"Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all." Helen Keller

Sunday, September 23, 2012

My Marathon Adventure

Well it's been 4 weeks since I began my marathon training. It's time to update you on my progress and um my challenges. Now keep in mind because of my bum leg, I can't run the entire time. So I am training to run/walk my marathon.

Week 1
The very first day of training was also the first day of school for my students. I found that I have to leave right at 4 each day so that I may get home in time to change, hydrate, hit the trail and be home and cleaned up before my tv shows. I cant miss my shows. The first day went well. I was exhausted after my day of teaching, but I knew I still had to do this training. It was stinking hot and I was slow as molasses, but I still went out there and ran.

I'm also eating better. I know that what I put into my body will either hurt or help me while I train. So counting calories has begun. I've also quit drinking caffeine and alcohol. Not drinking caffeine or alcohol has never been a problem, but portion control and not constantly stuffing my face with chocolate....not so easy.

After running in ridiculous heat all week and almost needing to call someone to come scrape me off the pavement with a spatula because I melted and fried like an egg on the concrete, I capped off my week by running 5 miles. Not too bad, but I could do better. Always.

Week 2
I hate running on treadmills. I run and run and go absolutely nowhere. I have been running on the treadmill on Thursdays because I have to run sprints after my run and I'm not sure I've mentioned this yet, but it's so stinking hot outside!!! I know I have to train. Normally I'd chicken out and not run cause I hate treadmills, but I put on my big girl panties and did it. A big shock to me so far in training is having to exercise 4 days in a row with no rest days. I'm use to training for a half marathon that allows more rest days instead of back to back running days with crossing training in between. That's been a challenge sometimes because my legs are tired, but I keep on running. I ended my week running 6 miles. When I hit the 5 mile mark I noticed I was faster than the previous week. Not too bad, but I could do better. Always.

Week 3
My worst nightmare came true....I had to run on a track!! Oh the horror of it all!!! If there is anything I hate worse than a treadmill it's running on a track. You just run in a circle over and over and over. Kind of reminded myself of a hamster running on a wheel. I had to run on my school's track after my car duty because I had a Humble Rodeo meeting to attend that evening. I knew if I didn't run on the track, I'd never run when I got home. So as boring as it was, I did it. (another one of those big girl panties moments)

My feet. Oh my poor poor feet. I hate feet, because they are disgusting. Runners feet are pretty gross. I've had bleeding toes, blisters, and other things happen to my feet that are too gross to mention. They are toughening up though! One thing is for certain, I will not have pedis until after my races are over in February. I'm not going through the toughening up process all over again!

I've noticed I'm getting faster when I run. I'm really excited about that. I also ended my week running 7 miles. I went to my sister's house to run in her neighborhood because she has tons of gihugic hills. I want to challenge myself and not get use to one type of running trail. I did better than I thought I would do on the hills and I am able to sing to my music while I run. Which means my breathing is improving! Yay!! But, I know I could always do better.

Week 4
This week has been my hardest week mentally. Our sweet outside kitty Ralphie died suddenly. We were with him when he died. I had my hand over his heart petting him and telling him how much we loved him. I felt him go. Poor sweet baby. I'm still on the verge of crying thinking about it. Ralphie died on a Sunday evening. I did not run on Monday like I was suppose to. I hadn't slept from the night before, I haven't eaten anything because I just couldn't because of sweet Ralphie, and I couldn't bring myself to run either on the trail or on the treadmill. You see there is a spot on my running trail where I first met our Ralphie. He plopped down in front of me purring just wanting some love. I always think of him when I run by our spot and it always made me smile. I knew I couldn't run by our spot that Monday. So I skipped that day.

I did run and cross train the rest of the week even though it was hard mentally. I have caught myself about to cry every time I passed me and Ralphie's spot. I am a lot faster this week. Maybe skipping a day did more good than I thought?? On my cross training days I have been doing Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred. I bumped myself up to level 2 this week. I thought I was going to die about 6 different times. How does Jillian kill me through a DVD?? She is damn good is all I can say.

I ended my week completing a 6 mile run. I was 14 minutes faster than the first time I did 6 miles. Not too shabby. But I know I can do better.

So far I have lost 7 pounds. I have gone down a dress size. I am wearing all smalls in everything. And I am wearing clothes I haven't been able to fit in in years. Even my small jeans are too big for me. Maybe there is something to this whole running business?

4 weeks down, 16 more to go.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Great Ghost Adventure-aka The Stanley Hotel

So ok. I believe in ghosts. There. I said it. Whew I feel better getting that out! I've always wanted to go on a ghost tour, and I love watching Ghost Hunters (Is anyone else just as devastated as me that Grant left??) When my sister lived in Colorado she mentioned that she knew where the Stanley Hotel was located and you could actually sleep in the hotel. Ghost Hunters even had a couple episodes at The Stanley. So after freaking out with excitement for a few minutes, I said lets do it. I mean why not? So our Great Ghost Adventure began.

When you hear the Stanley Hotel I'm sure you think of Stephen King's The Shining, Jack Nicholson running around with his crazy eyes and ax, the gihugic maze of shrubs, and a creepy kid waggling his finger croaking redrum. When we pulled up to The Stanley Hotel the first thing I noticed was that there wasn't any gihugic shrub mazes or a crazy-eyed Jack yelling, "Here's Johnny!" or a croaking kid. But the creepy factor was there. We went up the steps and entered the hotel. When we were all checked in we went to our room; which happened to be a couple doors down from the famous room 217. Our room held two double sized beds and it had a bathroom that looked like it should belong in its own creepy haunted movie. Naturally, the first thing we did was sign up for a ghost tour. And then we were off!

The Lobby of the hotel.

Mrs. Stanley's piano. Sometimes you can hear her playing the piano.

Our ghost tour began in the same hallway as our bedroom. We stopped at Room 217. Mrs. Wilson is the maid that took care of this room before she died. When Stephen King and his wife stayed in the Stanley Hotel, Mr. King was at the bar writing some in his book "The Shining" and Mrs. King was out and about. When she returned to her room, Room 217, all of the King's stuff was unpacked and put away. When Mrs. King brought that up with her husband and thanked Mr. King for unpacking, he looked at her like she was crazy. He did no such thing. Mrs. Wilson was kind enough to unpack their stuff for them. Jim Carrey stayed in The Stanley Hotel when they were filming Dumb and Dumber (The Stanley is the hotel featured in that movie.). He too stayed in Room 217. Mr. Carrey woke up in the middle of the night to something that spooked him. He ran out of the hotel and stayed in another hotel down the road. He refuses to stay in The Stanley to this day. I'd like to go back to The Stanley and stay in that room. I think that would be another great adventure. Anyone want to come with me? We went inside the room and it looked nice, and the bed looked comfortable too. Up next we went up the most haunted staircase in the place (where the ghost children like to play), and up to the 4th floor to room 401.

*Please note: the light looking orbs in the pictures are ghosts of some sort.*

Room 217

Haunted Staircase

Room 401-the most haunted room on the 4th floor

Room 401 is haunted by what is known as the Ghost Thief. This ghost likes to steal or move items from hotel guests. The closet in this room is also the most haunted closet in the hotel. It is reported that whispers from the Ghost Thief can be heard in the closet, and people feel breathing on their necks while in the closet. Our tour guide asked our group if anyone would like to volunteer to be closed up in the dark closet for a bit. Well, of course I said I would! So, I was in the closet. I just stood there, and took some pictures to collect "evidence." (My Ghost Hunters training was kicking in. I don't know why they haven't called me up yet to be on the show.) While I did not experience any whispering or breathing I did get a picture with a mysterious shadow that no one can figure out what it is. Take a look at the second picture below and look to the right of the picture. Maybe you can tell me what it is.

Haunted Closet

Next we went down to the most haunted hallway on the 4th floor. A long time ago, the 4th floor was where the children stayed while their parents did whatever. It is reported that a red ball sometimes is rolled down the hallway. Also, guests of the hotel have reported knocking on their door. When they look out, no one is there. The tour guide chose 3 of us to "play" with the children. I was chosen because I work with kids and I kinda volunteered (again). This was so much fun, and definitely something I won't ever forget! We got in a circle in the middle of the hallway, sang ring around the rosie, and sat down on the floor. Then we sat still with our palms out. All of a sudden I could feel a rush of cold wind on my hands. I looked around to see where it was coming from, and the hotel does not have AC and none of the windows were opened in the hall. There simply was no explanation as to where the cold breeze was coming from. Meanwhile, the rest of our group was snapping pictures like crazy to see if any orbs would appear in the pictures. And boy did they appear! Take a look at the pictures below to see the kids we played with.

After that, we headed down to the basement where not much happened down there with us. And that ended our very cool tour. That night was the best night sleep my sister had. Me, on the other hand, had a little visitor. It was sometime in the middle of the night, and I was sound asleep. (My side of the bed was near the main door.) All of a sudden I felt something pressing hard on my left shoulder. I woke up and I swear saw a little girl giving me her baby doll, which was the "pressing" feeling I had on my shoulder. I did the most natural thing in this situation: freaked out. While it was a neat experience, I just couldn't bring myself to getting out of the bed to use the bathroom in the middle of the night after that. I waited until morning.

This was most definitely a very cool adventure of a lifetime. One of many I won't forget. I hope to go back one day for another adventure. Who is brave enough to come with me? :o)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

My Bum Leg

"Life was throwing me curve balls left and right. But then God gave me a bat and showed me how to swing."

I've told this story a million times. People don't seem to mind asking me about my scar when they see it. I feel strange talking about it, and frankly I'm getting tired of saying what happened. I usually just give a brief explanation as to what happened and move on. I really hate having all the attention on me. I've never written down or told anyone all the details about my whole shattering my leg adventure. So here it goes.

It was my second to last day of my Grand Canyon trip. We stopped at this part in the Grand Canyon where there were little rapids and clean blue water we could splash around in. Havasu Creek was the name. I'll never forget that. We climbed lots of rocks up and over, waded water, and walked a short distance. We finally arrived at the spot where we could hang out in the water for awhile. The boat guide took a small handful of us up a little higher to another spot in the water. When we got there the boat guide showed us this rather large, maybe 10-15 foot high boulder that we could climb up, walk across, and jump in the water. I asked if this was safe. The boat guide threw a rock in the water and said, "Yes, it's deep enough. We bring our tour groups up here all the time. Just watch out for the large rock in the water." I was a little leery about doing this, but part of me wanted to jump. I watched one guy from our group climb the rock and then jump. He resurfaced just fine. Another guy from our group jumped too. When he resurfaced he said he hit his back on some rocks and that he wasn't about to do that again. The first guy kept jumping off. Finally, my little devil on my shoulder got the best of me. I swam across the water to the other side of the bank, and then began climbing the very large and very tall boulder. It was a bit slippery but I made it to the top. Then I had to walk across the top of the boulder to its edge. There were lots of leaves and little hidden dips in the boulder. I had to make sure I didn't twist my ankle. I made it over to the edge of the boulder and looked down. The space to jump in was a little smaller than I anticipated. If I jumped too far to the right I would crash into a ton of rocks. If I jumped too far to the left, it would be too shallow and I could break my neck or something. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and jumped. I flew in the air, went under the water, and felt myself hit some rocks, but it wasn't bad at all. When I resurfaced I was so happy! It was a fun jump and I wasn't hurt!! I immediately thought that I had to do that again. So I swam back over to the boulder, climbed up it, and walked ever so carefully to the edge. I counted to three in my head and once again jumped. This time, when I went under the water my feet hit bottom and the whole weight of my body after flying through the air came crashing down on my feet; most of my weight was on my right side of my body. Before I resurfaced, I felt a shooting pain travel up my right foot, ankle, and leg. Immediately Forrest Gump of all people was in my head, and he said, "And just like that, my running days were over." I knew something was terribly wrong. When I resurfaced I had to get to the other side. Somehow I managed to kick my legs and grab on the rock by the bank. Looking at it now, I know that adrenaline helped me to get over there. I sat on the rock and was hit with an unbelievable amount of excruciating pain. I was in so much pain I actually had my breath knocked out of me. I was hoping that I could shake off the pain and then I could walk, but the more I stayed there the more I knew that wasn't going to happen. I tried putting my weight on my leg and I just fell forward. I couldn't hold myself up. The boat guide came over to ask me what was wrong, I couldn't answer at first because I couldn't talk from the pain. I eventually gasped out that I hurt my leg and I couldn't put any weight on my leg. How I managed to go around that rock, and up the other side where everyone else was is just beyond me. I did a lot of hopping on one foot I think. I sat on the rock with my leg out and took a bandana filled with the icy river water and kept pouring that on my knee. In no time my knee swelled up like a balloon. At that point, my fun time was over. I just wanted to go home. A few tears leaked out of my eyes, but that was it. I forced myself to not cry; otherwise I knew I wouldn't stop. Dad wasn't there when this all happened, but at this point he came over to me and knew something wasn't right. I then thought,"How the heck am I going to get back to the boat?" I was lifted up and given a stick to use to help me walk. I couldn't even put a little weight on my leg, so the stick was out. Dad couldn't carry me on his back because he has bad knees. The boat guide, who felt terrible at this point, put me on his back and we started the long way back to the boat. He carried me up rocks, down rocks, through water. It was ridiculous what he did. We passed other group members who decided to join me going back to the boat. I felt terrible. I remember apologizing so many times. My group members helped me lift my leg up and over rocks, and eventually I made it back to the boat. I got an ace bandage from the boat guide and chunks of ice to put on my leg. At first I thought I had some ligaments torn on my knee. I really had no idea what happened. I took some Advil and kept it wrapped up. I was completely dependent on everyone at this point. And that was just awful. I couldn't help anyone. Hell, I couldn't even go to the bathroom on my own. I had to get someone to carry me on their back and two girls in the group held up plastic sheeting for me to hide behind. Ridiculous. Anytime I was jostled, carried, or went over waves on the water I hurt badly. I didnt complain though. I couldn't. Everyone was being so nice and helpful to me. One thing that I couldn't believe happened was the other boat guide had the balls to come up to me and tell me that sometimes people think and pretend they are hurt just for attention. If looks could kill he would've been dead. Why would I pretend all this? I was hurt and in pain, and he had the gumption to sit there and tell me that. That night when everyone was asleep, I finally lost it. I cried all those tears I was holding back. I just wanted to go home. I couldn't believe what was happening to me. It was just awful. The next day we all were helicoptered out of the Grand Canyon and then we could head home. The only thing was, dad and I drove. It would take us 2 days to get home. Dad and I also wanted to stop at Sandia Peak. So the first night I still didn't have crutches. Dad had to push me around either in a chair or a luggage cart. It was a whole lot more fun when I was a kid. We looked up a place nearby that had crutches, and the next day we drove there and I got fitted for crutches. We headed to Sandia Peak and rode the tram thing up the mountain. I got to skip in line and sit because I was handicapped. I hated the attention. After Sandia Peak we were heading home. Throughout the trip my leg would get these spasms that hurt so bad. But I kept taking my Advil, iced it down, and grinned and beared it. I made doctor appointments on the way home. When I made it home I saw the doctor a couple days later. I had an MRI done twice and a week after I hurt my leg finally found out what exactly I did. The doctor came in and said, "Well, you either go big or go home don't you?" I just looked at the doctor and told him to tell me what I did. He told me that I fractured my leg in 2 places below the knee and that I had some collapsed bones. He said I shattered my leg and that I would need surgery to get a plate and screws put in my leg. Mom broke down and cried. Me, I just sat there and thought ok, I will get through this. So I went to see an orthopedic surgeon and 2 weeks after I shattered my leg I was having surgery.

I had surgery on Friday, July 2nd to get a plate and 7 screws put in my leg. No one was having surgery that day because it was almost July 4th. My doctor came in special for me because it had already been two weeks since I broke the darn thing. I had to prepare for surgery before I got to the hospital by bathing in this weird red stuff. Not my idea of a refreshing bath. When I got to the hospital with my bag of clothes and such, I went in to this room with a bed in it and changed into a very attractive hospital gown, socks, and a shower cap thing (note the sarcasm there). One of the nurses came in and hooked me up to the machine that shows if I'm alive or not. She made a comment about how my heartbeat was normal. Usually peoples' heartbeats are going ninety to nothing. I just told her I was going to be ok. I knew that God was watching out for me giving me His strength and my angels were there with me too. Several nurses came in and before they all left they told me they couldn't believe that I have been going around for 2 weeks with a shattered leg just taking a couple Advil. I told them I even went to the movies theaters the day before and Lowe's (which is true). That's when I realized that I have a high tolerance for pain. Go figure. Anyway, the anesthesiologist came in and put a nerve block directly into the main nerve of my leg. She explained that would put pain meds directly into my leg and then after a few minutes I could press a little button and shoot extra pain meds to my leg if needed. She also gave me what they called margarita juice. It made me feel like I was drunk as a skunk; although I could still talk and hold a conversation at this point. After that, I said goodbye to my family and was wheeled away to the operating room. The nurses were very nice and answered my questions for me along the way. When I got to the operating room I heard them say, "Let's get you some more margarita juice." Apparently I was too coherent for them. I put myself on the very cold and skinny operating table, took one look around and thought to myself, "This sure doesn't look anything like the operating room on Grey's Anatomy." and was out like a light. Next thing I knew, I was waking up with an oxygen mask over my face. The guy that was watching me when I woke up was very nice. He wheeled me into my hospital room for the night and answered my silly questions. I remember asking him if they used epinephrine on me to knock me out (I'm allergic to it so I wanted to make sure they didn't.). Anyway, so I made into my very nice and spacious hospital room waiting for my family to come up. I made it through the surgery. I thought that would have been the worst of it, but boy was I very wrong. Mom stayed with me that night. Apparently my sister and dad were there, but I remember thinking good they left like five minutes after I got into the room. I didn't want them sitting there staring at me for hours on end. Turns out they were there for hours instead of minutes like I thought. Silly drugs. That night marked the worst night of my entire life. I was in so much pain. The Vicodin, nerve block, and whatever else they gave me was not working at all. I remember watching the clock every 20 minutes so I could press the extra button on the nerve block to shoot extra pain meds to my leg. I had to make a million trips to the bathroom, which is good, but the problem was I couldn't feel where the toilet was plus I couldn't stand on my leg. Thank goodness my mom was there. Finally I ended up calling the nurse into my room. I told him I'd rather they cut off my leg at this point the pain was so bad. He ended up shooting this magical and oh so wonderful red stuff into my iv and that did the trick; for a short while anyway. I really wished I could have taken some magical red stuff home with me. The next day I went home. Home that summer was my sister's house. To get to my bedroom at her place I wouldn't need the stairs. This meant I would be away from my sweet kitty for the summer. It was terrible.

When I made it to my sister's house I slept on my back in my bed (This was just terribly uncomfortable because I love to sleep on my side and stomach.) with ice on my leg for 24 hours. Then I hobbled with my crutches and bag that held my nerve block (yep still in my leg) over to the couch and laid there all day. I was completely dependent on everyone. I hated that. I started physical therapy where Andy, my physical therapist, had to reteach me how to walk again. Yep. I couldn't walk. It took weeks for me to learn how to walk again. He had to first somehow reconnect my brain to my leg. Apparently in situations like mine, when a part of the body goes through a traumatic experience it shuts itself off from the brain as a way to protect the leg from getting hurt again. I did all kinds of stretching, bending, and lifting exercises. I could stretch and bend a little bit, but not lift. I tried so hard, and never gave up. And I worked through the pain; a lesson my ballet teacher taught me years and years ago. Finally, after weeks of all this I was able to work on putting some weight on my leg for the first time in well over a month. Then I began walking with the use of equipment. What a wonderful day that was! When I went in to get my 24 staples out, the doctor told me I wouldn't be able to run again and do marathons. I was crushed. Running was what I did! What was I suppose to do? I refused to listen to him. I basically looked at him and said, "Watch me." I worked so hard. I figured out a way to maneuver the stairs and was able to go home to my own bed and sweet kitty. By this time, school was starting and it was back to work for me. My kids were so great. When school started, I was walking around with crutches for several weeks, then I went down to using one crutch, and then I was off crutches and used a cane for several weeks. All this time I was working hard to get myself running again.

My parents thought I was crazy. I complete the Princess Half Marathon each year and I signed up to do the one that followed my leg injury. I knew in my heart I had to be there. I had to complete it. I wasn't an idiot. I didn't run, but I walked it. My sister stayed with me the entire time. I'll never forget that. I saw the finish line and found myself slowly running. I couldn't believe how close I was, plus I was doing a little more then just walking! I worked so hard and after being told I wouldn't do marathons anymore I was almost there. When I crossed that finish line I began to cry. Not even 6 months since I shattered my leg had passed and against all odds I did it. I completed a marathon after being told I'd never do it again. I never gave up. Well this just fueled the fire in me. I had to run again. If I could do what I just did, I knew in my heart I could run. And that's just what I did. Took me awhile to get there, but I did. I even called the doctor to make sure I wasn't going to hurt my leg running, and he said that as long as I take it easy I should be just fine. He sounded shocked actually that I was running.

During all this, I only cried that one time out in the Grand Canyon. I wouldn't let myself lose it like that anymore. I couldn't. There were so many people going through much worse than what I was going through; experiencing so much more pain than me. I kept remembering my aunt, who died of brain cancer, my godmother, who died of ovarian cancer, and my grandfather, who died of prostate cancer. They went through so much more pain and suffering than me. I had to stay strong. Lance Armstrong said, "Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever." I couldn't let myself go; I had to stay strong for them.

It's been two years since all this happened. Since then I can successfully tell you when it will rain or when there is a change in the weather pressure. I'm a human barometer. My leg starts hurting with shooting pain. Not fun, but does come in handy sometimes; like when the kids are playing on the playground at recess, I know when to blow the whistle to go in early before it rains. I can't cross my legs or keep it bent for as long as I use to. I can bend my leg backwards but not nearly as far as my other leg. I probably won't ever bend it all the way back again. I can't put my whole weight on my right leg when I'm kneeling. Sometimes my leg pops a lot and goes out on me. Walking on slippery ground is hard for me because my unstable leg tends to slip out from right under me. My leg under my knee and down to my toes is still numb. I am running. Not far and not fast, but I am running. I can only run 3 miles without stopping, and when I run I limp a little. I'm working on not limping when I run. I usually train to run/walk my marathons. I have completed 3 half marathons since shattering my leg, and I have signed up to complete a full marathon in January of 2013. I still haven't worked up the courage to jump into water like a swimming pool yet. I'm working on that though. I refuse to let that scare me all my life. I have a lovely 5 inch or so scar on my leg. I'm proud of my scar. It shows that I went through something and survived. I don't like to show my scar off though. I get all shy when people ask to see it. What is even worse is when I'm out running and I pass people on the trails I see them glance down at my scar and then back up at me with this weird look on their faces. I think I hate that the most. It fuels the fire in me though. It makes me run harder. It makes me more of a fighter. Sounds silly doesn't it?

This has been an adventure of a lifetime for me. Not a very good one. But I have learned through God that I can find strength and courage in me when I never thought it was possible. "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."-Philippians 4:13

This is what my leg looks like now that I have a plate and 7 screws in my leg. This X-ray shows 5 screws. The other two are kind of vertical down my leg.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Grand Canyon Adventure

"I believe, when I hike the Grand Canyon and see it at sunset, that the hand of God is there also."

My dad came to me with the idea of going to the Grand Canyon on an 8 day hiking, rafting, camping trip. The rest of my family was like heck no! (They needed showers and such.) I was like sign me up! I've never been to the Grand Canyon and to experience it from the inside of it, well that would be an amazing adventure. The group I was in was a group full of geologists with a family of 4 sprinkled in. Out of everyone in the group, there were about 5 chicks and the rest were guys. I wasn't worried. I knew I would have the time of my life. My group was amazing! The guys were older gentlemen, but so fun to hang out with. I learned a lot from them too. I was able to take a ton of pictures and bring all what I learned and the pictures back to my students for learning in the classroom.

Dad and I drove up to the Grand Canyon. It took us two days to get there. When we arrived, we made it there long before anyone else in our group showed up. We bought us some beer and climbed a whole bunch of rocks I'm pretty sure we weren't suppose to climb, and just sat there drinking and enjoying the view. This is a moment with my daddy I will never forget. Eventually that evening everyone showed up and we kind of just all hung out. There really wasn't an official name for our group; it was just a bunch of friends together on a once in a lifetime trip.

The next day we drove down to the water's edge and got on our very large rafting boats. The boats were loaded down with all of our gear, food, etc. I remember one of the boat drivers said, there were no toilets, you had to pee in the river. For some reason he said that straight at me. I naturally, just went along with it while on the inside in my mind I was like "Whoa did he just say that??? I have to do what??" It's ok. I played it cool. We had two boats for our group. There were these large extra rafts attached to the sides of the boats that looked like torpedoes. You were able to sit on these torpedoes while we went went rafting through rapids. At first, no one wanted to sit on those. But then, I got people to join me on the torpedoes later. This was a lot of fun! Especially when we went through the fifty something rapids! :o)

And so our Grand Canyon trip began. We started going down the river looking at the canyon from the inside. It was absolutely beautiful. All the geologists in the group knew what they were looking at. I just knew I was looking at one of God's beautiful creations and was speechless. We made various stops along the way looking at fossils and things like that. One of our stops was even where the Colorado River met the Grand Canyon river. The water was the prettiest blue I have ever seen. There was a natural water slide here. So of course I went down it! We also stopped along the way to do some hiking. One day we hiked over 6 miles. I saw some awesome things. And like I said, the guys on the trip answered all my questions I had. I think they were so happy someone other than a geologist was asking questions! I was like a sponge; trying to soak it all up. We saw some amazing waterfalls, and hiked up to the top of one of them. We also had the opportunity to jump off the top of one of the waterfalls. No one in my group wanted to do it-except me. It was on my Bucket List. So, I got in the very cold water, swam to the other side of the waterfall, climbed up the slippery rocks to the top of the waterfall, stood there to take it all in, and then jumped. It. Was. Awesome! After I did it, everyone else decided to do it. Trend starter? Nah! I'm just crazy wanting to experience it all. During one stop along the way, we stopped at a natural unconformity. This is like billions of years of nothing. The geologists were oogling over this and drooling and take pictures of themselves by this. The non-geologists in the group just stood out of their way and let them have some fun. One night I experienced my first real sand storm. Sand was flying everywhere. I'm sure I ate a ton of it. I remember going to sleep and having to cover up my whole head so sand wouldn't go in my mouth, nose, and ears while I slept. I just told my group to kindly unbury me in the morning. The second to last day we stopped at another part of the Colorado River with the pretty blue water. We got some time to play in that. This was when I broke my leg. Yep. I broke my leg down in the Grand Canyon. This is an adventure all to itself. The next day, we were all helicoptered out of the Grand Canyon (I got to ride shot gun!), took the best shower of my life, and by then it was time to head home. On the way home, dad and I stopped at Sandia Peak in Albuquerque. The views there were gorgeous!

At night in the Grand Canyon, we would all sit in a large circle and just talk and drink beer. It was a fabulous thing. I mean who can say they have done that in the Grand Canyon? We were on what we called river time. You went to sleep when it was dark (it could've been 8 at night for all we knew) and you woke up at light (again, it could have been 5 in the morning). You could pitch a tent and sleep in that at night. I didn't want to, because I didn't want to miss a thing. I just put out my sleeping bag right there on the sand bar, and fell asleep staring at the stars with the gentle noises from the rapids as my background sound. There were bats flying around, gihugic lizards, ants, snakes, etc. That never bothered me. I couldn't let that bother me. I would have missed out on so much. I cannot even begin to describe what it is like sleeping under the stars like that. This is just something someone has to experience themselves. What an amazing thing. Simply priceless.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Ready, Ready, Ready, Ready to Run

Ever since my dancing days were over I had to do something to keep me moving. I would go for runs here and there but nothing serious. I always wanted to complete a Half Marathon (The idea of completing a marathon scares the crap out of me.). In 2008 my sister called me up at work and told me about this new Half Marathon race at Disney World called The Princess Half Marathon. Naturally, I hyperventilated at the thought of actually completing a Half Marathon, but then again I thought it would be neat to do one. So I said why not? (I seem to say that a lot don't I?) And I registered for The Princess Half Marathon.

I began training for the half marathon while my sister trained for it up in Colorado. I ran in hot temperatures (like in the 100s), rain, snow, sleet, and just plain cold running conditions. I have found running in the rain to be just as amazing as walking or playing in the rain. Before I knew it, it was race day. I was nervous as hell. Was I going to finish the race? Was I going to get injured? A friend of mine told me to remember my training and don't start off too fast. I hit a huge mental wall about the 10th mile. My sister kept me going though. All that hard work and dedication paid off. I completed my very first Half Marathon-at Disney World no less! What a wonderful feeling it was. I wore my really awesome medal around Disney World for several days. Many people, including myself, were congratulating everyone who was wearing the medal. This was a very amazing feeling.

And that was all it took. I caught the racing bug. Soon I signed up to complete the Disney Land Half Marathon (because it would be neat to get the Coast to Coast Challenge medal), and before I knew it I had completed three other Princess Half Marathons throughout the years. I also completed the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 13k race, as well as the Houston Half Marathon. I also have completed the Red, White, and Blue 10k race (which benefited wounded veterans), and I have completed a sprinkle of 5k's here and there throughout the years that benefited several different causes such as Colon Cancer research and Brain Cancer research (the one cause closest to my heart). I am by no means a fast runner. I just get out there and actually do enjoy myself.

My sister and I noticed that the last Princess Half Marathon we completed we didn't really have to train for. We kind of lost some motivation there. Probably because we knew we could complete it with no problems. So she began throwing out the idea of completing a full marathon. I did the most natural thing in this situation-I curled up in a ball and began rocking back and forth while sucking my thumb crying for my mommy and then signed up to complete the Disney World Marathon in January 2013. I'm still having panic attacks just thinking about it. I've done pretraining for the pretraining for the training I will complete to get ready for the marathon (I'm that freaked out!). This should be a very fun adventure! :o)

My Biggest Adventure Yet

"Teachers live in the moment celebrating each success as it happens, because every personal triumph for a child, no matter how small, inspires him to achieve more."~Paula J. Fox

My biggest life adventure is still going on to this day. Before graduating from Texas A&M, I interviewed for an internship position. I walked into this large conference room and was interviewed by about 12 principals from my school district all at the same time. Talk about nerve racking! What do you know? I was hired to teach second grade at Pine Forest Elementary (and I've been teaching there ever since!). Because I was an intern I skipped student teaching and went straight to work. One of the best decisions of my life. Not too many people skip student teaching.

I first started off teaching 2nd grade for four years. After that I moved to 3rd grade. I taught 3rd for four years. When I moved into 3rd grade I feel that my role as a teacher took a turn for the better. Here is where I met my fellow co-worker and now best friend. She taught me so much as an educator. Since then I have been able to foster parent and student relationships better than ever. Now I am teaching fifth grade with my best friend. I cannot wait for that adventure to begin! (Side Note-We have been so affectionately named Thelma and Louis, Laverne and Shirley, Fric and Frac by others around us. Seriously we must have been sisters separated at birth. Another side note-My Bestir and I grew up in the same town, went to the same high school, same college, and never once knew each other until we worked together. We have some of the same friends too. So weird.)Anywho, by no means of the imagination do I think I'm the best teacher out there. I have so much still to learn. I take advantage of everything I can so that I may be a better teacher for my kids. Everywhere I go, I try to find ways to incorporate what I learn into my lessons with my kids.

I love my job. I love everything about it; the kids, the people I work with, the learning experiences I have each day, and the parents. Everyday is different. I've learned to expect the unexpected; like when you get to school and there is no power and you have a classroom full of children (you better believe we still learned that day!). I have taught siblings, special ed students, GT (Gifted and Talented) students, ESL (English as a Second Language) students; you name it I've taught them.

I get asked all the time if I have children. While I don't have any biological children of my own, I always answer this question by saying, "Yes. I have 23 children." You can imagine the looks on their faces when I answer that. But it is true. The kids I have all school year are mine. I teach and treat them like I would if they were my own. Not only do I teach them academically, but affectively as well. (Not to mention the manners piece and other various life-long skills.) They are my own until summer time. Not only do my kids call me Ms. Norris, but I often get called Mom, Dad, Aunt, Uncle; to be honest it is an honor the kids call me these things because we are a family. I treasure all of our family moments we have. It is very hard letting them go. On the last day of school, my kids and I usually just sit in a large circle and hug each other, cry a little, and don't ever want to go. I always get visited by my kids year after year. Even my kids that are in high school now, come to see me. It always makes me smile and touches my heart in a way they will never know.

In case you haven't noticed, I just love kids. I have so many stories about my babes. I adore even the students who aren't in my home room. One of my favorite sweetest kids I know was in another classroom. I took care of him as if he was mine. This little boy is special ed, has had surgery on his brain, has to wear strong hearing aids, and wears braces. No matter what he goes through he always has a smile on his face. We've even played at recess together. And the hugs he gives. Wow, he hugs just like my grandfather did. I remember at lunch he just didn't look right to me. So I went over to him and asked him what was wrong. He said nothing that he was fine, but I knew better. He finally broke down and began to cry, and latched himself to me. Bless his heart. My sweet boy. I fixed him up and took care of him. Even now that school is out, I'm wondering how he is doing. Another fun student I had gave me a dragon. We had a wonderful conversation about the movie "How to Train a Dragon." After seeing the movie, I told my kids that I would love to have a pet dragon. Well my sweet girl went home, painted me a ceramic dragon, and gave it to me. She said, "Now you have a pet dragon." And my dragon never leaves my desk. :-)

I have written several grants (thanks to my improved writing skills from when I received my Masters degree), been on many committees at my school, nominated several times for Teacher of the Year, and been Team Leader for several years. I have accomplished a lot in my 8 years of teaching, and I can't wait to continue this life adventure. I truly believe this is what I am suppose to do. This is the path God had led me to. I only hope I do justice for Him. I most certainly try every day I'm with my kids.

Italy-"When in Rome, do as the Romans do!"

Ah Italy. I have never wanted to go anywhere so badly in my entire life. I remember in 8th grade Social Studies class we were reading in our textbook. I turned the page and there it was, a picture of the Colosseum. I immediately knew that one day I would go there in person and see it. I never lost that dream. Many many years later, my sister told me about this Adventures by Disney tour group that goes to Italy. Being the self-proclaimed Disney freak that I am I knew that I had to find a way to go on this trip. Before I knew it, I had a MUCH lighter pocket book and I was headed to Italy to complete the Adventures by Disney Viva Italia trip.

First off, the plane trip over was excellent. I say this only because I don't remember it. Yep. I took a whole entire sleeping pill. The only problem was, I was still drugged when it was time to get off the plane. No worries people. I just winged it. What was the airport like in Italy you might ask? I have no idea. I don't remember a thing. All I remember was that I needed to get back to sleep ASAP because I was feeling a little sick just trying to wing it. Once we arrived in the place that held the Colosseum, Rome, we checked into our hotel room and slept off the rest of the sleeping pill. I woke up refreshed and ready to attend the welcome dinner. Our tour group was a group that included kids. There were several families there with their children. While I don't mind kids at all, some of the families were a little (for lack of a better word) snobby. But I didn't care. I was in the same place that the Colosseum was actually in. My long awaited dream was about to come true at last.

The very first stop on our trip was the Colosseum. When we were walking towards this place I couldn't say a word. There it was. It was better than what I remembered in my Social Studies book several years before. We by passed all the long lines and walked right into the place. I couldn't believe it. I touched the walls, sat down on a steps, and took tons of pictures. My dream had finally come true. It is hard to describe a feeling like that after holding on to the dream for over 12 years. When we were leaving the Colosseum, we found a column where someone had scraped the Texas A&M symbol on it. Naturally, my sister and I had to stop and "WHOOP" in front of it. There are pictures. It was fantastic! I have even had a lovely conversation with the Superintendent of my school district about this. Yes! This is true! It was exceptionally weird, but so awesome at the same time! And that was it! My dream came true. I could go home....Actually, that didn't happen of course. We went to the Pantheon next. I learned so much in this one place. It was hard to imagine what it would have looked like at the time of Caesar. It was a really neat place to visit. After that we went to the Spanish Steps. There was this really neat boat fountain at the front of the steps and then I went all the way up to the top. There were like 138 steps I believe and tons of people. Very cool. Then we went to the Trevi Fountain next. This was also one of my favorite places. This fountain is way larger than I expected. We also threw in 3 coins into the fountain with our left hand over our right shoulder with our backs turned. Tradition states that if you do this then you will return to Rome one day. Anyone want to come with me?

The next day we went to the Vatican City and also saw Saint Peter's Basilica. I think throughout my tour I just made all these weird noises because of the beauty of this place. We saw the gardens the Pope walks in. I saw the Pope's sleeping quarters (from the outside), I saw the room (from the outside) that the Pope died in and they came to the window to announce his death; being a Catholic this was something special to see. I couldn't believe I was there. I also was able to see all the places that was shown on the news when they chose a new Pope; the famous smokestack, the door, the guards, everything. We went inside Saint Peter's Basilica and my breath was taken away from me (again). To be able to sit there and have mass would be a dream come true. We went into the Sistine Chapel and saw the famous ceiling Michelangelo painted. I have never seen a more beautiful ceiling in my life. Way better than what is in the Golf Ball ride at Disney World!! I bought a rosary and a case for it and have it by my bed. One of my treasured items.

The next day we traveled out to the country town of Orvieto. I. Love. It. Here. I could've thought no better a place to live (at least I thought that at that time of the trip). There was this gihugic duomo in the middle of the small town. The people were great and they had fabulous pottery. I bought me some dishes for my nonexistent kitchen. The view there was absolutely amazing too. We traveled on to the Tuscany area next. It was so nice to get away from the cities for a while. We had a lovely wine tasting and I fell in love with red wine here.

We headed to the Castello Vicchiomggio to make some pasta. We got a lesson on how to make pasta from scratch including bow tie pasta. I had a blast! I mean not very many people can say they learned how to make pasta from scratch in Italy! I sure did rock the shower cap we had to wear! Up next was Florence. I didn't really like it here. There were too many people. I'm not a fan of crowds. Too many people in one spot tends to freak me out a bit. But I just grinned and beared it and went to see the Statue of David. I couldn't take pictures of the statue, but there were many people drawing it. It was an interesting thing to see. I also bought a tablcloth for my nonexistent table. We headed back to our little hotel in the country. It was such a neat place to stay. I loved all the green and walking trails. I even took a swim in the pool just so I can now say I swam in Tuscany. Now, I loved all the green, however, my allergies did not. I ended up losing my voice for awhile. That was so fun croaking around like an idiot....not.

The next day I took my croaking self aboard the Eurostar train. Very neat I must say. We were heading to Venice. Now, I didn't know what to expect here except they had gondola rides. When we arrived we hopped on to a gondola and I had my very first gondola ride experience. First off, the gondoliers are not like in the movies. The one that I had was actually steering the gonola while talking on the cell phone. There has got to be a law that that is wrong somewhere. Once we got off the gondola we had a bit of a walking tour around Venice. And this was it. The moment I knew that this was THE place I could live. Orvieto who? Venice was my place to live. Even now, if you told me that I had to move here tomorrow, I would in a heart beat. I love the people, the streets that are like mazes, and the birds are nice to me (long story-lets just say the birds in America hate me).

We saw Saint Mark's Basilica. What a beautiful site to see. I can't even describe it. One of my favorite places. I also fed the birds there in Saint Mark's Square. Bird flu, schmird flu I say! It was really cool. The birds would jump in my hand and just stay there while they ate. Very very neat. Definitely a moment I will never forget. While in Venice we had the pleasure of going into a mask making shop and learned how they make masks for the Carnivale. I took loads of pictures. Then we even got the opportunity to decorate our own masks. This was a very cool lesson. I have actually for three years now taken this lesson and taught my students this; even ending the lesson with the kids decorating their own masks. When we had a chance to explore Venice on our own, we went down to the boat areas where there were some local artists. I bought a painting from one of them who painted the Bridge of Sighs. This was a really neat bridge. I walked down to the actual bridge and snapped a few thousand photos.

The last day we had our farewell dinner at our hotel. We also were taught the fundamentals of the famous dance "Il Minuetto." So I dusted off my dancing feet and had a blast!

The one thing I wished would have happen was that the people in our group were a little bit more friendly. I experienced so many great things in Italy and Disney took real good care of us. This was a life adventure I'll never forget.