Sunday, February 26, 2012

Why I Don't Like Letters of Reference

I recently asked my principal to write a letter of reference for me. She said I should write the meat of the letter so it applies to the program I am looking for and then she would add the introduction and conclusion. So I asked a colleague for help because he has successfully applied for these same programs in the past. Reading his letter, which I know he wrote, it's mostly lies. It talks about him being innovative, says he is diligent with students with disabilities, and he has an enviable reputation as an excellent teacher who truly cares about his students and teachers.

I'm not saying he's a bad teacher. He definitely gets the scores he needs and students do seem to like him even though he's very strict. That's definitely a good thing. On the other hand he is quick to judge and write off many of our students. He never volunteers to help out another teacher. He actually has a reputation of being a bit of a turd, excuse my language.

I just think it's lame that I may not exaggerate myself enough to compete with all the other lies the selection committee will be reading. I hope they don't give a lot of weight to these letters of reference.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Rock, Paper, Scissors, Shoot!

L and I are spending this blustery evening curled up on the couch - he's flipping through movies on the telly and I'm writing application essays, blog posts and facebook chats. We both realized we were thirsty but too comfy to get up and get something. So, what's the obvious solution? Rock, Paper, Scissors! It's something we've done for years now when neither of us really wants to do something - usually over stupid things like going downstairs for snacks, getting drinks or checking to see if the door is locked. It's cute and we always play best out of three. It's one of the many silly things that makes us a great couple. We are ever afraid of looking stupid or being ridiculous and acting like children. We love to wrestle, irritate each other with singing or tickling feet, and dance wildly to music in our heads. He's my best friend and we're made for each other.

What silly/lovable/coupley things do you do with your loved ones?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Winter Walk

Like I said yesterday, we got quite a bit of snow and I love it! We got about 5 inches in "normal" areas. What do I consider normal and why is it in quotation marks, you ask. Well, I thought in general we only got about 5 inches until I went on my winter walk this morning.

I promised you a couple weeks ago that I would get some pictures of the Huckleberry Trail, so today I got a two-fer. I went out around 10 (because the high today was 47 and I knew it would start melting early) for a nice mid-morning walk. It was a pretty magical walk, made better by a joining friend. You would think living in the same town would mean we could see each other a lot, but both of us being teachers means little extra time. Today was the perfect opportunity to do some catching up.
I love this part. It has high boulders rising on each side. Even when it's warm out the air between the rocks is very cool. It always seems wet. As a bit of a rock nerd thanks to some Girl Scout trips, I feel like the rocks are so alive and constantly changing - even if we can't see that change in years. It's pretty awesome to be literally in the middle of that. When there are so few formations like this around the trail, I wonder how it came to look like that.
This is the covered bridge I told you about. I can't wait until I get out here again in a couple weeks to take the non-snow pictures. I just wish these pictures would allow you to experience the smells the feel of the air and all the sounds that go along with the experience.
                               So many bridges, so many small creeks that run along the trail.


Here's another, newer looking bridge. And of course a picture with me on it so you know I really was here.

 I really wish the rest of you could have been on my walk this morning. The reason I said we had 5 inches in the "normal" areas is because when you get to bridges like these on the trail, that naturally freeze quicker than other surfaces and in general have less traffic than, say, actual road-bridges, it was more like 8 inches. I am suddenly reminded of the poem (song) Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening.

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening
by (appropriately) Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know
His house is in the villiage though
He will not see me stopping here
to watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

I love his prose. The only difference between this poem and my walk is that as we came back, we didn't hear the sound of "downy flake," it was more like huge drops of melting snow that we had to dodge.

Miles to go, friends - and many things to do. Like head to the gym. Hope some of you got to enjoy a snow day or Presidents Day or otherwise had a fun Monday like I did!!

If you want to see the rest of the pictures from my snow day walk, you can check them out at snapfish.

I also took some comparitive pictures during a Spring Walk.

I showed my SPARK

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Accepting the Almanac

I can't tell you how much I've heard it since January: "the Almanac says" "the Almanac says" ... apparently the Almanac says we would get a good snow On the 20th of February. Does the 19th count?

Last year was my first year teaching. I teach way down in the mountains of Southwest Virginia. We missed 17 days of school last year due to snow. It wasn't as awesome as it sounds because I personally get bored with too many days off. Fortunately I have my wonderful Food Lion job as well, so on my days off from school I sometimes just went in to work at the deli. (I live 40 minutes north of where I teach so while they had snow days in the mountains, my town was perfectly fine.)

This year, however, we have had one. Boy is everyone feeling it - the germs don't leave the building and January was a very long month. And still, everyone keeps saying, "the Almanac says we are getting a big snow storm between the 20th and 23rd of February." Well, today is the 19th and we are covered. 

Looking onto Lane Stadium, picture from Virginia Tech Athletics  

Originally it was supposed to start early this morning, but it didn't. I got to work around 10 and it was snowing/raining on and off but nothing much was happening. Then it picked up and died off throughout the day. It started sticking in the grass around 12 or so and started to quickly accumulate. At almost exactly 4 o'clock (that's when I left), it started sticking on the roads. During my 15 minute drive home, about an inch and a half built up on the roads and I slipped and slid up the hills that lead to my house. Oh, so much fun! I love to just slip around like that and often do it on purpose. Reminds me of the old days as a kid when we would go out "sliding in the black truck." Within the hour, we became covered. A tree behind our house started to come down - so hopefully it stays outside our house! It looks like this from my back porch, and
you can see the tree on the left on an obvious angle:

I just love the snow. I think it's so magical. When my store manager told me it was really coming down, I couldn't help but to just go stand outside for a few seconds. It makes my heart smile as the world is clean and bright. It was flurrying last weekend and I created the line "Just like the tiny snowflakes that fall around us, it is the small, intricate details that make you so special." I feel like I should turn that into a speech or poem or something. I don't know what it is about the snow, but it really puts me in that kind of a mood. How do you feel about the snow? Do you hate it because it's cold and you can't go run errands or are you happy to enjoy time inside, curling up on the couch (maybe with a fire? some hot cocoa? a loved one?) and being forced to slow down a little bit?

Also, does this count as the almanac being right?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

I ran, I plunged and I conquered!

Well this is it! I know it's been a week since I ran and plunged but darn it, I've been busy and tired. It's true, though, I have accomplished my first goal of the year! It feels so amazing in ways I can't describe - accomplish a goal I've been working on, help out so many people in need and to just be shocked so alive by the jump! Not to mention that I got to spend the weekend with some great friends and had hands down the most amazing, feeling-so-blessed-by-the-world type experience.

I took off the whole day on Friday (my first day off in 19 days, just a little fyi). I woke up around 7:30, cleaned the house and took my time packing. I didn't leave until around 11 or 12 and started my journey to Virginia Beach. Fortunately, they weren't blasting that day. (The state is trying to cut into the mountain for much needed interstate expansion, but it comes with a cost of HOURS of traffic. I once sat on an on-ramp for 1 hour 15 minutes waiting for the blasting to finish, them to clear the road,  and then do whatever else is needed before they open the road again.) My trip took no-time and I hit very little traffic. Other than having to pee really badly when I got to my friend K's house in Chesapeake, it was a great ride with beautiful weather. Already a stress-free start to the weekend. Another friend arrived shortly thereafter so we went to see a basketball game for the high school K teaches at, caught up on some great teaching stories, and oh I could gush forever because it really was an amazing time. It also really made me yearn to move back near a city - small or large.

Saturday morning I got up ready to go! Not! Ugh I was tired from driving all day. So I showered, put on my running clothes and had a breakfast for champions. I knew the Cliff bar would get me through but I was nervous about the coffee. Luckily, I had a small cup and was totally fine. 

It was sooo cold that morning! About 30, not including the breeze from the ocean. By the time the race started I was able to take my jacket off and run in short sleeves so that was a really good thing. The run was AMAZING. My friend V ran, too. We started together but then I took off on my own. I really wanted to push myself for my first race. The sky was gorgeous, the weather warm by the end. We ran down one side of the board walk and up (literally - it's at the slightest incline the whole way back) the other. I kept telling myself to keep running - I wouldn't let myself walk - and luckily I had my woman in my Ipod who kept updating me as to my status. (Thanks Nike+!!)  At one point I almost cried because a woman was sitting on a bench holding a sign that read "Thank you for being a hero." I though about how much all the money we raised was going to help so many well deserving people. Remember, the race was for Special Olympics of Virginia. I raised $500 and altogether we set a record $1.12 million! So awesome to be a part of that.

 Physically, it felt amazing to cross the finish line. I was so invigorated and could have kept running forever - or at least a few more minutes. My finish time was 32:56 - well under my 35 minute goal! V finished in 37:50 which was under her goal of 40 minutes. We both did really awesome. Out of the 186 women in my age group, I finished 90. I'm thrilled with how well it I did. It's even inspired me to set a new goal of an under-10-minute mile so I can do even better in my NEXT 5k!!!

So after bananas, a lot of water and some stretching, we went back to K's to shower, read and nap. I relaxed until it was time to go to the PLUNGE!! I actually ended up plunging twice. Traffic was bad so my friends dropped me off and went to find a parking space. I had to run to check in and run to the beach. Then everyone plunged and I tried to wait but I didn't want to miss the whole opportunity! I ran in and ducked under the first wave - the only way I ever get into the ocean! It was cold, but definitely not as cold as I had expected. So I waited on the beach (with beautiful 52 degree weather I had no trouble hanging out wet on the beach) until my friends came with cameras in tow! I went back in to get some official pictures - just as much fun the second time around.

In the ocean! In February!

Me and K on the beach - I had my hair braided so it wouldn't tangle but now it's half-out.

 My hair is so long I thought this take on The Birth of Venus would be a good idea. 

 We didn't go to the events during the day, but they had sand castle building and ice sculpting. The "sand castle" on the left stood at least 20 feet high.

We went out Saturday night and it was nice and chill. It's been a while since I've been out like that. I got to wear my new shoes - which were a just-because-turned-Valentine's-gift from L. He has great tastes - which he says is because he knows what he likes to see. They're six inch platforms, which only puts me a foot shorter than him :) But back to Saturday night - we ate seafood and danced just a little, listened to some live bands and had great conversation. I love my girls.

Here's a couple close-ups of the events. L says I shouldn't have been "show boating" at the ed of the 5k because "it was a race. A 5k race. Not a 5k finish whenever you feel like it!" and apparently 5 people passed me while I was slowing down for the picture.  I love how much he cares :) And edits me as I type this. And adds in his extra comments but then asks if I'm "really going to keep that in." Love him and his support. Here is a video of the finish - it would be really cool to imbed the video but I don't know how. Boo.

 Thanks for all of your support!!! One goal down, more to come! Stay tuned - I'll keep you posted on my running goals and I am pretty sure the cake decorating course will happen within the next two months!