Wednesday, August 16, 2017

MIIEGO Headphone Review

A couple weeks ago, out of nowhere, my Jaybird headphones stopped working. I am really not in the market to replace $150 headphones, so I started looking around for a new brand. In the meantime, I struggled with some cheap corded earbuds I had lying around the house, and I remembered how much I freaking hate cords.

Then, I saw a post on Flip Belt's Instagram. You guys know I'm a huge fan of Flip Belt, so I was excited to see that they were pairing up with a bluetooth headphone brand...I trust Flip Belt so I figured the headphones would be a good bet.

I reached out to Flip Belt to see if I could test out and review a pair, and a couple days later I had a beautiful pair of coral MIIEGO headphones in my hands. I really wanted to try the M1, which is their bluetooth earbud version, but I was happy to try the AL3+ Freedoms.
The headphones come with a carrying case, extra foam speaker covers, and a charging cord.
First Impressions:

I immediately found the packaging, color, and design attractive. The headphones coil up into a neat little bundle and the carrying case is compact and sturdy. The instructions were clear and simple; the headphones paired up easily with my phone and were fully charged and ready to use right out of the box.
Right out of the box, full battery! I tested the pairing and buttons immediately and mastered their use in under 5 minutes.
I did have a couple concerns right off the bat, though. Would they stay in place while running? Would they feel bulky and warm?

After taking them out for a spin, I'm pretty happy with them.
Ready for a run. I tested the headphones in 88 degrees, 90% humidity, sunshine, and no breeze.
Pros:

Lightweight
Easy storage
Stylish
Good sound quality
Easy to install & use
Comfortable

Cons:

A little warm for FL summer
Need some adjusting/moved a little
The band doesn't lie quite flat enough
I was pleasantly surprised - the headphones stayed in place and needed less adjusting than my favorite earbuds ever did!
Verdict:

For the price, these are really nice headphones for the gym or just hanging out. They're not my favorite for running but they aren't bad.

I wish they fit a little more loosely. The twist in the wire made the headphones "tight" across the back of my head so they pulled a little, which is the only reason they moved at all; I think with time this tight coil will loosen a bit and they'll become more comfortable, will stay in place better, and will pull less.

They are not as bulky as I thought they'd be - they're really lightweight. My ears definitely got warm from wearing the headphones. I tested them in fairly normal Florida weather but what others might call extreme. I don't think the warmth would be bothersome in most other states at any time of year.

Rating: 8.5/10, B+
Price: $79.99

I'll definitely continue to use them! If the coil loosens up and the fit improves, I'll write an update, as well.

ABK

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Earworm Wednesday: Linkin Park

I was really shaken by the suicide of Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington. I think most people my age can agree that Linkin Park's poignant lyrics and powerful instrumentals got us through some tough times in high school and college, and so far I've loved every song I've heard off the new album.

In "Leave Out all the Rest", Chester sings, "When my time comes/forget the wrong that I've done/help me leave behind some/reasons to be missed", and I think the legacy of his music absolutely fulfills that wish.

So today, I wanted to share some of Chester's last songs off the new album One More Light.

One More Light: "If they say who cares if one more light goes out/in a sky of a million stars?/it flickers, flickers/Who cares when someone's time runs out/if a moment is all we are?/We're quicker, quicker/Who cares if one more light goes out?/Well I do"
Battle Symphony: "...When they turn down the lights/I hear my battle symphony/all the world in front of me/if my armor breaks/I'll fuse it back together/Battle symphony/please just don't give up on me/and my eyes are wide awake"
Talking to Myself: "The truth is you turn into someone else/you keep running like the sky is falling/I can whisper I can yell/But I know I'm just talking to myself"
I will always be grateful for the solace Chester's music brought me, and still brings me. I am grateful to have this final album. I wish it didn't have to be his last.
ABK

Friday, July 28, 2017

Some Hard Truths (and Some Small Victories)

These days, three miles feels daunting and four seems impossible. I am trying to stay positive, but when I think about my longterm running goals, I can't help but feel hopeless.
I love that Elizabeth has become the voice of reason and experience in running here.
Running on the treadmill at the gym has reminded me how much easier running indoors is. For one thing, there's no humidity! For another, the treadmill really cuts down on the effort and impact. I am taking Wednesday's 30-minute run (no walking!) as a victory.

Monday I ran for 17 minutes without stopping (outside) and that is a victory, too.
My calf pain has been significantly less intense than it was November-May this year. On the one hand, this could mean I don't need surgery after all? So maybe all the stress, expenditure, and loss of fitness was for nothing, but I can just pick up running again like normal.

Or maybe this means I forgo surgery and then months later - after my deductible resets - the pain picks back up and I need it done after all.

I am thinking back to my first marathon. I was struck with calf cramps like I had never had before. At the time, I blamed Mucinex. But what if that was my first experience with compartment syndrome? Can it be dormant for years before resurfacing?
(Rereading that post is so amazingly motivating. I can't wait to be able to run a marathon again.)

I am running on my golf course or at the gym exclusively these days because the thought of driving to a route with the intention of completing it and failing is paralyzing. I like the comfort of the familiar right now.
But it's not a bad place to run, really.
Last week was the first time in a long time I actually enjoyed a run and felt like I was running for me and not as a chore. It was liberating.
Actually, genuinely happy.
Elizabeth listened patiently to these sundry concerns Wednesday and then offered really helpful suggestions and I feel really lucky to have her. She is endlessly patient and always helps me see the positive side of things.
I am trying very hard to focus on my victories. Today at the gym, I realized I can run without walk breaks. I realized Florida summer is a big element in my struggle; I had forgotten how much it can affect me.

I realized for the first time in awhile that I still want to run distance and I still can. Not yet, but eventually. Running is a lifelong endeavor, and I am relieved to realize I'm excited to get back to it after this is all over, however it turns out!

How do you get over your self-doubt after an injury or setback?
What small victories are you celebrating lately?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Some Summer Stuff

I officially go back to work July 27th to start training our new teachers, so summer is basically over for me. It's been a good one. Our travel plans fell through and my leg debacle caused some stress, but mostly I really enjoyed my time off.

In June we had a week straight of heavy rain, but I was able to take advantage of the few days of sun and enjoy our backyard.
I took time off from working out to catch up on reading and writing for fun. It felt so good to be a total hermit and avoid socializing for a couple weeks.

We went up to Sarasota for Father's Day and Matt taught my family how to use his One Wheel. I always love it when all of us are able to get together, because it usually only happens at Thanksgiving.
video
This video of my mom on the One Wheel always cracks me up. She did a great job! My brother was so nervous; he really didn't want her on there.

Although we didn't get to New York this summer, as was our original plan, this past weekend Matt and I made a weekend trip up to Mark's family beach house in St. Augustine to see a handful of our college friends; it's always a treat to see them and catch up.
Sean always cooks for us when we do these trips, and this year he made sure everything was totally gluten free!
In big workout news, I finally joined a gym. Planet Fitness totally got me with their $1 signup special. After doing the math for the yearly cost, I decided it was worth the membership, especially if it means I'll have some accountability for going. I also talked Elizabeth into joining! I just feel like I need more beyond our classroom workouts this year.
I was brave and went by myself the first day I joined!
The gym is a half mile from my house, so I can run there, which is a major plus. And when my runs get rained out now, I'm a two-minute drive away from a treadmill! No more excuses!

Although I worked a little here and there over summer, it definitely felt like a long enough break. I am excited and ready to head back to work!

Did you go anywhere this summer?
How do you most like to spend your downtime? 

ABK

Monday, July 17, 2017

Our Anniversary in Pictures

Matt and I celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary last week. We don't often do anything big for our anniversaries, but this year we didn't have a summer vacation planned and we just felt like we wanted to do something special. So, we got a hotel room at a nice local hotel and had a staycation!
One of three pools at the hotel...this one had a huge fountain and waterfall! We drank our mimosas here before bringing our luggage upstairs.
When we arrived at the hotel Sunday, I was a little overwhelmed. When traveling, we usually go for 3-star hotels and inns; the Hyatt Regency is basically a resort compared to those! Like, we checked in and they offered us mimosas. That is beyond our usual level of fancy.
The view from our room...we upgraded to a balcony.
We had lunch by the pool and enjoyed the lazy river before opting for the adults-only pool, which was quiet and perfect. We are officially those people. The place was crawling with kids! We just wanted a quiet getaway.
A late lunch...I think Bloody Marys are appropriate to drink at any time of day. (Looking at this picture makes me really glad I booked a haircut before school resumes.)
Enjoying the hot tub.
Despite this being the "adult only" pool section, a couple interrupted our alone time by bringing their toddler in with them. I feel like that's really rude and unsafe!
After sunning ourselves, we cleaned up for a delicious seafood dinner at one of the restaurants at the hotel. I had a fantastic paella and Matt had scallops and orzotto. We also had two kinds ceviche, because the restaurant is known for its ceviche bar. We had one with swordfish and one with red snapper.
After dinner, we wandered the grounds a bit. They had some big fires going and you could make s'mores, but we just wanted to sit and enjoy the atmosphere. After being interrupted a few times by kids who were up way too late, we went back to our room and watched some Bob's Burgers, because this is real life and in real life couples watch cartoons before they go to bed.
Our view from the hammock we relaxed in after dinner.
Monday (our actual anniversary) we checked out, enjoyed a little breakfast (they had gluten free blueberry muffins that were so good!) and then spent some more time at the pool. When an afternoon rainstorm swept through, we decided to call it a day. I had work Tuesday and we had to grocery shop and get some laundry done...real life was waiting for us.
To me, this was the perfect way to celebrate our anniversary. Just a night away, a couple days at a resort, really good food and drinks, and quality time.

How do you celebrate special events in your life?
Do you like ceviche/seafood?
Do you and your SO consider yourselves romantic? We are really not...this kind of "romantic getaway" isn't our usual gig, but I think I'd like to repeat it in the future!

ABK

Friday, July 14, 2017

I'm So Tired of this Topic

Okay, let's talk about my calves for hopefully the last time this summer...or ever, preferably.

After my compartment test, it took awhile for me to hear back from the doctor. Once I finally spoke to him, my fears were confirmed: the tests were inconclusive.

That being said, he is still sure that the symptoms I'm having are indicative of compartment syndrome and he is willing to go forward with surgery if and when my symptoms return to an unbearable level.

I am currently under instructions to "run until it's a problem!" and then give him a call to schedule surgery. While I wanted this all figured out and done over summer, at this point I'm just happy that inconclusive tests haven't set me back to square one.

So for now, I am back to running with a freedom and ease I haven't felt in months. For awhile I've been too depressed and anxious to run, never knowing if I'll experience pain or be doing terrible damage to my calves. Now, I'm not scared to have pain because if I do, I know there will be an answer. I missed being able to turn my brain off and just run!
Hopefully a return to a more consistent running/workout schedule will improve my mood and help draw me out of my anti-social behavior. Fingers crossed that this will be the last I need to write about this particular subject!

I hope you all are doing well!

ABK

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Earworm Wednesday


Misterwives - Machine. 

I find Misterwives to be a little hit-and-miss but this song, with vocals sounding a little like Shakira, a catchy tune, and rebellion-inspiring lyrics, is a winner!
Lyrics to listen for: "Oh I'm tired of abiding by your rules/Causing me to second guess my every single move/You don't know who I am or what I have been through/So don't dare tell me what I should or shouldn't do"

ABK

Monday, July 10, 2017

Our Song (an Anniversary Post)

Today is Matt's and my wedding anniversary. We are celebrating seven years! I've always heard of the "7 year itch" but if this year is anything like the last six, I'm not worried.

Matt is my perfect complement. When I am stressed, he is comforting. He is endlessly supportive, and in the past few months dealing with my calves, I don't think I could've held it together without him. When I am neurotic, which is truly my default setting, he takes it in stride.
A post shared by Ali (@abk_runs) on
Nothing in the world feels better than laughing uncontrollably with him; he may not always understand what tickles my funny bone, but he humors me anyway.
I don't think I'm nearly as good at being a partner as he is, and I'm forever grateful that he sticks by me regardless.

Matt and I met and began dating in 2005. I think it was in 2007, while studying in Scotland, that we started listening to Snow Patrol (we were listening to a lot of Scottish bands at the time), and found our song. I wanted to find a good instrumental version to dance to at our wedding but couldn't hunt one down that I liked, so we didn't, and that's the one thing I'd change about that day.
I feel so fortunate to share my life with someone who fits me so well. My parents are celebrating 37 years this week, and I look at them and just know that someday, that will be us.

ABK

Thursday, June 22, 2017

*tap tap* Is this Thing On?

Hi guys.

Well, it's been awhile. This tends to happen to me during the summer; given the time to truly isolate myself, I turn off notifications, ignore texts, and step away from my blog and social media a bit. This tendency was completely exacerbated by my frustration and sadness over my injury.

I am a naturally cynical person. I work hard to force myself to think positively, and to come across as positive on my blog. I simply didn't have the energy for that kind of thing over the last four weeks, so I took some time off. Let's call it a mental health month. I'm not sure I'm back, necessarily, but I needed to update with the latest on my calves, for my sake if for nothing else.

After returning from DC in May, I stopped running. This means I took about two weeks off before I realized I needed to have symptoms for my pressure test. I ran every day the week before the test, purposely pounding my feet and doing some bridge repetitions to feel some tightness.

By Monday, I was at a pain level of 4 or 5; I had been experiencing 8-9. I was worried this wouldn't be good enough for my pressure test, but didn't want to reschedule it. (I think this was a dumb decision; I should I pushed it back until my symptoms were fully there.)

On Tuesday morning Matt and I drove down to my doctor where the PA, Mark, would do my test. The worst part was the lidocaine injections to numb my calves. Talk about burning!

After that, Mark initially tested two compartments on each calf: the anterior and superficial posterior. He recorded the initial readings. I could feel pressure against my skin and a little "pop" when the needle went in, then another kind of pop when the needle came out. I didn't have any pain or discomfort, but there was definitely blood.
You can see where I was marked for injections and the holes where the pressure needle went in. Matt said it looked like Mark tried to insert the lidocaine needle and the pressure needle into the same holes each time; he was very careful and had awesome bedside manner, always telling me which leg he was working on and when to expect pressure, etc.
(Matt told me later that, even though he is not squeamish and was awake for his wisdom teeth removal, he could not have had this test done. The needle is a pretty wide gauge and he said he could see me skin denting and pushing in before the needle finally popped through the skin.)

After the initial readings (which sounded low to me, although one compartment was already at the 15mgm reading) I ran on the treadmill. I made the mistake of cranking up the speed and the incline, so I was tired out by the time 20 minutes rolled around and called it quits even though my legs didn't necessarily hurt...they were just tired.
What is this face I'm giving Matt?
I mean, maybe they hurt? It was hard to tell with the numbing agent and the incline; I felt like I didn't even know where my body should be at this point, or how much pain they would need to get a good reading. I would say I was at about a 4 after 20 minutes.

Mark inserted the pressure needle back into each compartment twice more, once after a minute of rest and again after four more minutes. He used the same entry-hole each time, so I wouldn't have a bunch.
The readings weren't very high, from what I could tell. (I think the highest at this point was 17mgm, and we were looking for 20-30). I never heard "Holy crap!" or anything, and he wanted me to go back on the treadmill so he could test one more compartment on each leg.

He gave me more lidocaine so he could test the deep posterior compartment, then put me back on the treadmill for ten more minutes. By this time, my lower legs felt numb. It was really hard to tell if I was having pain and tightness or not.

He tested the last compartment on each leg. The left deep posterior read very high, but it was jumping around a lot (26-36). Mark removed the needle to recalibrate it to 0, then inserted it again. I'm not sure if the final reading was high or not. By this time I was feeling too despondent to ask; I was sure the results weren't going to be conclusive.

Mark and his assistant got me cleaned me up, and told me Dr. Guerra would review the results and get back to me when he returned from vacation. And that was it!
For reference, on the left leg, you can see where all three pressures were taken.
My legs are pretty sore now, especially in the deep posterior area, but I haven't even needed Advil or ice. I'm a good healer.

The whole thing took a few hours, including waiting-room time, and went smoothly, but I am absolutely sure the results won't be conclusive. I honestly don't know if I'll be able to do this test again due to cost...but I am hoping they will still consider treating me based on other factors.

So, that's that for now. Hopefully I'll hear back soon with the next step in the plan. In the meantime, I'm sorry for my absence, and I hope you all have been doing well. I've tried to keep up with many of you on Instagram and Facebook; my heart just can't take running blogs at the moment.

ABK

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

What the Heck are Flatties?

When I wrote about my friend Christine taking a flattie-Ali along for a half marathon, a couple people were unfamiliar with this practice. I forget sometimes that my virtual running community on Facebook does some weird things...even for runners.
The best pictures for flatties are running photos, of course. The more fun and festive the picture, the better.
Flatties first started (for me, at least) with the Runner's World Festival in 2014. Dozens of Sub-30 members were attending the event, and those of us who were sad to miss out were hoping to somehow still participate. Someone cam up with the idea to send a laminated photo of ourselves to someone who would be at the event. That way, we could "tag along" during the races and enjoy the festivities.
Jennifer's comment says it all! When I actually got to meet her at Gasparilla this year, it was like we'd already run a race together!
I'm sure you've heard of people writing names on their arms and "running for" someone else...this is just a more tangible way of doing that.

As you guys saw on the post with Christine, bringing flatties along can be a means of keeping injured runners "running" and emotionally supported. Sometimes runners bring the flatties with them during a hard race for their own motivation and mental strength. I remember one time, we sent flatties by the dozens to a friend who was having knee surgery, so he wouldn't be alone.
There are lots of good ways to carry flatties. They have caught on in our group and now it's not uncommon to see someone with half a dozen or more pinned on.
Running belts and Camelbaks are a great way to carry multiple flatties at once!
Flatties also get to join the post-race party. They travel to new places and indulge in post-race meals. It really does make you feel like you're part of the fun!
Buckling in for a flight, staying hydrated before the race, and enjoying sightseeing and post-race snacks.
I talk about the Sub-30 Club pretty frequently here, and this is just another part of what makes this running group so wonderful. I didn't even realize this might be a strange or unique practice because it's pretty usual for the kind of fun and love Sub-30 is all about.

ABK

Monday, May 29, 2017

Weekly Workouts: 5/22-5/28

The last week of school is HERE! This week always means lots of late evenings and exhaustion, and despite good intentions, this week was totally a bust. I was at work late every day and slept a ridiculous amount over the weekend. But I think I just needed it.

I need to find my motivation as summer begins. The truth is, I've been feeling unmotivated and dejected this week. Even though I know answers are close at hand, I am just in a funk. I miss running. I'm bored of all other workouts. I'm physically and mentally tired. I haven't even had the energy or interest to watch my junk TV, let alone watch it while on the max trainer!

I hope taking a break will help my mind get back on track.

Monday 5/22: Rest. I think I was up for a workout but just...lost track of time? I had my appointment with Dr. Guerra so that contributed to my laziness.

Tuesday 5/23: Two Blogilates videos with Elizabeth before the Sports Awards banquet.
The second video is one of my favorites!

Wednesday 5/24: 8th grade graduation. I wore heels. Big mistake. My calves were not happy!

Thursday 5/25: Rest.

Friday 5/26: Student teams vs. faculty volleyball game on the last day of school. This was a fun, active 75 minutes in the Florida sun!
We played three sets. Faculty won the first, kids won the second, and then they won the third 28-26. It was really fun!
Saturday & Sunday: Rest.

Here's to more energy and a better mindset this week.

ABK

Friday, May 26, 2017

A Calf Update - Hopeful News!

This past Monday, I saw my new doctor for my calves and the experience was exactly what I'd been hoping for!

When I first arrived, the parking lot was overflowing and the waiting room was packed. I immediately felt that I'd picked a doctor in high demand, and that's always a good sign. They also charged me up front, so I don't have to stress about getting a ridiculous bill unexpectedly in the mail. I appreciate that.

First, I had x-rays done on both calves. The technician was friendly and super competent. Then, he took me into an exam room and an assistant took my history. As she finished up, Dr. Guerra came in. I was never left alone to wait in the exam room. (Hence, no pictures!)

I trusted Dr. Guerra on the spot. He sat across from me and listened earnestly to my symptoms, asked good questions, and then examined my calves. I felt listened to and taken seriously.
He has worked with the NHL, MLB, and universities, too. I think I found a good one!
He told me I'm describing classic symptoms of chronic exertional compartment syndrome and that my X-rays were clear. He feels certain CECS is the right diagnosis. He told me about the tests he wants to do: we'll be testing the posterior compartments of both calves and the anterior compartment of my right leg as well.
My gait gets very clompy when the tightness comes on and I get to the point where I can't push through it. On my last run, I noticed definite swelling in my calves and right ankle. 
He plans to do the test three times, once at rest, once a minute after finishing a treadmill run and developing symptoms, and then again five minutes post-run. He told me running on the treadmill means the symptoms might take longer to show up, and suggested I find one to practice on so I get an idea of how long I'll need to run for the test. 
I'm sure they're not measuring PSI but I'm not sure what exactly they call it. I just know they're looking for numbers above 15 (resting) or between 20 and 30 after running.
He then explained how the surgery would work.

You know how the first doctor was all, "The scars will horrify you!"? Dr. Guerra was the opposite of alarmist. He said, "You've probably seen photos online and that is NOT what your scars will look like. We do a two-inch incision and release the fascia along the entire length of the compartment through that. It takes about an hour."
These are my Sub-30 friend Kristin's scars from her CECS surgery. One healed well and one didn't. But they don't look like Google images at ALL, and these are scars I could happily live with if it means I can run.
He plans to do one leg at a time to make sure I respond well to it, but I am hoping I'll be able to convince him to do both at once so I can recover faster. I am a good healer!

I am waiting for an exact date because the test needs to be scheduled in coordination with the adjoined physical therapy office, but it looks like it will be done June 5th or 7th, so hopefully that means surgery could happen by early July.

I am so relieved to have found a doctor who wants to move forward and really help me. I wish I hadn't wasted precious time and money on the first guy! But it'll all be worth it in the end if this finally gets figured out.

I'm looking at a few more months before I'm "fixed" at this rate, but in the grand scheme of things, that's nothing. It means my dreams of running into my 90s are still viable, and that's priceless and absolutely worth the wait.

Thank you guys SO MUCH for being so supportive throughout this ordeal. It's been wonderful to have people to talk to who get it.

ABK

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Integrity Means Teaching the Truth

Alternatively Titled: This Country was Built on the Backs of Slaves

Bear with me while I climb up on my soapbox for a minute here.

There are many things I love about our annual class trip to Washington, DC: the symbolism of the monuments, the architecture, the gorgeous photographs in the Museum of Natural History, the naive idealism that used to be politics, evident in the video presentation preceding the tour of the Capitol Building...

But in the last couple years, I've been more and more bothered by the conspicuous absence of any worthwhile discussion of the real "founding" of America.
There is brief talk of slavery when we visit Mount Vernon and explore the slave quarters, but it does not come up again on the trip. I don't know how to explain what I'm feeling here...Slavery is covered so superficially and in such a way that the reputation of the Founding Fathers is protected. I don't want our 13-year-old students to hear graphic details of slave auctions and rape and abuse but I wish they could hear some objective truth to clarify that these men were flawed human beings, not omniscient gods, not mythical, untouchable legends, and we should take care not to idolize people.

But it seems that any sort of criticism makes one unpatriotic...and apparently that is the worst thing you could be.

There is a profound discomfort as our guide tells us to look left and right at various buildings as we drive by but remains silent as we pass the new National Museum of African American History and Culture, drawing no attention to it.

There is no mention at all of the genocide that had to be orchestrated to allow us to live in this country today. Portraits and statues suggest that Indigenous peoples were eager to give up their land and their homes for the sake of white colonialism. 
Our guides overuse "these men died for your freedom" at memorials until it loses all meaning. I want to experience a tour that doesn't glorify the darkest parts of American history while whitewashing them at the same time.

All of this makes me incredibly uncomfortable. The reverence for the Founding Fathers borders on fanatical at times, and their shortcomings are dismissed because "well, that was normal for the time period." It is not normal for us, and giving them a pass normalizes racism and sexism, as if there was once an acceptable time to curtail rights and own human beings. 

I wish our tours were more honest about our history. I wish we had a chance to see diverse monuments that pay homage to the people who toiled against their will so we could live here as we do.

America did not spring up in a vacuum. It was not manifest destiny. People were murdered to secure our place on this land. The country was built through slave labor in the most literal sense of the phrase. And here we are, reaping the benefits, and barely sparing a moment to acknowledge from whence we came.

This is "our country". We feel that we own it. We take pride in it. (Sometimes.) We feel patriotic toward it. (Maybe.) But this blinkered nationalism...It has always made my skin crawl, and it seems to get worse every year.

I think this trip is valuable, but I just can't help but feel we're missing an opportunity to deepen the lesson and explore crucial complexities that would help our students develop compassion alongside national pride. Would it kill us to inject a little honesty into our history lessons?

ABK

Monday, May 22, 2017

Weekly Workouts: 5/15-5/21 (DC Edition)

Monday 5/15: Rest.

Tuesday 5/16: Rest. I was supposed to work out but had to pack for DC and lost time.

Wednesday 5/17: Our first day in DC! I never plan to workout on our first day, and this was no different. We got some solid walking in, though.
How many steps are supposed to make a mile? My steps and mileage were drastically different from others' the whole trip.
Thursday 5/18: I did some ab exercises when I woke up and watched my steps throughout the day, but there was no time for the gym or a solid workout.
All that time standing was tough on my feet!
Friday 5/19: I couldn't sleep and woke up before my "go to the gym" alarm (which was set for 5:07am) so I got to the gym early. I asked Stacey if she wanted to join and she said she didn't think so, so I left without her. I did about a mile on the treadmill (if my Apple watch can be believed) and literally cheered a few minutes later when the door opened and Stacey came in!
After the run I did some weighted squats, presses, bicep curls, and planks.

We flew home that evening after a weather-delayed flight. I was home and asleep around 11pm.

Saturday 5/20: I literally slept until 12:30pm and then napped from 3:30-5pm. Major rest day!

Sunday 5/21: Rest. I needed a day of housekeeping after travel!

This week was almost a total loss as far as structured workouts go, but sometimes that happens! This week is the last week of school, and I know it'll be exhausting but I'm planning to get some good workouts in!

ABK

Friday, May 19, 2017

Friday Five: My Favorite Poems

Last week, our 7th grade math teacher and I were talking about our new math schedule for next year. We're adding geometry for our advanced 8th grade students. We were discussing which of the math teachers would teach it, and who would keep algebra, and she said something I found funny.

"Mrs. B really loves algebra, so she'll probably want to teach that."

Not she loves teaching algebra but she loves algebra. I thought it was funny/odd and then I realized, you know, I love teaching English but I love English itself, too, and many of its various components, like reading, symbolism, and poetry.
So, I thought I'd share five of my favorite poems with you guys for this Friday Five.*

1. La Muerta [The Dead Woman]

2. Cien Sonetos de Amor: XVII [One Hundred Love Sonnets XVII]
I am kind of a fan.
The first two poems are by Pablo Neruda, who is far-and-away my favorite poet. I wish I could read his work in the original Spanish; I have read many translations of his poems but my favorite translator of the first poem is Donald Walsh because of his use of "untamable" in the last stanza, which speaks to me so strongly. Other translations just don't compare.

That being said, it's an interesting practice to read the same poem by many different translators. They each bring a different perspective to the piece.

I am drawn to the visceral and emotionally-charged language of Neruda's political poems, like the first, and his simple, relatable, genuine language in his love poems really resonates with me.

3. the lesson of the moth

The next poem on my list is written from the point of view of Don Marquis's character Archy...so there is no capitalization or punctuation and it's a little stream-of-conscious. I had to read it a couple times to get the idea of who was speaking and what was being said.
I think most people want to be the moth but are actually the roach, including myself.
The act of figuring out speakers and opinions in this poem made the lesson, when I finally got it, that much more poignant. And I find myself wondering...am I the moth, or am I Archy?

4. Home (Bonus poem: do yourself a favor and click for the next poem when you get the bottom.)
Warsan Shire's poem Home came to my attention during the peak of the Syrian refugee crisis last year, as it probably did for many of you. The imagery is staggering and its honesty is brutal. This poem is proves that poems can be beautiful without being pretty.

5. Stone

After Home, it seems apropos to finish with a poem by author Charles Simic, who experienced displacement as a result of war. There is more to us than meets the eye, and sometimes we contain multitudes. Stone illustrates that beautifully. The subject, like the poem, should not be underestimated.

We can be hard, strong, calm, and dark while also being full of fire, light, and resilience.

Speaking of resilience, I'm adding a bonus poem because...why not?!

6. Maya Angelou's Still I Rise is an iconic, unapologetic rallying cry for Black women. I think parts of it can speak to the female experience in general, too. You can watch her recite it below, or search it up in YouTube. There are dozens to choose from, and each variation is powerful and moving.
I love poetry because it puts to words the feelings and experiences that often defy explanation. I love teaching poetry because it can give students that same invaluable skill.

Do you like poetry?
Share a poem that you love from school or your childhood!
What is a line from a song or poem that resonates with you?
Are you Archy or the moth?

ABK

*I'm in DC with my students so if this doesn't link, oops! Also, I would not be surprised if most of you skipped this post because, ugh, poetry, right? What is this, school?! Still, the English teacher in me can't help but wheedle: at least try one. Look at my commentary and pick the one you think you'll like. Try something new!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Earworm Wednesday

I'm currently (or will soon be) on a flight to DC with my 8th graders. We have a 45 minute layover during which we are not allowed to get off the plane. We board at 7am and arrive after 1pm. Pray for me.

Here are three songs I will probably be listening to on the plane to drown out the 90 students on this trip. This week's theme is loud, energized, and good-mood-inducing music!

Bleachers - Don't Take the Money. Just good ol' fun, upbeat music. There's a little bit of an '80s vibe that I dig, too.

STRFKR - Tape Machine. Electronic, groovy goodness.

Capital Cities - Vowels. ASL, impressive dancing, awesome beat...I love this song and video! After looking up the video to link here, I watched it three times.
What music do you like to listen to when you travel or need a pick-me-up?

ABK

Monday, May 15, 2017

Weekly Workouts: 5/8-5/14

Wow...it's the last month of the school-year! This year has flown by!

This is my last full week of workouts before the craziness that is the 8th grade Washington, DC trip, so I wanted to make it count.

The previous Saturday I experienced some of the worst pain I've had since resuming running. A friend in the Sub-30 Women's Club reached out:
This will be relevant later in this post.
Monday 5/8: 30 solid minutes on the max trainer. I didn't take any breathers and played with the intensity throughout the workout to get some good HIIT benefits. I'm finally catching up on Real Housewives because I finally had time to watch them! (I've been saving episodes for this workout.)
I accidentally deleted the original picture so here's a grainy screenshot from Instagram. 
Tuesday 5/9: We had our school's Art and Tech Expo night, which meant we were at work until after 7pm. Between 3:30 and 4:30 we fit in a solid circuit focused on upper-body.
As usual, complete each exercise for 30-60 seconds and rest for 60-120 seconds between sets.
Wednesday 5/10: Elizabeth met me for two miles before one of Matt's art nights. (His night went well but I was out much later than I wanted. I'm glad we were able to fit in the run.)
My calves were screaming by mile one, but we persevered. It was nice to run with Elizabeth again and she was a good distraction from my pain, but I realized I've really been enjoying the solitude of solo runs lately since all my other workouts throughout the week are done with my buddies. It felt good to be running together again, though.

Thursday 5/11: Rest. My body and head just did not feel like working out after my late night Wednesday.

Friday 5/12: Two Blogilates videos. One thing I really like about these videos is that Cassey looks strong and fit; she doesn't look underfed or so cut you know she's counting macros and diet-obsessed. I just feel like she's a really body-positive "trainer" to follow.
I was in the mood for squats, so we did a pretty easy ab video to warm up and then this plie challenge, which is no joke. I was trembling by the end of it.

Saturday: 30 minutes on the max trainer. I was feeling depressed Saturday as I saw friends' 5k posts coming across Facebook and Instagram. I'm just so jealous. I can barely run two miles these days, and a 5k used to be my favorite way to bust out some major speed.
This week on our episode of True Life: I'm a Blogger, I experiment with angsty photos to capture my injured-runner-feels.
Then I got this message from Christine and felt a little better:

Sunday: My flattie accompanied Christine during her half marathon, but the real me rested, had lunch with Matt and Carole,  and spent Mother's Day with my mom.
Christine gave me the full half marathon experience. It's a little weird how happy this made me!
Thank you so much, Christine! I love my Sub 30 family!

ABK