stretching, so I will enter those nights manually. Through my exercise routine, I've learned a little when I can afford to splurge on my eating! I try to save my splurges for outside my house, when I may have less control of the food available or want to eat out with friends. I'm proud to say I never dropped below three days of exercise the entire month. One week I worked out six nights and another four nights. At home I do T25 and at EFL (Essentially Fit Living, my exercise group) I do RIPPED (cardio and hand weights) and PiYo. I have my EFL group to thank for this goal being met. They make exercise an enjoyable, social event.

Weight Lost: 6 lbs.
Fitbit allows you to set a weight goal. It adjusts your allowance of calories per day based on the weight you want to lose and the length of time you want to lose it in. I kinda randomly set the weight I wanted to lose and gave myself six months. I really just want to fit back into my new jeans better, but figure that if I set the goal a little higher, it would make me work within a smaller set of calories, forcing me to learn healthy eating. (Yes, I need to manipulate myself. Yes, it works. I'm pretty stubborn once I commit to something.)

Water drank: 25,575 ml
Now this one is a real miracle. I don't know how my total compares to any of you, but this is amazing for me. I only met the goal of 1893 ml in a day once, but even if I drank one water bottle (500ml) a day I was doing well. I used to drink ZERO ml of water per day. Let's put it this way, I'm sure I drank water sometime, but I couldn't tell you when. There are two reasons for this. I'm addicted to carbonation and sugar (pop and sweet tea, people) and water tends to upset my empty stomach. So I've worked with it, figuring out that very cold water bothers my stomach more. Cool water isn't so bad, and with food is no problem at all. Also, I wasn't exercising previously and wow, do I drink water when I exercise. (I do eat a little before exercising to keep my stomach from getting funky from both the exercise and the water.) I've had almost nothing but water since January 2nd! Other than water, all I've had this month are two 12 oz servings of Pepsi, half a mug of hot black tea (no cream and sugar), and 6 oz of Almond Milk.

So, that's my January update! I'm so excited I've not given up once the whole month. And that I'm actually enjoying it. Funny thing is, the attitude may be contagious. In the past month my kids willingly ate broccoli, pesto, and Brussel sprouts and drank Almond Milk! I mean they ate them without whining or making faces and cleaned the plates. I have also been eating spinach, kale, hummus, and Greek yogurt. What healthiness can I get them to eat in February?