An Open Letter to My Graduating 2013 Seniors

{My seniors’ last day was today and as they left my classroom for the last time, I handed them this letter.

In reality, I signed each one in my “signature” pink pen!}

Well this has been one hell of a year, hasn’t it?? From first day nervousness (on my part!) to trudging through the winter to fighting off senioritis with all of our might, we have been warriors this year!

I want to start off by saying that it has been an absolute blessing to be your teacher this year. I know what you’re thinking…Blessing?!? Really?? With all the trouble we gave you?? Well, first of all, you didn’t give me that much trouble. Most days, you left my class and I wondered, Did I do my job today? Did what I said make any sense? Are they going to remember this? Very few days (but yes, there were some!) left me glad to see you go.

I love being a teacher. I live for the moments when you guys “get it;” when you start doing something I’ve corrected you on time and time again, when a piece of writing inspires you, when you’re able to express your thoughts and feelings through writing, when you want to read the sequel to a book we read in class…those are the moments that pull me out of bed and into our classroom day after day. Oh! And college acceptance letters and job offers…man, those things make my heart GLOW! Knowing that you will use what I and countless other teachers have taught you over the past 13 years to expand your knowledge and experience life to the fullest reminds me that my job has an amazing purpose.

I am confident that each and every one of you will leave this school a strong, independent and functional member of society. I am proud to call you each my friend in this city. A friend is someone that pushes you to be the best version of yourself that you can be. Each of you has taught me something and pushed me to be the best person and teacher possible. I know that I have much room to grow as a teacher, and I feel blessed that the tables were turned and you got to teach me something each and everyday.

If you take anything from our time together, remember this: Persevere. The metaphors, punctuation, grammar…all that stuff can be Googled and relearned when you need it. But what you will need to remember everyday of your life is to persevere. There WILL BE times when it feels like the world is against you and nothing can go right. People will let you down. Money will be tight. Life will be hard and you will question if there really is a god. But hold on and don’t give up. Ever. It gets better. Maybe not right away, but it will. You can trust me on this because I speak from experience. I know that we all have different life experiences and I don’t want to compare my struggles to yours, but here they are. I graduated from OU with a degree in commercial photography that was of no use to me. By the time I was a junior in college, I wanted to be an English teacher; not a photographer. Once I finally got on track to make that happen, I was blessed with a teaching job. In October 2010, my very first year teaching, my mom died from cancer. I was 25; way too young to lose a parent whom I loved very much. She will never see me get married, hold her grandbabies, or watch me become a wonderful teacher. The next school year, I was staff reduced and sent to teach at East High School. This was the most stressful year of my life. The kids were rough and the administration wasn’t very supportive. I questioned my dream of being a teacher. Was this really what I wanted? Was I even good at teaching? At the end of that year, a student got frustrated with me because I wrote him up twice in one day for skipping my class and causing a disturbance in the hallway. He retaliated by throwing and hitting me in the face with a plastic bottle. It was a tough year. But, also during that school year, in November 2011, I met and fell in love with my boyfriend at the time. Let’s call him Buford. I was blissfully happy. The crap at school didn’t matter as long as I had him to go home to. Out of the blue, in February 2012, he broke up with me, leaving me in pieces that would take over a year to put back together. So now, not only did my job suck, but I was brokenhearted as well. Try inspiring the youth of America when absolutely nothing inspires you…but with the help of amazing friends, I pulled myself together and began to move on. And then my dad became deathly ill with colon complications. He had spent so much time taking care of my mom that he let his own health deteriorate. Had he not gotten to the hospital when he did, he would have died because his body was poisoning itself. Thank God the doctors caught it and he slowly, but surely, recovered (but not before having a foot of his colon removed!). Well then I was blessed with a job at Columbus Downtown High School. Buford and I were giving our relationship another try. Dad was healthy. Life was good. And then, in December 2012, I found out my Uncle Art (who is not technically related to me, but acted as a grandfather my entire life) had pancreatic cancer. No cancer is good, but pancreatic cancer is pretty much a death sentence. And death comes quickly. Over winter break, Buford and I broke it off again, for good. Christmas sucked. But I pulled myself together and kept going. Things were steadily good for a while…Until May 6th, 2013. Uncle Art lost his battle with cancer. He was a preacher. He was supposed to marry my future husband and me, baptize our kids…he was supposed to be there. I am still recovering from that last one. Slowly but surely, I am pulling myself together and moving on because I am about to be blessed yet again by a promising class of graduating seniors. Life has been tough, but you know what’s been good? I earned my masters degree this year! I ran a half marathon (13.1 miles)! I found a job I love! I have wonderful friends and family that support me in all of my endeavors. I am blessed.

So if you learn nothing else from me, learn this: It gets better. Persevere. And tell me about it. Come back and show me the amazing person you have become. I am so infinitely proud to have played just a tiny part in molding you into the person you are becoming and I truly thank you for that.

Sincerely,

Miss A

ps…okay, you can learn 3 things from me:

Persevere, your/you’re, and there/their/they’re.

 

And one last time, Be good, stay out of trouble and make good decisions.

I will try to do the same.

What a Wild + Crazy Weekend!

As I write this, it is late Tuesday night. My Uncle Art’s calling hours were tonight and the funeral is tomorrow. Writing just seemed like the best thing to do tonight. Uncle Art was an amazing writer and getting my words out on “paper” has always been therapeutic for me.

********************************************************************************************

Phew! That was one HELL of a weekend!! You know it’s a good one when you need a whole extra day (or THREE!) just to rest up from your weekend.

On Friday, Amanda & I got tattoos to commemorate our running of the half marathon, 13.1 miles! Our initial plan was to get matching tattoos on our feet, but being such flamboyant individuals, we were unable to decide on one design, so we each got something that spoke to us! Amanda went with the number 13.1 on her wrist next to her Wonder Woman cuff (because once you run at least a half marathon, you become a superhero automatically.) and I decided to get the number spelled out on my right foot, next to my runner cheetah tattoo. The neatest part of both of our tattoos is that they are both in our trainer Alexander’s handwriting. I know that he will say WE did it, not him, but I must say that I would have NEVER run a mile, let alone a 13.1 of ’em if it weren’t for his inspiration and support.

Looking for an awesine tattoo shop?? Check out Fate Tattoo, in Columbus, Ohio! Jack has now done half of my work and I couldn’t be happier!

13.1 Tats

Alexander's Handwriting. The bottom lines are just random letters we might have needed.

Alexander’s Handwriting. The bottom lines are just random letters we might have needed.

Not only did Amanda and I get tattoos, but Allie joined us for the fun! Unfortunately, we could not convince her to get a tattoo, but I think we’ve sold her on getting one eventually! Watching Amanda & I get our tats was her first experience even seeing someone get tattooed! Amanda’s only took (what felt like) 30 seconds and she braved it like a champ, saying didn’t hurt at all (and I’m actually inclined to believe her)! Mine took maybe 5 minutes, but…WOO! I definitely earned that one! My tattoo pain threshold has increased, but there’s something about the side of my foot and ankle that just stings!

This tattoo makes it an even EIGHT tattoos that I have on my body. When I started with my first at the age of 18 (a harmless lil Jesus Fish on my hip), I never thought tattoos would become such a large part of my life. My friend Justin told be the other day that with all my “word tattoos,” I’m gonna become a book eventually! WHich, would be totally fine with me!  All of my tattoos represent a part of my life journey. They either mark an important event in my life or represent a permanent part of my heart & soul. There really isn’t much that I am not willing to talk to people about when it comes to my life story, and I think that tattoos work as a perfect conversation starter. I love telling people my stories and hearing their’s in return. It’s part of that whole “people person” mentality that I embody.

After the tattoo gun was turned off, our wrists and feet were bandaged, and my faced relaxed from its grimace, Amanda, Allie & I fetched another member of our A-Team and headed to Tip Top, a DELICIOUS local restaurant for celebratory dinner and drinks. (As I write this, I am realizing that we celebrate EVERYTHING! You ran a race? Celebrate! You got a tat? Celebrate! You celebrated? Celebrate!)

As we visited with one another, sharing laughs, I took a moment to look at those women and truly soak up the moment. In that moment, I was surrounded by love & support. I am so very blessed to have passionate, smart, beautiful and STRONG women around me. I strive to surround myself with people who build me up to become a better person and that exactly what my friends do. Eating sweet potato fries and sipping malbec wine seems so simple and mundane, but in that moment, it became a memory that I will never forget.

Allie (and her almost real tattoo), Amanda, Amee, & Me

Allie (and her almost real tattoo), Amanda, Amee, & Me

Now onto the rest of the weekend!!

Saturday night was the second annual Columbus Rocks the Cure Rock + Roll Fashion Show! This is an event organized by Amee, breast cancer survivor extraordinaire! The event is a mix of locals bands playing while local fashion designers show off their latest collections. This year, each designer was assigned a band, and they were to design their outfits using the band’s music as inspiration. Not only is Amee is event creator, but she is the lead singer of Black Eyed Betty, a local rock + roll band! Betty closed out the show, barely able to observe the noise ordinance the neighborhood has instilled.The coolest part is that ALL, 100% of the proceeds go towards local cancer warriors, buying them wigs and gas cards to get to their doctors appointments. The bands and designers donate their time and effort and any money they would have pocketed from the event. This year, over $1000 was raised! Thanks to everyone who came!! RAWK!

Amee rockin' out with Betty!

Amee rockin’ out with Betty!

Making the event even more special was that Amanda and I got to model for designer Kelli Martin! She has such an edgy, cool aesthetic! This was the 3rd or 4th time I had modeled for her because I will take any chance I can get to rock her clothes. So most of our day was spent at the salon getting our hair and makeup done by the fabulous Jeffrey Steele and his assistant Casey Pennington! I swear, I need a hair and makeup team to follow me around every weekend! Once they were done with me, I looked like an edgy, original, 1950s Barbie Doll! It was a dream come true! My curled bangs and dark eyeliner made my green eyes just pop! And I’m a sucker for my bright-colored lipstick! Kelli’s designs were deranged rockabilly, and I just looked like Barbie on vacation! I got to wear a crop top and high-waisted, pocketed shorts, both in a floral print, and an adorable black, brimmed hat. Kelli’s work is normally very hardcore and requires a runway walk and face that yells, “I’m gonna kill a bitch!” but Saturday’s look was much nicer and more fun. Rather than walking like we re on our way to inflict some pain on some deserving soul, we got to walk with a bounce in our step and smiles from ear to ear. I even played up the hat a little bit, cheesin’ it up for the audience.

CRTC Modeling

Fellow Mobster & Model: Rachel!

Fellow Mobster & Model: Rachel!

Modeli silliness at the end of the night!

Model silliness at the end of the night!

One of the biggest reasons that this event is so important to me is not only because Amee is a kickass survivor and I have become her Hype Girl, supporting all of her inspiring ventures, but because my Grandma passed away from breast cancer when I was 9, my dad is a cancer survivor, my mom died from endometrial cancer 2 years ago and just this past Tuesday, my Uncle Art was taken from us because of pancreatic cancer. I am f**king sick of cancer affecting and taking people we love. I don’t think there is a person in this world that doesn’t know someone touched by cancer. So anything that works towards a cure or supports those battling towards survival is a worthwhile cause, in my eyes.

Which brings us to…

…Mother’s Day. This year was the 3rd Mother’s Day without Mom. It has gotten a little easier to spend it without her, but nonetheless, every radio ad reminding people to get Mom a gift, every Facebook post boasting that their mom is the greatest, only serves to remind me that I don’t have a mom to buy or make a gift for and that my mom really was the greatest mom and was taken from us years too soon. This year, I spent part of the day with a dear friend, Karen. Her mother also died way too early. Losing a parent is a grief I would not wish upon my worst enemy, but it is a blessing to have others to share it with, that understand the big and little pains of not having that person around. Karen and I spent our afternoon shopping for flowers for our yards; something that Karen really inspired me to do last summer. I was refreshing to walk around the nursery and be reminded that even though there can be such ugliness in our world, that there is a God and he is always creating and recreating beautiful things. It was too cold for our scheduled bike ride (ugh. Thanks Ohio. Jerk.), so instead, we went shopping at Rag-O-Rama, a local, quirky, thrift shop. I got a fabulous neon leotard and bright pink sunglasses for an upcoming costumed bar shuffle (I’m channeling Jem!) and a couple of pairs of cute shorts. If my mother taught me anything, it’s that retail therapy is a real thing. Once again, I felt very blessed to have such a compassionate person in my life.

The weekend came to a close with my weekly Sunday evening hot yoga class with Alexander & Co. I sweat out the weekend and left refreshed and ready to do it all over again!

Me & my 2 BFFs: Mickey Mouse & Mom (Easter 1987 ~ I was 2)

Me & my 2 BFFs: Mickey Mouse & Mom (Easter 1987 ~ I was 2)

Uncle Art & I playing on the beach in Florida, Mom & Aunt Nancy behind us. The beach is where I will remember Uncle Art most fondly. (Easter 1987)

Uncle Art & I playing on the beach in Florida, Mom & Aunt Nancy behind us. The beach is where I will remember Uncle Art most fondly. (Easter 1987)

Life, According to my iPhone: Photo-a-Day Edition, Vol. 7 – YAY! It’s MAY!

I am still making it a priority of find a few moments each day to document my life!

So here is the first batch of the month of May!

My Photo-a-Day Challenge goes on! Click here for a bit of an explanation of what this whole thing’s about. Some of these photo prompts could have been very straight forward, but I tried to think outside the box to be more abstract with my photos.

As a reminder, I also post my photos to flickr, tumblr, and Instagram. To follow me on Instagram, please leave a comment here with your username so that I can approve you. Being a teacher, I keep my personal life as locked away from my students as possible, so my Instagram account is private. Also because for some odd reason, I was acquiring an unusual amount of unsavory types following my photos. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Do you do the Photo Challenge? Share your photos!

Thanks for perusing! Enjoy!

{click collage to enlarge}

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Daily Prompts:

May 1: I Bought This! The final piece to my Half Marathon running outfit!

May 2: Morning Ritual. Push-ups and sit-ups! Everyday! Keepin’ it fierce! Madonna didn’t get her arms from sleepin’ in!

May 3: This is Really Good! My last meal before the half marathon the next morning! I meant to take a picture of it pre-devouring, but I was starving and forgot! So here’s my clean plate! Giant burger and sweet potato fries!

May 4: Something Starting with F. Dad met me at the finish line. I gave him a giant hug and immediately started crying. I know Mom was with us.

May 5: Paper. Bamboo paper plate! ChefDan is a genius! Since a portion of the proceeds from The Alternative Fashion Mob’s Couture Cuisine goes to CHA Animal Shelter, he created FAUX gras & FAKon for Kelli Martin’s course!

May 6: Broken. My heart is broken…Uncle Art passed this morning.

May 7: In My Cup. H2O!!! I’m taking on a Water Challenge! It’s to drink at least half my body weight in ounces of water per day!

May 8: Shape. Dewey’s Doggie nose!

Over & Out

This morning, my Uncle Art passed away from pancreatic cancer. Just like most of my family, Uncle Art was not technically or genetically related to me. He was the pastor at my parents’ church. Uncle Art and his wife, Aunt Nancy had a very close friendship of 40+ years. So even though he wasn’t technically my uncle, he was more like family than some of my actual family members. Uncle Art was there the day my parents brought me home from Catholic Social Services. He baptized, first communioned, confirmed…and was supposed to marry me someday. That will be my greatest regret; that I will never get to hear the wonderful sermon I know he would have written for my wedding. Uncle Art was in my life for every major and minor event of my life. As a child, my parents and I would go to Florida for spring break every year…Uncle Art & Aunt Nancy tagged along year after year. The beach was our home. As a pastor, Uncle Art was always there to answer my difficult questions with compassion and understanding. I’ll never forget the day that, as an oblivious teenager, I made the flippant comment to Uncle Art that he was lucky because he “only worked on Sundays.” WOAH! Needless to say, I learned my lesson and was immediately corrected. I will always remember Uncle Art’s laugh and how I always thought how silly it was that Uncle Art was the only pastor I had ever heard say, “Jesus Christ…” in reply to a good joke or ridiculous comment. As a father of 3 boys, I’ll always remember how frivolous and girlish all my life problems and events seemed to Uncle Art. I’ll never forget how he held me and refused let go, even when I tried, only minutes after Mom passed.

I will take with me Uncle Art’s love of life and ability to touch every life he came in contact with. He had many wise one-liners, but one of my favorites was “Everything a person does makes sense to that person at that time.” Those words have allowed me to understand people and not pass judgement many (not all!) times. Just because I don’t understand or agree with the decisions a person makes, doesn’t mean that person doesn’t hold valid reasons for them. Uncle Art was so wise and so loving. He took the time to genuinely learn about each of my friends. Those of my friends that had the chance to meet him or even be a part of his life will understand the great loss.

A few years ago, Uncle Art learned the joys of email and would send me quick notes every so often. He and my mother frequently exchanged letters discussing the meaning of life and various moral issues. I guess email was his way of passing the torch to a younger generation. Here are a few of my favorite notes:

Well Ashley – How was school today? Do you like teaching? It seems like you put it all together since OU – it is always a difficult task for anyone – the counselor in high school – after I took all the tests back then – said I should either be a Marine or a Farmer – I hate to shoot at people although I like guns and have them – and I do not even know how to plant grass that will grow -my pastor asked me when he visited me in the hospital when I was real sick – 14 years old – do you want to work with people or things – I tried the things stuff – so I said people – and here I am all these years later doing almost the same thing that you are doing – Have a good week – Love you Uncle Art

It was good to see you and talk with you and have another opportunity to tell you that you are loved. Love you a lot Uncle Art  Thanks for the coffee  — um um good.

Did you know that someone stole Bristol Palin’s virginity – I am looking for him – Did you know that Johnny Depp is making a comeback – Is there a Deppathon this year ? How and what are u doing this summer with your summer break – are you taking classes – hanging out or just surviving like me – Love you and will be at the brat thing at St. James the Less  in August – miss you and hope you are well and happy – or at  least a combination of that – Art The Uncle who is the Wizard of Worthington – Love 4 you

{In response to an email I sent him about receiving my 5 year teaching license and that my mom would be proud of my perseverance} Yes she would  – and we are so proud of you too and we love you very much – you are on your way now and I know that you will touch a lot of lives positively – that is what you were meant to do – you have a positive soul about you . We are going  out to dinner with your dad and Cathy tonight – what do you think? It will be difficult to see someone else but your mom is already deeply embedded in our souls and lives – talk to her every day and wondering what she is doing and can’t wait to see her again —- Love you Uncle Art (The Wizard)

I love you always and forever – and hope that you will soon be found by the charming prince so that you can become a princess – Love you Uncle Art

I will make to your wedding and well beyond that – I wouldn’t miss that for anything – and the guy you finally get must be a very nice guy because you do not deserve any jerks or assholes or I will put a contract on them – and whoof – they are gone  Love you a lot – have a good day  – Uncle Art

{It should be noted that my mom’s drink of choice was Dewars on the rocks with a lemon twist} your mother is with all of us today – we love her and will continue to love her and she is having scotch with God – I hope God provides the lemon twist – Talk to you tonight – Love you Uncle Art  (The Wizard)

I am very, very sad about his passing, but once he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, unfortunately, I knew it wouldn’t be long. So I guess it’s not surprising, but I am nonetheless devastated that one more person has been taken from me because of cancer. Uncle Art was a pillar of strength and a ray of love and life.

F*#K Cancer. Seriously.

Every time Uncle Art ended a phone call, his signoff was, “Over & out!”

Always a goof! This was a Lake Erie fishing trip when I was 9 years old.

Always a goof! This was a Lake Erie fishing trip when I was 9 years old.

 

Someday, I will walk with Uncle Art on the beach again.

Someday, I will walk with Uncle Art on the beach again.

 

I know that Mom & Uncle Art are in Heaven finally sharing a drink together after almost 3 years of separation.

I know that Mom & Uncle Art are in Heaven finally sharing a drink together after almost 3 years of separation.

Thirteen point FREAKING one!

If we are Facebook friends, you are more than aware that this past Saturday morning, May 4th, 2013, I completed my first ever Half Marathon. A friend told me Saturday night that he had to scroll through at least 97 status updates and photos about the race on his Facebook newsfeed before he could finally see what was happening in anyone else’s life!

Well, sooorrry! You run 13.1 miles and then see if you want to scream it from the mountaintops!

I promise. You will.

But yes, I completed the Cap City Half Marathon in Columbus, Ohio. 13.1 agonizing, thrilling, endless, and yet gratifying miles. A year ago, hell, 10 years ago, when I was in my peak athletic condition as a varsity high school rower, I would have never completed 13.1 miles. But then, a few months ago, some friends alluded to the idea that if they could run a half marathon, so could I, and we should do it together. I laughed, shook my head and told them how crazy they were for running a half marathon, let alone thinking I would want to do it with them.

Well, time went on and they were able to convince me to run a few (much) shorter races with some friends. As we ran the Oktoberfest 4 miler, the Walk for AIDS 5k, the Thanksgiving Day Flying Feather 5k…I had begun to see a trend. As soon as one of us thought a particular race might be a good idea, it immediately became an “I’ll do it if you do it!” type of agreement. We had all suddenly become race buddies. The Oktoberfest race was fun because my friends and I will use any event as an excuse to dress in costume, so we ran the race in beer bottle costumes! Sure, people run it in lederhosen every year, but I think we were the first beer bottles to cross the finish line. Next year we are going to create some sort of pretzel costume…this could take some creativity.

So when one of us {ahem…Amanda…ahem} decided that, “Sure! I think I want to challenge myself to run the half marathon!”…my competitive side kicked in. Well, if Amanda’s gonna do it, I can do it! Fine. I’ll sign up too! Wait…what? You have to PAY for this torture?? Ugh. There better be a sweet medal.” One by one, almost all of our workout buddies began to agree to this masochism and signed up. A few could not be swayed to join us, but in the end, we had a tribe of 9 running warriors in all (I think I counted everyone!).

Once I had paid the entrance fee, I had to do it, I couldn’t let that money go to waste! I’m an underpaid teacher who is easily influenced by her friend’s fashion blog to purchase things she just HAS to have! So I began training. I asked Alexander, our fearless hot yoga and kickboxing and spinning and hip-hop and…you get the point…instructor how I should train. He told me that there are 2 camps of marathon training. I could either run, run, run, RUN! Or, I could do a little bit of everything. He is of the latter camp. He stressed strengthening my entire body, all my muscles, in order to help me run better. Being that I didn’t really enjoy running at the start of all this, I was stoked to hear that I wasn’t going to have to run 8 miles EVERY day.

I took Alexander’s advice and did a little bit of a lot of things.

Monday: Weightlifting

Tuesday: Run (distance varied)

Wednesday: 90 minutes of hot yoga

Thursday: Run or spin

Friday: Whatever I didn’t do Thursday

Saturday: This varied every week from running to biking to touch football…just something active. In all honesty, many weeks, Saturday was my day off.

Sunday: 60 minutes hot yoga.

This (flexible) training schedule truly prepared me for my race. Once it got nicer out, I started running outside, which was waaaay better than being stuck inside on the treadmill. Because I didn’t get bored so quickly, I was able to run farther! All of this running and training was great until about 4 weeks before the Half, I was running on the treadmill with a goal of 6 miles. Towards the end, my knee REALLY started hurting. Something I had never felt before. It was at that moment that I realized, Well, shit. I guess this means I’m a runner. What about this pain made me a runner? I knew what was causing the pain. Running. I knew what would make the pain go away. Not running. I knew that “not running” just was not an option. All signs pointed to the pain not actually being my knee, but my IT band. (for an explanation of just what this means, click here: OUCH!) So out I went to buy a special running brace. My first run with the brace was miraculous. 8 beautiful, outdoor, sunshiney miles without any pain! Huzzah! But then every run after that included the pain. So I just got used to it and ran through it. The pain would come and go as I ran, so I just kept going. My very last pre-race run was the Monday before the Saturday, May 4th race. I made it so close to my 6-mile goal before my leg just quit. There would be no “running through the pain.” So at this, I vowed to not run at all until race day and let my leg rest and heal. Alexander recommended not changing my workout schedule much the week prior to the race, other than to reduce my running, so this actually went according to plan.

Fast-forward a few days to race day. Saturday, May 4th, 2013. I woke up bright and early at 5:15am (that’s earlier than I get up for work!), got dressed, and scarfed a few eggs and an energy bar. I met my plucky race buddy Amanda and her husband Brad at their house, where we biked to the starting line. Once we arrived at race central, we were lucky enough to stumble across a few other race warriors (trying to find someone amongst 14,000 of your fellow runners was next to impossible!), Mandy & Roxanna. My dad came to meet me at the starting line as well. Us 4 girls just kept freaking out at the fact that we were actually about to embark upon 13.1 miles. Thirteen point one miles. That is a hell of a lot of miles. But we were ready. We had trained, we were hydrated and nourished, and we looked fabulous (c’mon. you don’t think we were going to use this as an opportunity to add to our wardrobe??).

Even my breakfast was cheering me on!

Even my breakfast was cheering me on!

 

My Lady Race Warriors! Me, Amanda, Mandy, & Roxanna!

My Lady Race Warriors! Me, Amanda, Mandy, & Roxanna!

 

Dad & I pre-race!

Dad & I pre-race!

8:00am: BAM! The race begins!

Well, it began for the people at the starting line. We were so far back that we didn’t actually hit the starting line until 8:14am. The four of us started jogging together, keeping up with one another, but eventually, we each hit our stride and it was every woman for herself to meet her goals. After a bit, I found a few more runner warriors, including Alexander. I passed them all and kept running. I was feeling awesome! I was high on adrenaline and passion! And then.

BAM! My leg gave out.

Freaking IT Band. It just started searing with pain. I was only about a mile and a half in and I was already walking! I had planned on running at LEAST 5 miles before taking a break. NO! NO! NO! But I had to listen to my body. So I walked until the pain subsided and I ran a bit. Searing pain. Walk. Run. Searing pain. Walk. Run. Searing pain. Keep running. Mind over matter. Run through it. This is it – what you’ve trained for. Pain is temporary, pride is forever. So I kept running. And guess what? The pain went away. I knew I had to keep running because if I stopped, it would only hurt again. So I ran. I pulled a Forrest Gump and just kept running. I was able to stop at every water station and take a little break without the pain reoccurring. I don’t know if I had just warmed up the tissue and stretched it out or if I was experiencing some sort of “runner’s high,” but whatever it was, I’m glad it happened.

As I turned a corner on the course from N. High St to Broad St., there was a woman in a wheelchair with a sign that read, “Run Strong Because I Can’t!” I’m not sure why she couldn’t run, but that sign spoke to me and gave me reason to keep going. It even made me tear up a bit. Initially, my dad had told me that he wouldn’t see me at the finish line because it would be too crazy with too many people. But at that moment, I knew that I needed to see him there. I needed to hug my dad at the end. I had my phone on me, so I texted Dad (He’s so old fashioned. He can read texts, but hasn’t figured out responding yet.) and asked him to please be there when I finished.

Throughout the race, I saw a few friends cheering me on (one group of friends, I actually passed them and then turned around and ran BACK to get a picture with them!), I had other friends texting me words of encouragement, and one friend even hopped in and ran with me for about ¼ of a mile! I was all good until about mile 11. I was at a good pace and my legs weren’t exhausted yet. But then right around that mile 11 marker…I. Got. Tired. I knew it was all in my head (Thanks girl with the “You’re legs are giving up, you mind is!” poster!) and kept pushing on. I knew I had made it that far and would only be disappointed in myself if I gave up then. So on I went, through German Village and back onto N. High St for my big finish. That was the point when Roni, a girl I don’t really even know that well, saw me running and hopped in with me. She’s run a few of these things before, so she knows how those last few miles feel. With her purse and all, she ran next to me. She gave me words of encouragement and asked if I could hear the beat. “You hear that? That beat? That means you’re getting close to the finish! You got this girl. You’ve worked so hard and you’re so close. You’re not giving up now. Keep going!” Man, that’s some awesome shit right there. I could write (SHOULD write!) a whole other post about the CBus community and how tight knit we are, even with people we vaguely know. But really, I sure hope that I wouldn’t have quit without her actions, but Roni running next to me solidified the fact that I would finish that race running.

And Mom. Oh, Mom. I knew that she was up above screaming, “PERSEVERE!” My mom was my biggest motivation to keep going. When she was alive, she NEVER let me quit anything I started and has been my inspiration for perseverance for many years now. So I carried on in her honor. I ran because she can’t.

I got to mile 13 and had that final .1 mile to go. High Street was lined on both sides with people cheering, holding signs, ringing bells…I felt like I was one of the first 10 to finish (I certainly wasn’t!). Once I had entered into that tunnel of buoyant support, not only did I NOT walk, but I sprinted. I ran as fast as I could through that last bit of racecourse.

The Big Finish! {sorry for the screenshot, but it's $20/pic!!}

The Big Finish!
{sorry for the screenshot, but it’s $20/pic!!}

And guess who was waiting at the finish line cheering my name…

…my Dad.

I fell into his arms with the greatest, most exhausted of hugs and cried. I cried because I had just accomplished the greatest physical feat I had ever attempted. I have spiritually overcome many things in my life, but today’s 13.1 miles required perseverance of not only my body, but my mind and my heart as well. I cried because I wished my mom were there to hug me. I hope she would be proud. I cried because it was MY body, MY mind, and MY heart that crossed that finish line. Yes, I could not and would not have done it without the support of my loved ones, but in the end, I was the one that had to take each stride and carry on.

Dad & I at the Finish Line!

Dad & I at the Finish Line!

So thank you to each and every one of you that called, texted, and even ran beside me. Not only have I learned that my body and mind are capable of more than I ever imagined, but so are my amazing and encouraging friends and family!

My Halfie Race Warriors Post-Race! And yeah! You got a free beer for running!

My Halfie Race Warriors Post-Race! And yeah! You got a free beer for running!
L-R: Brooke, Mandy, Alexander, Roxanna, Kendall, Me, Amanda, & Noreen. Not pictured; Jackie & Brenton!

WHAT? You’re 5?! Already??

Today is my nephew, Mason’s, 5th birthday!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MASON!!

Mason is my sister Danielle’s (Danni) boisterous (not so!) baby boy! Although I have not had the joy of being in Mason’s life since day 1 (that’s a whole OTHER story!), I am so blessed to have him in my life now. When I first met Mason, it was September 2009 and he was 16 months old. I was so excited to have this blonde bouncing (ALL over the place) kid in my life. All he wanted to do was smile, giggle and bounce! Danni and Mason live in Akron with a large branch of our family tree, so unfortunately I do not get to see Mason on a regular basis. But not seeing him all the time makes each of his developments so much more obvious. It started with walking. Sure, he walked when I first met him, but he didn’t really enjoy walking. Mason preferred to BOUNCE! It was like playing with a freaking kangaroo! Then after the walking came the talking. He started to be able to formulate actual words and started to put them together into sentences! And then bowling! Ha! I remember after the walking and talking, David (my brother), Danni and I took Mason bowling and he loved it. And now, dinosaurs! For most 5-year-olds, especially Mason, dinosaurs are the COOLEST. He still just a kid, so it’s simple, but I love to see him develop a passion for something. It’s wonderful to think that someday he will have that same passion for deeper ideas.

My last visit with Mason was for his 5th birthday party. Everything was dinosaur themed, thanks to the amazing party planning skills of my sister and my Aunt Emily. After the party, I got to spend the night with Danni and Mason. We got Swenson’s Galley Boy Burgers (ermegherd…possibly one of my favorite foods. My best friend Kristen, who is from Akron, brought me a Galley Boy from Akron to Columbus once, keeping it warm with her car’s seat heater. God, I love that girl.) and milkshakes and watched Jurassic Park. Ok…Danni and I watched Jurassic Park. Mason made it through maybe 30 minutes of it before falling asleep (proof we’re genetically related). Danni and I stayed up gabbing and fell asleep with the TV on (something we both love to do and more proof we are sisters).

After breakfast the next morning, I had to hit the road back home.

On my way out the door, Mason yelled, “See ya later! Don’t be a stranger!”

Kid, you couldn’t keep me away if you tried.

For Mason on his FIFTH Birthday, My 5 Favorite things about Mason:

1. His gorgeous blonde hair! Boy, I pay good money to get my hair your color!

2. His endearing smile. When that kid smiles and giggles, you can’t help but to join in.

3. His sense of humor. Mason is 5, so not everything that he finds hilarious, actually is, but I’m 28 and still have that problem, so we’ve got that in common.

4. His love of books! I’m an English teacher, so every holiday, I bring new books for Mason and I get to read them to him. Those are a few of my most precious Mason Moments.

5. His originality. There is no other kid just like Mason and he is growing to be one cool little man. I am very privileged to be a part of his life and watch him grow.

My first time meeting Mason, September 2009

My first time meeting Mason, September 2009

Mason Now(ish) How can you not love those cheeks?!

Mason Now(ish) How can you not love those cheeks?!

Galley Boys with Danielle & Mason

Galley Boys with Danielle & Mason

Passed out on the couch with the dogs. We are definitely carrying the same DNA.

Passed out on the couch with the dogs. We are definitely carrying the same DNA.

Mason's Artistry! The drawing on the top right depicts this paste Christmas when (my brother) David and I taught Mason how to make and launch spitballs.

Mason’s Artistry! The drawing on the top right depicts this past Christmas when (my brother) David and I taught Mason how to make and launch spit balls.

20130502-072653.jpg

Life, According to my iPhone: Photo-a-Day Edition, Vol. 6 – APRIL!

I realize it has been awhile since I have updated y’all with my Photo-a-Day Challenge! Although I haven’t been blogging much, I have been keeping up with my photo challenge! I have made a priority of find a few moments each day to document my life.

So here is the month of April!

Tomorrow is a new day and a new month with all new challenges!

My Photo-a-Day Challenge goes on! Click here for a bit of an explanation of what this whole thing’s about. Some of these photo prompts could have been very straight forward, but I tried to think outside the box to be more abstract with my photos.

As a reminder, I also post my photos to flickr, tumblr, and Instagram. To follow me on Instagram, please leave a comment with your username so that I can approve you. Being a teacher, I keep my personal life as locked away from my students as possible, so my Instagram account is private. Also because for some odd reason, I was acquiring an unusual amount of unsavory types following my photos. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Thanks for perusing! Enjoy!

{click collage to enlarge}

PAD_April

Daily Prompts:

April 1: Play. The fabulous Brianne allowed me the pleasure of modeling her hair design tonight! What a fun April Fool’s Day!

April 2: Blue.  Blue skies and red lips!

April 3: Something Beginning with A. The children have gone Amuck!!! I got to babysit/play with these little rapscallions last night. Possibly the coolest kids ever. Susie (the girl on the bottom) made dinner!

April 4: This happened today. I’ve always been pro-adoption. Welcome to the family, ladies!

April 5: Something good. Friendship & heart-shaped sunnies! I can’t wait for all the fun times & photos this summer! With Allie!

April 6: Air. Silly Bar Snorkeling!

April 7: Dreamy. My dreamy place.

April 8: On My Plate. Breakfast for Dinner!

April 9: Tiny. Tiny, happy signs its finally spring!!

April 10: A Place.  My workplace! I am really blessed to have a job here!

April 11: Detail. I was waiting for just the right close-up and my tree finally bloomed! Anyone know what these are called? I don’t even know! I used my macro-lens with my iPhone for this!

April 12: In the Middle. Somehow I have ended up in the middle of this beautiful, crazy mess!

April 13: View from My Bed. I love sleeping in on the weekends, even if it is only til 9!

April 14: Water. Nothing like a cleansing shower after hot, sweaty yoga!

April 15: Alone. I got my act together early this morning and had a nice lil morning alone before work!

April 16: My Favorite Color. Glitter is a color, right??

April 17: Busy. “Busy?! What is this word you speak of??” Well, after MY busy day, I am blessed to have this face to come home to!

April 18: Hello! Well, Hello there Bleeding Heart bush! I planted her last year was thrilled to see her pop up again! Ahhhh, spring!

April 19: Buttons. I tried to go to What the Rock?! for Alternative Fashion Mob buttons, but they weren’t there yet!

April 20: On My Mind.  It had been on my mind to return to my blog for weeks now! I promise I’m working on a comeback!

April 21: Fire. Check out the awesome outdoor heater Dad got me for my patio! I can’t wait for summer on the porch!

April 22: Blurry. Just playin’ with the panoramic setting!

April 23: Time. My annual end-of-the-year paper clip chain. One day for each schoolday left! We’ve made it to 27!

April 24: I Saw This Person Today. Ta-Ta Tim with TuTus Hot Yoga! This might be the last picture we ever take… Make it count!

April 25: Life is…beginning anew. Thursday morning…every morning is a fresh start!

April 26: Childhood. Licking the brownie batter reminds me of childhood!

April 27: Earth.  We got to enjoy some sunshine & grassy earth today!

April 28: This is my Sunday. Alternative Fashion Week model casting call!

April 29: I Wore This Today. Is it sad that this prompt is the only reason I “dressed up?”

April 30: Glasses.  A perfect way to end April! Dinner & vino with my Broads and my Boo.