Monday Musings: Running

Today’s topic is running. Last week I wrote about being a shitty meditator; I’m also a shitty runner. But I’m doing it – slowly and painfully – and getting it done.

Every Thanksgiving, there’s a four-mile Race for the Pies in a neighboring community, and my dad and sister run it. I ran it in 2010, during the peak of my CrossFit years when I didn’t have to train at all. This year, one of my daughters wanted to try it, so I signed up with her. I haven’t run since 2011, primarily due to a nasty case of shin splints I developed while overtraining. I found a training program online (Hal Higdon has quite a few) and started running. Slowly. Oh, so slowly. I started at the beginning of September, and while I can now run 3-miles without stopping, I can’t go much faster than 12-minute miles. That’s a far cry from the 9-minute miles I used to run. Again, I remind myself that I’m just getting back into it, that I was never a fast runner to begin with, that I’m doing this race to be with family and not to set some amazing record (or even get a pie). Like meditation and other morning practices, running is a journey, a practice, a habit. Some days, I cruise along, and others I have to walk frequently.

To remain focused, I signed up for a 5-K race supporting the Education Foundation of Palm Beach County. It’ll be my first 5-K since 2011, and I’m excited to get back out there and see how it feels. My goal is to complete it in under 36:00. I may be the last to cross the finish line, but I will keep running. Slowly, steadily, painfully. I will keep running. Like with any journey, you have to keep on going.

Some running resources:

No Meat Athlete podcast – Whether you’re a vegetarian or not, these guys offer good tips on distance running and proper nutrition. Plus, they’re funny and charming.

RunKeeper app – I use the free version to track my runs, and it works great.

FitBit – I love my FitBit. If you’re data-driven, this is a must-have. I track exercise, steps, and sleep on mine.

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What I’m Reading and Listening to This Week

I Always Loved You by Robin Oliveira imagines the relationship between painters Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas. I’ve had to put it down temporarily to focus on some teaching prep, but so far, it’s a lovely novel that evokes the beauty and creativity flourishing among artists living in 19th-century Paris.

I’m revisiting one of my favorite novels, Beloved by Toni Morrison. I started teaching a 1:1 U.S. History/English course, and I’m beginning the class with the factors leading up to the Civil War. Rather than try to teach two separate classes within the span of 1.5 hours, I’m integrating the study of literature with that of history. If this is the only novel the student reads this year, she will have read an amazing work packed with so much beauty and sorrow and horror.

Lastly, I started Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. I had no idea who Brown was until I heard her on Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast, but now I seem to read and hear about her on many different sources. I love a good self-help book, and this one seems promising.

Despite my resolve to listen to all downloaded podcasts before finding more, I couldn’t help myself when I discovered this gem of a show. I read about Lizzie and Kat’s The Blaze podcast in the comments section of a Vulture article and am addicted. Each show is devoted to an episode of my favorite guilty pleasure, Beverly Hills 90210. Lizzie, Kat, and their guests discuss the plot, analyze the fashions, and gossip about the show’s cast. They are hilarious, and in addition to all things 90210, their show is laced with tons of pop culture references from the ‘80s to today. (Confession: I’m totally old and don’t get the newer stuff…but there’s plenty for those of us who graduated in the early ‘90s.) The podcast started in December 2014 and is going show-by-show through each season of 90210. Currently, I’m listening to the first season, aka the first junior year.

I have to give a shout-out to my favorite podcast, The Walking Dead ‘Cast, which is dedicated to The Walking Dead series. Each week, Jason and Karen recap the latest episode, discuss what show elements did and did not work, and chat about all things zombie. They are funny and knowledgeable, and since discovering this show last fall, I haven’t missed an episode.

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Travel Tuesdays: The Philippines

In June 2015, we traveled to the Philippines. This trip was a long time in the making – hubby’s family lives over there and had been inviting us to visit for years. With kids, schedules, and expenses, it wasn’t a journey easily undertaken. For indeed, it was a journey: 40 hours door-to-door of travel, including 4 flights and one ferry ride. And that was just one way! It was exhausting yet worthwhile.

While in the Philippines, we visited three provinces: Cebu, Leyte, and Biliran. Cebu City (where we flew in and out of) is modern and cosmopolitan. Leyte, where our family lives, is more laid-back, with smaller towns and cities. Biliran was pristine and my favorite province of the three.

I’ve traveled extensively in North America and Europe, but this was my first trip to Asia. I experienced culture shock and moments when I desperately missed home, even though we were only gone for two weeks. Yet, I met amazing, kind, and generous people; ate delicious food; and witnessed a unique culture, unlike anything I’ve seen in my Western-oriented travels. This journey was remarkable and unforgettable.

Goodbye, Ft. Lauderdale! (Katherine Hart, 2015)

Goodbye, Ft. Lauderdale! (Katherine Hart, 2015)

View of Mt. Fuji approaching Narita Airport (Katherine Hart, 2015)

View of Mt. Fuji approaching Narita Airport (Katherine Hart, 2015)

San Pedro Fort, Cebu City (Katherine Hart, 2015)

San Pedro Fort, Cebu City (Katherine Hart, 2015)

View from family's home, Baybay, Leyte (Katherine Hart, 2015)

View from family’s home, Baybay, Leyte (Katherine Hart, 2015)

Fresh coconut water (Katherine Hart, 2015)

Fresh coconut water (Katherine Hart, 2015)

View from mountain top outside Baybay (Katherine Hart, 2015)

View from mountain top outside Baybay (Katherine Hart, 2015)

OMJ! Fun in local supermarket (Katherine Hart 2015)

OMJ! Fun in local supermarket (Katherine Hart 2015)

View from the beach outside of Baybay (Katherine Hart, 2015)

View from the beach outside of Baybay (Katherine Hart, 2015)

Our daily breakfast. Ensaimadas in foreground; pandesal in the back (Katherine Hart, 2015)

Our daily breakfast. Ensaimadas in foreground; pandesal in the back (Katherine Hart, 2015)

Central Plaza, Baybay (Katherine Hart 2015)

Central Plaza, Baybay (Katherine Hart 2015)

Snorkeling in Biliran (Katherine Hart, 2015)

Snorkeling in Biliran (Katherine Hart, 2015)

A typical dinner. Yum! (Katherine Hart, 2015)

A typical dinner. Yum! (Katherine Hart, 2015)

Looking towards Agta Beach, Biliran (Katherine Hart, 2015)

Looking towards Agta Beach, Biliran (Katherine Hart, 2015)

Sunset, Biliran (Katherine Hart, 2015)

Sunset, Biliran (Katherine Hart, 2015)

(Katherine Hart, 2015)

(Katherine Hart, 2015)

Waterfall, Biliran (Katherine Hart, 2015)

Waterfall, Biliran (Katherine Hart, 2015)

Cebu City (Katherine Hart, 2015)

Cebu City (Katherine Hart, 2015)

Leah Temple, Cebu City (Katherine Hart, 2015)

Leah Temple, Cebu City (Katherine Hart, 2015)

Dragon Sculpture at Taoist Temple, Cebu City (Katherine Hart, 2015)

Dragon Sculpture at Taoist Temple, Cebu City (Katherine Hart, 2015)

Enjoying the last evening in the Philippines (Katherine Hart, 2015)

Enjoying the last evening in the Philippines (Katherine Hart, 2015)

Final meal in the Philippines - not typical, but very tasty (Katherine Hart, 2015)

Final meal in the Philippines – not typical, but very tasty (Katherine Hart, 2015)

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Monday Musings: Morning rituals

I’ve been doing some sort of morning ritual off and on since 2007, when I first started Morning Pages. While completing my master’s, I designed a course that included daily meditation and free-writing every morning. Once I went back to work, I neglected that sacred morning time because, quite simply, I lacked time. I needed to figure out how to balance work, family, and life. A morning ritual seemed superfluous, something I could only do as a stay-at-home parent.

But we all have time. Really, we do. I first heard about Hal Elrod’s take on morning practices while listening to one of many health-oriented podcasts. It seemed like a good thing to try – I didn’t have too many hours in my work schedule and therefore had time to devote to some type of morning practice. And it worked. I liked it. I liked creating a space (usually no more than a half-hour) where I can reflect and focus. I don’t believe my life has dramatically changed for it, and I don’t do it every day (or I’ll do an abbreviated version on weekends), but I appreciate the sense of peace and purpose it has brought to my life.

Here’s my approach: I wake up usually between 5:00 and 5:15 on weekdays. I go downstairs and make a cup of coffee, and once that’s ready, I’ll go to a quiet spot and do five to ten minutes of meditation while my coffee cools. I’m a shitty meditator – my mind never quiets but wanders and wanders – but I try. I alternate using two apps (Calm and Russell Simmons’ Meditation Made Simple). When I finish, I say a few prayers, and then open up my Mac to my affirmations. Recite those, and then I write my morning pages (typed in a Word doc I’ve kept since 2012). I’ve tried some other practices like visualization and yoga during this time but never really connected with those. At about this point, I can hear my daughter’s alarm going off – the day has begun. I finish up writing, drink my coffee, and go make lunches.

That’s it. Pretty simple and straightforward. Do you have a morning practice? What does yours look like?

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What I’m Reading and Listening To This Week

This week, I’m catching up on my podcasts. I’ve changed my subscribe setting to unsubscribe for all of them, and I’m going through my list and listening to each episode. Here are a few I’m looking forward to hearing:

The Strangers episode from 10/9/15 is titled “My Father’s Bones.” This promises to be an intriguing and moving story – as they always are. Lea Thau does an amazing job finding personal stories that are unusual yet at the same time universally relatable.

I have two Dear Sugar Radio shows to listen to. One is about a husband’s pot habit, and the other is about a variety of topics, including incriminating texts and a relationship conundrum.

I love traveling, but time and money make it an infrequent event. For my armchair voyages, I rely on Travel with Rick Steves. I have four episodes in my queue, and I’ll start with the 10/4/15 episode about Spanish music and life in the International Space Station.

Reading-wise, I’m flipping through two books: Plant-Based Diet for Dummies and Dark Side of the Universe. I’m reading the latter for research for a short story. As far as the diet book goes, I’m looking for new recipes and am always looking to increase my plant consumption.

What are you reading and listening to this week?

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Monday Musings: Living a stress-managed life

I’ve taken time away from blogging for a variety reasons, some personal and some professional. This time of year is always busy as I settle into the groove of another school year – new students, new schedules, new routines. Life is hectic, but it is around this time of year, when the Florida summer finally melds into the beginnings of the milder dry season, that I get my energy back for other things. Like writing and blogging. Additionally, my personal life has taken some interesting turns – some positive and others more challenging. I’ve been journaling more during this time and avoiding most things social (media and real life).

Either way, the point of returning to this blog is not to dwell upon the challenging or tumultuous but rather to examine what I’ve learned and what I’ve been passionate about over the past few months, and to share this information with you, dear readers, whoever you are. Today’s post is focusing on self-growth and finding balance despite a busy life.

I love podcasts, and when I started listening to them a few years ago, I mostly selected those with a focus on Paleo (like Everyday Paleo and Balanced Bites). It was a new-ish way of eating for me, and I found many of these programs fascinating and rife with helpful information. These days, I don’t necessarily adhere strictly to that diet, but I’m still interested in health and wellness. That passion led me to discover other podcasters who teach about well-being but who aren’t necessarily committed to one particular philosophy. One of those shows I discovered is The Chalene Show, and over the past few months, I’ve immersed myself in all things Chalene Johnson.

Currently, I’m working my way through Chalene’s 30-day goal-setting program. Each day, I receive a link to a video that focuses on some small task or challenge designed to help you overcome whatever obstacles stand in your way of achieving your goals. Things like making a to-do list or learning how to coach yourself – seemingly simple tasks but powerful in their simplicity. I also download her podcast, which is also filled with motivational tips and actionable items. In addition to Chalene, I’ve been listening regularly to Hal Elrod’s podcast, as well as Shawn Stevenson‘s. Both also offer good advice on how to achieve goals and live a balanced life.

So, what is the secret to a stress-free life? A balanced life? A meaningful one? I don’t have the answers yet :), but I think it has a lot to do with living a stress-managed life. Life is life. Stress is stress. Shit hits the fan, and you’re left dealing with the mess. It happens, over and over. It has always been hard for me to accept that fact because I’ve always sought a stress-free life, always thought that if I had enough money, time, smarts, etc., I could engineer the perfectly balanced life, with little to no worries. Ha. Of course, I’ve known that was impossible in reality, but I always thought it a worthy goal, that maybe someday…. Nope. Stress and life go together. However, there is a realistic expectation that stress can be managed, that it doesn’t have to control my daily activities. And that’s what I’m working on now.

Here’s what I’ve found helps, so far. First, getting more sleep. My goal is eight hours, but I typically get between six and seven. I’m trying to turn out the lights earlier and limit my screen time. Even if I don’t sleep for as long as I’d like, the quality of my sleep has improved. Exercise is another good stress reliever. I recently started training for a four-mile race, and I’m up to running three miles, three days a week. Working through the goal-setting course has been also been beneficial, as I’m holding myself accountable to getting things done. Shorter list = less worry. I would like to meditate more and so am adding a five-minute afternoon session, just to see if it will help.

If you made it this far, thanks! I’ll be posting more about my wellness journey along with travel tales and book and listening recommendations. See you soon!

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#TeachersWrite 2015

In an effort to jump start my writing, I’m participating in Teachers Write this summer. It’s an online writing camp for teachers, librarians, etc., who wish to take advantage of the free time summer provides and write. And write some more! Although I tend not to share my raw, unpolished writing, I may post a few snippets here and there, with links back to prompts and other good stuff.

For more info about this wonderful project, here’s a link to Kate Messner’s blog. Thanks to these amazing writers and teachers who have put this together. You are wonderful.

Happy summer writing!

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