Running Solo

person running in the hallway
Photo by Michael Foster on

I measure my life by the miles I run.


I feel my feet on the pavement in my ears at the exact moment my forefoot sole makes contact with the asphalt. The thinking drawers I have open in my brain are amounting to a  massive number. I am rehashing conversations. I am practicing the professional presentation I have to do later today. I am thinking about the goals I have for the day and my life . I am praying. I am revisiting memories – especially of a time I have run that route before and what I had been thinking at the time or the song I have been listening to. I think about books and who I am going to be recommending books to. I am thinking all these topics at the same time.


I do not warm up. I do not stretch. I get dressed, put my shoes on, and go.  My legs feel heavy and it feels like I  must put forth a lot more effort than necessary to move one leg in front of the other. Is it my shoes? Is it my attitude? This often happens. On short 5 miles runs it can take up to 3.5 miles to feel like it should. After the 3.5 is when I find the rhythm and my brain can stop thinking about the physical act of running and hum along. When I find this sweet spot I feel like I can run forever.


I often find myself in the same physical spaces on a different run. In these instances, I can suddenly recall with alarming clarity exactly the song I had been listening, who I was running with, or an emotion that I was engulfed in. It is a surreal sensation.


Suddenly without warning, my thoughts will empty and my mind is clear. I am in moving meditation now.


When I am afraid I will have nothing to think about I assign myself questions almost like a writing prompt for my journal. I give myself these questions as an assignment to busy my mind.


I am a happy runner girl when I can run 10 miles a day. It is the gravitas I have from these days that is like a light that beckons people into it. People do not know I have run that many miles. They just know there is something about me and they feel the need to comment on something. Usually my hair or my outfit. They are compelled to say something.


I am nearing the end of the route and my thoughts turn toward what I want to eat when I am done running. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, ice cream sundaes with whipped cream and chocolate sauce are favorites. As soon as I put my foot in the door of my dwelling I don’t want those foods anymore. The most amazing and common occurrence is when I am not hungry at all. I have stood in the glow of the refrigerator and eaten an entire jar of squash pickles because they look good as I think that pickles do not have many calories so I am safe and I have no undone all the running I just endured.


There are everyday runs and there are memories of races that are ingrained into the muscle memory of my legs. Never to be forgotten completely. A run or a phrase will trigger the emotions and the pain and the joy all at once. Almost sensory overload but since I was there my brain can process all of it at once. I am not sure if it is like this for other people or because I am used to having so many thoughts at once.  They are in my mind in a file that hopefully will never be deleted.


Runners have quirks. I had quirks and was odd before I became a runner. I suppose I was always a runner but had not opened myself up to that part of myself yet. I have special running socks and my students notice. There are shorts I will wash three days in a row to keep wearing them.

I have gotten up at 3 am to run, never to be repeated.


Some runs are so cold and I have so many layers on for warmth,  it takes one load of laundry to get them clean again.


At the HUFF race at Chain of Lakes park  I ran in waist deep water  – in the winter…the ice rattled around in my shoes as I exited the puddle up onto the frozen mud and leaves.

Food has never tasted so good after a hard run or race. A shower has never felt so good. I have been so tired that I almost couldn’t eat. I have run myself into a trance and running is the only thing that can turn my brain off to overthinking. I ran so far I started to see things that weren’t there. Spiders and silos in the woods. I am always striving for the effortless running zones.


I play mental tricks to keep me sane during a long run or a race – esp when I realize in the middle I am over it.


I trained hard for the flying pig marathon and I woke up that morning missing my running friends and not wanting to run.


My first marathon was magical. It wasn’t terrible as many other people have experienced. It was one of the best experiences of my life. I was so ready for that run. I had trained myself well. When I realized as I ran over a bridge and checked my watch that I was going to finish under 3:30 I started to have a hard time breathing because I started to get emotional. I had to pull myself together. I started to not be able to breathe and slowed down. Then I thought of all the preparation I had endured and how it was paying off. I did not want to ruin it within the last mile. It was almost over and it felt so much shorter than any training run.  I felt energized and amazed. I finished and then stopped running. I had my medal and this mylar blanket. I had stopped. My legs had stopped and I couldn’t figure out what to do. I couldn’t stand. I couldn’t sit. It hurt to lean. Suddenly all the pain from the entire 26.2 miles started to seep into my body. I was cold.

I talked to myself during the race. Steak and Shake chili had never tasted so good. My mind was numb and I was thinking almost no thoughts. Just observing what was around me in the tent that was shielding the wind. I don’t recall moving from the finish line to the tent to sit.


At the Fox Valley Marathon in St. Charles, IL I was the 12th woman finisher. I was so excited. It rained, as most of my marathons. I was so tired but had PR’ed by 5 minutes. I had prayed my feet would go numb. I had racing flats on which lowered my time but the soaked shoes and the pounding of my feet even with my light frame had crushed what little cushioning to nothing. I was in agony, but would not walk.


I measure my life in the miles I run.


I run less now because I am not training for anything and I do not want to. I run with my daughter. I run with friends. I am back to running on the treadmill which is how I started.

I will always be a runner.


Monday Book Talks and What I am Reading

Booktalks for 8th grade today:

It is interesting how the students want to talk about books and keep talking about them in general. It warms my heart. The ideas behind the stories are interesting to them as well. I also gave a survey of some books they like/hate/what they are reading now to get a better idea of topics to recommend. There are a vast amount of books to put on their radars. Milk and Honey (the poetry collection) that has seen recent popularity is circulating around the room. The poetry was a bit too heavy for me, but I am glad that they are branching out to that genre.

Between the Shades of Gray and Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by: Paul Fleischman and Eric Beddow

Poetry that is interesting and fun and meant to be read aloud.

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh

A great nonfiction story about the start of Zappos. I also mentioned that Starbucks and Tom’s Shoes also have similar books about the starting of companies.

 An Abundance of Katherines by: John Green
Love this book and the footnotes.
Alice in Wonderland by: Lewis Carroll

A classic story that I have loved all my life, and only read within the last couple of years.

What I Just Read:

The Girl Before by JP Delaney

Loved this title. The story is about 2 woman who apply for the privilege of renting a house that is minimal and full of technology that gathers data about the way they live. The story is full of interesting twists and the application questions peppered throughout the story is an added detail that makes it even more interesting. The house itself is a character and you always feel like you are on the brink of a new piece of information that takes the story in a new direction.
Fantastic read!
A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward An Undivided Life
Parker Palmer

A book about trust, silence, and becoming the people our souls are.


Happy Reading!

Monday Booktalks

I am happy to say that today I am starting book talks in 8th grade reading classes. Some of the books are housed in school library and the others are from my personal collection. I started with books  and authors that I love. Also, several authors have many books to their name.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is an author that everyone needs to know. This book was recommended to me first by my son. I have read quite a bit of Gaiman’s work and love every word.

Booked by Kwame Alexander

This is the soccer version of Crossover which is about basketball. This book is told through prose and is unusual. Great for reluctant readers who can be turned off by too many words on a page.

Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by: Jordan Sonnenblick

I read this book a couple years ago because of a recommendation from a friend who lives in Tennessee. It is a great story that pulls on the heartstrings about family and siblings. Plus the title is irresistible.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

There is only one copy of The Graveyard Book in the library and I wanted another class to be exposed to Neil Gaiman’s work.

How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg
A nonfiction selection about how people died. Always an interesting topic especially for middle schoolers.
Dark Matter by: Blake Crouch
I loved this book. It is science fiction, a thriller, and a love story all in one. This title was particularly popular. There is a waiting list for it now!
Ready Player One by: Ernest Cline
My students who love gaming will love this book. There are 80’s references in the story line so the students were warned. I am not sure if that will hinder their enjoyment.
I Kill The Mockingbird by Paul Acampora
This book is a young Hoosier nominee. It is a book about books which I love.
Nothing But the Truth by AVI
I met AVI a couple of years ago at the Indiana Reading Association conference. This book is about a student refusing to be silent during the star spangled banner.
The Westing Game Ellen Raskin
This is an older title and wonderful. There are lots of characters so I warned the kids before reading it. This title is full of adventure, mystery, and money!
a Snicker of Magic Natalie Lloyd
I love this book ! When it first came out I told everyone I could about it. I bought extra copies and gave them to other teachers.
Reception to the titles was positive. All of the books were checked out from each class so soon I hope to get some feedback from the kids and have more recommendations for them next week.
Happy Reading!

Brains and the Rule of Three

Brainpickings  is one of my favorite websites and newsletter. I subscribe and enjoy the weekly articles which I have found it to contain some of the most intelligent and interesting content on the web. It is a great source to link to other worthwhile reading.

I find my way to my new obsessions in curious ways sometimes. Let me explain how this sequence of new obsession occurred:

  1. While listening to Tsh’s podcast this week she quoted Parker Palmer, an author I had never heard of before. I enjoyed the quote and made sure to check the shownotes to copy it down correctly.
  2. While I was searching for something else I also found a blogpost from Modern Mrs Darcy about Palmer’s books.
  3. This blogpost led me to the articles on Brainpickings about Palmer.


When a topic or a name pops up in front of me 3 times or more I figure I am supposed to pay attention. It seems that Palmer’s writing is exactly what I need right now. The quote that Tsh shared (#4 below) is a thought that is much more eloquently expressed in Palmer’s words then it has been in my own head. It is however what I have been contemplating and reflecting on all this week.

Palmer’s book is requested at the public library ( I am trying to cut down on the book buying…will let you know how THAT goes…) and I am looking forward to growing as  a person as I read his work.

Here are some ideas I have gleaned so far:

  1. I need to honor my shadow and my light. I also need to honor these characteristics in others.
  2. Wholeness is the goal – not perfection.
  3. I need to exercise my heart with joy and pains. Self protection all the time does not lead to an interesting life.
  4. “Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you.”

Happy Reading!

Sharing My Reading Life

As an educator, whether I am working with students that are 5 years old or 50 years old I have learned that new learning is new learning. The reaction is always the same. There is frustration and sometimes choice words and then there is the breakthrough. When teaching new material is your profession you also learn something yourself about how to be a trustworthy facilitator. Which is why I have the personal mantra, “I will never ask you to do anything that I am not willing to do or have already done.” I don’t believe in busy work for students. It is a waste of time and creative energy for everyone.

I believe that books find people. If someone doesn’t like to read they just haven’t found the right book. It thrills me when I can find that book for someone. My dream list of jobs surrounding books is vast. One of these dream jobs is Bibliotherapist. Powerful words to someone are, “I saw this book and thought of you.”

When I was a TAP Master Teacher it was my responsibility to conduct weekly professional development for my teachers based on school and teacher needs. One of the goals was always increasing reading skills of our students. One of the best ways to get students to read is to have great books available and lots of them. There is an element of sharing in this reading life I have found that carries an enthusiasm which is contagious. A teacher needs to share their own reading life with their students to show them it is important . Also providing time to read for students and teaching them to make their own choices in reading materials.

During my weekly presentations, I started to include a slide of what I was reading that week. I wanted my teachers to share their reading life with their students so of course I needed to do the same. I often would be reading a fiction, a non-fiction, and an education book. Ishared why I was reading those books, where I had heard of them, and why I thought they would make me a better learner. There was accountability on my part to get the reading done for the week because I knew that slide was coming the following Thursday! These books opened up conversations with my teachers in a professional capacity and on a more personal level. People started to recommend titles to me based on what they saw me reading.

The students would come to my office and request books all the time. I had more books than the whole school. The charter school I was working for had built the program without a library. If you want kids to read they need books. As Kelly Gallagher says, (I am paraphrasing here) teaching kids to read with no books is like teaching kids to swim without a pool. I was happy to lend them all books and talk about what books they would like.

I almost always have a book with me, usually more than one. If you ask me about it, and sometimes without prompting, I will talk to you about it. If I see you reading a book that I loved I will talk to you about it too. You have been warned.

I pay attention to what other people are reading. In my job now I will often walk through the cafeteria and see what books the students are reading. If I have read it I will ask a question. If it looks interesting I will ask a question about whether they enjoy it and why. Even if I am not talking to all the students at that lunch table they are all listening to the conversation. I have one 7th grader that is my “book buddy” at the moment. She recommends books to me and I recommend them back. We talk about books all the time. It is our book club of 2 at the moment!

I post what I am reading on my office door. This is much the same idea of the slide in the presentation. Just when I think no one notices I will get a question or a comment.

I talk about books ALL THE TIME. If I heard a great book podcast I will share with others around me. I want to stay informed about what is good and interesting because you just never know when you need a good book.

I have many books displayed as well. You cannot help but notice them as they overrun my office.

Reading enriches and inspires me to think differently about the world. I hope that my enthusiasm will help someone else find something extraordinary they will love too. The extra bonus is I might get a recommendation out of it too!

Happy Reading!


Christmas Break Reading

Christmas break started on Wednesday, December 21st for me this year. There was a flurry of list items to prepare for Christmas . My husband and I hosted Christmas Day this year so several middle of the night cooking sessions ended up on the list! In between visits and cooking and eating I have found quite a bit of time for reading some great books. Also, the KINDLE deals have been amazing. Lots of books that are on the TBR list, award winners, and titles that are frequently talked about on the podcasts I listen to weekly. My sapience accumulates from my life of reading and won’t stop until I die.

I abandoned A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for the moment. It apparently isn’t the right time for me to read it. I will come back to it eventually I believe.

Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi

This book is strange in a great way. It is strange in the same way that THE HIKE was for me. Not quite as bananapants (I am borrowing Liberty’s word here…) as the Hike but weird enough to be interesting. Basically, it is about the relationship between Mr. Fox, his wife Daphne and his muse Mary. Apparently it is based on a fairy tale that I am not familiar with from my reading about the book. It almost reads like short stories with a common thread but I didn’t feel it was that strong that the individual chapters could stand on their own.

Notes from A Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World by Tsh Oxenreider

This book was great. Short chapters full of a lot of great things to think about. Tsh and her family have lived overseas. I listen to her podcast every week and it is wonderful.

News of the World Paulette Jiles

A book club pick for January brought me to this book. I reserved a copy from the library, it came in,  and I finished it in one day. The story between the captain and Johanna is heartwarming. some of the historic pieces I honestly did not find as interesting as I feel I should have. I was reading along and wanted to mark some sentences to come back to them but couldn’t stop reading. The ending was surprising to me.

Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore Robin Sloan

I heard about this book a long time ago and I believe I downloaded it free as a promotion from an Independent bookstore site. I remember it appearing on my kindle “accidently”. I had heard great reviews about the book, but had not picked it up for some reason. (H is for Hawk is another one of the books in that category.)

This book was AMAZING! I read it in a day also. It was magical and full of secret societies and secret reading rooms and just fun! There were modern elements with Google and ideas about how we process information and how we limit ourselves and the groups we are to not be open to new ideas.

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

This was a BOTM pick from August I believe. I chose it because Liberty was the judge and on the ALL THE BOOKS Book Riot podcast she said she flew through it. I did read it in about a day because I did want to know what happened. The people in this book were really despicable for multiple reasons. In The Nest I thought the characters were despicable too , but found the characters more developed and interesting. The writing was ok in TCND. The story was ok. I cannot think of anyone within my reading circles that I would specifically recommend it to however.

It is now January 2, 2017 and I have to return to work tomorrow. I am in the middle of READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline. It is a book I find interesting especially with all the 80’s references, but it is not going to end up on my favorites list.

Overall, I am pleased with my reading life over the holiday break and am looking forward to great books and reading in 2017!


Welcome 2017!

After attending an ISRA (Indiana State Reading Association) conference a couple years ago, I discovered the idea of choosing one word for the year. I have been choosing a word for the year ever since. Last year’s word was INTENTION. Everything I did I tried to do on purpose. Last year I struggled with finding the right word. SAVOR was another choice that I almost went with but intention kept being placed in front of me.

After much consideration, I chose 2017’s word: INSPIRE. The co-word is CREATE. The plan is to inspire through my creations. I have some goals and some steps to achieve them.

I encourage you to choose a word for the year. Write it down and carry it in your wallet. Put it on a Post-it note on your mirror in the bathroom or somewhere at work for you to see. Let it be a reminder of your wishes for the year.