Friday, May 20, 2011


What a week!

I had a laundry list of things to accomplish when this week started and so far, most of them are complete. It finally feels like the summer is coming. I'm in the tunnel and the light is more than just a a small hole at the far end. It's now giving a soft glow, slowly reaching towards me as I reach it. This almost sounds like something a person expecting Judgement Day tomorrow would say, actually. Let's get the facts here guys: We weren't told a specific date by God.

Okay back to the post.

I began the week with the following tasks to do:
1. Enter all birthdays people had bought to put in the student planner
2. Scan all the ads for the student planner & create 5 pages of ads for my department to put in as a shameless plug
3. Submit the entire planner to company to print
4. Turn in all my finals for those taking them in the Learning Center & Lecture Hall
5. Find a place for Prom 2012
6. Find a place for Post-Prom 2012
7. Collect $$ from kids selling candy for class of 2013
8. Go to middle school next door to try and sell birthdays for the student planner (failed, by the way).
9. Grade any leftover items
10. Find a vet
11. Register for Puppy class
12. Finish tallying all of my student work hours and make copies to give to students
13. Submit course to possibly teach this summer
14. Do laundry
15. Bake cookies for students

Yep, lots of things, outside of the ordinary clean, cook, take out trash, etc. Let's just say I have gotten everything done EXCEPT #5 & 6, which are both works in progress.

I made Italian Wedding Cookies for all my students today. Actually, I've made them in batches all week. Always nice to give a little "love" to kids when they are stressed out. We do that with babies & puppies, don't we?

I've been meeting with my Sophomores all week to discuss picking next year's Prom location, now that we finally have a date. One student and I went to visit our current top choice. It felt weird and I always swore I would never have a student in my car, ever. It was the only way though and all went just fine. It was a nice space and hopefully big enough. The lady in charge of the space is VERY nervous about hosting us. Right now I'm hoping that our other 2 possibilities work out better. I think it will still go smoothly but it's best to have all party's involved to go into happy. I recall many a concert where the venue was NOT happy with us doing a gig at their place. It made life difficult.

In other news, we've made a LOT of progress on the Dual Citizenship hunt. Between Mom's investigations (and my prodding) and my contacts, we've found that my great-grandparent's marriage cert DOES indeed exist as does my grandfather's birth cert, both of which I will need to prove citizenship descent. The ONLY missing piece at this point is my great-grandfather's birth cert in Italy. I'm really struggling to find it but I may have uncovered a few details. I'll make a new blog on this mystery soon.

Puppy planning is the other big thing on my to-do list. I still don't know which of the 6 pups in the litter I am getting and had hoped to know by now. I pick the little one up on June 2nd. I've got a car booster seat (cool!). Amy is giving me her dog crate (her dog, by the way, is named Bacon and is my current favorite puppy!). I signed up for puppy training today. The people at PetSmart are so helpful. Plus a former student was there who I had in Law last semester. She said he learned so much and still had all the resume examples I had given her. And that she had gotten the job because of my help. THIS IS WHY I LOVE BEING A TEACHER! I also bought some puppy treats and a few mini tennis balls. In addition, I have a heartbeat pillow, a little toy that you heat up in the microwave to help the dog sleep and a doggie bed and bowls. I'm nearly ready. Last weekend I prepped the bathroom which is where Piccolo (my dog's name means small in Italian) will be starting out and adjusting to new life. I also cleared a corner in my living room to put the doggie bed and toys.

Obviously, my list was mostly school-oriented stuff up above but I'm getting so many other things done. I got my bike turned in to get tuned up prior to Bike the Drive next weekend. I got my oil changed on the car. Got gas for the drive to Chicago for Mandy & Matt's wedding. I did 2 seriously tough turbokick workouts and am still sore.

So there you go. Awesome week. So much done. And so much more to look forward to.

6 more work days (4 with students). Bring ON SUMMER!


Monday, May 16, 2011


Today, Shuttle Endeavor lifted off for its final voyage towards the stars. I made the decision last night to show the launch in my 1st hour class. It took place at 7:56am Central time, just before 1st period began.

I was hesitant because anyone from my generation or older can remember the Challenger explosion. All those classes tuned in to watch the first teacher, Krista McAuliff, soar to space only to explode just seconds into the flight. Nonetheless, I went forward knowing that this was history they may never see and just might remember. The 2nd to last Shuttle to ever orbit the earth. Atlantis will be the last one from this NASA program.

I had just 2 students at the time of the launch. One had never seen a Shuttle launch. The other said he'd seen it on tv before, but I have doubts he had seen the real deal LIVE on tv. It was textbook perfect. Around 8am, the boosters were deployed and just after the announcements concluded for the morning, the main rocket booster had been loosed. At that, I started class and moved on with my day.

A normal day in most ways. Perhaps these kids won't remember. But just maybe they'll think back on those 8 minutes and remember that they were in high school to see one of the last Space Shuttles liftoff. You never know what kids will remember. I'm sure something will stick.

Next week is finals. One of my traditions is one of those things that "stuck" with me from Mr. Haut, my favorite science teacher. He gave every student a sheet of paper to use on the final exam. You could cram as much as you wanted onto it and write really small (not very useful) or just a few key terms you couldn't remember from studying (very useful). I recall using my ever-present color-coded system for chapters, terms and formulas. When it comes to finals, I give my kids that same 1/2 sheet of paper (color coded by class) and let them write on it and use on the final.

So we're down to 10 more school days, 9 with students. I can't believe it is here already. 4 more days teaching/preparing for finals. 4 giving finals. 1 cleaning my room and 1 just wrapping up the year with whatever I hadn't already completed.

Liftoff to summer in (days) 15..14..13...12.........

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Crossing the Finish Line

Another big weekend in the books for 2011!

I spent the better part of Saturday morning on 1st street prepping for the 10k race and part of the Illinois Marathon race events. It was my 1st 10k and I have been training since February! I posted many months ago that I was going to challenge myself to get fit now that I'd had a successful surgery back on Dec. 30th. As I drove toward the race I caught the National Anthem on the radio which signaled the start to the festivities and the beginning of the wheelchair race.

The walk to the starting line from where I parked was pretty chilly. It was about an eight minute walk as it turned out. I didn't park where I had planned (at the iHotel) and pulled into the first parking lot I saw still had tons of spots. Turned out I didn't focus enough on where I parked because it took some time after the race to figure out exactly which brown brick building I had parked near of all the identical buildings in the Research Park area on 1st.

I jumped, stretched and pumped myself up for about 20 minutes while waiting for the GO! signal. I'd been cold at one of the last Shamrock Shuffle 8k's I ran and felt really tight as I ran that race. I was doing all I could to stay warm. The half marathoners were lined up behind us and the marathon runners behind them. It definitely felt weird being at the front of the line! I'm used to being near the back. The announcer told us to high-five our neighbors and with a final good luck to the guy in the orange shirt next to me and a high-five we then turned towards the starting banner and mentally began the countdown...

When the GO! signal was given, I headed out telling myself, "don't go out too fast! Pace yourself!" I say this every race and I have been fairly good the last 2 races I ran to heed this advice. I thought I was doing well at the start because everyone, and I do mean everyone, was passing me up! After noticing the large numbers of people whipping past me looking confident, I began to feel my body's motion. I felt my legs, the feel of the road and then checked the iphone I was running with to see what my pace was (10:13?!?!!!). Wait, was that correct? Yup, I was running WAAAAY to fast. Despite the runners blazing trails past me, I was still motoring. I hit the 1 mile mark just over 10 minutes into the race and a few feet later got a lovely cramp in my right side just below my ribs.

Darn it! I wanted to prove I could run the whole darn race. That was now out of the question since I knew I had to walk if I wanted get back on track in this race. With 5 miles to go, I gave myself a 3 minute walk, massaging my side to help it along (that probably did nothing but it mentally made me think I was doing something helpful since I couldn't be running).

I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason and I think that cramp was one of those things. As a result, I spotted some runners near me who were going about the same pace as I was. One was a gentleman in his 50's with a blue race shirt and a yellow headband. The other a girl in a pink shirt that had a cute running saying on it (which I never got around to reading!) And so it was, for the next 5 miles, I kept those two folks in my sight and ran.

For the most part, I ran all 5 miles. There were a few hills and I decided that I'd walk barely slower than I would running up the inclines so I walked up the hills. I was a bit embarrassed on the hill just after the turn from Armory (which had the biggest uphill climb of the race) and then south onto Prospect which had traffic stopped. Here I am walking, with about 1 mile to go, past cars of people who were probably watching us as we ran past. It was enough to get me to motor up the legs again and keep pushing.

We neared U of IL's Memorial Stadium and my thighs and calves were burning. I was ready to complete the race but just wasn't quite there yet. We turned in towards the Stadium and just before we hit the tunnel leading into it I decided to sprint. It was about .1 mile and I knew I could do it. I wanted to make an entrance. Who wouldn't? As a swimmer, I was always great at finding a few drops left in the tank to push myself as hard as possible and finish strong. I used that same method to complete this race.

I finished in 1 hour, 11 minutes and 57 seconds. The only other time I had gone the full 6.2 miles was the weekend before, on a glorious afternoon along Chicago's lakefront and on that occasion I had gone 1 hour, 20 minutes, barely able to run much of the last mile. I was so proud of this race. And it really, really was a big accomplishment.

It was also an accomplishment to come home, grab a 2 hour nap and then sit in a car for 2 hours as I drove up to Chicago! I had stretched dozens of times since running the race but getting out of that car was tough. As my Dad, who has run 5 marathons, said to me, it's got nothing to do with stretching - it's lactic acid. Yup, it sure was. Painful but such a great feeling. It is your body saying "thank you for pushing me." I actually wanted to run a long run again today. Yes!

My weekend ended with a lovely shower for my little sister. She will always be my little sister, although as adults I feel like we are equal in age. It is great to see her happy and to imagine how much her life is going to change with a baby girl in the house in just a matter of weeks. Baby Sip got so many great gifts and I think Momma was really touched. She's going to be a great mom!

By the way, sorry for being away from this place for so many days! Lots of fundraising and meetings with my Sophomores, a Banquet for my Coop students, another Banquet for Rotary which sponsors awards for some of our Business students and finally Prom this weekend which I work with my Sophomores. I'll be back soon with news on my new family addition, a puppy.

Enjoy May guys! It will be cold here tonight but warmth is on the weather forecast for the weekend. Bring on Summer. 28 Days away!