AAAANNNNDDDDD...it's that time of year again!

AAAANNNNDDDDD...it's that time of year again!  We're teachers and we're doing last minute grading and report carding.  The end of the school year always means one more thing for me as well:  PACKING.  Every year brings a new school, a new classroom, and a new grade.  So into boxes goes all of my "stuff".

What are you up to, and how do you grade yourself on all of your responsibilities lately?


the power of green and gold

as wisconsinites, we are so proud.

even my husband, who usually doesn't get into my television shows, was a freak about watching, and voting for, DONALD DRIVER, GREEN BAY PACKER WIDE RECEIVER dance.


as we bit our nails waiting for the final results, my husband beat himself up about not calling in to vote on monday night.  i told him, "you know, if he doesn't win, it's on your shoulders."  he didn't look away from the tv.  he didn't flinch.  "i know," he said, as serious as could be.

aye aye aye.

we may not have gotten this last year,

but we now we have this.


cowbells, hand sanitizer and roller coasters

in elementary school, i was always the last to finish the mile run.

in middle school, i ran on my own (for "fun", and to stay slim), but was still pretty slow.

in high school, i ran once in a while, on my own, and continued my pokey pace. 

in college, i forced myself to jog once in a while (to work off the beer i drank).  (especially during the months i studied abroad in england.)

after having my first child, i trained for my first half marathon to lose the baby weight.  and then another after my second child.  plus a full marathon in between having my second and my third.

over the years, got my pace down to about 8 and a half minute miles.  awesome for me, considering i ran 11 minute miles after my first child was born.

and yesterday i ran in a half marathon (the cellcom in green bay, wisconsin) to lose my third pregnancy's weight. 

(i still have 6-8 pounds to go and a bunch of flab to tighten up.  anyone know how to do that? p90x? 
yeah, yeah, yeah...but i'd rather do something that takes less than 1 1/2 hours per day!)

yesterday was hot, hot, hot.  i didn't train the way i needed to, and was a bit panicked about how i'd do.  luckily, i did a lot better than i thought i'd do. (not just time-wise, but with less pain (until i got out of bed this morning--yow!), less panic, and i enjoyed it.) i expected my time to be between 10 1/2 minute and 11 minute miles, but ran at a 10:04 minute pace.  i finished in 2 hours, 14 minutes.

ten minutes after i crossed the finish line, they CANCELLED the marathon due to extreme heat.

temps were in the upper 80s and many runners had collapsed on the side of the road.  apparently hospitals ran out of ambulances.  the two hospitals in the area were full of runners.  ambulances were running 25 mintues behind, meaning if one was needed, they wouldn't respond until well after the call came in.

the race was well organized, and had planned for the forecasted hot weather.  water and gatorade stations were well staffed and full of fluid.  cups of ice were offered, as were packets of goo, oranges and bananas.  many families in the neighborhoods on the route put up sprinklers for us (i was incredibly grateful). 

but it was still just too hot for many.

before the drama of heavy heat hit, i stood at the start line with a friend. in the minutes before the starting gun was fired, we shared inspirational quotes we'd heard:  "pain is temporary.  pride lasts forever."  "pain is weakness leaving your body."  and of course, some of our favorites from past races (oh, the memories...):

once,  after using an icky porta potty--one without hand sanitizer--i ran the rest of the race hoping to see my husband, and hoping he had some on him.  you know, something all husbands toting two small boys should carry.  when i saw him, he didn't. (my friends were pretty sick of me griping about my germy hands by the time we crossed the finish line.)


during that same race, my one friend fell in love with all the cowbells we heard along the way.  she kept yelling, "more cowbell!" at everyone.  little did we know this was already an actual saying and funny clip.  view it here for a laugh.

the other friend commented, after going up hills and down hills and around corners, "this route is like a roller coaster for my feet!"

well, after that, we decided we should get t-shirts made with our running sayings. (i was ecstatic that mine would showcase what a germ-freak i was....(not!))

the best sayings i found yesterday were from some of the signs people held up for the runners: 

"pain now, beer later."

"my husband is quick. isn't that what you wanted me to say, hun?"

"i'm proud of you, perfect stranger."

"if brittany spears can make it through 2007, you can make it through this race."

heroic runners from yesterday: the older men behind us today were chatting about how they came in to wisconsin just for the cellcom because they'd been in a different state, doing a different marathon (full) the day before.  they were doing the 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days. (wowza!)

heated emotions:  while i would have chosen to quit at the half mara point, even if i'd signed up for the full (due to the heavy heat), i know that my body was handling the heat better than others.

i feel for the runners who'd trained hard and were ready to run it through to the end, regardless of the heat. 
i feel for the runners who came to wisconsin just for the race, especially those with lofty goals (like the two gentlemen i mentioned) who may have had to let go of those goals due to the heat and the decision the marathon officials made. 
(don't get me wrong, i think the officials made the right call.)
safety first. 
i also feel for all those who collapsed and were hospitalized.  and for those attending to their medical needs. 
it takes a lot of great people to put on a marathon!

while i ran with my friend for about two miles today, the rest of the time i was on my own.
my first solo race!
it was my first half marthon by myself. 
i was readier than i thought. i did better than i expected.  and i enjoyed running by myself when i thought i'd freak out and panic. 
i bought new earbuds for the race, and even though i accidentally bought the ones that were $40 and not $20, they were worth it! 
me and music made it through.

i missed my dad. 
due to a recenty hip replacement, he wasn't able to come to cheer me on.  while  he wasn't there physically, i knew he was there in spirit.   he was the one who got me running in the first place, and he was my first running partner.  we ran our last half marathon together in 2009.

just before his surgery, doctors commented how bad his hip was due to arthriti,s and they couldn't believe he ran marathons with how deteriorated it was--especially since his x-rays in 2008 looked atrocious, yet he was running into last year! 

i can't imagine the pain he went through to keep running the past four years, and to run those races with me.  i know i will always, always think of him when i run, and a part of me will run for as long as i can for him.  those training runs and races we did together will always be dear memories for me.
so, nope. the heat didn't affect me at all.  except maybe the four or five times i swore i saw brett favre on the sidewalk clapping for the runners....

oh, and i leave you with this cool thing:  if you run races, you can go to www.athlinks.com and type in your name and find all offical races you've been in along with your offical times.  very cool.  i'd lost track of what i'd run, and now i can find those races and the results so i can look back at my progress over the years!

off to get a colder ice pack!


when rejection gets you down...

rejection comes in many forms:

a rude comment,
a nasty look,
a shared murmer a midst a group
                    that you are  not a part of,
a polite, impersonal letter
                    or email
not being given a second chance
                     and the opportunity
                                  to improve,

but at least these are private wounds
                     that only one or few know about.

then we can escape, wallow, and lick our cuts and scrapes alone and move on without wondering who's watching, who noticed, and without trying to prove ourselves to anyone who cares to judge, criticize, and, sadly, watch us fail again.

as aspiring authors (for my unagented, unpublished friends), we are not only preparing our writing for better sentences, better story lines, and better characters, we are also in preparation of receiving, digesting, and bearing public rejection.

moving past a hugely populated crowd of eyes can be much tougher, so therefore, we must be tougher as well.

however, whether it's private or public scrutiny, we must take it in, let it become part of us, toughen us up, and move on from it.  BUT we can't let it harden us into stone. we should only become hard enough that we can learn from it, and become that BETTER we are striving for.  we can't be so rigid that we can't change and grow.

when rejected, time after time, we must put aside whatever fear we have of improving, and of trying again.  we, first and foremost, have to hold the belief that we can do better, that we deserve the chance to fail again and the opportunity to become that better self, better teacher, better mother, better neighbor, better writer.

take time to learn the graceful way to accept rejection.

take the time to learn how to hold the rock of rejection in the palm of your hand for a few seconds, to feel its cold, hard edges, before crushing it into grains of sand.  take the time to read each grain, to figure out the why of them, the pain of them as they flow through your fingers.

take the time to heal.

take the time to walk over them and past them.

take the time to enjoy:

pats on the back,
congratulatory letters
                         and emails,
raving reviews,

even though pebbles, rocks and boulders may rain down on you again a time or two.

be graceful.
be better.
be deserving.
be you.
because you want to and because you can.

you can do it.
i believe in me, and i believe in you.

do you?


The Cover Heard 'Round the World

So, I'm sure most of you saw last week's Time Magazine cover photo of the mom breastfeeding her almost-4-year-old child.

I'm not going to talk about that.

Instead, I want to talk a little about the caption next to the picture. It screamed out in giant letters:


My first thought was "Oh no, they didn't!" My second thought was "Holy crap, they did."

What, exactly, does "enough" mean? It means something different to everyone and at the same time, it means nothing. Consider these statements:

1. Anyone who's bullied on the playground isn't cool enough.

2. The kid who got a C on his project didn't try hard enough.

3. The boy picked last (or second, for that matter) for kickball team isn't athletic enough.

4. The girl who was raped didn't fight hard enough.

5. If you don't write a chapter a day, you aren't enough of a real writer to make it.

6. When you want a moment alone, you don't love your family enough.

7. People living in poverty aren't smart enough.

Am I Mom enough? Woman enough? Wife enough? Teacher enough? Athletic enough? Pretty enough? Smart enough? Funny enough?

Yes. No. Maybe?

See what I mean? Any question that includes the word enough is impossible to answer. Only one thing about TCHRtW really pissed me off and it was that. What about you?



Happy (insert word of choice here) Day!

I started out this morning with the intention of talking a bit about the history of Mother's Day. That it started out as a religious celebration, then a call for peace from too many moms who watched their sons die in battle, then became one woman's quest to honor her mother and ours.

Then the card and candy and flower companies took over. Apparently the rich love their moms more than the poor do. yes, I'm being sarcastic

So, forget that post. Instead, let me talk about being thankful - which may or may not have anything to do with Mother's Day. Feel free to add anything you're thankful for today in the comments section (and please do!).

~ I have to start with my kids, of course. Zachary is 11 and Jacob will be 6 at the end of the month. They make me laugh and cry and shout and yell and feel alive every day of my life. Today they made me peanut butter toast, yogurt, and apples and blueberries for breakfast all by themselves. I am so lucky to be their mom.

~ To my father's parents: his mom at parts of her life worked as a stay-at-home mom, a shoe-factory worker, a cheese-factory worker, a farm hand, and a school cook. My grandpa was a police officer. They raised four sons and two daughters. My grandfather passed away a year ago today and my grandmother still lives in her own home.

~To my mother's parents: her mom was a beautician who opened her own shop in a small room of their home (which my aunt still owns and runs) and my grandfather was a mechanic. They raised 11 children (2 from my grandma's first marriage and 9 together) - if they had stopped at a more sane number of children, like say 7, I would not be here.

~ For all of my "surrogate" moms out there. With so many aunts and uncles - and cousins!-, it would be easy to get lost in the shuffle, but so many of them took great care of my sister and I, I've always felt loved and protected. A special shout-out to my mom's twin sister, who never had children yet never forgets me or my kids on our birthdays and Christmas. And to my own sister, who will never have children (by choice), but still cares for many.

~ To my children's grandparents. They are so lucky to have a beautiful connection with both sets. Even when I'm completely exasperated with my boys, they know *somebody* out there loves them. ;)

~ To all of the adoptive parents, both those that have their children and those on waiting lists. It is a long, difficult process and my heart and thanks goes out to all of you. Without adoption, there would be a lot of lost children out there.

~ To the babies who didn't make it to term. As parents, we grieve for these losses, yet are forever changed by our children we never got to meet.

~ To the trees and the flowers and the dirt and the plants. Spring is here and through it, we can all experience the miracles of life. (and for those of you in the other hemisphere - fall is a reminder that spring is coming. or at least those of us with a short growing season like to think of it that way!)

~ Since both of us are teachers as well as moms, I can't forget to be thankful for all the second-moms in my kids' lives who have no biological connection to them at all. Babysitters, daycare providers, teachers - you helped raise my kids and I will forever appreciate it.




Perhaps the red-winged blackbird in this photo looks beautiful to you.  However, when I look at him, I see this:

And this. (Click the link at your own risk.)  (Okay, those might not really be red-winged blackbirds, but still.  That's not the point.  The point is, that's how I feel about birds.  All of them.)

It is safe to say I loathe the red-winged black bird.   

For the previous two years, one horrid little male red-winged blackbird has chosen to settle down with his family (ahem, families, apparently these fellas like to have about five lady friends) in a tree (two years ago) and a tall bush (last year) outside the school where I teach.  Every morning, noon and night that someone attempted to come or go, the thing attacked.  Two years ago, our principal had "specialists" come and remove one of its nests.  Last year, I arrived to work and left work in fear.  It would sit on the power lines that bordered the parking lot and wait.  It waited for us to try to make it to our car.  It dove.  It hissed.  It pecked.  That's right.  It pecked at the glasses our kindergarten teacher had on her head.  It's wings flapped at mine one day.  Well, it swooped and hissed and threw a mad fit every day.  Every day.  But it only made contact with my head once.  I shiver now just remembering it.

I lived in fear.

This year, it doesn't matter that he relocated.  Every morning, I yelp and swear under my breath as I run into the building, cursing at the innocently tweeting birds in the trees of the park behind me.  No bird can convince me they are lovely signs of spring and summer.

Two weeks ago, I took a jog outside.  Guess what was waiting for me on some power lines?  You betcha (Yes, I live in Wisconsin.).  One of those horrid creatures.  He dove.  He swooped.  I trudged through a ditch and ran on the gravelly shoulder of the highway instead of along the path that held his precious eggs.  That's right.  I'd rather get hit by a car than pecked by a bird.

I think I decreased my running pace by half for the remainder of that run.

Now I run on my treadmill.

To learn more about this bird, in friendly, non-biased report, go here.

To learn more about how this bird attacked pedestrians and bikers in Chicago, go here. It's an article published in The Telegraph in 2008, entitled Blackbirds Dive-bombing Chicago Residents.
Also in 2008, an article about attacking red-winged blackbirds was published on Suite101.com. Read it here.  Although the author writes they are not truly dangerous and tries to pacify me by telling me these birds eat weed seeds and insects, I'm not buying it.  As if I care!!!  The weeds that grow faster than I can pluck their thorny little stems don't try to peck holes into my skull!   Mosquitoes may be one of the most annoying things on my list of "Things That Annoy Me About Wisconsin Summers", but they do not keep me on a treadmill for fear of running on the path outside my neighborhood!

I can only pray that the thousands of runners accompanying me in my half-marathon in two weeks will deter any territorial birds from swooping at my head while I run. 

Although, it might help my time....


Love vs. Hate vs. Flab

I, Erica, do not exercise. Every once in awhile I do a few miles on the treadmill or maybe 50 30 25 situps or *cough* part-of *cough* Jillian Michaels 30-day Shred (God, I hate that woman) and then I talk about it for the next several weeks as if I exercised yesterday. (and if you don't have time to read this whole thing, do yourself a favor and skip forward to my last link of a YouTube video you don't want to miss)

But this week I really did exercise! I'm so proud of myself! My time to distance ratios are laughable to hard-core exercisers like Christy (who's in a half-marathon next week only 4.5 months after giving birth!), but I did it! Yesterday I even went on my treadmill (apparently we had summer back in March here in WI and are having spring now - it hasn't stopped raining for like 6 days) for an hour and a half!! And I wrote two chapters this weekend! YAY ME!!!

The whole time on the treadmill, I imagined myself looking like this:

When I probably looked more like this:

And seriously, people. What is it with Google Images that I type in "sweaty woman running on a treadmill" and I get this as a hit:

Or this:

This is the moment I beg of you not to type in "fat women exercising" to Google Images unless you're truly prepared. Let's just say it simultaneously inspired me (the ones who were exercising) and disgusted me (the ones who thought it would be fun to take and post pictures of their, um, various areas of perspiration...).

If you've stuck with me this far, you get to know how long and far I went. 91:47 and 5.35 miles (including warm-up and cool-down). Not bad for a non-exerciser who turns 37 years young next month, if I do say so myself (and I do). Yes, I'll give an update when I'm proud enough to say I'm an actual, real EXERCISER and get that dang time:distance ration down!

This is what I watched while I walked. I'm now not only more physically fit, but way more worldly. Watch it, you'll be so happy you did!! (disclaimer: there's a graphic death of a cow around minute 60. If you're squeamish or a staunch vegetarian/vegan, you may want to fast-forward a bit when you see the white cow in the stall. Even though I'm married to a beef farmer, I prefer not to think about that part of the process. myself) (btw, I've also heard you can rent this video on netflix):

What have you done to change your life for the better today?
If your answer is "nothing", you really need to watch the last minute of this documentary!


happy belated birthday

in honor of the late audrey hepburn's birthday, and the kentucky derby, please enjoy the following snippet from the film my fair lady.

happy sunday to you all.


hello again, friends!

Thanks for visiting us on our second day back!  Many of you took on the challenge of writing daily, doing the whole A-Z thang and congrats to you all!  We bailed on that this year in order to get through life with emptier plates, to write more, and read more, and other things that didn't really happen as much as we'd planned/hoped.

One of the projects we devoted some of our unblogging time to was writing away at our co-novel, currently titled The Text Message, TTM for short.  Whether or not it ever becomes the HUGE hit we envision it becoming, it's a great, GREAT even, experience.  I strongly suggest each of you give co-writing a try one day.  I love passing every other chapter back and forth, waiting to see where the other takes the story, the characters.  The novel also gets written twice as fast...!

We are on page 74, with 23,000 words.

Here are a few of those words:

About ten minutes after I discovered the house had three - yes, three - toilets with at least a flush in each, I found the best part this whole messed-up situation could possibly offer.

At this point, I fear for civilian safety, should this thing ever manifest itself globally.
They have moved ahead with their plan, despite my many reservations.

I listened to him hum some weird tune until I pulled into a cafĂ© slash bakery just outside of town.  It was called Milk and Cookies, but it had a coffee mug and loaf of French bread pictured on the sign.  It seemed perfectly imperfect for a meeting with a Goon wearing mouse ears. 

Let's just say it was good that I'd already used one of the toilets or it would've been messy.


Is This Thing On? (aka Happy May Day)

It's officially our WE'RE BACK day!!

Except, well, um. Here's some flowers. (be back soon, we promise! once the two of us connect and make plans) (and get through soccer and baseball and school and running and writing and reading and. . .) (and btw, what happened to the dashboard? I'm lost!!)