Nov 24, 2013 - fitness    No Comments

Turkey Trot, 2013

I did the Turkey Trot last year, and after the hottest race of 2013 being the other 3 miler of the year, the Race for GLS, I HAD been looking forward to having better running weather this year to see how I could do. Instead, this ended up being the COLDEST race I’ve ever done. The temp was 23 degrees. Winds of 23mph and gusts of 40-45mph which is why the whole area was under a wind advisory. Those two combined made a “feels like” temp of around, oh, 7 degrees. SEVEN. Not missing a digit there, it was frigid. I was really NOT looking forward to racing in those temps, but one of my friends knew I was registered, and when we chatted about it on Facebook, honestly, that’s what made me show up. It’s crazy how just knowing someone will be expecting you can affect things like that! (It works for me with the gym, too.)

So, knowing it was colder than cold, I did what they always say NOT to do and changed up my running clothes. Instead of the Frosty tights and coldgear shirt, I first put on my polypro base layers that I use for skiing, THEN the coldgear shirt and tights, and THEN on top of that, a fleece that zips. I wanted that mostly for the pockets, because the cold air can be hard on my asthma, and I wanted my inhaler near. Then a wool buff to pull up over my face to warm my breath, a fleece hat pulled down over my headphones (which are padded, over the ear kind, and work like earmuffs in weather like this) and my cheapie magic gloves. Instead of running socks, I wore my thickest smartwools. Even then, my toes were the coldest.

When I headed out to the start line, the kids were all returning from the fun run, which is a mile, and were sobbing. “Mommy, I’m so c-c-c-cold!” That did not make me feel better. But, by that point I had the timer tags attached to my shoes, my bib pinned on, and, well, I would’ve felt really dumb bailing at that point. At the start, I ran into another friend, whose daughter had braved the kids run. We laughed as we looked at the crowd, all of us bobbing as we tried to stay warm by jumping up and down. The gun fired, and we were off.

I ran the entire first mile, which was pretty awesome, and I ran it fairly fast, for me, especially considering how freaking cold I was, and that my toes had been numb, but were getting hot from the blood returning. I took a little walk break and kept going, and as I ran to the turnaround — it’s an out and back course — I could see the faster runners returning and could just tell that the return was going to be a headwind. I even saw a spectator with a baby stroller, walking backwards to keep the wind at their backs. That was… telling. After I turned around, it was ROUGH. The wind was so sharp that it was literally taking my breath away, and I alternated between breathing through the wool, and having to turn my head to the side to be able to draw a breath. A ‘real runner’ was pacing a friend and he said it was like “running in a pool.” It was really, really windy. At mile 2, I just kept thinking “finish to be done, finish to be done” but there was way more walking than I expected, although I didn’t need to use my inhaler, I didn’t want to get to that point.

This fall has been rough for my running, our family has had the Longest Cold Ever (which is apparently the 2013 version, as lots of people NOT living in my house have reported the same, this fall’s cold is a lingerer) and now that I’ve moved into the gym and am using the treadmill, well, I never like that. (Nerd alert: I always feel like any run I can’t record on a device “counts less.” My garmin is GPS only and I put my phone in the cupholder of the ‘mill, so I just end up staring at the display, which is TERRIBLE for me. I digress.) I also tweaked my back doing a planks challenge, and have just felt… meh… for most of the fall. But, this is why I register for races, knowing there is one means I DO go on the treadmill, even though I hate it, etc.

So, like the Race for GLS, I was just running to finish because of the weather conditions. And I ended up setting yet another PR — 37:23. (6 seconds better than the GLS race and more than 2 minutes better than this same race last year, and that race was PERFECT conditions! I just wonder what it would have been like if the years were reversed…)

Screen Shot 2013-11-24 at 6.39.13 PM


When I finished, I saw my friend Sarah and let her know that she was the biggest reason I showed up today – it makes such a difference to have someone expecting you, so I thanked her for that, and her dad got a lovely photo of us. I felt like I had a raging ice cream headache, so I hung out in the gym for the drawings — when you finish, you turn in your bag tag and they drew for a ton of prizes, giftcards, etc, and the grand prize is one dollar from each registration is a cash prize. I didn’t win (but I did learn you must be present to win, so that’s good intel) and the time sheets came out and had every page except for the one with ME on it, so I went home and was glad to snuggle down into the couch with a cup of coffee.

The thing that I am continuously amazed by is that, even when I figure the race is my WORST EVER and I’m just pushing out out of spite/pride, I am STILL PR’ing my races! Today’s was SO MISERABLE, but more than 2 minutes faster than last year. That’s part of why I keep registering for races, it helps me see that my baseline fitness level is steadily improving, even when I feel sick or tired or am running against a 23mph headwind, I am still getting fitter and faster. And I am certainly not FAST! I am always at the back of the finishers (there were 12 pages of results, and I would’ve been on page 10, for instance), but I am still pushing myself to do better, even when I think I’m phoning it in.

Nov 21, 2013 - technology    No Comments

I love my Roku.

I have never paid for cable, or satellite, ever. When I lived in apartments, I relied on bunny ears or the cable jack as antenna trick, and my last two apartments had cable because it never actually went away when the previous tenants moved out and cancelled it (which still makes me wonder if the cable companies just leave it on assuming the next tenants will be calling to hook up service, but that was also wow, a dozen years ago that I was moving into an apartment for the last time…) When we bought our house, we relied on antenna and a netflix subscription, which worked great. In 2008, I heard about the Roku through my various tech blogs that I keep up on, and I was instantly enamored — this was the perfect solution. Dave didn’t agree, but my friend Jamie did, and she bought one for her husband, and they loved it. a few months later, we were installing our Roku, and it’s only gotten better. I have probably ‘sold’ a dozen Rokus in the last five years to others who want something easier for streaming, and they have all been just as happy with the purchase as I have.

What does a Roku do? It streams content from a variety of sources, most notably, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu+, Pandora, and others. They also have a ton of private channels, but the ones we use most are Netflix, Pandora, and Amazon. We’ve used the NASA channel to watch various launches and spacewalks, etc, too. If you DO have cable, you can access some of your channels via the Roku, by providing your account info from your cable provider. There are also games available to play on it, but it would never suffice for a heavy gamer.

What doesn’t it do? It doesn’t record programs like a DVR would. You can’t download them to watch later, it is solely for streaming. It doesn’t connect straight to a web browser, or to YouTube.

Our original Roku was a fixture in our living room until we got a new tv a few years ago, a Samsung that came free with a streaming stick. When we got that, we relocated the Roku upstairs, and relied on the stick for Netflix and Pandora. It also will stream Amazon and other channels, but the interface is really clunky — for instance, Netflix is one panel, but you have to go to a totally different area to find Amazon, and in Amazon you can’t search easily.  Recently, our streaming stick has gotten more and more fiddly, so we brought the Roku back downstairs, and even though it is now five years old, it is still a better experience than our streaming stick (although the stick was nice in that it just plugged into the back of the tv and used the same remote.)

What do we watch? A LOT. On Netflix, my kids like seeing the usual kids fare – Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Good Luck, Charlie, Caillou, etc. They also like movie nights, when we stream movies like Lilo & Stitch or Mulan. My husband loves horror movies, and there are plenty of those. I like documentaries and we all like comedy, so those show up a lot, too. On Amazon Prime, there are shows that aren’t available on Netflix. For the kids, iCarly and Dora and the original Mr Roger’s Neighborhood, and for me, there are a lot of HGTV shows to see. Pandora is great, especially during the holidays, I’ve found.

What don’t we watch? We have a giant antenna mounted in our garage and connected to our tvs with coax, so we get our local stations in HD, and use that for network stuff. If you don’t have good reception for the networks, and want local news, etc, you’d need a cable package of some type. We also aren’t huge sports fans – we love watching the Sox on tv, but we are limited to what shows on Fox, and we are okay with that. There is an MLBtv package one can buy, but in Maine, all Sox games are blacked out because they are considered ‘local.’ If your favorite sports team is somewhere else, then MLBtv might be a great option for you. (There are similar premium services for other sports as well.)

While our original just won’t die, I am really hoping to next own a Roku3. Why the 3? So many reasons.

First, the original’s processor means that you can’t use all of the services that are available for Roku now, and the storage on the Roku has quadrupled. Because ours is an older one, we can’t add certain channels, like PBS and PBS Kids, for lack of processing power. The Roku3 fixes that. (For comparison, our original is 400mhz, and the 3 is “5x faster [than [the last processor, which was 600 mhz, which means it’s almost 8x faster than our original].”

Second, the remote has a headphone jack. THE REMOTE HAS A HEADPHONE JACK. I don’t know why Roku seems to be the first for this ingenius mashup, but it is, and I want it.

Third, the integrated search option seems really great — I use a website and app to look to see if a certain show or movie is streamable on any of my services ( ) which is great, but having it on screen would be cool, too. It also would take advantage of the Netflix profiles, which would mean our suggestions and recently watched wouldn’t be a bizarre-looking mix of horror flicks and kids shows.

On top of all that, it’s a lot smaller.

Here’s a photo  from Amazon of my Roku, and one from TechHive of the Roku3:


What does all this cost? Well, on Amazon right now the Roku3 is 94.99, which is $5 less than the regular price of $99. To use Netflix and Amazon Prime streaming, we pay 7.99/month and 79.00/year respectively. That works out to less than $15/month (and that’s if I ONLY used my Prime for streaming, and not for the free 2 day shipping, and other Prime deals, which I use all the time.) which is much less than cable. We also need to have high speed internet, which is about $50/month, but we’d pay that anyway. Using the camelcamelcamel service, I can see that the lowest the Roku3 has been on Amazon is $84.99. (I wouldn’t be surprised to see another price drop during the holidays, either.)

There are other options in the set top box arena, and most people that know me are surprised to hear that I don’t use the AppleTV, since I use the AppleEverythingElse. I do have an AppleTV for work, that I use for the airplay function, as that’s what Maine schools are using in their new MLTI setups, so I have played with that before. AppleTV doesn’t have the Amazon Prime offerings, unless you watch on an iPad and stream to the tv via airplay, which is another cumbersome step. For the same price, I would much rather have the Roku. The Google Chromecast is a new offering, and at $35 the cheapest, but it still involves streaming from a device to a tv, and I like the seamless approach of the Roku better.

Oct 21, 2013 - fitness    3 Comments

Freaky 5k 2013

Once again, I ran the Hardy Girls, Healthy Women Freaky 5k this year. I registered a while ago, and then have spent much of October feeling crummy. Allergies, a cold, etc, just crummy, and have hardly even run because of it. But, I knew I’d go to the race no matter what, because a) I’d registered and paid b) my friend was going to be there, too and c) Ingrid was signed up for the kids fun run — her first ‘race.’ I even told my friend on Friday that I was feeling bummed that I couldn’t compete with my past times, because of the general malaise, and that my sole goal was just to finish and call it a day.

Ingrid’s race wasn’t timed, and it was inside, but she was really proud of how fast she ran and I was really proud that she did it at all, as she can be quite shy in new situations.

Ingrid start line


You can also read about the race (and see Ingrid again in the photo gallery — and if you look closely, you’ll see her sister and dad and our friends as blurs in the background) at the KJOnline: Waterville fun run fights negative sexuality.

After Ingrid’s race and the costume contest, it was time for the actual 5k, and I lined up and ran when they said go and listened to my music and just headed out, with zero expectations, just hoping to finish. It was perfect running weather, and  when I headed up the hill (this course ends on this HORRIBLE HILL) I was feeling prickly (could’ve been better hydrated) and I had to pee SO BAD that running was killing me. But Tami led the girls down to run with me, and I was fast-walking and making sure Willa didn’t run into traffic (it’s not a closed course) and was just DONE with the race so I ran up and across the finish line and honestly didn’t even check the clock (I really had to go.)



So, off I went, and my watch had a weird time – it showed the distance as 3.08 and my ‘moving time as 36:14, and my total time as 37:35, which is all fine, and still better than last year, but then when I looked up my official time — well, I really can’t believe it, and I still don’t believe it but Tami told me to own it and believe it, but my official time was 35:39. Which would be not only 4 minutes better than last year, but a PR all on its own. So much for phoning it in.

In 2011, my time was 43:12   and in 2012, it was 39:47. Now I almost feel like I should set a goal of 31:30 for 2014!


Sep 26, 2013 - education, family, technology    No Comments

An educator/parent wishlist

Today in my class, we talked about the variety of ways that our lens of what school is has changed (or not) dependent on generations. For instance, I never had technology to distract me at my desk – but that just meant that I was distracted by the writing and passing of notes folded into football or star shapes. It didn’t mean I wasn’t distracted. A student talked about hating the laptop in middle school so much that it ended up broken because all it was used for was typing papers, but then in talking about how technology was used in a high school physics class, the sentiment was totally different. Our views change as we see things used, and see things done in new and different ways. The seed for the conversation was from one of our texts, the Connected Educator, where the author talks about being a homeschooling parent who was mystified as to why other homeschoolers just ‘did school’ in a traditional way, only at home. (Desks in rows, books of worksheets, etc.)

As an educator, I have some strong opinions about education. As a parent, I have some strong opinions about my family. As an educator/parent, it can he hard to know where the line is, so I wanted to write up a wishlist of what I would like to see happening in the schools that my kids will attend, and what I hope my current students will take with them when they begin their professional practice. I actually discussed with my own students today that this post was brewing, and then when I scanned through my Feedly, there was a fantastic post at Edutopia that hit on a lot of the things I would add to my wishlist. What Parents Want You (Teachers) to Know. Go ahead and read. I’ll wait.

First, this was generated by asking parents directly “what do you want teachers to know?” Start there! Start with that! Schools should ask their families what they need to know. The concept of school is one of great authority, because of the lens most parents grew up with. And yes, we want children to respect their teachers and their classmates, but I do strongly believe that it is okay to advocate for your families needs. I don’t mean “My precious snowflake doesn’t like sauce on her pizza, so please carefully remove any traces of red from school pizza she is served,” but that it is okay to ask if you think that something is amiss, or if you want more information.

The key points in this article that made me jump up and down were these:

Please plan for us

I am active in the PTO, and the drum I find myself beating often is “but what about the working parents?” This has improved a LOT in the few years I’ve been involved in PTO, but so often an event would be held and the only notice would be “we’ll post it in the lobby and make an announcement!” But I am never in the lobby, except maybe once every two weeks when picking up after a club meeting, so I would never see those notices or hear those announcements. Several times, I would find a note in the backpack that says “Event tonight!” and, well, I’m a working parent, so that note would usually be found in the morning, by my husband who makes and packs the lunches. If the only notice of an event is a sign posted where some parents will never see it, or a same day backpack note, you cannot expect to have good turnout or participation. A great way to help with this is by thinking about “Meet us where we are,” below.

Homework must be meaningful — if given at all

I haven’t had to advocate about this yet, but I’m sure I will, eventually, based on conversations with others that have older kids. I read The Case Against Homework when I was in grad school, and used it to back up my own no-homework policies, and wish that it could be read by more educators. Similar to the “please plan for us,” with two working parents, we have limited time that is spent together as a family. Basically, I have about 2.5-4 hours between the end of the work day and my girls’ bedtime, and that will include dinner, special activities (and I am NOT an overscheduler – my 7 year old does one activity that meets once a week, and another that meets once every two weeks) playing outside (when we have the light to) reading, playing LEGO, eating dinner, asking (SO MANY) questions, bathtime (on bath nights), bedtime stories, errands, etc. And we are very lucky that we ARE a two parent family in a stable home, with jobs that align to the school day, for the most part (as opposed to shift workers that might not even be available in the evening). For kids who deal with two homes (or no homes) or have situations at home that are not conducive to learning, the challenges are even greater. Challenge Success (from a little place called Stanford University) has a great whitepaper on homework as well. I am also not fond of any decision being backed up with “but we have great test scores!” That’s great, great test scores, but at what cost? I am fortunate that my kids have recess in their schools (when I have colleagues in other states where recess has been totally eliminated, from K on up) and I would hate to see test scores trump recess and free play and opportunities for critical thinking and exploration and expressing creativity.  See also: Race to Nowhere. I love their Healthy Homework guidelines, and this video (about 5minutes) basically sums up my own feelings about homework.)

Meet us where we are

This one? This one is huge. I teach my students how to connect with their students, and their students families, using technology, but I have gotten push back when I look for it from my own neighborhood school. There is a fear to use blogs “we can’t put up student pictures!” because there is a poor understanding of what blogs are. (I teach my students how to comply with fair use and FERPA when blogging, from the basic “don’t take pictures of kids” to “here’s how to blur a kid/identifying info out of a photo.”) I am envious when I see teachers/schools using 21st century tools to communicate with their community and families. I have had teachers that are very proactive in replying to email, and that is so appreciated, especially by the parent who is not able to take a call (but can scan an email quickly) or who doesn’t want to send sensitive info back and forth in a school folder with a kid who is both curious and a strong reader. In this part of the post, I thought it was interesting that the “Hard Copy Parent” was considered the one to be sure to accommodate, where I find that the HCP is the default setting for many schools. Pew Internet (a FABULOUS resource for all kinds of stats like this) just released a report yesterday that 15% of adults do not use the email or internet. But that ALSO means that 85% DO, and to default to the 15% is leaving out so many people. I’ve also heard “well, not everyone has a computer.” But technologies now mean that you don’t need A Computer to access internet resources. In fact, 1/3 of my students this semester do not own a computer, but rely on a mobile device to do most of their class work (in ALL classes, not mine) and then access a lab or a friend’s computer when they have to. Pew has some info on this, too. Asking someone if they have a computer does not answer the question “do you have access.” Again, defaulting to the lowest common denominator is easy, but I feel strongly that it’s not RIGHT.

One of the things I really stress in my own teaching is that teaching is about relationships. You need to have strong relationships with your students, their families, other teachers, and the community. Teaching can be SO isolating, and embracing the concepts of becoming a Connected Educator have an impact in all of those areas. And YES, teaching also takes a lot of time and energy and thinking about adding ONE MORE THING to someone’s plate may seem daunting, but the benefits are there. If you have connected with the families of your students, you don’t have to spend a parent teacher conference catching up on the basics, you can focus on expanding on what they already know is happening in your classroom. (When I have nontraditional students, I ask them – what does your kid say to the question “What did you do in school today?” and I swear, you could have had an assembly, a field trip to the Magic Kingdom, and ice cream sundaes for lunch and most kids will just say “Nothin’.” The parents I have taught always laugh at this, because it’s true.) When you can share the great things that are happening in your classroom, the bad days aren’t as bad. With classroom access limited more and more due to security concerns and academic concerns, parents still want to know what their child is doing in school. (And again, remember that there are many families that will never see the classroom because they work, and aren’t in the schools.) Blogging is such a great way to do that. With more classrooms/teachers being equipped with mobile devices, it’s easier than ever to do that! When we went to the Common Ground Fair, there must have been fifty school busses, and I saw several middle schoolers using their MLTI iPads to take pictures and video of the various events and exhibits. Imagine the blog post a teacher could make about their day or week!

October is Connected Educator month, and their (TOTALLY FREE!) Connected Educator Kit is a PDF that helps get educators started. (It almost reads like a crash course of the one that I teach – a lot of the resources they use are ones I use with my students, and in my own work.) If you need inspiration on teachers who blog, Kathy Cassidy is a terrific one. Not only does SHE blog, she has her first graders blogging.

I am fortunate that I have kids who love to learn, who love books and exploring and creating, and I am SO fortunate that my kids have low student-teacher ratios, access to art, music, PE, library, and recess, and a sense of community that comes from having a neighborhood school, where their friends are just around the corner or down the street. I see my friends in other states, California, Florida, etc, who have kids having much different experiences – a classroom of 30 kindergarteners with no para supports, for instance, or the Florida schools that have cut recess in favor of more seat time, and I almost don’t want to add to my wishlist. The largest class size we’ve experienced is 18, and that wasn’t til the end of the year when several kids moved into the school’s zone, for most of the year, she was one of 14. But I am also one who will always strive for more, and is always looking to improve on what already exists. I am still pretty early in my journey as an educator/parent, and I am hopeful that the next 15ish years in that role will see a continuing evolution of how our schools foster a spirit of learning and community. I hope that the lens of “this is how it’s always been done, so this is how we will always do it” will be adjusted, and that we aren’t just “doing school” they way we remember it, but embracing change and taking risks and connecting schools and families.

Sep 22, 2013 - life    12 Comments

How to fit an IKEA sectional into a minivan

When I started to look for a new sofa for our living room, one of my friends suggested the IKEA Ektorp sectional. She suggested it because SHE has it, and she knows I love it, but I answered with a “ha ha, right, it needs to fit in the van!” But then I googled, and I found a few posts that mentioned being able to fit the Ektorp into a minivan, (like here and here) but I found NO pictures of how that worked, and unlike just about every other product IKEA sells, the box dimensions are not listed on their website. So, when we went to IKEA today with fingers crossed, I vowed to take pictures and measurements so that other people would have this info if they googled. Here is how we fit the sofa into a 2005 Honda Odyssey, with all seats removed. It took us a couple tries to figure it out, so here’s the guide for those looking to do the same.

I’ll start with the measurements. The Ektorp comes in four boxes. One is the cover, and that’s a small free-floating box, and the other three are shrink wrapped together. Pro tip: when you go to the sofa section of IKEA, you place your order there, but they don’t pull it til you pay. Once we’d paid, we had to wait about half an hour or so to have them fetch the thing, so if I were doing it again, I’d have placed the order, gone right down and paid, and THEN done my other shopping.


Cover: 15″ x 5.5″ X 30″ (this one isn’t a concern. Your passenger could hold this if they had to.)

Corner: 36″x36″x27″

Arm ends: 2 @ 15.5″ x 36.5″ x 59″

How to fit them in:

Bring a box cutter or leatherman (or go back in and buy some sort of sharp object) and cut away all the shrink wrap. Be careful when you do it, because the way ours was loaded, dividing the load made each end go to the pavement. We also parked off to the side of the loading area, and I don’t know if that was cool or not but we were out of the way and no one made us move, and it worked much easier.

Use the side sliding to put the corner piece in so that it’s 27″ side is the width, so set the square on its side.

Corner piece

Load the two arm ends from the hatch, flat, one on top of the other.

End arms


And then put the cover wherever. (You can see it on top of the end arms above.)

The hardest fit was behind the seats, because of the grab bars. We adjusted so the driver had more room, but the passenger seat was all the way forward and upright, which in an Ody isn’t terrible, but know that going in. We obviously had removed the center chairs, and hidden the 3rd row, before our trip.

Now I’m going to put in all the search terms I used to try to find this, so that other people can find it. IKEA sectional ektorp minivan odyssey pic sofa couch 2+2 corner sofa size of boxes

Aug 23, 2013 - fitness    No Comments

Top 10 Tips for New Runners

1) Buy good shoes. You really should get yourself some good shoes – not the 3 year old ones in the back of the closet, or some you buy online because they are your favorite color. Invest the $100-ish bucks on real running shoes. A running store is a great place to get fitted (as opposed to trying to wing it in Famous Footwear) and in Maine, the gold standard is the Maine Running Company, but if you can’t get down there, Epic Sports is a good place, too, and I think Lamey-Wellehan can fit you as well.

2) Wear the right clothes. They don’t need to be fancy, but a wicking top (NOT COTTON) is a good thing to have. Cotton holds sweat, and if you are overweight and starting, it’s one of the things that would make me self-conscious about it. Plus, gross, you’re running in a wet shirt. I get most of my wicking clothes at Target or Kohl’s, and shirts are usually around $12-15. For pants, I started in some basic non-cotton long fitness pants. But, I have found that more fitted tights feel better, and Old Navy has some nice capri tights for under $25. I have gotten Under Armour on clearance on Amazon for winter running, too. Socks – again, not cotton. The socks I have are varied – I have some Smartwool PhD, Balega, and Darn Tough. They are all fine, I don’t have specific preference except that I like a higher ankle in cold weather and a lower one in hot weather. If you’re a lady, get a good bra. I use Moving Comfort and like it a lot, and prefer the kind with the hooks and back close that doesn’t require an over-the-head wrestling match. I run early, I don’t have time to fight with a bra at 5 am.

3) Follow a plan. Couch to 5k is a great plan to get started. It mixes walking and running, and is very doable. If you have a smartphone, there are apps specifically for the C25K plan, or you can use a general running app and plug in the workouts yourself. I started with a dedicated app, and then moved to using iSmoothRun (which I loooove as a running app.) If you don’t have a smartphone, but do have an ipod, there are podcasts that you can download that are music tracks with the cues for running and walking.

4) No one is watching you. They aren’t. Cars may pass you, but THEY PASS YOU. Same with other runners. C25K programs are so popular now, I don’t think anyone blinks if they see someone running, slow to a walk, or vice versa. And really, if you are considering running, when you encounter a runner on the road – especially a “nontraditional” runner, what do YOU do? Do you throw things at them or point and laugh, or do what I did and wonder “man, I wish I was strong enough to do that….”

5) Do what you can. Maybe the C25K workout is something you knock out of the park on the first pass, or maybe some weeks are harder than others. Maybe you don’t have enough time to do the whole thing – do a mile. Do 20 minutes. Do anything. Again, the only person that knows how long you’ve been out there or how far you’ve gone is probably YOU.

6) Pick a race and set your goal. I love racing because it gives me a goal to work towards. I’ve written about how I choose races, and now that I’ve done several, I can assure you that my formula works. In my section of the pack, it’s totally common to see people take walk breaks or be moving slowly. And the people who are FAST!? They can’t see you, they are ahead of you! As the shuttle driver to the B2B start line said “My advice: keep the Kenyans in front of you!” (And, okay, some of the elites ran the course backwards and passed me as I was still miles from the finish, but again, they PASSED me. Not ONCE has a “real runner” stopped, pointed, laughed, tripped me, scowled, or asked “why are YOU here?”)

7) Track your runs. I use my app (iSmoothRun) and I also now use a Garmin, the FR10 which is the cheapest and most basic model. I like using both, for a variety of reasons, but it’s nice to see my times in a line, and to see how my times improve.

8) Find inspiration. I am a big fan of blogs and social media, and there are some great running blogs out there, but one of my favorites is Katie at She began as a ‘nontraditonal’ runner, and if she ran by me and I didn’t know her story, I’d probably have some of that anxiety of “she’s judging me, I’m too slow, I’m not a ‘real runner'” stuff going on. So, when I see real runners out there, I try to flip it around – for all I know, their journey started like Katie’s did! Or the Penguin Chronicles, by John Bingham, who also wrote An Accidental Athlete and The Courage to Start. 

9) Be inspiring. I share my running story because I am NOT a traditional runner. And I have had SO MANY PEOPLE tell me, either on twitter or facebook or my blog or by email or in person “Hey, I saw you’ve been doing C25k/running/doing races so I decided to try, thanks!” and I cannot even tell you how happy that makes me. I am not fast, and I doubt I ever will be. But I am steady in my pursuit of being a better me, and part of that is running, and if other people decide to try being better thems by giving running a try, that’s incredible.

10) Let yourself have fun. It can be SO MUCH FUN. Look at this photo! Seriously. Sometimes my runs feel sloggy and gross and blah, and sometimes I am smiling like an idiot, even when there’s no cameras around. (I still remember the beauty of running this particular day.) ESPECIALLY for an “accidental athlete.” I never did a single sport in high school, aside from being the manager of many teams so I could go on bus trips. I did drama and spelling bees. I wish I’d known then what I was missing, and I wish I’d started before my mid-30s. But I am SO GLAD I started in my mid-30s, and didn’t decide it was too late. Seriously, I have asthma, I smoked for a decade (and have been smoke free for over a decade) and am overweight (still overweight, less than when I started, though) and have had two kids and walk like a duck and have the coordination of a drunk baby, but I can do this and have FUN. If I can, you can.


Aug 4, 2013 - fitness    2 Comments

Beach to Beacon 10k

Today was the Beach to Beacon 10k, and it was an awesome day.

First: one of my goals this year was to run a 10k. I thought about registering for Beach to Beacon, but when the registration opened for that, I was at Sugarloaf, and it sold out in record time – 4 minutes. So, I figured I’d look for a different race to meet the 10k goal. But then one of my friends posted that she was looking for people to form a ‘team,’ (in quotes because it was in name only) to enter into the lottery, because apparently team lottery odds are better than individual odds. After asking a few questions, I decided, why not, I’ll donate the $5 lottery fee and if I don’t get in, oh well, and if I DO get in, then it was meant to be. I even posted it in our Facebook conversation:



So, a few weeks later, the universe decided when our lottery number was drawn. Oh. Em. Gee.

I’ve spent the summer  with it hanging over my head. I’ve run 6 and 7 miles (as part of my OTHER goal, which is to have a long run that equals the months number, so, 5 in May, 6 in June, etc), so I knew I could DO it, but I was mostly freaking out about weather. Last year it was CRAZY hot, and I do NOT do well with heat. But, I knew I could cover the distance, even if it was super wicked slow. But then the reports from the Old Port Half, just a few weeks ago, had me REALLY freaked out. My friends that ran it had stories to tell, and it was freaking me out. One thing that happened at Old Port was that they ran out of water. (RAN. OUT. OF. WATER.) To prepare for that (and I’d heard nothing but awesome about the B2B, but the Old Port horror stories were really messing with me), I bought a handheld water bottle, and ran with it a few times to get used to it. I figured if I brought my own water, it would be good peace of mind. (I bought the Amphipod 12oz Thermalite handheld, from Running Warehouse, and it was perfect.) I did 7  miles on Sunday (my July long goal run) with it, and it was great. And the 7 miles I did I looped back to my house to pee and refill water, so that it would be like a race, with pit stops, etc. I survived, and my 10k time, like my June run (which went over 6.5 miles) was about 1:20. Slow as molasses, but doable, so that was my goal for B2B, after the overall goal of, you know, finishing. DFL>DNF>DNS, of course. (For the unfamiliar, that phrase means “Dead Freaking Last is better than Did Not Finish is better than Did Not Start.”) I was obsessing over weather, but it was starting to look like it might just be okay…..

Friday, I drove down to Portland where I would be staying with my friends Tami and Aaron. Tami was running the race, too, and she had already been to the expo but offered to go with me (and drive!) on Friday. The Expo was great – easy to park and find my info (and according to Tami, it was a lot better on Friday than it had been on Thursday), and I got my t-shirt and walked around, and bought a few headbands from Chica Bands. I also was really excited to see a Be the Match table, and I am now registered (or on my way to be registered) in the bone marrow registry. The only bummer of the Expo was that they were out of the B2B10k car magnets, which I would have TOTALLY put on my car for the drive home, because this race was that big of a deal to me. We then went down to the finish line, at Portland Head Light, which, even though I was born in Maine and have lived 37 of my 38 years here, I had never been to. (I’ve been to FORT KENT way more, and that’s a place most Mainers never see.) Tami pointed out the “if our phones die, we meet there” location, and I got pretty excited to imagine the finish line.After that,  we met Aaron for dinner at the Blue Burrito in Westbrook, which had an amazing menu, but I couldn’t realistically eat mexican food based on pulled pork for a pre-race dinner. Instead, I had scarfed down a salmon and pasta dish that was excellent. Back at Tami and Aaron’s, we set our alarms for Really Freaking Early, and turned in.



I was up by 5, getting dressed and getting my bib pinned on, and we had a cup of coffee and an english muffin with peanut butter. I grabbed a banana for later, since we would hopefully be arriving well ahead of the start time. We made our way to Cape Elizabeth High School easily, parked, and hopped on a shuttle. We were dropped at the start line around 6:30 and the bus driver was funny “enjoy the next 1.5 hours, and the best race strategy is to keep the Kenyans in front of you.” The start area was great – they had coffee, bananas, orange wedges, gatorade and water – and of course porta potties. We were there so early that it was really not chaotic at all, and Tami’s mantra had been “if we can get to the start, we’ll get to the finish” because she’d heard stories about getting-to-start difficulties from others. So, we were at the start, early, yes, but we were there and there was only one way back – run to the end. We walked up to the start line and took some photos, and then waited back past the 10:00 mile pace sign (the slowest pace posted) for the race to start. Tami is way faster than me, but since it was chip timed, it didn’t matter – we’d cross the mat and run our own race from there, and it was really nice to have someone to hang out with until then. I also saw several other running friends (including the one who convinced me to join her lottery team) and it was a good energy.

IMG_3874 IMG_3876


So, pretty soon, it was time to start. Wheelchairs went first, and then 17 or so minutes later, the gun went off. But being at the waaaaay back of the pack, it was almost 10 minutes before we crossed the start. I had to wake up my Garmin twice I think, while I was inching forward. But then… there was the start line, and off we went!

I had started my iSmoothRun app while waiting in line, and had started my running playlist on shuffle, but hadn’t put on my headphones until I was almost at the start. As I crossed the finish line, just about the best song that could have come on, did. It’s a song that was in one of my Body Pump classes “Glad You Came” by the Wanted, and just has a good energy, but the opening lyrics seemed especially profound as I crossed the start:

The sun goes down
The stars come out
And all that counts
Is here and now
My universe will never be the same
I’m glad you came

I mean, the rest of the song sounds like it’s about someone passing roofies, but that lyric, followed by the tempo of the song, was just perfect. Here I was! At Beach to Beacon! And it wasn’t hot, it was overcast and NOT HOT and, I was running the 10k I had set as a goal.

For the race itself – the 2nd mile was the worst. At brunch after, I was telling Tami that, that the 2nd mile I thought “oh nooo, what have I DONE?” so when I got home and plugged in my Garmin, it was interesting to see that that was my slowest mile. I don’t know why it sucked — maybe I started too fast (but Garmin doesn’t say that) or just? who knows. Anyway, after that I did much better. I found that I will go out of my way to high five any kid, and that if I am going to high five a kid,  I must be running. (So, if Ihad a course lined with 5 year olds extending their hands, I’d PR every time, basically….) I didn’t take water at the stops – I had mixed some nuun into my amphipod and filled it halfway and frozen it the night before, and then I added fresh cold water in the morning, and that was holding me) but when I hit mile 4, I decided to take a pee break. I’m not sure how much my time would be different if I hadn’t – when I look at my Garmin stats, I clearly got a boost after the break – but I had to wait for two people to finish (including one who cut in front of me. I’ll just hope her needs were greater than mine.) I had clearly hydrated VERY well in prep for the race, and that was probably the unexpected low point – the unit was not level so I was listing and it was hot and I was almost dizzy, but man, I was NOT going to end up not finishing by passing out in the portapotty! (Not that I thought that I was going to pass out – it was just a weird vertigo-y moment and as soon as I was out, and moving, it was fine.)

Here’s a photo by Maine Running Photos (which, thanks for the CC license, MRP!) I’m totally smiling because hello, I just passed mile 5 and I am TOTALLY going to finish the Beach to Beacon. Also, I saw the guy and figured I should smile. But it wasn’t fake! (There are several more photos here, but I haven’t purchased them. But I almost look like a Real Runner in them!)




Mile 5 is uphill for most of it, but it reminded me of the GLS run, running upstream, but then you see the course inside the park and realize the finish is right there. I ran the fastest and the best in the park – seriously, if I could run like THAT every day, I would feel great. I even ran up the steep uphill, and then it was downhill from there. It was so. awesome. I finished and as I slowed to a walk, I pulled out my phone to stop my app and music, and saw that Dave had texted. He’d found a live cam of the finish line, and he and the girls were watching for me — and as it turns out, this is where wearing my Team Sparkle skirt (which I was on the fence about but obviously decided to wear) came in really handy – they saw the skirt and knew it must be me. He and the girls cheered and clapped for me back home, and I am so glad he did that – a big motivation for me to do this running thing is to set a good example for them. So, I finished, figured out where Tami was, and Aaron had parked only about a mile from the park, so we grabbed our freebies and had some snacks and walked back to the car, and he drove us back to the high school for my car. The lines for the shuttles looked crazy long, so we were wondering how the shuttle situation was later in the morning, since we were there so early.



There’s my splits – you can see my mile 2 “OMG, what have I done” and my finish line “OMG, I HAVE DONE IT!” speeds. And since it was my first, I was okay with any time. It’s a baseline to improve upon! I know that I was nervous about my first 5k, and now feel like I could do one at any moment, regardless of weather, and I would love to get to that place with a 10k. I am definitely, totally, going to try to get in to the 2014 Beach to Beacon, too. It was THAT GOOD. Near the end, there’s a part where you are running RIGHT NEXT to the ocean, and it was gorgeous, and all I could think was “Oh my god, I GET TO DO THIS. AND LIVE HERE.” It was an amazing moment.

The only thing I was bummed about was that there were no medals, and we thought there would be. I want a medal! Which is why I’ve decided to train for the Sugarloaf 15k in May.



Jul 8, 2013 - fitness    No Comments

Race for Grand Lake Stream

A new race report!

I’ve been running all along, and just haven’t blogged about it much. But I’ve been keeping to my 2013 goal of running the month’s number as a distance (4 in April, 5 in May, 6 in June, etc), and this weekend I participated in the 3 mile Race for Grand Lake Stream. It was a fun race and one I will definitely do again. It supports the Downeast Lakes Land Trust (which is a pretty special organization) and had the best setup ever. The town’s schoolbus and driver drove us to Big Lake Landing, where we walked a little bit into the camp road at the end (which is dirt) and where, waiting for us, was literally a line drawn in the dirt for the start line. The bus driver yelled “ready, set, go!” and started his stopwatch, and we were off, and then he drove back to town to the finish line, with the stopwatch, which was then used to record our times. No chips, balloon arches, etc – just a simple road race.

It was SO. HOT. And because of that, I wasn’t really pushing myself too hard, because the heat just wrecks me, even when I’m not running (which is what I am fearing about B2B next month.) I just tried to be slow and steady. I was leapfrogging a girl who was younger than me, and telling her the mile markers (yay for my Garmin! I love that thing…) and the best pass I made was at 2 miles when I managed to pass…. an elderly man with a cane, who was walking. I am not. even. kidding. But it was just sooooo hot. When I did my 6.7 run the weekend before, I went straight to the lake and jumped in, running clothes and all, to cool off, and I wanted to do the same after this race, but Dave had the girls at the park and with him, the keys, so I had to track that down and go home and just take a cold shower because, seriously, SO HOT. So I was feeling kind of crappy about the run, and had hoped to do better, but then I looked at my time – by my Garmin it was 36:48 (and on the results page – where, I had to laugh, they spelled my name wrong, of all the places I thought would know how to spell Schaefer, it was the DLLT – I am listed as 37:29). Which is still super slow, but the OTHER 3 mile race I’ve done is the Turkey Trot, I did in 39:27 – so basically, almost a 3 min better time, in worse conditions, and on a course that slowly goes uphill the whole time (because you are running upstream…) So really, this makes me excited to do the Turkey Trot again, and see how I can improve even more! And the bigger victory is that I did the race – I wrote about it 2 years ago, here, and that time I did 3.1 going the other direction, downhill, and that took more than 45 minutes. (I would’ve done the race in 2012, but we weren’t up there for the holiday that year.)

The next one on deck is the Beach 2 Beacon. I am already stressing about the heat, but I know I can finish it, even if I’m dragging. I’m just hoping for rain.

Jun 3, 2013 - education, technology    No Comments

Library books on my Kindle

I’ve had a Kindle for a long time — I had one of the first versions through work, long before I had a smartphone or iPad, and thought it was great (but something I’d not have spent the $400 on myself.) As time went on, I found myself reading more on my iPad once I got it, and then I started getting annoyed by reading on my ipad, because I’d be reading along and a banner alert would pop up that I had a new email, or it was my turn in a game, or someone had a tweet for me. I missed reading on the Kindle without distractions (but I loved that I could read on the iPad in the dark). This Christmas, I got a new paperwhite, which is the best Kindle ever.

And while it IS true that I spend more on e-books now than I do on paper books, and read paper books less, one of the things that I LOVE about the Kindle’s evolution is that now you can read library books on it. You couldn’t do that when the first Kindle came out. And the books you can read aren’t just B list books — right now I’m reading Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg, and I’m reading the second Harry Potter book aloud to Ingrid, for example. Downloading the books is SO EASY, all you need is a library card. For me, I use my work provided one (the university is a partner library) but you can use your municipal library card as well, in most areas. (And for Maine, anyone Mainer can have a Bangor Public Library card, so truly, anyone can use this system.)

Here’s how it works*:

  • Go to the website:
  • Browse around. I don’t do audiobooks, so I like to browse by category, or sometimes I’ll search for a specific title.
  • Flag books that look interesting (this doesn’t create a hold or check them out, it just makes a list, so I get pretty flag-happy) This is where you’ll be prompted to sign in with your account – just find your library, and enter your card number. (For us at HU, you have to add “HUS0000” to the beginning of your number, so it will look like “HUS0000#####”) You may need to check with your local library to see if there are any identifiers you need to add. A tip – when I first did this, I saved the link to the download library and titled it with my ID number, so I didn’t have to keep looking it up.
  • You can search for just Kindle books, or for ePubs, etc. There are ways to get ePubs onto a Kindle that are….. not exactly endorsed by anyone, but if you Google you can decide for yourself if you want to proceed.
  • When you find the book you want, you can check it out or place a hold.
  • Checking out – if you choose Kindle, it will direct you to the Amazon website, and you can then click a button to download to your Kindle. If you have multiple devices, you can choose to download it to any of them. Some titles allow USB transfer to Kindle only, but I have not yet had to deal with that. Or, you can use the Overdrive app on a tablet or phone.

Pro Tips:

  • Log in to your settings and make your default loan period two weeks. (It’s set to one week, and that’s just not enough time for me. You can always return a book early if you finish early.)
  • When it’s available, you have a few days to check it out. Wait to check out until just before you start reading to maximize your loan period.
  • If you don’t finish before the loan is up, go back to the site and re-download or place another hold. When it’s available again, and you open the book, it will be right where you left off.
  • Holds may seem “long” but I haven’t found them to be in most cases. For instance, the Harry Potter book is always checked out, and it takes a long time to read aloud. I’m on the third checkout of the book, and when it expired on Friday and I placed a new hold, I was third in line, and the book was available by Sunday night. I don’t think I waited for more than a week for Lean In, and that had a lot of people ahead of me.
  • New tip! 11/13: If you turn off your wifi, you can keep a book indefinitely on your Kindle, but it is ‘returned’ to the lending pool at the end of the loan period, so you aren’t holding up the waiting list like you would with a physical book. This wouldn’t work with a smartphone or iPad, so much, because they really rely on data for a lot of other things, but with a Kindle it’s very simple — navigate to the settings and turn wifi to off, and finish the book. Of course, as soon as you connect to wifi again, the book disappears, so you can’t add any OTHER books to your Kindle while it’s off the grid, but it’s a great hack to use when you are SOCLOSE to finishing a book.

I really love being able to use my paperwhite for library books. I have read stuff that I wouldn’t have necessarily wanted to spend money on, but that I still found interesting and worth the read. Here are the directions from the website on how to use the download library, and here’s a video explaining it as well:

*These instructions are specific to the Maine Infonet download library, but if your library uses Overdrive, they probably work for you, too.


May 23, 2013 - education, life, technology    No Comments

Twitter in my classroom

Last year when I taught this course, I tried to roll Twitter into it, but after the initial setup, most students didn’t keep up the way I had hoped. This year, I made it an actual assignment. Three, actually, I divided the semester into thirds and required that everyone meet a minimum standard. They had to post at least twice a week, and in each time period they had to have shared 2 resources, had 2 @ messages and 2 retweets. That’s all you had to do for full credit. The objective was to keep them going back, and hope that they started going back without prompting. I also always offer to work out an alternative for those that really, truly do not wish to use social media in my course, but no one has asked to exercise that option yet. We also go over the privacy expectations when we are getting started. Having this as an actual assignment definitely made a difference.

Top 5 benefits of using Twitter in the classroom, as according to Gretchen:

1) Relationship building. I have two class sessions each week, and it’s hard to build relationships in those two 1:15 periods. The students that engaged in the Twitter exercise built deeper relationships than those that didn’t. For instance, I have never given much thought to the sports programs here, but having two softball players tweeting about their victories made me much more interested – I noticed headlines in the paper that I would’ve skipped, because I was looking to see if my students were mentioned. In addition, my students know more about ME through Twitter, more than they probably know about any of their other instructors. I do not have a special ‘work’ twitter account, I’ve rolled everything together as a “Gretchen” twitter account, because I am a teacher AND a geek AND a mom, AND a runner, AND a citizen of Maine AND AND AND. I can’t compartmentalize my love of teaching and technology as separate from the rest of the things that make up who I am.

2) Beyond the class connections. I have two students that are former students, but have stayed in touch on Twitter, and have sought assistance in their other classes by sending an @message or DM to schedule an office visit. I am certain that they have appreciated this level of access.

3) Modeling connected learning and teaching. Our Skype with the 8th graders came about because of a Twitter connection. We participated in the lipdub because of Twitter, too.

4) Sharing current events with the class. I do a tech survey at the start of each semester, and very few students are reading or watching traditional news anymore, so I can’t assume they will see things that impact teaching and technology and local politics surrounding education. I try to share news and information that they might otherwise miss. (By tagging it with #ed307, it shows up in a special widget in our Canvas course as well.)

5) Modeling the digital footprint. My students know a lot about me (see #1) but they also see how I can be authentic without being rude or unprofessional. I talk about this openly in class — they will never see me complain about work or my family online. Ever. I will never tweet bullying comments about peers or students, or share things inappropriately. I also think it helps my students to remember that professionals use twitter, too, and maybe they will think before they tweet if they know their teacher is reading along. I am clear that I understand that they are college students and in a different station of life, but that they should still be thinking about the impression they make using social media. I would rather have them learn in my class, which is a safe space, than learn in the ‘real world,’ where it might jeopardize a job opportunity or other relationships.

Here’s my favorite twitter story from the spring semester, though. And it really ties to the “building relationships” piece. One of my students had to unexpectedly miss class and drive halfway across the country. On her drive, she tweeted:



And I followed with:



That was at 6 pm, and I didn’t hear anything again until an hour and a half later, when the student tweeted this:


The farm my mom grew up on. THE farm. Not just a farm nearby, THE FARM, 750 miles away from here. On the left is the house and on the right is the barn. The vineyard is between the highway and the buildings. I couldn’t believe it! I tweeted right back at her:



And I sent the pic to my mom, who was on vacation, and she emailed back:

“Amazing. That your student captured a photo so clearly showing the old farmhouse and barn.  It was a moment to remember good times there…and especially onMay Day.  I think that was a gift from Mom….Alesa and I used to celebrate May Day by picking violets from the pond, putting them in Dixie cup bouquets,  sneaking up on Felton’s porch, knock loudly, leave the cup of flowers and run and hide while Loretta discovered her surprise.  Thanks for bringing back happy memories for me.”

So, why does this matter in teaching? A good teacher builds strong relationships with their students. I strongly believe that Twitter helps me foster those relationships beyond the classroom. Without twitter, I’d have never known that my student was going to be passing through, and without that relationship, my student wouldn’t have felt compelled to try to take the pic. But because she did, it set off this little chain reaction of good stuff — I shared it on facebook and my mom’s childhood friends were liking the photo and commenting. My grandmother has been gone for 27 years, but whenever these small miracles happen, we call it “a Nana thing.” That my student grabbed this photo, and brought back so many good memories, and (I think) lightened her own spirit a bit, was totally a Nana thing, but it would never have happened if not for making Twitter part of my teaching practice.

Two side notes that came up since I started working on this post:

First, I’ve been nominated for the Hashtagger award from Social Media Breakfast: Bangor, for my use of twitter in education. I’d love to get your vote!

Second, my evals for this term arrived while I was finishing up. They were overwhelmingly positive, and jumped up from previous semesters, and the two things I did differently this term were that I required Twitter and used Canvas. I am convinced that both of those things are what made the difference.