Friday, December 31, 2010

8th Race Into the New Year 5K...

I was really, really excited to finish this race...

Mainly because I hadn't trained all month. Trained? That verb might be too strong. I barely got off the couch this month. Plus, I consumed a ridiculous amount of Christmas cookies, Christmas ham, Christmas desserts, and um, they're not really Christmasy, but I pretty much ate my weight in potato chips.

So yeah, this wasn't the easiest race for me to run in 2010.

So the above picture is of me smiling when the finish line FINALLY pops into view. I have no idea how I did, as, for some reason, the finish clock was not up. (Maybe it broke? Or maybe God ordained that it not be present, as He knew in His Almighty Wisdom that it would be the worst race of the season for me, and a terrible blow to my self confidence to receive my worst time during my most recent endeavor?) At any rate, I'm glad that race is behind me, and I'm looking forward to 2011.

Today was not only my final race of 2010: It was Kaliah's first race EVER. She was so adorable! And awesome. I'll post a much cuter picture of her tomorrow. Her running is, thankfully, much easier on the eyes than mine is. :)

Happy New Year, readers!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Wow, 2010...

So... if you live in the area known as Delmarva, you may have noticed that, apparently, the entire peninsula has been mysteriously transported to the Arctic region.

I am very excited that we experienced a white Christmas. The first one I can remember being blessed with, although, of course, we may have had one or two during the years that I was too little to now remember. I know it was Kaliah's first white Christmas.

I am significantly less excited that there seems to be nearly a foot of snow outside at the moment, gusting around in what can only be described as "crucial" winds, which are, I have heard, reaching speeds of forty miles per hour.

I dunno, perhaps the snow is just far less appealing to me right now than I might normally find it because I am, of course, already on my winter hiatus from teaching. Something about a colossal dump of snow outside and no additional time off from work is wildly unfortunate. Of course, I shouldn't be complaining. After all, I am relaxing at home instead of working, regardless of the reason. And actually, when the "first" storm of the season left us about an inch of snow last week, we started our winter vacation a day and a half early.

But perhaps I'm less excited about this wintry mess simply because I want to scream, "ENOUGH ALREADY, 2010!!" This crazy year has brought more snow, I'm pretty sure, than the Eastern shore has seen within all other years' of my lifetime's total snowfalls COMBINED. And probably, that's only a slight exaggeration.

So, in closing--it was a beautiful white Christmas. But, 2010, you made your point. You will go down in history as the year of three blizzards (two within a week of each other) to all us Delmarvians. And now, could we kindly be teleported somewhere with less severe weather? Or if its gotta be an extreme... I vote for extreme heat. Seriously. I'd probably prefer a desert to the bitter cold, wet, slushy disaster that has become my backyard.

Oh well. At least it's pretty.

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! And whoever was dreaming of the white Christmas... can you please wake up now? And tell your connections in slumber land that we've had enough?


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Twenty-One Books for 2011

For those of you who don't know what to get me for Christmas yet (kidding... unless you are, of course, looking for gift ideas for me...), let's compile a list of must-reads for 2011:

1. Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone--So a few months ago I read I Know This Much Is True... Can I just say this was an amazing, beautiful novel? I can't wait to read something else by Lamb. Friends have recommended She's Come Undone, which I believe was his debut novel. As an aspiring novelist, I am always interested in reading successful authors' first published works.

2. Speaking of first published works, as much as I love Jodi Picoult, I have never read her debut novel, Songs of the Humpback Whale. Almost everything I've read by Picoult has grabbed me and not let go, from the very first page--with two exceptions: Keeping Faith and Harvesting the Heart. Harvesting the Heart was another early work (her second novel, I believe), so I'm interested to see how I would feel about her first book. While I did enjoy aspects of Keeping Faith, it didn't leave me breathless in the way The Pact, Nineteen Minutes, or My Sister's Keeper did.

World Lit Classics: As a teacher of world literature, I feel obligated to read the following, which are listed in many compilations of college bound reading lists. Not to mention it feels as though there are gaping holes in my education for having not read some of them:

3. Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart. Required reading for 9th grade honors students at my school. I've started it, but never finished it. Still with a title like that, sounds relevant regardlesss of culture, time period, etc., eh?

4. Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. This was assigned reading for a film lit class I took in college... but I found out pretty early on we weren't actually held accountable for doing the reading, therefore, like any diligent college senior, I didn't... um... do the reading. Now, yes, I know, for an English teacher who loves to read, this is a terrible admission to make. But in fairness to me, I was taking 18 credit hours that semester, most of them coming from classes in which we WERE held accountable for the reading (and had to write long, in-depth papers in response to such readings). So I don't feel too bad for skipping this one back then, but I've heard such great things about it, that I do feel inclined to pick this one up now. Plus, I probably owe it to Dr. Lidh. Sorry bout that.

5. Feodor Dostoevski's Crime and Punishment. Another piece of evidence pointing toward the gaping holes in the education of an English major with a B.A. and M.A. Never even picked it up. (And no, it wasn't ever assigned, either).

6. Hermann Hesse--Sidhartha

7. Franz Kaftka--The Trial (I have read Metamorphosis--point for me!)

8. Orwell--Animal Farm (I have NO excuse for not reading this. I'm currently rereading 1984 as I teach it with two of my classes. I love 1984, and I can't think of a good reason as to why I've never read the much shorter Animal Farm).

9. Erich Maria Remarque-- All Quiet on the Western Front

10. Sir Walter Scott--Ivanhoe

11. Jonathan Swift--Gulliver's Travels

12. H.G. Wells--The Time Machine

13. Laura Esquivel--Like Water for Chocolate

14. Charlotte Bronte--Jane Eyre

15. Gabriel Garcia Marquez--One Hundred Years of Solitude. I read Love in the Time of Cholera a couple of summers ago. It was fairly enjoyable.

16. F. Scott Fitzgerald--The Great Gatsby

17. Stephen Crane--The Red Badge of Courage

18. Amy Tan--The Joy Luck Club. I've started it probably no less than a dozen times. I will finish it next year!

19. Ernest Hemingway--The Sun Also Rises.

Wow, the classics I've been shirking took up an awful lot of space on my list!

20. Jeanine Cummins A Rip in Heaven. I went to one of Jeanine's readings for her novel The Outside Boy, which I would highly recommend, by the way. A Rip in Heaven was her first work-- a memoir. I have heard only amazing things about it.

21. Mark Winegardner--The Godfather Returns. I loved, loved, loved, Winegardner's Crooked River Burning. Easily one of the best books I've ever read. And I also loved The Godfather (the book, not the movie(s), which I've never really given a chance, to be fair). Therefore, this is a must read for me this year.

I can think of others, but let's keep this list manageable. After all, seventeen classics might be a fairly lofty goal, considering I still have a job, and a daughter, and, you know, a life.

What must-reads am I missing? Comment and let me know!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Eleven: A Tribute.

Eleven is my favorite number. Always has been. Probably always will be.

I used to want to have eleven children, back when I was a kid. But that was before I realized, um, how they came out. And that carrying them inside of your for nine months was a long, involved, uncomfortable process. And it was before I realized that once they come out, the long, involved, uncomfortable process (rewarding as it is), has only just begun, when you actually begin raising the child. And the process gets a lot more expensive, what with diapers, food, clothing, Christmas presents, college tuition...

But I digress.

I love the number eleven. I love the way it sounds. I love the fact that it is composed of two number ones. Of all the digits from one to one hundred, only eleven and twelve have completely unique names, and twelve sounds like a dog barking. Or puking. Or something.

But eleven flows off your tongue in a magical way. Eleven is the best number, the first number, put together! And since two is better than one, but we all know it's better to come in first then second... eleven is the best of both worlds. Two number ones.

I tell you all of this not so that you think I have nothing better to do than to blog about my strange interest in numbers (specifically number eleven). I tell you all of this so that you know why I am so EXCITED about the year 2011.

It is going to be a great year. Know why? Because I have decided that it will be.

Here are 11 Reasons why I'm Stoked for 2011:

1. This is the year I will find a literary agent! (Just a personal goal I'm setting here. I am being optimistic, perhaps naively so, but I feel it is better to be an optimist than a pessemist, so I'm placing this goal of mine at number one).
2. I will finish at least two additional novels in 2011. I'm already working on two. I'm enjoying both of them equally. There was the work-in-progress that was putzing along at a leisurely rate since early last year... and my disastrous endeavour during National Novel Writing Month, which came nowhere near the finish line... but did, in my humble opinion, produce some really intriguing characters and a modest start for what may shape up to be a pretty decent manuscript this coming year.... Hmmm....
3. Kaliah will start FIRST GRADE in 2011. My baby is growing up! *Cries*
4. Oak Ridge Baptist Church is doing AMAZING things in 2011. I may have to wait till 2012 to go on a missions trip, but even if I can't be personally involved overseas, God is going to do many incredible things through our church this year, both abroad and here locally.
5. I am going to bust my butt to get out of debt, starting this year. I've been following the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace Plan, and I've got my emergency savings fund in place. That was step one, thank you 2010! Step Two: Elminate all debt. Now, this is going to take a few years, but just watch and see what 2011 and I will do to you, stupid school loans and other random debt! I am getting serious. Time to pay these loans off and stop squirreling all my money away on interest and other nonsense.
6. I am going to, by the end of the summer, be running 5ks in or under 24 minutes. Hopefully this is not an overly ambitious goal. Since I began competing last spring, I managed to bring my time down from a first race of 28:45 to my most recent record of 26:40. If I can continue to shave off two minutes per season, this should be doable. If I don't plateau, and my body doesn't declare it quits as I begin to approach those lower times...
7. Looking forward to going back home! I mean, home, home. Tentatively planning on moving into the house I grew up in during the month of May, 2011. While it will require LOTS of fixing up, it will be a labor of love. Home sweet home, what will you have in store for Kaliah and I?
8. In 2011, I will choose to fall in love. With all aspects of my life. If it's God's will for me to be single, I will be thankful I get to stretch out in the bed and not worry if I'm snoring or not this year. :) I will be grateful that I have a job, and put my all into teaching my students, each day, each class, no matter what the challenges. I have a great group of kids this year, who are truly a pleasure to work with. I will push them and myself as hard as I can while trying to model generosity, compassion, and concern for them. I will try to cherish each and every moment with my daughter, and with the rest of my family. I will try to take nothing for granted, living life with an attitude of gratitude.
9. My friends! I have such wonderful friends, both new and old, in my life. I will strive to spend more time with them in 2011.
10. Books! If there's one simple pleasure in life that I love, it is reading. I am going to compile a list of books that are absolute must-reads for 2011. If you have any suggestions for me, let me know.
11. And the eleventh reason why I'm looking forward to 2011 is...


I am hopeful through all seasons of my life, good and bad. My hope comes not from me, but from Jesus Christ, who guides me in all that I do. He's responsible for the good that I do, and He's there for me when I screw up.

It's a pretty sweet deal.

I say it lightly, but I mean it fully and completely. Christianity, the real thing, is not just another religion. It is so much more. If you've never known love that never fails, I challenge you to ask yourself, honestly: Have you given real Christianity a chance? I'm not talking just going through the motions here. Have you ever experienced God in a powerful way?

It could change your life.

I know it did mine...