Beauty Tips

As a 6th grade teacher, I get to observe lots of girls on the cusp of what will be a lifelong relationship with beauty. I always hope that they’love hold off on wearing make-up for a few more years, but I also remember wanting to put everything on my face in 7th grade.

Our girls can’t wear make-up yet (per our dress code) but here are the things I observe:

1) Curled hair. For picture day hair is curled. But in general once a week a few girls will really make the effort to come to school with perfectly curled hair. They all pretty much have one-length haircuts and usually their hair is clean, brushed and pulled back. But I’ve been trying it out lately man, bouncy  curls makes you feel like you’re in your own  Mary Tyler Moore show opening credits.

2) Chapstick. Chapstick isn’t lipstick. And they slather it on all the time. But it’s actually super practical since CO is so dry. The flaky, cracked lips can happen in a day if you don’t drink water and apply Chapstick. But it just cracks me up to watch them applying it while using a mirror.

3) Fun Nail Polish. I probably won’t get on board with this b/c I’m hard on my hands. But I love the level of artistry and creativity here. I still have a weird love of owning dozens of colors of nail polishes even if I only wear the dior glow polish on my fingernails.

4) Hand Sanitizers. I’m not sure why hand lotion isn’t a thing, but they all have multiple scents of those teeny tiny bath and bodyworks hand sanitizers. I think it’s their version of perfume. I found an old one in my car yesterday,  and since I’ve been sick for a week I decided to slather it on.  That stuff is potent. I smelled like a highly artificial cherry blossom the rest of the day.




To be a cheerleader goes against every bone in my body. I think of myself as a coach, and if you have a problem that needs solving I’m your girl. Overly effusive and encouraging, I am not.

And yet two things happened this week that made me rethink that. I have a dear friend who writes me the loveliest letters. Often she includes passages or readings from her daily devotions that might be of interest to me. This letter included the intro chapter to a book entitled Born Only Once: The Miracle of Affirmation by Conrad W. Baars, M.D. Basically, affirmation is a great gift we can give to others (especially children). To affirm someone is to recognize their goodness and worth without desiring to fix or change or improve that person. That may come later, but a child needs to know she is loved without conditions. The author compares affirmation to water surrounding an object immersed in it. The water doesn’t change the object but accommodates and supports it.

Then today I literally got to be a cheerleader. My friend was running her first marathon, and I Cheered for her (and ran with her) at mile 7. And then I got to cheer her on at mile 22. While waiting for her at mile 22, I decided to put my book down and cheer for all the marathoners. It was a small race and no one else was cheering along the trail. I have three phrases that I use, “good job,” “looking strong,”and “you got this.” “Almost there” at mile 22 feels like a lie, and everyone is working so hard I would never dare to offer advice. Basically, affirmation is all that seems appropriate. And people smiled and waved and high-fived. And I tear up because running is hard, and everyone is more than a conqueror. But I also get overwhelmed by how freeing it is just to cheer and not coach. I was texting a friend about this earlier, and she joked that I needed to write a memoir titled “Running: A Renaissance” about how running has led me to change my personality. That’s hardly true, but it has given me glimpses of a different self or maybe a truer self that I could aspire to become someday. Maybe cheering along a dirt trail on a Monday morning is where that starts.



Ring in the new.

And just like that year 6 began. After a summer spent running, visiting, holding the best baby, and painting I was ready to start, like a strong man to run a race. Oh and I watched just about as many hours of Olympics as humanly possible.

I have always loved schedules and play-by-plays. Truly no minutiae is too small for me to enjoy. So instead of my usual “resolutions” post, I thought I’d try to flesh out a “day in the life” of a 6th grade teacher. Sadly, I can’t really do much in the way of pictures. Gotta respect student privacy..

5:45ish… Wake up and think about running. It is pretty dark outside, but the energy I have the rest of the day is the best. I stumble out the door and am rewarded with a lovely sunrise as I lope home.

6:20ish-6:50ish…put on clothes, blow dry the sweat out of my hair, make-up, shoe crisis (I can plan outfits like no one’s business, but I often fret about my shoes), pack lunch and breakfast, and scoot out the door.

6:50-7:30… On the drive to work I pick up coffee (usually Starbucks, but I try to frequent two independent coffee shops close to my school). I also listen almost exclusively to classical music. Until this election is over, I will be enjoying “Back to Baroque” which starts at 7:00 a.m. Without a doubt the most challenging part of my day is waiting in the carpool line. Our school’s campus was built before the school got big. At this point we have over a 1,000 students coming into the school over the course of a 40 minute window. And there’s only way into the school. These days it’s just built into my commute time.

7:30-7:50…At this point, I get into my classroom, check my email, answer 3-4 emails, pick a song to play for the day, and make sure details are ship-shape.

7:50…Welcome the kids into the classroom with a firm handshake, eye contact, a smile, and a “good morning.” A veteran teacher told me that she did this years ago, and I’ve always like the tone it sets for our morning. All four 6th grade teachers welcome our kids together. Then we have a communal moment of comparing outfits (we match accidentally an eery amount of times) and a brief “Good luck; see you at lunch!”

8:00…Life music plays over the intercom while students read and I hiss dire warnings about what happens to students who don’t order lunch on time! Then we say the pledge and they go to art or Spanish or music. I barely know their schedule at this point. I just know that they go away, and I have a precious hour to get all of the work done!

8:05-9:05…In this hour I either get everything done or nothing done. There is no happy medium sadly. On the days when I get nothing done I’m usually chatting with the ladies. On days when I am a beast, I can answer multiple emails, grade, enter grades into an online gradebook, lesson plan, research a new way to teach deserts, find more art books to order on amazon (always looking for kids appropriate art history books, y’all).

9:05-10:00…I think of this time as our class power hour. In the morning we hit it hard. I do like to give them some modicum of choice in their days (so much is out of their control), so often they get to decide whether to do grammar, some literacy testing, or writing first. Writing is universally the least favorite topic. The writing curriculum is very structured, and often I feel as though I’m speaking in code. I might say things like, “After you write your KWO, I want you to choose three dress-ups to include in your paper as well as all 6 sentence openers. You don’t have to worry about decorations in this paper, but you can’t double up on your dress-ups and openers.” Super jargony. And yet, they usually know what I’m saying. Just kidding. They ask for directions to be repeated a hundred thousand times. Nothing says “I respect you and listen to you” more than asking someone to repeat something she’s carefully explained multiple times. I breath and remember that they’re 11/12.

10:00-10:05…Snack. Preferably something healthy. Bare minimum…no candy. Then I time them to see how fast they can throw their trash away and sit down quietly for read aloud. Our record thus far is 29 seconds.

10:05-10:20…Read aloud. I really like to think that we all enjoy this little break. If there is one sacrosanct part of the day, it’s read aloud. There are days when grammar or writing get the shaft, but never ever read aloud. Currently we’re reading The Land I Lost about a little boy’s childhood in pre-war Vietnam. Not a book for vegetarians or animal lovers, but most kids love it.

10:20-10:40 I really have no idea what happens here…I think they usually finish up writing or grammar. Sometimes we go over important stuff, like what to wear for picture day or bringing sunscreen for field day.

10:40-11:40 History 1 and 2. I teach the same class 4 times in a row. I like to think of my first class as the guinea pigs, and I always wonder if the last class feels a little staged and stale. Never mind. I love teaching history. Sadly, I am currently teaching geography. When sassy people ask why we’re doing a geography unit in history class I have stopped trying to come up with a clever answer. I now just admit that they are correct, it doesn’t fit well, but they need to know this stuff and history was the only place it would fit. We just colored a map of the USA using only four colors (none of them can touch! 4 Color Theorem!), and, Lord have mercy, that was a challenge. I also don’t love these kinds of puzzles so after being asked to check maps multiple times for correctness I mentally decided to make the assignment a completion grade. Ain’t nobody got time to scrutinize 80+ maps of 50 states to see if any states with shared borders were the same color. Before they started, I carefully instructed them where to start (TN) and how to plot out their colors (little dots rather than coloring in completely). Bless them. They all started with California and blithely colored in as darkly as they possibly could. Then of course there was the wailing and gnashing of teeth when they realized mistakes had been and colored pencils will never ever erase well.

11:45-12:15 Lunch with adults. We always eat together as a team, and when I read that the Supreme Court Justices do the same thing when in session I knew there was a method to our madness. There is truly something very communal about eating together and making conversation. Sometimes we talk about kids, but usually the topic veers towards other interests like Hamilton, salt and pepper potato chips, politics, books, and the latest shoe finds at Nordstrom Rack.

12:20-1:20 The afternoon history classes are mostly the same, and sometimes they wrap up and I don’t really recall much of what happened in the last hour.

1:20-2:00 Literature. We’re reading a book I adore, The One-Eyed Cat. It’s character rather than plot-driven. This means it is slow. But the writing is exquisitely beautiful (reminds me of Willa Cather and a Dorothea Lange photograph). For this book we make lots of predictions about what will happen next (not sure why no one ever cheats and reads ahead). I also try to ask them to relate what’s happening in the story to their own lives. This isn’t super deep, more like, “Have you ever been unable to sleep and wandered around the house in the dark?” And of course everyone has a story to share (or they make one up real quick-like). Twenty personal narratives later we’re back into the chapter. I love literature at this age, because we’re basically reading a book and discussing it to death. This is more or less what I do in my free time, so I could just play all day.

2:00-2:15 Recess. I monitor sporty pod, our soccer/football, basketball court combo. At any given time, there are three games being played simultaneously. No one gets hurt, but everyone cheats. I refuse to referee unless people are crying.

2:15-2:45 On the day I’m recapping the kids were in computer class. Another half hour of silence to frantically get all the things done.

2:45-3:10…Study Hall. Surprisingly, they are super quiet and diligent for this last part of the day. I wish someone would enforce a “study hall” in my life. Think how much you’d get done if you were given 25 minutes to just silently work. During this time, I’m usually answering writing questions or talking to the rogue history student from another homeroom.

3:10-3:15…We wipe desks with lysol wipes, someone cleans the board, the plants get over-watered, and everyone packs up. There are high fives at the door and the day is done. I’m still not back in school shape, so these days are truly exhausting. I was trying to express to my mom how you have to be so “on” the entire day. I love being the boss, but somedays it’s crazy being the professor, party planner, police force, first responder, counselor, and lady of letters. Teachers wear many many hats. But I always come back to the fact that I am never ever bored. And I am moved when year after year, former 6th graders come creeping (0r running) back for hugs, to gush about life as a junior high kid, and maybe for reassurance that they’ve got this middle school thing. In the end, my hope for my students is that they know they are loved, respected, and heard. All the rest is just gravy.


Marathon Recap

Post-marathon selfie. I think I thought I was grinning. 

So I’m a marathoner now. As in, I finished a 26.2 mile race before the cut-off time. I didn’t feel strong or fast at all. And either I never hit the wall or the whole race was the wall. I’m inclined to think that the entire race was the wall.

One of the things that I’ve written about here before is the riskiness of hard work. It is terrifying to think that you can put in all the hard work and still fail. In the track and field olympic trials this past week, I saw this anguish again and again. Training so hard and missing by a hair seems tragic. Failure is painful. And yet, so much of what happens is outside of our control. At the trials it was hot for a few days and rainy for others. The weather alone can make or break a race…speaking of weather…

It was really hot and really humid on the day of the race. Not just 30% humidity which is apt to make whiny Coloradans complain about how muggy it is, but 80+ the entire race. It was bright sunshine with nary a cloud in the sky. Shade was non-existent.

I had known all week that it was going to be warmer than usual. Looking back, this might not have been the smartest choice of race for me. Sure I train at altitude, but that advantage was easily cancelled out by the heat and humidity. I trained from February-May. Basically, I ran through the winter for a summer race. We had a particularly cool spring which meant that  I could count the days I’d run in temps over 70 degrees on one hand. And even if I had run in warmer temps, 70 in Colorado is unlike 70 in the Midwest. I have absolved myself of not preparing better. I don’t think there’s anything I could’ve done to prep for these race day conditions.

My time was slow, much slower than I thought it’d be. That was a disappointment. Training for a marathon is a time commitment, and while I hadn’t felt particularly strong or particularly fast this training cycle, nothing really prepared me for missing my A and B goals by that much. I still beat my C goal which was of course to finish on my own two feet.

But I am so proud that I did this. There aren’t many things that I do in my life that have such a clear goal and such a clear path to attaining that goal. It’s startlingly simple. I wanted to run 26.2 miles, so I spent months practicing to run 26.2  miles. In a summer of weddings and babies (both of which make me so happy), this was my way of celebrating myself and my life. If I ever change careers, get married, have kids, or somehow lose my health, I think I can look back on this experience and feel proud that I used this time wisely “to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.” I may not always have this kind of free time to train, and now I never have to wonder if I could’ve run a marathon. Already done.

I don’t feel triumphant the way I thought I would, but I feel a little glowy when I think about my race. It’s a quiet pride for myself and all those cold, early weekend mornings and all the days of rushing home from a full day’s work to change and get in 8 miles before it got too dark. I did it.


This little fox was my running buddy for a hot second.

And just like that, the hardest training run is completed, and I’m tapering now. The next three weeks entail running enough to keep up my aerobic fitness, but the mileage drops significantly.

I’ll be honest, I don’t  recommend the training plan I used (Hal Higdon’s Novice 2 Marathon Plan). It didn’t really give me a good idea of what I was working towards, and I think that I ran way too slow on almost all these runs. I’m by no means fast, but I’m capable of sustaining a sub 10 minute pace for a 10k or so. But there’s no speedwork involved here except for “pace runs” on Wednesdays. But because I’m a pretty slow runner my marathon pace isn’t significantly faster than my normal pace. If/when I run another marathon, I will be sure to choose a training plan that has more track workouts and more tempo runs. A lot of times I felt like I was just running slow mile after slow mile without feeling particularly strong. But the proof is in the pudding. We’ll see how it goes June 18. I’m not expecting great things at all. Just finishing will be enough.

So far the biggest problem was when my iphone 5 started shutting down repeatedly. I could get it to power up when it was plugged in, but running in complete silence was tough. I felt panicked at the thought of 20+ miles without podcasts, audiobooks, or music. I even started splitting up my longer runs, so that I’d only run a few silent miles at a time. I tried hard to be meditative, but without the distractions of my stories I found myself stopping suddenly for no apparent reason. Also, I apparently breath really heavily, stomp as though I were wearing steel-toed boots, and I’m not sure if it’s my thighs or shorts swishing together.  I finally got all my ducks in a row and got the iphone 6s. Big and a little bulky, it powered me through my run yesterday. I stayed hydrated, for the most part, and dutifully ate my jelly beans. Those last few miles weren’t pretty, though. I didn’t feel strong at all. I felt really bored and really slow. Surely adrenalin must kick in the day of the race. Please?

All the whining and anxiety aside, training for this race has been one of the grittiest things I’ve done. I haven’t flaked on my workouts, and I’ve enjoyed all the support from friends and students. I love telling people how many miles I’ve run and seeing the look of astonishment on their faces (this works best with my students who complain tirelessly about running a mile once a year in P.E.). And I eat just about whatever I want (within reason). I’m going to miss wiping out the week’s dietary indiscretions in one long Saturday run.




5 years


Year five is done, more or less. My plants remain in my windowsill, but the children are gone. This was the first year that I didn’t feel utterly exhausted at the end of May. I could’ve gone a few more weeks.

My class this year was great. Kind and easy-going and smart, they made this job feel easy. I don’t always say this. Year 1 was type-A. Year 2 was my party class. Year 3 was probably my absolute favorite class forever. Year 4 was a challenge. Maybe Year 5 felt easy because Year 4 was so hard. Who knows what Year 6 will look like?

And now it’s summer, and travels and running and babies and weddings are upon me. But the project I’m most excited for is learning Latin. We’re switching from our regular spelling curriculum to a Latin-based vocabulary program next year. I was all but rubbing my hands together in glee during our in-service Friday. At last all my language knowledge will come in handy. Here’s the deal, if you haven’t studied another language in-depth grammar really doesn’t make sense. The best way to learn English grammar is to learn French or Spanish or Latin. Now four years of intense French study are helping me to learn Latin. I already bought my Latin textbook which I intend to work through this summer.



Marathon Training

I just finished the 4th week of marathon training. The mileage isn’t too time consuming yet, and every time I have a bad run or just don’t want to go out, I remind myself that I get to train for a marathon. Not everyone has this kind of time or health, and I don’t want to take it for granted. It’s a mixture of feeling #blessed and #girlpower. I am disciplined about my running and willing to put in lots of time and hard work, but I also try to remember that I’m pretty lucky to live in a time and in a place where women get to do this.

Here are things that are inspiring me while I’m running these days:

  1. I regularly listen to the Happier podcast with Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft. They are sisters and Gretchen is the author of the Happiness Project and Better than Before. Although I’m glad I’m not her daughter or sister, I have used so many of Gretchen’s suggestions for life over the past few years. One of my favorite things that she’s said it something along the lines of “You don’t take a break from a good habit.” This has been especially helpful with my running. It makes me feel so much better physically and mentally even if it’s not always the most fun thing to do. And so I just haven’t taken a break from running in the past three years.
  2. I also listen to the Bachelor Party podcast with Juliet Lipman. I’m watching The Bachelor this season and have greatly enjoyed all the additional witty commentary to be found. I also think that if people in other countries/cultures saw this show it might represent everything that is abhorrent about American culture.
  3. And I love Another Motherrunner. I know I’m not a mother, but Dimity and Sarah (podcast hosts) are just so likeable, and it’s definitely a club I’d like to be a part of someday.
  4. When the going gets tough, I have my classical music that I can bust out. My love of Beethoven’s 9th is well documented here. I also love this one transition in Bach’s Mass in B Minor. I think it’s in the Credo (all in Latin) but it’s from the lines of the Apostles’ Creed “I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins, and the resurrection of the body, and the life of the world to come.” There is brass and a dramatic tempo and key change. I always fist pump and bounce along. It is truly a happy, happy song.
  5. The nod. Most runners get this. When you pass a runner headed the opposite direction you nod, smile, and wave. Doesn’t matter how fast you’re going or how slow. It’s the code for, “Hey buddy, keep up the good work.”
  6. I have my mantras that I repeat. When I feel my “form” break down, I start mentally repeating “short quick short quick short quick” to remind myself to pick up my feet and stop over-striding. When I run up a hill I tell myself, “It’s just a hill. Get over it.” And I was trying to hold to a certain pace this past week, and it was really tough. I literally told myself, “Keep going, little soldier.” I’m also a huge fan of Tom Brady’s “We didn’t come this far just to come this far.”
  7. On a negative note, my biker hate has come back in full force. There’s nothing like being 10 miles in to a 15 mile run and getting passed by some chubby middle-aged guy on a bike wearing spandex thinking he’s working so hard. He probably is working hard, but bikes move so fast with so much less effort than running takes. Today I found myself in the middle of not one but two St. Patrick’s Day fun rides. I had to work very hard not to lash out when biker after biker flew past me without so much as a “on your left.”

So there are 14 weeks left. I’m sure positivity will start to ebb, and at some point my nerves will really set in. Now I just need to start thinking about what to wear for the race…