Friday, June 21, 2013

Operation Beast Mode, Minus One Foot

Ugly Truth Moment: I have been gym-stalking someone.  There is a lady at my local gym that has what I consider to be an ideal lean fit body.  She is a mother about my age, looks strong, obviously follows a strict diet and remains completely focused during her workout sessions.  How do I know this?  Like I said, I've paid close attention.  This woman and I have never met, never spoken to each other, nor have we ever exchanged a polite salutation.  Yet, somehow she always seems to be at the gym at the same time I show up (no, that was not planned) and she always kicks ass in her workouts.  Sometimes I think she looks good just to piss me off.  For months, I have used her as my visual motivation for getting to my own fitness goals.  Don't judge...we all do this but don't admit it.  We all have someone we admire from afar.  We think that if we followed their methods and discipline, then maybe we could get to their level of fitness.  She does not know me from Adam, but one day I will walk right up to her and tell her how much she has inspired me on many occasions to get my butt in gear.  Lets hope she does not run away screaming "stranger danger"!

Today's workout started like many others.  I hopped onto my cardio machine of choice and then moved on to the weights area.  I was dragging and not feeling especially peppy when I spotted her.  She was in her own world with a singular focus of perfectly executing her reps.  She was not fussing with her music player like I was. She was not tugging at her ill-fitting clothes like I was.  Her only interest appeared to be the free weight in front of her at that moment.  So simple, yet when I am at the gym working out I let my mind wonder to so many other counterproductive thoughts.  Why is it so crowded?  What playlist should I choose?  How much longer before I can leave?  If I blocked out those thoughts, maybe my head would have more room to consider ways to get me to my dream physique.

One of the things distracting me during my workout today is my impending foot surgery.  It's not by any means glamorous and I don't like admitting it, but the bunion on my right foot cannot be ignored any longer.  Believe me, I have tried.  That stubborn issue is more annoying than it is painful.  You just can't run away from foot pain.  It gets in the way of every freakin' thing I want to do.  I do not want to have surgery and I am open to hearing about any other nonsurgical options that will allow me to keep running.  This is happening at such an inopportune time because racing season is coming up.  My podiatrist is a marathoner, so he understands the need to get my training started for the upcoming season.  Normally we start with basic mileage in mid to late July and add on a little each week until we are battling 20-milers by the time the temps cool down in late fall.  But six to eight weeks of post-surgery recovery is a scary thing for someone needing to ramp up their mileage during that time.  Eight weeks off would set me back tremendously.  If I have my foot surgery now, it will be late September before am I back out on the running trails.  This means any fall races are out of the question, forcing me to chose races in January or later.

The so-so good news my doctor gave me was that I could swim to my heart's content during the recovery period.  At least my cardio health can remain in tact.  As my foot gets better, I also plan to ease my way back into the weight room and do whatever strength training I can.  Running will be out of the question, but I plan to squeeze in anything else he tells me I can do.  There is no way I am going to let Miss Ideal-Gym-Body-Chic get even further ahead of me in the fitness department.  Even if I have to follow the cleanest eating I have ever done, I do not intend to just lay around and lose the little bit of strength I do have.  If nothing else, my internal organs will be in super shape no matter what my outer self looks like.  I am going to need something to make me feel better while icky stitches are holding my foot together.  Boy, I sure hope orthopedic shoes become stylish sometime soon.  Looks like they might become a staple for my outfits in the near future.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day Reflection

These days you hear so much about fathers being absent from the family picture for various reasons.  The 3D's...divorce, death, and "dead-beat-ism"...are sometimes the reasons to blame.  However, I've never been able to relate to this problem.  My entire life, I have been surrounded by some wonderful fathers that continue to be a blessing in my world to this very day.  My father and my stepfather both influenced me at different stages in my development, all in preparation for the day I would find myself united in marriage to yet another great father- my husband.  The most amazing fact of this story is that neither of these incredible men were raised in the presence of their own biological fathers.  They had no fatherly examples to learn from.  Though they were raised in different towns, within different family dynamics, they all shared a common bond of being the forgotten kids, raised well in spite of the absence of their own fathers.  It is at this time of the year especially that my heart breaks for the little boys they once were, wishing longingly for a paternal connection that would never be.

The older I get, the more I look, act and sound like my mom.  If I dig deep enough into old family photographs, surely I would find that my resemblance to her at my current 40+ age would be uncanny.  Now in her 60s, I appreciate my mother for everything she is and everything she ever did for me.  That being said, I am sure she would nod her head in agreement that I was always a daddy's girl.  While many dads suffered missteps and inconsistencies, my dad always seemed to get it right.  Although he was content as a blue collar guy, my dad was the smartest man I knew growing up.  His and my mom's work schedules were staggered, so that he was the parent at home in the mornings to do the breakfast/hair combing/school drop off routine.  This man took hair combing so seriously that my sister and I often had to sit through a couple of re-do sessions each morning before he felt our tight little ponytails were presentable enough to be seen in public.  The next time you see a childhood photo of me, take time to notice the super straight center part in my hair and how the skin on my forehead is pulled so tight that I look like I've had a pre-teen face lift.

Each morning our little girly outfits were always pressed perfectly, our hair and faces were always clean and our homework was always double-checked.  It was a team effort between my dad and mom, but my dad somehow figured out his half of the parenting with mostly on the job training.  Both his dad and mom were out of the picture during his formative years and he was raised by his grandmother.  He was no angel and was predicted by many members of his extended family to be the one most likely to end up in jail because of his streetwise habits as a hotheaded teenager.  In the 1940s and 50s, his father was a sharp dressing playboy and my dad wasn't his only child left behind as a result of his exploits.  He often told me stories of days he would sit on his grandmother's front porch waiting for his dad to come pick him up for promised father-son fishing trips that never happened.  I have one really old black and white photo of my dad when he was a bright eyed 5 year-old, and I still have trouble understanding how any parent could have left that sweet little boy behind.  In spite of this rough start, my dad eventually matured into a fun-loving, yet strict and fiercely protective father of two little girls that looked up to him like a hero.

My stepdad's childhood was much different because although his biological father did not raise him, he did have a stepfather.  However, he mostly raised himself.  I refer to my stepdad lovingly as somewhat of a brainiac.  He was incredibly intelligent as a child, so he breezed through school and was off to college at a very young age.  Being on your own so young, you might expect him to be lacking in understanding the sensitive needs of young children.  However, this man has been the most nurturing and loving grandfather to my own kids that anyone could ever hope for.  My boys are still too young to understand the complete dynamic of my parents' divorce and subsequent second marriages, so my stepdad (their "pappa") might as well be their flesh and blood grandfather.  The genuine family ties bonding them together are that strong.

My hubby's childhood story is similar to my dad's in the fact that his biological father was a good looking rolling stone, that romanced many women and left behind many children.  We believe that my husband is the oldest known child of his, although the extent of that story many never be fully understood.  My hubby's childhood was rough already because he was sickly child, whose teen mother and hardworking grandmother raised him and loved him the best they could.  Because of his illness, he was forced to grow up faster than other kids and deal with mature issues that stole his innocent outlook on life at a time when he should have been more carefree.  With no exaggeration or sarcasm in this declaration, my husband is hands down the best father I have ever known.  I continuously scratch my head on this one, because my husband should be a very emotionally damaged individual considering some of the hurdles he's had to overcome.  Yes, I am slightly biased because I am in love with the guy, but I could not dream up a more dedicated father to my sons.  My boys look up to their dad like he is superhuman and I hold no jealously toward their undeniable admiration of him.

How is it possible that these three men from different walks of life could survive different levels of absenteeism from their own fathers to become awesome father figures in their own right?  Did God have the end result already in mind when he set each of these little boys on their fatherless journeys?  How did my three fathers turn out okay when so many others continue to lose their way?  If I understood the answers to these questions, I would bottle the winning formula and sell it to every family I could touch.  These men have done nothing extraordinary to be outstanding fathers.  They have simply been present and active in their families and shown them love unconditionally.  They have recreated their legacy to be one of strength and support, leaving me hopeful that history not only won't repeat itself, but will hopefully teach important lessons about family and the ties that bond.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

My Summer Non-Vacation Vacation

My summer "vacation" is finally here, but in name only.  I actually have more work to do this summer than I can remember in recent years.  So far, I've had exactly one weekend off and I am staring at my calendar for the next couple of months in disbelief.  When did all these deadlines pop-up on my calendar?  Where did all these meetings come from?  When did I agree to lead training sessions?  Something is wrong with this picture when your so-called vacation is busier than your actual time on the clock.  But who the heck am I  to complain, because most of the stuff coming up includes projects that I begged for my school district to start for the longest time.  As I have mentioned before in a previous post, we were lagging behind in the "new  ideas" and "progress" departments at my job.  Thankfully this is changing, and not slowly, but more rapidly than even I could have imagined.  We are testing out new applications, new hardware, new methods of sharing information and it is all way cool.  For once we are not watching the other guys get all the shiny new toys.  We are the guys questioning and leading the way to the next big thing.

Aside from the ongoing personnel additions, my first big calendar event will be the ISTE conference in two weeks.  ISTE stands for the International Society for Technology in Education.  If you are unfamiliar with ISTE, this is the big mama summer conference for all things EdTech (educational technology).  I have never been because the host city is usually somewhere too expensive for me to afford even a cheap plane ticket.  This year the host city is San Antonio, so a three-hour drive up the highway is nothing compared to the knowledge and exposure to new ideas I hope to gain.  I also had to pay for the registration for this conference out of my own pocket.  This may not sound like a big deal, but my district doles out tons of money each summer for various individuals to attend staff development conferences.  You pretty much just have to find a conference worthy of attention and then very sweetly ask for your campus or district superior to foot the bill.  The response is usually a quick yes on the condition that you use whatever training you receive at your chosen conference to come back to your campus and train others.

Because I accepted a new position a couple of months ago, I could not ask my old boss to pay for my ISTE registration, nor could I march right up to my new boss to ask the same thing.  Call it stupid pride, but I just paid for the whole damn thing myself to avoid any awkward moments.  Maybe that is the reason why I have such a vested interest in this trip because it is 100% mine.  It is totally for my own self improvement, very much in the same way the yoga conference, clean eating seminars and running trips have been for my own growth and enjoyment.  I did those things because I intrinsically recognized something I could gain personally and not because someone else thought it would be a good fit for me.  I will be able to sit in on sessions from experts in my personal learning network, as well as sit in on meetings about the latest and greatest product trends on the market.

Also on the calendar is my Google certification exam.  Everything I know about Google Apps for Education has been self-taught, as is everything else I know about instructional technology.  Yes, I have my masters on the topic, but that degree was earned 10 years ago.  Anything in regards to technology from a decade ago might as well have been a century ago because things change so quickly in this field.  I have stayed up to date by following expert blogs and tech reviews and being just plain curious whenever new things hit the market.  Thank goodness for the openness of information in technology these days or I would be at a loss as an educator.  The training modules are online and I can study at my own pace.  The overall goal is to get it done this summer, while I supposedly have more free time to do it. Yeah, right.  Free time is not in the cards for me this summer.  Any other free hours will be spent with my guys, kicking back for some family time.  A weekend trip here and there will be squeezed in between the various home improvement projects we still have going on.  An occasional trip to the neighborhood pool will be arranged just to remind my kids that, yes, it actually is summer vacation after all.  Throw in a couple of popsicles and we will be alright.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Feeling Brand New

My habit of apologizing for being away from this blog too long has to stop.  I will be more consistent.  Believe it or not, I miss it when I don't regularly connect with others through this forum.  This time, like the other times, my absence was directly related to activities at work.  Things have shifted tremendously at work, for the better, and I am more psyched than my nerdy girl heart can handle.  First, I accepted a new position, in a new building, which has a newer design model to be better suited to a newer vision we are following.  By trade, I am an instructional technology specialist in a large school district.  By nature, I am an all around geek.  You know those hopeless nerds that read tech reviews for fun?  Yep, that's me.  I have not one, but two big tech conferences coming in the next few months and I can't wait.  Right now, I am loving my job, but it has not always been that way.

Although I got into the field because of my combined love of techie tools and working with kids, recent years kept me from enjoying both.  The focus of my job was distorted by other demands that made me feel more like a 24/7 desktop repair guy instead of a certified educational specialist.  That is changing rapidly because my district is adjusting it's vision to more 21st century methods of instruction.  It includes such an extensive list of changes that I my fingers would be numb by the time I typed it all out here.  The most gratifying of all the changes will be the addition of new personnel.  Two years ago, my department suffered major cuts and several talented team members were let go as a result.  Their absence was felt immediately, first because we were a very tight knit supportive group and second because others had to take up the workload that was left behind.  We'd lost our friends and it hurt.  We felt like chumps having to go back to our campuses and fake enthusiasm for improvements that just were not happening.

Another reason my love for my job was waning was because we were stagnant.  To be the technology leaders in our district, we were not doing anything very innovative.  Budget issues, "old school" thinking and fear of the unknown helped create the collective stall in which we found our department.  This was the result of several interwoven undesirable factors, most of which have now been cleared from our playing field.  Now it feels like we have opened our eyes from a long slumber and are energized to take on the world.  We feel relevant again and being experts in our EdTech field (educational technology) is suddenly cool again.  Being the nerdy computer geek in the room is now the sought after status.  There are the promises of new tech toys, better applications and a vision befitting the group of innovators we hope to become.  I personally plan to go after a few choice certifications and add some new skills to my own EdTech toolbox during the summer break.  Doing what I do is fun again and I find myself eager to get to work to share with my staff all the new tricks I have learned.

The home front has been going through some changes as well.  The hubby and I are knee deep into a major remodeling project that may span several months.  The extended time frame is due to funds, not the scale of the job.  I am not ashamed to say the new floors, the new paint and the new kitchen are being added one at a time so we can afford each addition in small chunks.  It feels like our house has been under construction for  months, but I will be thrilled to see the finished results.  All of these changes and improvements even inspired me to get off my butt and start back running.  I took a break a couple of months ago because I was suffering from good old fashioned burnout.  Running is a purely therapeutic escape for me.  I am not competitive or very serious about it, but I do love it.  When it stops being fun, I stop the running and take a break.  The problem is, when this self-imposed break is over, I have to start over with my training as if I am a newbie runner and the process is painful.  Painful yes, but not at all impossible.

I've had the pleasure of sitting on the interview panel that is screening the new instructional technology specialists for my district.  These individuals,young and not so young, are full of energy and fresh ideas.  They are ready to start their next chapter in life and it has the old seasoned veteran in me pumped to get things underway.  I am going to try my hardest to allow that enthusiasm to spill over into my running this season.  If an old nerdy girl can learn a few tricks, then surely the runner inside her can learn a few as well.  For one of the first times in my life, I feel that change is good and I am going to take it for all it is worth.  If I make it through these changes unscathed, then maybe I can call on this experience to get myself through whatever hurdles are still yet to come.  After all, I now understand that nothing lasts forever, not the bad or the good.