My word for 2018 is innovation. In the fall of 2017, I decided that I wanted to try something new each month. I wanted to have the experience of doing something that would put me out of my comfort zone. So, my idea to use innovation to frame my goals for 2018 was born. I also thought about using the idea of innovation to serve for inspiration of how I can handle regular things in my daily life a little differently. Why not try new approaches to things and see what happens. I had heard about people having new experiences after a major event happened in life. I decided that I could start in the new year. In the fall I started talking with Nichole, a colleague of mine who brainstormed a few creative ideas with me. She often talked about how much she enjoyed Yoga, and I had always wanted to try a class out (but, yet was honestly terrified about going- since I had no experience), so my trial of doing a new scary thing was born. Before taking on a major project, I was excited about seeing if the experience was what I really wanted.
At the end of November, Nichole gave me the schedule to the yoga classes downtown and told me how to go about attending the first class. She also mentioned she would go with me when I attended my first class so I would not be quite so nervous.
I remember being so excited, yet so nervous about how the class would go. During the first 10 minutes of class, I felt weird and was concerned that I did not fit in. Plus, I really wanted to like Yoga. But, I was not sure that I did. Although, I am glad that the class was an hour in length. About halfway through the class, I remember thinking, “I love this, and I could see myself going back. It is honestly the best tech, mind and body detox, and I have never felt more relaxed.” It truly was like nothing I had ever experienced before. Since my first class I ended up buying more classes and I go weekly now.
My sister in law and mother in law, and a few friends also frequently attend class with me, which is really fun! I am so glad that I gave it a try, and have since realized that it is the perfect cross training for me as a runner, and will greatly help improve my work and life balance . Now, after only a month in a half, I cannot imagine my life without yoga. I am still contemplating what new adventure I will take on in January!
January’s New Experience
Unexpected blessings from trying something new
When I started to think about what my new thing would be for January, I decided I wanted to do something that I knew nothing about. I remembered that my sister and brother-in -law, Erin and Dave were really into bird watching. On a whim, I started thinking about what it might be like to go and see why people enjoyed bird watching. Later that evening I texted Erin saying, “This is going to sound really weird, but I was wondering if you would take me bird watching sometime?”
Right away she responded with excitement by saying at all four of us could go. I was honored that she would even consider taking me. I had no knowledge whatsoever about birding. I wasn’t sure if my husband Nate would be interested or not, but I knew he would love the chance to be outside and the idea of walking or hiking would definitely be something that he could get excited about. Within minutes we had a date! We were excited to go to church together Saturday night and tackle our adventure on Sunday morning. It was already turning out to be a great weekend to get together with family and afforded us time for worship and enjoying the outside together. Plus, our kids would get to enjoy their cousins two days in a row. Venturing out beyond our regular church service and visiting a new church was pretty cool. The pastor told his story about how he got into ministry, and also talked about being fishers of men. I realized at that fishing needed to be on my list of new experiences for the summer.
After doing a little research, Erin decided that Columbus Park about 25 minutes from our house would be a fantastic place to go bird watching. I was most nervous that I would enjoy bird watching. I really wanted to like it, and have it be a great experience that I would remember for a long time. It was interesting to look through Erin’s bird books and checklists about what she was hoping to see. She compared the activity to a treasure hunt. It was neat to predict about what we might be able to find. Considering the mindset of birding to be like a treasure hunt, I now understand one of the reasons people are excited about the activity. On the way to the park I started asking Erin all kinds of questions. I started out by phrasing each question, “This might be a dumb question, or one that shows how little I really know”. But, as she would answer my questions, she would assure me that they were in fact good questions. My mind was like a sponge, and I had an incredible interest in learning everything I could about birds. It was really fun to be curious about something, and really lead me to reflect on the quality of opportunities I give my students and own children to experience pure learning.
Upon arrival, we pulled up near a car that had a number of ultra distance stickers on it. It was so cool to see some of the extreme distances that the owner must be passionate about. Fortunately, we were able to chat with the ultra distance woman who owned the car. She told us all about an adventure race similar to the well known Barkley marathon, that she was putting on in Northern Michigan. And, she also told us about how she was running across the state of Tennessee this year. Just talking to her got me excited to think about the different races I want to do. And, watching her begin another lap around the park was pretty awesome. There is something powerful about watching someone in his or her element: especially a runner!
As we ventured out my husband Nate compared the sky to a Scotland fog. It was beautiful to hike in the middle of winter. We ended up seeing a tufted titmouse, cardinal, blue jay, red-tailed hawk, black-capped chickadee, crows and a sparrow. My favorite was the cardinal. I have always been drawn to them- it might be because that is the bird my Grandma always tells me that she sees. Looking at these birds through the binoculars was pretty cool. It had been quite a while since I have spent time pausing and looking at nature through a new lens. When we saw the cardinal again, I didn’t want to just look through the binoculars; I wanted to see it up close in person.
Throughout our journey, we also crossed some pretty rugged area. After being assured that it was safe, I went along with the group and crossed a frozen river. I felt pretty proud after that. We also saw a kayak frozen in the water. It was kind of fun to let my mind wander and think about how it got there, and what the story was behind it. It gave me a whole new idea for writing prompts and photography in the classroom!
As I look back on my first experience as a bird watcher, I have fond memories. It was exciting to be there in the middle of such a beautiful park with two experts on birds. The experience also made me aware of the fact that I don’t go for enough walks and hike nearly enough. The morning hit all of my senses, which is why I still remember so many details about it. It was truly a simple experience, but when I look back it is one that really taught me about the ordinary things that I miss when I don’t slow down to see things I have never “really looked at before”.
Ice Skating February’s New Thing
“Hockey Skates or Figure Skates?” I stood there for a moment not sure what to answer. I had not thought about the fact that I would get a choice of which type of ice skate I wanted to try. After what seemed like a very awkward pause, I responded with the question, “I don’t really skate often, which one would be easier”?
Before 2018 started, I thought about some of the things that I wanted to make sure that I would get a chance to try out. Ice skating was one of the first new experiences that I wanted to have. While this would not be my first time ice skating, it was maybe 1990, and I was in middle school when I was last on ice skates. I figured this could qualify as a new experience since it had been a significant number of years since I had done it. I was pretty nervous about being able to stand on skates and not completely fall over! For some reason my mind was comparing the balance required to stand on the ice as to that needed for a tightrope walker.
February 18th had arrived. The family was excited to take on our adventure with the Simons family. I am pretty sure that I am the weakest link in both families when it comes to skating. We helped the kids get their skates laced up, and Nate said that he would take the kids onto the rink as I would get settled and eventually onto the rink. Part of this sounded like a good idea since the kids were itching to get on the ice. However, on the other hand, part of me was very concerned that I would be able to make my way to the ice on skates all by myself!
Putting on the skates were a little tough since the toe is very solid and it is tough to slide your foot into them. Nevertheless I was able to get ready. I am not too proud to say that I was pretty excited as I walked toward the ice. I had done it, I was actually walking on ice skates and not falling over. I wasn’t sure that I had the right size, and my right foot felt a little weird, but I was ready to attack the ice.
I started out by holding onto the wall. I slowly edged my way around the perimeter of the ice. I felt bad for any kid who might fall because I was in no position to help him or her. There was something pretty exhilarating about being able to glide on the ice. I saw a few people that I knew, and the little kid in me wanted to say, “Look at me! Did you notice I am actually ice skating!” The air felt cool, and it was very refreshing. Luke, Rachel and Nate were skating like professionals. I was pretty impressed by their abilities. Nathan on the other hand, had not been on skates in quite a while. Once we switched his size of skates to a smaller size that helped and he seemed to do a little better. For someone who had maybe ice skated once or twice, I thought he was doing a pretty fantastic job and had a willing attitude. My growth as an ice skater was pretty amazing! As I became more comfortable I noticed my hands did not need to touch the walls, and I felt like speeding up my slow pace. My friend Shelly and I were able to carry on a conversation for a few laps around the rink. I forgot I was actually on ice skates for a while! Although as the open skate time neared the end, I felt like I needed to sit down and take a break. My legs were getting really tired.
And just like that, an hour and half had passed. As I took my feet out of the skates, it was truly the weirdest sensation. Walking in boots felt so new! Everyone had fun, and it was honestly something I could see doing again. I was truly impressed by the speed and grace that some people were able to skate with. I am not sure when, but I think I will be back! It was a lot of fun. Next time, I wonder if I will try hockey skates a second time, or figure skates on my next skating adventure. I liked the support of the hockey skates, but part of me would love to lace up the skates on the figure skaters. I am very glad I tried it! It gave me a lot of confidence to know I could skate!
March’s New Thing
*10 Days 10 Foods
*Serving in the Soup Kitchen
When I began thinking about new experiences, the idea of looking at food in a new way came to mind. For 10 days (March 2-11), I decided to limit myself to 10 ingredients. My purpose with ten foods over ten days was to be intentional, and very mindful about my food. I was excited to see if I could discipline myself to follow such a strict eating program. I also looked forward to seeing how creative I could be with only a few choices. I live with such excess. There are so many choices. Recently, I have realized that I am starting to suffer from decision fatigue. I liked the idea that for 10 days, I would only need to think about 10 ingredients. Shopping, cooking and what eat would get a whole lot easier. While, I have been gluten free since 1999, what used to be a very limiting diet, now thanks to many manufacturers as well as restaurants, is quite easy to follow.
While I was ready to jump in head first, the rest of my family was not quite as excited to challenge themselves in this way. So this was a challenge that I was taking on solo.
Here are the things I chose:
Day 1 March 2: It is exciting! I have never done this type of challenge. I am wondering what it will be like by day 4 or 5. However, I am committed to seeing this through until March 11. I decided to start the morning with a cup of coffee. Usually I would have added my favorite creamer, but after trying Whole 30 a few years ago, I got used to black coffee. I love the taste of coffee, and the smell of the beans are amazing. Creamer is not necessary.
Oatmeal-sprinkled in a pinch of salt. It was actually pretty good!
Bummed that I did not have an avocado in the fridge
Black beans with a touch of olive oil and salt
Interestingly, I am already feeling better and drinking more water. I think I was a little frustrated this morning not being able to eat peanut butter, or something else. This might honestly be boredom.
Lunch was a sweet potato. Sweet potatoes are truly amazing and full of rich flavor.
I went to the movies with the kids- at first I was bummed I did not put Diet Coke on the list. Then, as I sat there surrounded by everyone with their popcorn, it took me back to movies a long time ago, when I did not get anything to eat or drink. I was okay, and still enjoyed the movie.
When I got home I was so excited to make rice. I ate a lot of rice!
As I was making the rice I got frustrated and felt like quitting. I wished I could eat something like Peanut butter. My oldest son Nathan asked me why I was punishing myself. I figured I needed to last at least a day!
After yoga that evening, in a skillet I cut up sweet potatoes, apples, sprinkled in oatmeal, and seasoned with salt. I used a little olive oil to cook it. It was actually pretty good. And very filling.
I did indulge the treat of a glass of red wine as the day came to an end.
I got up early as I planned to go for a 13 mile run.
I ate a bowl of oatmeal and made black coffee.
Excitement for Rice after my run
Two sweet potatoes
Red wine at the Voyager event. I was nervous about what I would eat. I did not succumb to the temptation…and was able to leave feeling victorious. Discipline accomplished.
Ran 6 miles
I have to say after two days, I feel lighter and faster. I have had two amazing days!
Oatmeal for breakfast
Spent the day at various practices after church.
I ate a lot of rice, beans, and sweet potatoes.
We went over to Mom and Jim’s for pizza afterwards. I did have to pass on pizza that smelled really good, a gorgeous looking salad (good news is that I don’t think I could have eaten it due to the noodles), and apple crisp. Apple crisp!
I did bring my beans and rice which was pretty good. So good, that Graham (my two year old nephew) asked for some of my beans. I also ate an avocado, although was not necessary- and red wine.
When I got home, I felt hungry, or was it just habit of eating. I made a sweet potato, but it was not very good since I really was not hungry.
Coffee in the morning
Looking forward to my oatmeal.
I have to say that I do feel less stressed about what I will eat. Packing lunch is easier since I don’t really think about what I will eat, but tougher in some ways as I cannot just grab something.
Day 5 Tuesday- Nate and I were able to enjoy a night at Tio Gordos. I looked forward to the beans and rice all day! The food did not disappoint. Although, the warm basket of chips on the table paired with salsa was tempting, I was strong. Everything was perfect. The glass of Merlot was tasty. I felt really good, and not stuffed. I think future visits to Tio Gordos might include a side of beans and rice! During dinner we shared our lists of 5 places we each wanted to travel to in the U.S. as well globally. We had so much fun dreaming and explaining to each other about where we wanted to go. The best part is that it honestly felt like we would at some point accomplish all of these bucket list places. I have a pretty amazing husband who also wants to travel!
Day 6, 7 and 8-
These days kind of all went together. I made a few different dishes, but overall settled into the routine.
We had pizza for dinner. It sounded amazing actually, and my beans and rice did not look as appetizing. I am starting to feel bored with my food, and wishing that I could eat something different- a salad, sushi, and am starting to think about peanut butter.
I made it. The day was difficult at times, but I ate the best avocado. I also enjoyed my favorite recipe (Black beans, rice, and avocado mixed with a little salt and oil). I actually thought about waking up at midnight and eating peanut butter! I started to plan what I would eat the following day, and I described a California sushi roll. Nate pointed out that it was pretty much what I had been eating (rice avocados). It was then that I wondered if I should have attempted to create a simple piece of sushi!
My experience serving at a Soup Kitchen
Interestingly enough on day 10, I had chosen ahead of time to volunteer to work at a soup kitchen with our church. I was nervous about what the experience would be like. Part of me could not believe that I had never volunteered for one in my life.
I was grateful that Tricia, a friend of mine from church suggested we both drive together since we were volunteering on the same day. I was excited that she had volunteered there before, and had an idea of how this would go.
We started out by making ham and cheese sandwiches. There was an extremely large pot of soup in the process of cooking. I was excited to see that there was a bin of cut up fruit. I was thinking that a cold piece of an orange would be an amazing treat. As we prepared dinner, a few other volunteers from our church arrived. It was exciting to work with people who had such a strong commitment to helping others. As I stood behind the counter, it reminded me of when I worked in the pharmacy in Guatemala on a mission trip back in high school. I thought a lot about the mission trip I had taken that day, and realized how much I missed being part of that team. Claudia from our church who is actually planning a future mission team told about the plans to visit Guatemala. I really would like Nate and I to take the kids in the future.
As we neared the opening of the dinner, a man came with his truck packed full of plastic bags. Tricia and I were asked to go upstairs and help him bring the bags down the basement. I kept wondering why he would be randomly dropping off so many bags. As we piled them up downstairs I realized that there were loaves of bread and potatoes set out for people to take home. The bags were sure to come in handy.
As people started to come in, we decided it was time to say a blessing and then proceeded to our stations. I was serving the soup. The people we served were very thankful. I was curious about where some of these people lived, and wished that there was some way I could sit down with each person and hear his or her story. There was something profound, simple and ultimately beautiful about the afternoon we spent in a basement serving soup and sandwiches. The food was very simple and nourishing. Preparing and serving the food really slowed me down and helped me to savor our task during an incredibly busy time in my own life. There was something pretty inspiring about people who seemed so grateful for the food in front of them. I was also reminded of how much we are like other people. I noticed a mom who came up and arranged portions for her children first before asking if she may have another plate for herself. As I watched her care for her children, and make sure that they were comfortable and fed, I knew that I would have acted just like her. As the evening came to an end, I found her little boy, who looked to be about four or five years old hiding in the coat rack.. We exchanged smiles for a moment, and his big brown eyes reminded me of my own boys. I knew that being there really did matter. It was encouraging to do work that really made a difference in someone’s life. I was grateful for the opportunity to be part of such a great experience. After an incredible evening at the soup kitchen, I couldn’t believe that my 10 days were almost up.
It’s funny, when I went to Guatemala more than 20 years ago, I lost my luggage and as I experienced the mission trip, I realized I had more in my carry-on than most people owned in the village we were serving. When I thought about the limited 10 foods I had experienced over the last few days I realized how extravagant my life really was. Even with 10 foods, I was not limited at all, and an abundance of choices within my 10 foods.
A Movie with Subtitles
April’s New Thing
During a typical evening, I feel like I am doing upwards of 10 things at a time. I suppose you could call it a form of multitasking. It is not uncommon for me to carry around my phone in order to listen to podcasts, an audio book or even a youtube video while doing laundry, helping kids with homework, researching sports camps, cooking, picking up clutter, planning lessons, and skimming the contests of a few blog posts after a long day at work. Technology provides opportunities to be able to connect, grow personally and professionally and seek out unlimited resources to enhance our lives. Unfortunately, one thing it sometimes interferes with is our ability to live in the moment and really be present.
Using technology to grow as well as find creative ways to stay present has proved to be a challenge in my life. When I originally set out to accomplish my April goal, I was most focused on what it would look like at a literal level. I would watch a movie with subtitles. As the month started to come to an end, I realized that I simply needed to find a new experience that would work amidst a busy work and family schedule. There was something about the idea of watching a movie with subtitles that seemed intriguing. It felt worldly and different, yet something that I could accomplish quickly. Since I studied Spanish in college, I was looking for something completely new.
The last foreign film I remember seeing was 19 years ago, when I studied in Guadalajara, Mexico. Three friends and I caught a bus and went downtown to see a movie on the big screen. At the time, my Spanish did not allow me to fluently translate the entire movie; but the movie provided an incredibly rich cultural experience. I gained a whole new appreciation for the cinema. We laughed and cried and really did have a deep understanding of what the movie was about. I noticed that not understanding the language completely allowed me to really focus on the actors.
The night I decided to start watching a movie with subtitles, I realized that I could access a movie in several languages very quickly. I had always been drawn to the French language, so it seemed like the perfect way to start. I realized that I could utilize my phone to access netflix and begin viewing my foreign film instantly. Watching my movie on a phone was even new. I was “Stepping into the way my kids utilize technology today”. It was pretty surreal to be able to log into Netflix, and continue a movie whenever I had time. I realized how incredibly convenient our world is. A few taps of my fingers; and the magic would begin.
Deciding on which film to watch would prove to be challenging. The first movie I started did not hold my interest, so I opted for an inspirational movie that would showcase an athlete finding his way. I figured that I would not only have the experience with language, but one that would enrich my awareness of the grit needed for someone to achieve great things. La Dream Team ended up being a terrific choice for my first movie in French. Initially I felt bad that I had not saved it for the whole family to watch. However, something told me I needed to preview it first. Sure enough, you can never go back and “redo” something you should not have shown, according to one of my former professors. I learned that foreign films do things a little differently; and I was glad that I had not just shown it to my kids without watching it first.
One of the things that surprised me during the movie, was that I could really only do one thing at at time. I really could not look away for more than a second. I needed to not only watch the screen but also really listen to the tone of voice to complete my experience. Technology was providing me the gift of forcing me to do one thing at a time, and really be present to enjoy an experience.
I enjoyed watching a movie with subtitles so much, that I realized that I will definitely watch more movies this way. I was surprised to re discover my love for learning a language. It was how I met my husband, an opportunity for personal and professional growth, a way to feel connected to the world; and an excellent way to be present and really live in the moment.