Sunday, December 27, 2015

5 Tips for Giving Gifts

I had been planning on writing for the past couple of weeks a small gift-buying guide to help people out. These plans were reaffirmed when I read about my ISFJ personality today at church. It says, “When it comes to gift-giving, ISFJs have no equal, using their imagination and natural sensitivity to express their generosity in ways that touch the hearts of their recipients.”

Just an hour after reading that, a good friend texted me how much she loved her birthday/Christmas present. She said it was “seriously the perfect gift.”

I’ve been complimented many times in my life on my ability to give the best gifts. I don’t know if it can be taught (I don’t say that to toot my own horn; I say it because some people seem to really struggle with it). But I thought I should at least try and share some of my gift-giving strategies in a few simple steps.

1. Listen Carefully

This strategy works especially well when you spend a lot of time with someone or spend a lot of time talking to somebody. It takes a keen ear and a good memory. But you need to be listening all year long. You’ll hear people tell you about what things they like (or don’t like). People love to talk about their favorite stores to shop at, things to eat, and what they’d buy if they had a lot of money.

Not only that, but people will tell you what they need without really saying it. Make it a habit to really listen when your friends and loved ones are with you. For example, perhaps a friend says she really wants to get organized. Or more specifically, she wants to organize a closet. Cool! There’s so many things you can do with that. What kind of organizers can you get them that you like to use? Do they have a filing cabinet? Can you wander around the Container Store when you hang out, and see what things stand out to them? Could you just get them a gift card to the Container Store, or be creative and give them a coupon for “three hours of closet organizing assistance”?

Another example is that my roommate mentioned in passing that she needed more workout tops. I went to Old Navy to find something for her, but the selection wasn’t awesome, and I wasn’t sure what she would like the best. So I got her a gift card and specified that it was for new workout clothes.

Listen to what people like, what’s important to them, and what they need. They’ll tell you more than you could ever come up with.

2. Take Note

Many people have a hard time remembering things others say. Do what I do. Start a new Note on your phone titled, “Gift Ideas.” And keep a list of people!

While I was in my last relationship, I had an ongoing list of gift ideas for him. I have to keep this kind of list because birthdays, Valentine’s, anniversaries, and Christmas. I put a variety of ideas on there, regardless of price, because you never know what kind of financial resources you’ll have. So “Brian Regan tickets” stayed on that list for the day when I’d be able to afford it. Alas, the relationship is over, and I never got him tickets for that. But I had plans to!

My dad is a type 2 diabetic. So when I see people making low-carb recipes online, or using low-carb products, I make a note of it in my phone. I bought him “Carbquik” for Christmas, which is a low carb mix kind of similar to Bisquick. It can be used for waffles, pancakes, pizza crust, biscuits, and more. To me, this is a gift that keeps giving because not only will he get several meals out of it, if he likes it, then he can buy more.

When you see something that reminds you of a friend or loved one, make a note of it. You won’t remember. Seriously. Write it down or type it in your phone.

3. Think About Them

Here are some questions you should answer to help you get the right gifts for people.
1) What are their hobbies?
2) What are their passions?
3) What things do they find beautiful or attractive?
4) What are their goals?
5) What is important to them? (What do they value?)

Answering these can help you focus your energy on getting something that they will use and appreciate. If you know what their hobbies are, you can ask yourself any variety of follow-up questions. If somebody likes reading, what do they like to read? What are their favorite books or authors? If somebody likes to watch movies, do they have a favorite director or type of movie? Do they enjoy going to the movies? If somebody likes working on their house, is there a certain tool or supply they need? If they have pets, would they enjoy something for their pet to use, like a toy or collar or sweater of some kind?

For example, my brother Jake is a total hippie. He is a creative, musical type. He spends his time playing guitar and singing. He likes to collect stones and be in nature. He is drawn to anything “natural” or “organic.” You can bet that if it says “tea tree” on it, he’ll be interested. He also enjoys yoga and is interested in spirituality, particularly Hindu. Now, he may be my brother, but we’re not especially close. I see him only a few times a year, and we don’t talk much in between. But I can answer those questions about him. So this year, I got him a “dream catcher making kit,” and a set of the 7 Chakra Stones. He was super excited about it!

I’m very easy to buy gifts for because I am so vocal about what I enjoy. All my waking moments are focused on fitness and health, reading, writing, or watching movies. How many things could you do with this? Seriously? You could get me a Groupon deal for some kind of gym. You could get me workout bottoms. You could get me a new sweat towel (I’ve had the same one for a decade). Any equipment that’s useful for running, especially in the cold (running gloves, a headband, etc.). With reading, you could get me a book by a favorite author, or a self-help book. If you know I’m trying to grow my business, maybe a book to help with that would be cool. If you know I like movies (and love popcorn and Coke Zero), maybe a refillable cup or popcorn bucket from a local theater would be a continuous, useful gift.

I’m not telling you these things about myself so you know what to get me for my birthday (ok maybe a little). I’m showing you that there are tons of directions you could go with each hobby or passion that somebody has. Just take what they like and break it down.

4. Do a Google Search

You knew this would be on here. If you’re stumped at step 3, you know what someone likes or enjoys but can’t think of a good gift related to those things, Google it! I went on Amazon for my friend’s birthday and searched for “Paul Rudd” because she loves him. It turns out that anything with him on it right now is super pricey. But then I saw an Anchorman channel 4 news mug. Paul Rudd was in that movie, and my friend works for a news network. A simple online search helped me find something very cool and personal for her.

5. Get Gift Cards

I think some people find gift cards impersonal or burdensome. But they’re not, if you get the right ones. My roommate, as I mentioned before, needed workout clothes, but I wanted her to pick her own, so I got her an Old Navy gift card. She also loves books and book stores, but I didn’t know which of her favorite author’s books she had already read. And we go to Kneaders almost every Saturday night for half off goodies. So I got her a gift card for Barnes and for Kneaders. Why not? It’s money for her to spend on something she’d like at these particular stores.

My brother Jared loves video games. I don’t know what games he wants. I’m not around him enough for that. He also likes to go out to eat because he has an aversion to leftovers. So I’m safe getting him a gift card for Game Stop and for any fast food place. Again, he can pick something he wants that he’d like.

I hope that helps! I usually stick with the first four steps and try to avoid step 5. Steps 1 and 2 are habits and things I’ve had for a very long time. But hopefully it’s easy enough for you to at least start to be conscious of and implement over the next year as you prepare for any birthday, celebration, or holiday. Happy gift giving!

What tips do YOU have for giving "the perfect" gift? Comment below!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas 2015

I always make a list of everything I got for Christmas, whether it was a material item or not. I've clarified before that I'm not sure why I do this. I just like lists, and it's fun to look back on Christmases from years prior.

Coming soon, I'm going to write a gift buying guide because many people say I'm a great gift-giver.

This year…

From Carmen I got
-          A rainbow scarf
-          A coffee set (had to give it to my brother)

From my roommates
-          A Wal-mart gift card
-          Sliding fitness disks

From Kristen
-          A TGI Friday's Gift card

From Julie
-          An awesome house plant

From Rachel
-          A letter
-          A big mug and hot chocolate from World Market

From Parents
-          Workout bottoms
-          Better Than Before paperback
-          Cash (I’m gonna get a grill what what!)
-          Thor DVD
-          M&Ms
-          Dove dark promises with almonds
-          Dish towels
-          Knife set
-          Mason Jar lamp

From Jason
-          A sapphire/gold plated ring
-          A coconut lime candle
-          A card

From Jake
-          A letter

From Jared
-          Slipper socks
-          A letter

From students
-          A candle + holder
-          Letter and Hershey bar
-          Lindor truffles
-          Fudge
-          Muffin
-          Letter
-          Letter and $1 (so cute)
-          Popcorn
-          A homemade card
-          World’s Finest dark chocolate bar
-          Hot cocoa kit
-          Scentsy wax and Lindt chocolate bar

From my coworkers
-          A card and cash (so crazy)
-          Starbucks mug and hot chocolate
-          Caramel corn
-          World’s Finest chocolate covered almonds

Sunday, December 6, 2015

A Summary of My Life

(Disclaimer: Please don't take this post as me being negative or ungrateful. I have so many blessings in my life, so many simple comforts and conveniences, and so many supportive friends and family. I have my health, and that's so important. I am grateful, always. Just struggling. And I'm just reviewing the past few months in brief.)

I have a lot of blog ideas typed into my phone but figured I would need to write some kind of catch up or summary post. I've actually intentionally avoided blogging because of how many things have happened in the last few months. But here goes.

You already knew Patrick and I had been house hunting. I closed on my condo on July 7--financially it was all in my name. We couldn't go in to the condo for a while after closing, as a courtesy to the sellers who still needed a place to stay. It was pretty horrific when we finally got in. It took us over a week to clean it completely. I could write an entire post about that. Maybe I will.

Patrick moved in pretty quickly, like July 18, and worked on projects throughout the condo. He only ended up being in it for maybe a month.

As most of you know, we sent out our wedding announcements on July 28. Then on July 29 I found out some very surprising and heartbreaking things--life shattering things. As I got more information over the following 24 hours, I was quickly able to decide that there wouldn't be a wedding. Obviously, I could go on and on about this. I could give details. I could make others look bad. But I won't because I've grown up in the past seven years and realized people can and will make assumptions, and I don't need to be tacky and air other people's dirty laundry on the Internet.

I've been in hard situations before and haven't dealt or responded very well with what happened. But I will say that this time, I think I've carried myself very well. Granted, I felt like I was going to die. And I was upset and bitter and all kinds of things. But I never called names. I never was degrading. I never yelled.

I'm not trying to pat myself on the back here. I'm trying to recognize growth. I feel bad at how I've reacted in the past in other ugly situations. I wish I had been more composed and rational. I guess the difference this time is that I knew I'd survive, and I knew I didn't want to feel bad later for my cutting words.

I had searched all summer long for jobs. I had applied and redone my resume, and written so many cover letters I can't even count. But I guess nobody wanted me, and it's probably a good thing. Because on July 28 at 11 at night, I texted my principal and asked if my position was still open. He texted the next morning saying it was, but that I should apply online just in case, and the posting was set to close the next day. So this was a huge blessing--now being single in a financially difficult position and having resigned from my job in July. You've figured out that I got my job back, and it's been my roughest year of teaching in five years. But I'm trying to have a good attitude about it.

My summer wasn't relaxing since I spent the whole thing planning a wedding that didn't happen, and looking for jobs. Going back into teaching after not having a break has been really rough. I escaped home to Glendora for a couple of days before the school year started. That helped a little bit. I got to go to the beach, albeit alone.

Since we broke things off at the end of July, Patrick stayed in the condo for another couple of weeks to finish up projects and other things that needed to be done. He didn't want to leave me with the burden of unfinished things. He moved out on August 14, found himself a room for rent around the corner, and got a storage unit for his stuff. I moved in on August 15.

I made a posting for roommates on an LDS housing group on Facebook. He was still around finishing projects while people came to look. We kept it amiable and not awkward for the girls who came to look. He even helped me pick which ones he thought I'd like. So at the end of August I had two girls move in to the extra rooms in my house.

He helped me put up some decorations in my living room on Labor Day, after my grandma took me to Hobby Lobby to get some stuff. It makes a huge difference. After that, we didn't see each other for eight weeks, and only messaged on Sundays. Sundays are always the hardest days.

We've seen each other a handful of times in the past few months. We had a sushi making class. Once was for Home Depot and home repair assistance he gave me, plus to buy me a new laptop. Another time was for him to drop off a new FitBit for me. We went for dessert once.

It's been hard. I can't lie and say it's been easy. It hasn't. I've been weak and texted him, even after saying I wouldn't. I haven't really moved on, and I don't know if I've seriously tried. Because I don't really have the hope that anything will ever work out for me. He has started getting out there and meeting women. And that's good for him. He actually signed up on a dating website just a few weeks after we were broken up (which I might have freaked out about). He told me last night that the more he thinks about it, the more he believes everything happened for a reason, because I would have been unhappy in our marriage.

I hope I can just focus on the fact that he said that, the next million times I'm tempted to text him or tell him I miss him.

In November, I did National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. I ended up with over 55 thousand words by November 30. It was a good experience, and I'm glad I did it. I added even more to it this morning (hence my last post).

I've been working on building up my Beach Body business in the past couple of months. Having just ended an engagement, I jumped into the 21 Day Fix  during August as planned because I felt I owed it to myself. I lost five pounds doing it, and felt awesome and proud that I did it. If you need help or want a program, let me know! And as I said on Friday, I am in the process of starting my personal trainer certification.

In September, I completed a Beach Body Coach Training boot camp sort of thing to improve my knowledge and abilities as a coach. I took four classes on t-shirt cutting. And I got a hair cut.

I constantly try to stay busy, challenge myself, and become better because that's who I am. But sometimes I feel like I just want to give up on everything. I'm tired of being the girl who has to be strong. I am ready for things to just work out for me for once. And right now it's impossible for me to think that they will.

I've decided that sometimes, good people finish last.

A Ghost of You

He is everywhere.

He’s in the imperfections of the paint on my condo walls, and my freshly enameled doors. He’s in my beautifully remodeled master bathroom—in the tile he put up, the new baseboard he installed, the shower head he got me for Christmas, and the bathtub he paid to have installed. He’s on the shelf he fixed in the living room, and the TV that’s mounted on the wall. He’s hanging up my wall decor in my living room. His fish is swimming in the tank he bought for me. He’s in the bedroom we were supposed to share, and barely squeezing his things into that closet with all my stuff. His vacuum cleans this house. His router gives me wi-fi. I think of him when my water drains quickly down my bathroom sink instead of clogging. He’s in my car telling me how dirty it is. He’s here on my laptop, which he got me a discount on, and my FitBit too. He’s in my water that comes from the fridge he replaced.

He is everywhere.

This condo was his. It’s a product of him. And though it’s full of three women now, I feel alone. I feel empty. I feel his ghost, and the ghosts of the family we were supposed to start here. In our home.

He is everywhere but here.

Friday, December 4, 2015

A Step Forward

I have a lot of blog posts that I want to and need to post. 

For today though, I'll just talk about today. 

It's a Friday, which is already good. 

It started off with donuts, which is also good. 

Then in walked a friend and coworker to my classroom with a Christmas card for me. I opened it, just excited to be getting a card and the words inside were beautiful. Not only that, but there was a $100 bill in there. My mouth fell open. What on earth? This was so unexpected, and too much. I ran up to her classroom and hugged her and yelled at her saying it was too much, and she must be kidding. How amazing and sweet is she? Wow. I have been in awe all day from her generosity and love. 

My kids were pretty good today, too. Especially for a short day and Friday. 

I got an email early this morning from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. I did a free trial a couple months ago, and talked with my rep, telling him I wouldn't be able to start the program financially until February. They've emailed me for months with random temporary deals. I just delete them because they literally email me every other day. But not today. Today, it was a "today only" deal. And the deal was, "No payments until February." This is exactly what I wanted and needed. So I called and picked the program I wanted to do. There's no interest or anything. 

I am now enrolled in the Certified Personal Trainer program through NASM. My book is in the mail. And I can start my online course whenever I'm ready. It includes weekly quizzes, midterms, and a final exam. 

I went to donate plasma today, but my hermatocrit was too low by 1 point. :( I even had egg whites, spinach, and Shakeology today. Dang you, low iron! But it's OK.

I came home and did an Insanity workout and ran a mile. I copied my music and document files onto my newish laptop, so everything's pretty much all set up like I need. 

My roommate and I went to TGI Friday's for dinner. I had a coupon. We got a couple things at Michael's and Wal-Mart (including a new tree topper that is sadly too heavy for my little tree). And we got Cold Stone. Because you know. I wanted to feel like hurling the rest of the night. 

Since getting home, I've uploaded a lot of pictures I need for a Christmas project I'm working on. And I also taught myself how to make a Windows backup disc, and have begun a formal reset of my old laptop so my roommate can use it. 

I'm feeling happy, accomplished, and very smart today. 

Most of all, I'm satisfied to have taken a step in the direction of my goals, regardless of how life has kicked me around this year.

Soldier on, and happy Friday! 

Friday, November 6, 2015

Because I Was Loved Once...

From my NaNoWriMo Scribblings this evening...

In trying to make a safer decision (and get some sleep) one night in August, I decided to leave his apartment. It must have been about two in the morning. As I was on my way out, I whispered goodnight and said I would see him later. He sleepily said, “I love you.” My heart exploded into a million pieces and then came back together like the miraculous order settling the universe after the Big Bang.

Not sure I had heard him correctly, I asked, “What? Connor? What did you say?” and he slept on. I slipped out the door wondering if I was crazy.

I came to find out later that he was too afraid to really say it, so that was him “testing the water” to see how I would react. I never knew what to make of that and wished that he had just told me directly, meaningfully, in the daytime. But at the same time, his fear was kind of endearing. It meant that he knew I could hurt him. His fear showed his tenderness.

I guess this meant that we wouldn’t be seeing other people. Not that I had been anyway, but I always wondered where his interests were. It was good to know I had his full attention. For him to love somebody after his failed engagement was a big deal. He was so fun and noncommittal in his early 20s, and in all honesty, not very romantic. He never bought me flowers that I didn’t ask for. He never wrote me poems. But he just had a way of looking at me. He never shied away from staring me in the eye with a slight smile on his face, like he was the happiest in the world just to be able to look at me.

Nobody has looked at me like that since.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Do What You Love

I submitted my resignation letter yesterday. The deadline was today, July 10. I’ve known that for several months and have been dreading that day because I knew I probably still wouldn’t have a job lined up by then. But if I let the deadline pass, I’d have a penalty on my final paychecks. I definitely need the dollars to be as numerous as possible. So I turned in the resignation on time.

Yesterday morning I was in tears from stress and sadness. All my education was to help me prepare to be a teacher. And I’m a damn good one. I really believe I am. To walk away from something I am good at, something stable, something secure, and not know where you’re going after—that’s a scary experience. I prayed and cried to Heavenly Father to give me peace and comfort to know it was the right thing to do.

My amazing fiancĂ©e was very supportive via text while he was at work. He told me he was not worried about income, that he could support us, but that he was worried about my sanity and well-being. He said he would rather pay for me to certify as a personal trainer and make half the amount I do now, if it meant I would be happy. He told me he loved me and supports me no matter what I decide. And he said many people have already been impressed by me, and that he was sure I would find something. He asked me, “How do you feel about teaching for one more year?” I said, “I feel like I want to cry.” And he replied, “There is your answer.” He was one answer to my prayers.

Going into the district office was a pretty funky experience—dreading that for a few months and then walking in to actually do it. A lady had a bit of a difficult time finding a form for me. But she did. It took me all of 30 seconds to fill out. I handed it back to her. She told me she was sad to lose me (she doesn’t even know me, but OK), but that I need to do what I need to do. I told her it was a bittersweet time because I don’t have anything else lined up yet, but that I felt like I needed to do it. She said, “You know, sometimes we just have to follow our gut. I think you should take the leap.” She was another answer to my prayers.

I walked out of the district office. Six years of teaching, a stable job, consistent income, and good insurance, all gone in just a few minutes. I fought back tears as I walked back to my car. I breathed slowly in and out, having all sorts of feelings overcome me about what I had just done. I had just taken a really big, scary step.

I called my mom and cried a little bit to her. I ran some errands. After getting home a couple hours later, I got a phone call from the employment agency I had visited a couple weeks prior. The man on the phone said a mortgage company would need a technical writer to help draft some training lessons and programs. It would be around 120 days, maybe more. And I would get to say what kind of money I wanted. I was very enthusiastic about it. He said he would forward my information to them. A third answer to my prayers.

Regardless of whether I even get an interview for that position, it reminded me that everything will be OK. I will find something.

Now, to switch gears a little bit. A lot of people are asking me, “Why? Why leave teaching? Don’t you get, like, summers off?” Well, if I’m leaving in spite of having summers off, you probably don’t need to ask what it’s like.

The first reason I am quitting is this. Here’s an example of a typical adult conversation I’ve had about a hundred times. There are variations, but they pretty much go like this.
Person: So what do you do?
Me: I teach junior high.
Person: Oh wow. Oh… woooow.
Me: *nod knowingly*
Person: Do you like it?
Me: It depends on the day.

And that’s if I’m feeling positive and generally good about life. Otherwise it goes like this:

Person: So what do you do?
Me: I teach.
Person: Oh, what do you teach?
Me: Junior high English.
Person: Oh, nice! Do you like it?
Me: Not really. I’m thinking about switching fields.
Person: *insert generic understanding comment here*

I took my job teaching in order to teach—not for the money. I’m sure that surprises everyone, because teachers are so well paid! But really, I thought it would be fulfilling, and I’m not afraid of a challenge. But when I can’t even have a conversation with a stranger and tell them even half-honestly that I like what I do, I feel like that’s a horrible way to live. I want to respond that I like my job. Especially if I don’t make much money. I would rather be fulfilled in life than make money. I can budget like nobody’s business.

The other reason is that my passions have changed. Of course I still love reading and writing. But I love health and fitness. I found in the past two or three years of teaching that all I would think about throughout the day was my workout after work. That was what I looked forward to.

There are so many others. I could write forever about teaching.

Did you know that teachers…

Fulfill the role of parents?
Whether it’s because parents are working multiple jobs, can’t read themselves, or just don’t care, we are the ones to have to step in and care because nobody else will.

Actually plan lessons?
That’s right. I have a goal in mind, based on a core curriculum chosen by politicians, and I make a plan to get us there. I have spent my Sunday afternoons for five years making sure my lesson plans for the week were done.

Take time to grade?
Whether it was 200 essays, narratives, argument papers, or 95. I took my time giving those kids real feedback. Guess what they did with it?

Are kids’ first lines of defense?
There are people on multiple levels who care about these kids. But if we aren’t perceptive enough to notice something wrong with students, and bring it up to the counseling office, or talk to the kids ourselves, they could go without help for the rest of their schooling. This includes learning disabilities, behavioral disabilities, emotional trauma, and everything else.

Will be paid partially based on student test scores?
Do I even need to talk about this? You’re going to pay me based on my students’ ability to do advanced analysis when they can barely understand a young adult text, or write me a complete sentence? Things they’ve been taught, but haven’t practiced, or don’t care about? Or how about the students who didn’t eat breakfast that morning? Or the ones who stayed up playing video games all night? Or the ones who have to go pick up siblings from school, and babysit them afterward, and can’t do homework? Or the ones who are more concerned with whether they’ll have dinner than homework? Or the ones who come to class high? Or the ones you invite over and over again to come and get help, but they don’t? What about the ones who click “C” on every single question, or take a nap instead of do the test because they can’t read, and they’re tired of failing? You’re going to pay me based on student achievement when there are countless factors over which I have absolutely no control?

In Utah will max out around $67k per year, with a doctorate degree and 17+ years of experience?
There are fields where the entry level salary is higher than that.

Are the most organized people on the planet?
I have to make sure students are in their seats, on task, have a pencil out, keep their binder with them, and write homework in their planner, take roll online, and that’s just the first five minutes of class. Then I have to make sure everyone has a partner, that everyone is on task, that everyone heard the directions, and remember that Susie needs to go to the bathroom when Michael gets back. I have to anticipate the next activity, transition to it smoothly, have a method for getting papers turned in, rules for when to sharpen pencils, and a system for what to do when kids misbehave, without making them feel like complete fools in front of their peers. I have to remember that Jonathan turned in that assignment late for when his mom asks about what happened. I need to report discipline issues to the office in a timely fashion, and have a record of what steps I took independently. I have to have things ready for when kids finish early. I have to have a plan in place for when kids don’t get it. I have to catch kids up when they were gone, because they won’t do it themselves. I have to remind kids of due dates, have copies ready to be passed out, and somewhere in between everything else I have to do, allow opportunities for extra credit and makeup or late work.

Are severely underappreciated?
Our PTSA has really stepped up their game the past couple years, but it’s nowhere near what happens in Utah County, and probably on the east side of Salt Lake. Where teacher appreciation week is a big deal to parents out there, parents in west Salt Lake don’t even know that such a thing even exists. If teachers get things for teacher appreciation week, it’s because other teachers on social and morale committees took the initiative to prepare for it.

Are protected, even if they’re awful?
Teachers’ unions make it very hard to get a teacher disciplined or fired. There’s less accountability in public schools than in the private sector. To know that I am working my butt off to always be better, to make sure kids understand, to monitor and manage my classroom, and others… aren’t… really bothers me. There’s a pretty high level of mediocrity, and it could be that teachers don’t care anymore because of some of the reasons listed above.

Care more than kids do?
No matter how many times throughout the week I repeated, “Come in the morning. Come after school. Come in advisory. Come get help! I will help you!” They didn’t come. I even heard that they sighed and moaned if I went out of my way to request that their advisory teacher send them to me. I know that probably doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but it is. It takes time to see who needs help, to write a note, to deliver the notes, and then to remember what they need when they come in. It’s all on me. They don’t know what they’re missing. They didn’t catch up on their absent work. They don’t care. I do. And why should I, if they don’t? Are you exhausted with me yet?

Have to send their students to be tested on content they’re not allowed to see?
What kind of sense does it make to have a curriculum map for each term, and to be told that the students will be tested on it, but not know what types of questions will be asked? And then when the kids take the test, they had questions on poetry, which was supposed to be covered (according to the map) in a different term. If my students are going to be assessed, I want to be able to prepare them for it. Not CHEAT. PREPARE. The tests they take should be based on what I’ve taught them. I can’t teach to your test if I don’t ever see the test.

Have to be extremely flexible?
Like you don’t already know, a school is chaotic. Schedules get bent all the time. There are fire drills in the middle of state testing. There’s award assemblies that take half your first class away, but not the rest of the day. Kids get called down to the office. Announcements take away class time. Massive changes happen every year. It’s almost impossible to get settled in a routine because public education is always changing. Always. And I’m not saying it’s bad. I’m just saying it is challenging. We should always work to be better, but we need to strike a balance between progressing and completely changing everything all the time.

Have lots of meetings?
Yep, before school at 6:30 in the morning, for some of them. After school on Fridays. At the district in the evenings a few times a year. Parent IEPs during prep periods and after school or at lunch. Meetings upon meetings upon meetings.

Always have to be learning?
You have to keep your certificate current by being educated. Whether you attend new technology trainings or sign up for classes, you always have to be educated.

Are rewarded only based on budget?
If you agree to be on a committee, or you do anything above and beyond what you’re required to do, you get a very small stipend based on what’s been allocated. If you’re lucky and have a great principal, you’ll get a cute plant or a gift card or a loaf of bread at faculty meetings or end of the year barbecues, but that’s only because he’s planned those types of things for you. Not because it’s like a private sector job where CEOs and managers give out flat screen TVs and iTunes gift cards at Christmas. And you have to appreciate the small things, because really, it’s all you get, so it has to mean a lot.

I mean, I really could go on forever. I’m just tired. I am tired of never getting appreciated or rewarded for everything I do. I send out reminder emails and texts, and I still get three homework assignments back out of 34 kids. I update grades every day, and the only kids or parents who check are those who don’t need to. I meticulously maintained a website where I put almost every assignment and announcement and link my students would ever need to be successful, and most couldn’t even log into it. I gave class time to do homework, and still less than half of my class would complete it. And I’d put so much time into creating a valuable, meaningful assignment, but they didn’t care or try. I’d pass kids in the hall and tell them to come work on something, but they wouldn’t come.

I know that I had an impact on some kids, but I only know that from the ones who were kind and mature enough to write me a letter and let me know. And I am grateful for those kids. They are a lot fewer than you might imagine, especially out in Kearns.

So yeah, I have fall break, winter break, spring break, and summer break. Yes, I have good insurance. Yes, my salary goes up every year. I am done at 3:08 in the afternoon (but most of us leave later). I do get to manage my own area and choose what I teach. Sure, I get to “have a positive impact on kids” (the ones who take the time to tell me). I get to share good books and teach kids how to write (and also write myself). I do have a great boss and coworkers. I do get a lot of sick days. And I am damn good at what I do. But it’s just not enough anymore.

I am ready for a new challenge—hopefully one where I will be challenged and exhausted, not taken for granted or underappreciated, but be rewarded and recognized for my efforts. Because as selfish as that sounds, it’s important to me. I just want to love what I do. And maybe someday soon the conversation will go like this.

Person: So what do you do?
Me: I write a fitness column. OR
Me: I am a personal trainer. OR
Me: I create nutrition plans. OR
Me: I am a health coach. OR
Me: I teach fitness classes. OR
Me: *insert easier, cooler job here*
Person: Oh, cool. Do you like it?
Me: I love it!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Weight Loss: Flexible Dieting

I started counting macros (i.e. flexible dieting, iifym) on February 23 when I started training for my race. I wrote a blog about that before. At that time, I had lost six pounds. My experiment worked.

I've now been tracking macros for 17 weeks and two days. I am down about 18 pounds. I've kind of stalled the past couple of weeks because I haven't been very disciplined about my food--not out of control, but not awesome either. I have been disappointed at my lack of progress recently. But knowing it's been 17 weeks and I'm down 18 pounds makes me feel better. It shows me I'm right on track for a healthy pace of weight loss--one pound per week.

I still want to drop another 10 pounds but am not rushing it. I will get there. I'm also trying to focus on clothes, sizes, and measurements. Maybe I haven't lost weight, but I very well could just be losing fat and turning it into muscle with all the weights I've been doing.

After my race, I had Dallas recalculate my macros ( She dropped my carbs and upped my fats, but decreased my overall calorie intake because I weigh less now. It's been really hard adjusting. I'm not going to lie (thus, the stall). I have a hard time hitting my fat and carb goals. In fact, I usually hit the same amount as my macros were before.

But as with anything, this is a learning process. It takes time to adjust and get things down. I recommitted on Sunday to doing better. I've been working my butt off in the gym (like, 90+ minute workouts) and don't want to throw away that progress.

Here are my measurements since February 23, compared with today, June 24.

Neck: 12.5"
Now: 12"

Waist: 36"
Now: 29.5"

Hips: 41"
Now: 38"

Bust: 36.5" (on April 27)
Now: 34"

Chest: 32.5" (on April 27)
Now: 30"

Forearm: 10"
Now: 9.5"

There are pros and cons to flexible dieting, and I wrote about a lot of those back in March. Because I've seen results, a lot of people ask what I'm doing and how it works. I'll try to come up with a quick FAQ...

How do I calculate my macros?
Oh man. Just do a google search, and something will come up. I'll tell you I tried calculating my own using Krissy Cagney's book which you can get {here}. The only reason it didn't work for me is that I calculated too low based on my half marathon training. I'm grateful I had {Dallas} do them for me so I didn't starve or go crazy. The basics are:
- You figure out your maintenance calories
- You want to set protein intake at about your goal weight.
- Your carb intake depends on your activity level, and other health issues. If you're pretty active you'll use the higher multiplier. For example, Dallas added fat to my post-training macros because I have endometriosis.
- Fat is what's left after you subtract your protein and carb calculations.

What if I have a hard time hitting my protein?
Plan better. That's all it came down to for me. It came time to add egg whites to breakfast, chicken or tuna to my salad, along with a boiled egg, and eat string cheese and beef jerky for snacks. It is possible to hit that number every day, just hard to learn how.
- I often have a protein shake at the end of the day when I'm still 20-25g short of my goal (120). I'm about to go make one now.
- Also, these things have been my life savers when I've come up short or been on the go. They actually don't taste too bad.

How do you track your food?
I use MyFitnessPal.

What if you're on the go? What do you eat?
So I usually try to bring food with me like jerky or almonds, to keep in my purse. Also, ThinkThin bars have been serious life savers, particularly the high protein ones.

Oh my, and these are so delicious too (but super high fat)! (190 cal, 12F, 14C 10P)

It's my favorite to check macros on bars to see how they'll affect my macros. My new favorite finds are these:

I found them on clearance at Smiths and then found the coconut ones at Big Lots. 190 calories, 18 carbs, 9 fat, 10 protein in the coconut bar. Perfect for a pre-workout this morning. Sure, fruit is probably better, and that's what I do most days. But sometimes a treat is nice. And honestly, if you're on the go and don't want cold chicken in a bag--look into protein bars.

What about foods that aren't on there?
Guys, you just have to work your way around it. For example, tonight we went to the Food Truck Underground. I got CupBop which was a big a-- bowl of rice, rice noodles, lettuce, and Korean barbecue chicken. So? I added everything independently. 3/4 cup of rice, 3/4 cup of noodles, and chicken bulgogi was in there, and it looked right. Sure, I didn't add the sauce into MFP, so you have to take that into consideration. But you can still get a general idea, and that's better than none at all! We went back to the food trucks to get mini donuts. So, I found a "cinnamon sugar fried mini donuts" in MFP. It looked close enough, and that's what I used. Again, it's better to have an idea!

Your other options are to either go to places that are very macro friendly (Corner Bakery, Chick-Fil-A, Noodles & Co., most chain restaurants, etc.), or eat at home if you don't want to hassle with it.

Isn't it a pain to track?
Um, yes. But to me, it's worth it. I could do a restrictive diet. I might see faster results. Will it stay off? I don't know. Here's the thing: tracking, while it seems restrictive, gives me freedom. I don't have to give up the foods I love and want. I just have to plan and consume in moderation. To stay sane, I'd rather track.

Do you only eat unhealthy foods?
Obviously not. I usually eat an awesome, balanced breakfast and lunch--salad almost every day--and a good dinner with dessert. If I don't eat a good dinner, I usually forego dessert. So it just kind of depends. I have been trying to be better about finding ways to include more veggies. I made caulifloats (cauliflower oats) for breakfast last week. They were so good!

How often do you have to recalculate?
Krissy Cagney's book touches on this.
- If you hit a plateau, that's when it's good to reevaluate.
- If you have big changes in your training plan, you should reevaluate.
- If you've lost a considerable amount of weight, then you probably have to decrease your calories again. Shake things up.
But honestly, not very often. I had my initial calculation, and ONE recalculation in 17 weeks. So, just relax and eat all you can if you're still losing.

What do I need in order to count macros?
You need a food scale. Holy moly, get a digital food scale! My life depends on that thing. We have an unshakable attachment.

How long until you "get good" at hitting your macros?
It took me over a month to feel like "I got this." Be patient with yourself.

What struggles do you have?
- My biggest struggle is probably in my relationship. He has a very lax attitude about food and food choices. I tend to be the one "restricting" us. But I try to stay balanced and flexible, because I'm a "flexible" dieter after all. He has been supportive, and a really good sport, but there have been times where it's been hard to stand my ground.
- I also struggle on Sundays. It's a VERY low activity day, but there's a LOT of good food available usually. So keeping my calories low on Sunday sucks.
- Schedule switches have been hard. It being summer has been an adjustment because I'm using a lot of carbs up in the morning now that I work out in the morning. I am supposed to eat most of my carbs before and after my workout. But I like to save my carbs for dessert later in the day. So it's been hard to try and be balanced, because I feel it if I don't start my day off with enough carbs.
- Not weighing myself. I was doing fine with this until I joined DietBet. I was obsessed with the scale for that time period. I was happy that Patrick took it back. I get on the scale at the gym almost every day lately because I'm just so excited to see it be 20 pounds lighter than I was at my heaviest. I just like to see it.
- Movie theater popcorn. I can eat a whole large popcorn by myself. And I like it completely doused in "butter." So I probably don't need to explain that movie theater popcorn is not macro friendly. ButIloveitsomuchIcoulddie!

I'm a real person. I eat like a real person. Most of my days aren't perfect in terms of macros. But I'm going to stick with it. I'm too far in to give up now! Please comment, email me, or text me if you have questions. I'm an open book.

A Birthday, A Move, A 5K, and More

I like to consider myself a consistent blogger. Then I see one post per month or less, and I feel like I'm a failure. Oh well.

Here is a recap of some things that have happened.

In April, we went to California. And Disneyland. And took our first trip to the temple together as a couple to do my mimi's (paternal grandmother) baptism. And we went to a Bees game.

In May, we celebrated Patrick's birthday Avengers style, my parents sent me an edible arrangement, Patrick's nephew was born, we got engaged, we house shopped, I picked a wedding dress (no picture here!), I ran a half marathon, I moved to my roommate's townhome, we went to another Bees game, and I ran a 5K with an awesome third grader.

He put the balloons on the ceiling.

Bees game with friends

Girls on the Run event with Reagan

Roses at my roommate's townhome
And so far in June... We tried The Chocolate (OMG why didn't anyone tell me about this sooner?!), we went to Ruth's Diner for the first time, I went to the food truck roundup with Randi, I went to This is the Place with my grandma and aunts, we went to another Bees game, we got waffles, we played in Park City, we took engagement pictures, we tried the Q4U food truck, and we saw Ingrid Michaelson!

And that puts us current. If I were actually good at keeping a journal, I wouldn't care so much about updating my blog. I need to be good at at least ONE of these. Ay caramba.

I Trained, I Sweated, I Ran

Well, I committed to a race in February, and I blogged a little about the training. It was a 12 week schedule. And I accidentally started a week early. So I ended up repeating week 8 (or was it 9?).

Anyway, I drove down to Alpine and had my stuff all ready to go. I was pretty disappointed that there were only THREE outhouses. Granted, there were not that many runners, but still. You know that everyone is going to pee before they run 13.1 miles.

I was grateful that the weather, which was predicted as rain, was actually clear and lovely.

I enjoyed my run. I stopped for water several times. I even slowed to take pictures when I was close to the mountain.

One major hiccup was at mile 10. With only 5K left to go, my Bluetooth headphones died. They straight up died. They didn't beep due to low battery. Nothing. Just suddenly the music stopped. I am probably much too dependent on music for my runs. I ended up holding my phone in my hand with the music on speaker so I could finish.

I ended up finishing at 2:15:04, which was over 15 minutes faster than my first half. And I placed 107 out of 189 overall, which isn't that exciting. I finished at 11 out of 39 in my division (females 20-29). And 55 out of 114, all females.

Here are some photos. :)

With my awesome fan club! :) They've come to both of my races. Thank you ladies!

13 days engaged in this picture. 

I got my medal.

When you run 13.1, you get Kneaders after.

I had no real repercussions from this race. It was mostly uphill. My knees were great. My stomach hurt a little when I was done; I only used one packet of fuel (which was baby food, as always). All I lost was one toenail.

I've been running consistently ever since. I think I may try to train for a full marathon when I'm 30. It's not that I don't think I can do it. It's that it takes up so much time! But maybe after settling into marriage for a little while, I'll be able to do it.

I love running.

If anyone ever needs present ideas for me, I need these types of headbands (super thick band). And these shirts are ah-mazing.