July 25, 2011

On Being a Vegetarian: Does it Make a Difference?

Some of my recent reflections on vegetarianism and my diet:

This post is not about teaching or running, but is again about my thoughts on a vegetarian lifestyle and my own experiences as a vegetarian.  I'm not sure why my veggie diet has been on my mind lately, but in writing this I hope to breathe some life into the thoughts that have been swirling around in my head lately.
In June, I read an amazing book entitled Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer.  While I’d been giving my diet and vegetarianism in general a considerable amount of thought in recent months, this book changed something in me.  I’ve felt for a long time now that I cannot morally justify eating meat, which is why I ditched the meat in 2007 and never looked back.  That being said, Eating Animals shocked me.  I knew how terrifying the meat industry is in the United States.  If I thought it was rainbows and sunshine, I probably would still be eating meat.  But I was astounded when I learned how ignorant I truly was.   When people asked me in the past why I live a vegetarian lifestyle, I’ve always answered that my choice is based on a respect for life; I am ethically opposed to eating another living creature.  Sweet and simple.  But even though I've always been convinced that this choice is important and worthwhile, a question I've asked myself many times is,

“But what difference will one vegetarian make?”  

See, I’ve always been something of a bleeding heart.  I am passionate about many things and would idealistically daydream as a teen and college student about one day “changing the world.”  Can my diet, the diet of just ONE person in the world, actually make a difference?  Is it even worth bothering?
Gandhi famously said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”  This is a favorite quote of mine, and I know it is a favorite of many others too.  It is especially meaningful to me when I think about my diet.  It’s true that when I order pasta primavera at a restaurant or bring my own veggie burger to a barbeque I am doing nothing radical.  I am not fighting a great battle against factory farms or the meat industry.  But I am doing what I can, one person, to work for change in small ways.  Foer beautifully addresses this idea towards the end of his book:
It might sound naïve to suggest that whether you order a chicken patty or a veggie burger is a profoundly important decision.  Then again, it certainly would have sounded fantastic if in the 1950s you were told that where you sat in a restaurant or on a bus could begin to uproot racism.  It would have sounded equally fantastic if you were told in the early 1970s, before César Chávez’s workers’ rights campaigns, that refusing to eat grapes could begin to free farm workers from slave-like conditions.  It might sound fantastic, but when we bother to look, it’s hard to deny that our day-to-day choices shape the world.  When America’s early settlers decided to throw a tea party in Boston, forces powerful enough to create a nation were released.  Deciding what to eat (and what to toss overboard) is the founding act of production and consumption that shapes all others.  Choosing leaf or flesh, factory farm or family farm, does not itself change the world, but teaching ourselves, our children, our local communities, and our nation to choose conscience over ease can.  One of the greatest opportunities to live our values—or betray them—lies in the food we put on our plates (258).
Don’t mistakenly take Foer’s analogy to mean that he equates his fight against inhumane treatment of animals to the noble, brave fights of King, Chávez, or our founding fathers.   He understands, “Human oppression is not animal abuse…. [but] we interpret the Chávez and King legacies—we interpret America’s legacy—too narrowly if we assume in advance that they cannot speak against the oppression of the factory farm” (259).  I don’t think anyone can deny that even the smallest of choices we make on a daily basis can have great effects on both our own lives and the lives of others.  I am not naïve enough to believe that I can “change the world” in the way I dreamed of someday doing as a teen.  But I can make a difference, and I have seen firsthand the smallest of ways I have inspired change through my choices.  Foer writes, “…the influence that this simple dietary choice has on what others around you eat can be surprising” (261).

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I’ve noticed when I eat at restaurants with friends or even stop at Subway for a quick lunch with a coworker, they tend to be more likely to order a vegetarian dish when with me than they normally would be.  Let me clarify—I don’t criticize others for eating meat or comment when they do.  Vegetarianism is a personal choice and I dislike when others criticize my food, so I extend to them the same courtesy that I expect in return.  But even though I don’t push for it, I have seen it happen naturally that friends will reconsider their usual meat preferences in favor of a vegetarian entrée when dining with a vegetarian.
Also, while I don’t demand others cook special vegetarian fare when I’m coming to dinner and always offer to bring my own food, it tends to happen naturally that meatless food will make its way to the table at dinner parties when a vegetarian is invited.  I meet with a two girlfriends every few weeks to share food and talk about books.  Neither are vegetarians, but every meal we’ve shared together has been completely vegetarian.  I don’t ask for this special consideration, but it’s the pattern we have fallen into, and I assure you that none of our meals have ever lacked substance or flavor.
Similarly, my diet has resulted in my parents’ eating vegetarian more frequently than in the past.  I lived with my parents after graduating for two years, only just recently moving out, and my diet prompted my mom and dad to make small changes in their cooking.  They now cook vegetarian chili and always use vegetable stock in soups and other recipes.  Dishes like pasta are always meat-free.  Neither of my parents will ever be a vegetarian—it’s not important to them in the way it is to me.  But when I think about how much less meat they have consumed out of their own volition since my choice­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ to stop eating meat, I know that my choice to eat vegetarian has made a difference.
Last but not least, choosing to eat vegetarian sets an example for others that it is possible to give up meat without sacrificing nutrition or taste.  When I eat spinach ravioli or leftover tofu stir fry or quinoa with black beans in the teacher’s lounge at school, it invites questions.  It invites intrigue.  It might expose someone to a new vegetarian dish or plant a seed of thought about the ethics of eating animals in their head.    
It has always been a pet peeve of mine when someone comments that someone else’s food is “gross” or distasteful.  As I’ve said, food is deeply personal.  When I made the decision to become a vegetarian, I made a pact with myself that I would never look down on others for their food choices; I can only choose how I will eat and live.  It’s true that the only ones we can really control are ourselves, but even making a change on a personal level can inspire more tiny effects than we may ever have dreamed.  
Remember there's no such thing as a small act of kindness.  
Every act creates a ripple with no logical end. 
-Scott Adams

If you are thinking about becoming a vegetarian and are unsure that it is worth the “hassle” to make what might feel like is such a minuscule difference in the world, think again.  One person cannot change everything that is wrong in the meat industry, but by changing ourselves, we can make a difference.

July 23, 2011

I still miss running...

…but there are other things in life…right? :)

As the title suggests, I am still on a “running vacation” as I’ve taken to calling this time.  The good news is, though, that I am 90% sure that I DO NOT have a stress fracture.  My leg is feeling WAY better since I saw the doctor on Monday, and I know from experience that stress fractures do NOT heal in just a week.  I still have a tiny bit of pain from time to time, especially if I am walking around a lot (shopping…), but it is definitely healing.  I’m not sure what the problem was, but I’m going to give it at least another week before I push things and try running again.  My IT bands have unfortunately not decided to take this time to heal up—they’re still tight and annoying, but I’m continuing to stretch and foam roll them as I would if I were running…

After talking with my PT last week, he told me that if he were me, he wouldn’t take my doctor’s advice and just “quit running” (Note: my doctor did not tell me that I HAVE to quit running as his medical advice.  He merely suggested that perhaps running is not the best sport for me to pursue given my recent injury track record.).  He did suggest that I back off running for awhile, focusing for the time being on cross training and strengthening exercises (hence my “running vacation”).  In a few weeks when my legs are feeling up to it, he suggested I start running again in chunks of about 3 miles (or however long I can make it without pain).  Stick there for a few weeks before adding on about a half a mile.  Continue progressively building up mileage ridiculously gradually, while still staying conservative.  He suggested I take fall and winter to just “build a base” and heal/strengthen, and pursue another distance goal next spring. 

I think this is a smart plan, and it is certainly one that I can live with.  As I described in my “epiphanies” post, right now I care more about just being able to run than I do about distance or my upcoming half-marathon (which I will not be running).  After my recent pain and the past 2 weeks not running at all, a conservative run 
around the block sounds pretty good to me!

While I am still missing running, my life is not completely empty!  One of my close friends from both high school and college was visiting from out of state this week, and it was WONDERFUL to catch up!  Tuesday night I mentioned how much I adored the most recent Harry Potter movie, and while High School Friend read the books years ago, he remarked that he had only seen the first 3 movies!  You can imagine my response.  Obviously I couldn’t stand by knowing he was missing out on the goodness that is the Harry Potter movie series, so we watched movie #4 the following evening. 

Little did I know that I was creating a HP movie addict!  The next day, High School Friend rented movies 5, 6, and 7 part 1 only to watch them back to back before texting me at 9:30pm to share that he pretty much NEEDED to see 7 part 2 immediately. Of course I couldn’t miss out on another opportunity to see Harry Potter, and let me tell you it was just as wonderful the second time!  Also, I must note that seeing this movie meant that High School Friend watched over 10 hours of Harry Potter in one day.  AMAZING! 
Today instead of getting up early to RUN, I got up early to host two dear college friends for breakfast!  Miss R, Ms. M, and I went through the education program together and while Miss R and I see each other regularly to get our doses of teacher talk, Ms. M moved out of state after graduation.  It was wonderful to see her!!!  The spread:



The girls:

In true teacher fashion, this brunch involved a read aloud…
Haha I swear I don’t force guests to sit and listen to me read picture books!!!  Instead, the girls saw this book on my shelf and when I was showing it to them, they insisted I read it aloud. :)  I feel so blessed to catch up with old friends this week.  Is there anything better than seeing people after a long absence and realizing that nothing has changed?

It continues to be crazy hot around here, so what better way to end a Saturday than with some pool time?  Coach Lauren and I met this evening to lay by the pool...
And we even squeezed in a couple of laps afterwards...
All in all, a beautiful Saturday. :)

Are you still in touch with friends from high school and college?
How do you stay in touch with friends who live far away?
What made your Saturday beautiful?

7 RANDOM Things About Me

The lovely Melinda at I Hate Running gave me a Lovely Blog Award last week!  Aww, thanks Melinda!  Melinda is a ROCKSTAR because not only is she a MOM and a Girls on the Run coach, but she manages to squeeze RUNNING into that busy schedule too!  
Now I guess I have to share 7 random things about me?  Okay, here goes!!!

I can’t snap my fingers.
There isn’t really much to elaborate on for this one…people have showed me how to snap countless times, but I’m convinced there is something wrong with my fingers.  I just plain can’t do it.

Before I took my teaching job, I was deciding between teaching and entering the Peace Corps.
I actually filled out an application, interviewed, and was nominated for a program in the peace corps (a preliminary step before receiving your final “invitation”), and while it was a hard decision, I opted to revoke my application after being offered my teaching job.  While I still dream of service abroad, I know that this was the right decision for me at the time.

It took me until last summer to run my first 5K (even though I’d run off and on for years) because until then I’d been convinced that it wasn’t okay to walk during a race.  Seriously.
I honestly thought that everyone racing in a 5K ran the entire time.  I don’t know why I was convinced of that!  It seems sooo silly to me now! 

My hair color “changes” every few months.
My hair is naturally a very dark, dirty blonde.  I started bleaching and highlighting my hair to be blonder when I was about 15, but before I left for college I decided I was in need of a radical change and dyed it dark brown.  Since then, I have never thought for a minute about going back to blonde, and have experimented with almost every shade of the spectrum between light auburn, medium brown, reddish brown, and dark almost-black brown.  I love shaking things up with a new hair color. :)

Although I've ALWAYS wanted to be a teacher, I went through a phase in 5th grade where I legit wanted to be a magician.
Ummm embarrassing, but true.  No, I was not capable of actually performing any good tricks.  Yes, I put on short magic shows for family anyways.  I am mortified admitting this, and will probably lose at least 10 followers because you will all decide I am way too lame to be friends with anymore...  

I have never *really* stolen anything, but...
...sophomore year in college, my roommates and I *borrowed* a full-length mirror from a random room in the commons building that my roommate discovered while working for the school catering.  It was apparently filled with random full length mirrors, and we decided that one wouldn't be missed if we borrowed it for a few months!  During her catering shift, my roommate hid the mirror in the little meditation chapel in the building because that room was open all night.  Later, we went back in the middle of the night to retrieve it.  I'll bet we looked amazing walking across campus at 1am carrying a huge mirror...and it was snowing on top of everything.

I have been a vegetarian for years and have been a healthy eating nut for longer, but my parents still like to give me a hard time that as a child my favorite restaurant was Kentucky Fried Chicken. 
To say the least, KFC is no longer my “cuisine of choice.”


Now, I'm tagging some other LOVELY bloggers!

July 22, 2011

Giveaway Winner!

I know I said I would post a winner this morning, but things got away from me. :)  Anwyays, without further ado, the winner of my 100+ Followers box o' stuff is... Shannon!

Shannon, please email me your address ASAP so I can send you your box of goodies!  You have until WEDNESDAY to claim your prize!  My email: juiceboxesandcrayolas AT gmail DOT com :)

Thanks SO MUCH to everyone who entered and shared my giveaway!  I had so much fun reading your comments, especially your reasons why you LOVE LOVE LOVE running!  Some of the highlights:


Hope you're having a wonderful weekend!

July 21, 2011

Last Day for my GIVEAWAY!

Just a reminder to enter my giveaway if you haven't already!  It ends tonight at MIDNIGHT, so don't forget!

You could win...
~Pretty Stainless-Steel water bottle

~2 pairs running socks
~13.1 Car Sticker
~2 Energy Gels
~Picture frame

Hurry, hurry, hurry up and enter!! :)

July 20, 2011

SCHOOL SUPPLIES!!!

Well, it happened.  I started buying back to school supplies.  I am feeling incredibly ambivalent about this...on the one hand, it is more than depressing that summer is ALMOST OVER.  But on the other hand...

I LOVE BACK TO SCHOOL SHOPPING!!!!!

Honestly, my love of school supplies is probably one of the top reasons I'm a teacher...oh, and you know, loving kids and wanting to change the world and all that...but also school supplies. :)

Today I did some back to school brainstorming with Mrs. Literacy Specialist (aka alternating between chatting about life and looking at teacher blogs...), and we decided to hit up Walmart to buy some goodies.  After reading this post yesterday at What the Teacher Wants, I decided to pretty much replicate her entire shopping cart. :)  I REALLY want to make these adorable crate seats for my guided reading table!  So when I saw on What the Teacher Wants that crates were only $3.40, Mrs. Lit Specialist and I didn't waste any time!!!  Our crate-filled car post-shopping...
We also totally geeked out when we saw 15 cent folders...umm it's normal to buy out the almost the entire stock of one color, right?  
The best part was definitely the 40 cent composition notebooks.  HOORAY!!!  But just when we thought things couldn't get any better, we saw that they came in 5 other patterened covers besides the normal splotchy.  Of course, that meant crouching on the floor digging through EVERY BOX of notebooks until we could each find 6 of each pattern.  What's a shopping teacher to do but block off the entire aisle with her carts and go to town?!
Baby Lit Specialist "helped" too...
After all that hard shopping, we decided we HAD to cool off with some ice cream...holy yummy peanut butter chocolate!!!  This counts for AT LEAST a couple servings of protein, right?!  
Don't worry, it was at least triple this size before I started eating. :)  You better believe I devoured that baby in less than 10 minutes for fear it would melt and go to waste in the crazy heat...
Note to Self: Add "move to a more moderate climate that does not fluctuate between -10 and 100+ degrees during the course of a year" to the to-do list...

Have you started back to school shopping yet?

July 19, 2011

My Weekend of No Running

Note: Don't forget, there's still time to enter my giveaway!!!


I know it's already Tuesday, but I'm a little behind on recapping my weekend. :)  I've been lazy about setting up internet at my new apartment (I've lived there almost a month already...oops), so blogging is always a challenge!

At physical therapy last Thursday, the PT asked me about my weekend plans.  I commented that since I wasn't running 11 miles as planned, the possibilities were endless.  No need to go to bed at 9 Saturday night after hydrating and resting my legs all day, no need to wake up at 5 Sunday morning or reserve the rest of the day for icing/stretching...what to do with the free time?!?   Since I am going through a MAJOR endorphin-withdrawal, I attempted to fill the weekend with lots of little happy things to take distract myself from the fact that I wasn't running...

Like a super-inexpensive student massage at this massage school...


Followed by this candy-licious bowl of froyo...

You guys already know how I feel about HARRY POTTER!!!!

Some reading & cross training 
(one nice thing about cross training--elliptical and bike are so nice to READ on!!)


Of course some icing thrown in...err lots of icing...

Why not try a new hair color to spice things up??

Believe it or not, I actually cooked.  Yes Dad, I know you're shocked!

I was happy that I could actually enjoy a BEER Saturday night instead of glass after glass of water!  YUM!

What better way to spend Sunday than laying by this gorgeous lake?

This morning involved lots of this: book, coffee, and ice.  BLISS.  (except for the ice part...)



My running life versus my non-running life:
When I'm running, I sleep less, wake up earlier, stay up later, and burn about a million more calories than when I'm not running.  Curiously, I have unlimited energy.
When I'm NOT running, I'm bone tired.  For no reason.  (Somehow, though, my appetite is unchanged...)

When I'm running, I need to go to the grocery store almost twice a week to buy bananas.
When I'm not running, I wait until the cupboards are literally BARE before shopping.

When I'm running, I do laundry almost twice a week.
When I'm not running, I wait until I am just about out of clothes before I deal with washing anything...

I'm sure there are about a million other things, but my endorphin-free brain is already tired just thinking of these!!!  On a positive note though, xrays came back negative from the doctor (although that does NOT rule out a stress fracture--we'll do an MRI in a week if I'm still in pain), and my tibia is feeling a little better today! This seems promising, although I'm not getting my hopes TOO high up. :)

What do you do to distract yourself when you can't run?
How is your running life different than your non-running life?

July 18, 2011

The End of an Era: On Growing Up with Harry Potter

Note: Don't forget, there's still time to enter my giveaway!!!

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I know it’s just a movie, and I know they’re just books, but as I watched Harry Potter battle Voldemort on the big screen this weekend, I was more than a little emotional.  It wasn’t just the heart-breaking scenes.  It was more that I felt like something big was coming to an end (and not just a multi-million dollar movie franchise).  See, I grew up with Harry Potter.  No really, I did.  And I don’t just mean that I grew up reading the books.  I could say that about the Babysitter’s Club or American Girl series.  I grew up along with these characters. 

A coworker of my mom loaned me Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone when I was 12 years old—just 1 year older than Harry at the series’ beginning.  At first I was skeptical—I wasn’t into books about magic and wizards.  But as any true book worm would do, I gave it a shot.  I don’t think that book left my hand for more than 10 minutes at a time until it was finished—having been thoroughly captivated by JK Rowling’s magical world of wizards and spells, I was completely hooked.  I devoured books 2 and 3 shortly after and eagerly anticipated book 4’s release the summer before I started 8th grade.  At 13, It was the longest book I’d ever read at over 700 pages, and I remember beaming with pride when I announced that I had never read another book faster.

I was about 15 when the fifth Harry Potter book was released, and you better believe I got my copy at midnight, only to go home, down a few cups of coffee, and read well into the wee hours of the morning.  As I read the first chapters of the fifth book, I remember thinking Harry had become kind of obnoxious.  It wasn’t until much later that it hit me that he was obnoxious, not to mention moody, irrational, and emotional.  He was also 15.  Just like me.  Do I even have to tell you that I was more than a little moody and emotional those days too? 

The sixth book did not disappoint, although by then I had surpassed Harry in age.  I was 18 by that time and getting ready for my first year of college, but had not outgrown what will never feel like a children’s series to me.  It was torture waiting for book 7.  TORTURE!  I’m not ashamed to admit that I speculated with friends about what the epic conclusion would bring for Harry, Hermione, and Ron.  I may have even visited a Harry Potter fan site a few times to read other readers’ speculations… (*blushes*)

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I was 21 by the time the 7th and final book was released, the summer before my senior year of college.  I dragged a friend with me to a book premier event where we drank “butter beer” and laughed watching younger kids play “wizard duel” with plastic magic wands.  The soon-to-be-teacher in me beamed, thinking, How amazing is it that these little kids are up late waiting for a book to be released?  How amazing that they’re playing wands and not fists or toy guns?  I may have felt like I’d “grown up” along with the Hogwarts gang, but it made me so happy to see kids and adults of all ages waiting in line to get their copy at midnight.  When else have such colossal masses of people gotten so excited about READING? 

By this time, I was actually working in the summers and couldn’t devote hour upon uninterrupted hour to reading a book.  But…I *may* have carried it everywhere I went for 3 days until I finished, snagging every moment of reading time I could.  That included reading at red lights while driving to work, reading during the 5 minute “break” I gave kids during their sessions of tutoring, and reading while working out at the gym.  The book was…perfect.  Finishing it was both satisfying and heartbreaking, because I knew there were no others to come.  But that was okay—there were still a few movies to look forward to.

This weekend I sat in a movie theater and cried and cried watching the final movie in this beloved series.  I have grown up.  I’m 24 now.  I have a career, an apartment, and all of the responsibilities that come with both.  I couldn’t help but think as I watched the plot unfold on the screen that Harry Potter and his friends have grown up too.  I know that seems silly—they’re not real.  I get that. J  (I promise I’m not delusional.)  But it was still something special to see the way all of the characters really have grown and changed.  And something special to realize that I have too. 

I am grateful to have grown up with these books, and even more grateful that kids will have the opportunity to experience this special world for years and years to come.  As a kid and as an adult, JK Rowling transported me to a world where anything is possible, where friendship and loyalty, courage and honesty, goodness and love always win over evil.  Her characters showed me in powerful ways how important it is to stay true to who you are.  To follow your heart.  To confront your fears.  To make the right choice even when the wrong one is easier. 

Books are not real, but they can do powerful things.  They can take you on adventures.  They can teach you lessons.  They can become friends and safe havens and role models.  I hope that some of my students find the same lessons as I did in these books.  Or even that, through them, fall as deeply in love with reading as I did.  This year I will make a special effort in my classroom to put Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone into the hands of every 5th grader I can.  I cannot think of a better gift I can give a young reader.

July 16, 2011

What's Going On With My Legs...

Or, Injury one million and one and the big epiphanies and decisions it’s inspired.
(Side Note: Remember to enter my GIVEAWAY!)

Dear Legs,
 I love you.  I really do.  I know it might not always seem like it.  I know I ask you to do crazy things like run 10 miles in a row.  I know I subject you to lengthy foam rolling sessions.  I know I am constantly pummeling you with my fists to get the knots out of your muscles.  I know you’re tired and not so happy with me these days.  But I promise I love you.  Will you please please please get better?  It would make me really happy.
 Love,
     Miss Teacher
Sooo here’s the thing.  I’m injured.  Again.  I KNOW.  You’re probably getting sick of seeing pictures of my legs with ice packs and frozen vegetables saran wrapped to them.  I’m sick of seeing that too.  Needless to say, I’m more than a little frustrated…but yesterday I wrote about choices, and how I am both choosing to think positive and choosing to do the right thing for my body.  So I will attempt to stick by that while talking about what’s new in the land of my aching body…(this is crazy long, so feel free to skip to the end if you’d rather not read a play-by-play of my life as a perpetually injured runner!)  Here’s a little background on my running history…

My Training & MISTAKES:
I ran on and off throughout college, going through phases of running more and less frequently.  I NEVER pushed myself for more than about 2 or 3 miles at a time, and I was okay with that.  Last summer (2010) I started running again with more consistency and decided I wanted to train for the Disney Princess Half-Marathon in February 2011.  I ran a few 5Ks before getting a stress fracture in my right tibia that immediately halted my running.  (I’m still not sure what caused this stress fracture since my mileage was really low, and I hadn’t been doing anything different with running than I’d done previously…)  This injury took a LONG time to heal, and I wasn’t back running again until the end of November. (Unfortunately, I did NOT keep up cross-training during this time…oops.)

After my stress fracture healed, I returned to running and IMMEDIATELY began half-marathon training.  I did not take the time to ease back into running or build up a solid running base at a low mileage before increasing my distances dramatically.  While I took adequate rest days, cross trained, and stretched religiously during training, I experienced a LOT of issues with calf cramping and muscle knots during this time, especially as I increased my distances past 7 miles.  During the Disney Princess Half-Marathon, I began experiencing CRIPPLING IT band/knee pain around mile 7.  I made it through the end of the race with a LOT of walking and quite a bit of pain. :-/  

 
I took a few weeks off running and took it easy when I started returning again.  I ran about 6 miles a week for my first weeks back to running in April.  After I started feeling better, guess what.  I IMMEDIATELY started training for the Rock ‘n’ Roll half-marathon.  Training went really well at first, but after the first few weeks and my first 6 mile long run, both of my IT bands tightened up LIKE CRAZY and stopped me cold again.  I worked on them using the foam roller and stepped back for a couple weeks while I re-built up stamina.  After a few weeks, I started Physical Therapy for the IT bands and was feeling GREAT.  I ran my 7 mile long run, and a 15K (9.3mi) race two weekends in a row.  Guess what?  A few days later my IT bands were, you guessed it, tightening up AGAIN and causing lots of knee pain.  I had to skip my long run entirely the following week because of pain. 

After a few days off, I got back into it last week and ran my 10 mile long run this past Sunday.  It went great!  But…the next day I was in PAIN.  My inner calf muscles (right along the tibia just a few inches above the ankle) have always been a problem—they’re the reason why I rock my HOT compression sleeves all the time—and they were super tight/knotty/painful Monday.  Letting my Type A personality get me carried away, I AGGRESSIVELY dug into them with my fingers, knuckles, and foam roller to try to break up the knots along the tibia.  I also got a deep tissue massage.  The next morning (Tuesday), I tried to run and had to stop after just a mile due to hip/IT discomfort and awful tibia pain.  I convinced myself that I had another tibial stress fracture and worked myself into an all-out hysterical frenzy by the time I walked the mile back to my car.  I’m talking tears, the works. 
Note to Self: Chill Out on the Self-Massage for now...
The Breakdown:
I’m sick of being injured.  I felt like I was following everyone’s advice: running only 3 days a week, increasing mileage 10% a week, taking rest days, stretching, icing, protein recovery drinks, calcium/magnesium supplements, etc. etc. etc.  Yet here I was injured again.  It wasn’t even so much a matter of being upset about the possibility of dropping out of my upcoming half-marathon as much as it was a devestation that maybe running is just not something I can do.  I was a wreck.  Major shout out to College Friend for consoling me on the phone and not making fun of me for having a reaction to running injury similar to others’ reactions to a death.  After calming down, I took the day and evening to reflect.  I looked back through my running log and thought hard about running, training, my goals, and what’s important to me.  

The Epiphanies:
Epiphany #1:  I suck at injury recovery and building a running base.
As I illustrated above, I jumped into both of my attempts at half-marathon training immediately after injuries and without building ANY sort of running base.  Yes, I’d run before, but both times I hadn’t been running at all before beginning training and dramatically increasing mileage.  Oops.

Epiphany #2: Running is more important to me than this race.
This is the big one.  A few weeks ago, I would have been devastated about missing this half-marathon.  I would have told you that, one way or another, I’d be crawling across that finish line.  Today, I’m feeling a lot differently.  When I was crying to College Friend, I sobbed to her that I just *love* running and, more than anything at else, just want to be able to run.  That’s all.  (That’s why the possibility of another stress fracture is pretty upsetting—stress fracture = no running AT ALL for at least 6 weeks, but probably longer…)  I decided that this race is just ONE RACE.  I want to be able to run for my LIFETIME, not ruin my body over 1 race when I’m 24. 

The Decision:
Since I have no way of knowing if my tibia is freaking out right now because of a stress fracture or because I got a little too carried away with my aggressive massage (seriously, it was BRUISED the next day…I know, I’m crazy), I’m resting and cross training right now.  My physical therapist suspects I don’t have a stress fracture because I have been able to do our strength exercises including leg press with no pain, and I passed the “hop test” (hop on one foot; if you can come down on the foot without pain upon impact, you probably don’t have a sfx).  But there is no way of knowing for sure quite yet—my primary care doctor had me wait for a few weeks last time before he would order an MRI, the best way of diagnosing a sfx since they don’t typically show up on a traditional xray.  So, right now I’m biking, swimming, continuing to strengthen, and all-around taking it easy.

When I return to running, it will NOT be immediately picking up a training plan.  I plan to take some time to gradually build a solid running base of maybe 6-8 miles a week before I move up from there.  As much as I love distance and racing, I want to remember what it’s like to run pain-free.  (What a concept!)  I want my legs and body to be STRONG before I ask that they start increasing distances.  When I DO start training for another half (which I have no doubt that I will, hopefully sooner than later, but that all depends on what this injury really is), I will follow the longest half training plan in existence.  My body just needs reeeeeally slow increases in mileage, it turns out.  And I’m okay with that.

At the end of the day, running is more important to me than any one race, and my body and health are more important to me than anything.  It’s time to stop making excuses, stop wallowing, and stop being a Stupid Runner.  I’m going to make SMART decisions regarding my running and my body from now on. 

When have you been a "stupid runner"?
How do you deal with injury?

July 14, 2011

Oh My! 100+ Followers?! Giveaway Time!

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to all of you wonderful, fabulous, amazing readers!  I can’t believe I surpassed 100 followers this week.  Whether you have been with me since that *horrible* first year teaching where this blog mostly consisted of my classroom woes or whether you are a brand new follower; whether you are a teacher or a runner or both (or neither!), thank you from the bottom of my heart for sticking with me through good days in the classroom and bad, through epic long runs and injury upon injury.  You. Rock.

To show my appreciation, I am hosting my first giveaway of a few of my favorite things!  One follower will win this collection of goodies…
~Pretty Stainless-Steel water bottle:  I have a few of these guys and am OBSESSED.  One day I forgot to bring my bottle to school with me and literally freaked out.  They are wonderful for staying hydrated all day long, whether you are exercising or running around a classroom chasing kiddos. :)

~2 pairs running socks: These socks are not super fancy so I would not recommend you run a MARATHON in them, but they are sweat-wicking and cute.  1 pair has bright pink feet, the other gray.

~13.1 Car Sticker: My wonderful coworker gave me a 13.1 car magnet for inspiration during my training for my first half.  If you’ve run 13.1 or are training for your first half, I hope you like this sticker!  If you’re not a runner (or have long surpassed 13.1!), pass this on to a runner friend. :)

~2 Energy Gels: You will receive 1 Chocolate Outrage Gu and 1 Razz Clif Shot.  I’m currently all about the chocolate Gu, but Clif Shot Razz was my fuel of choice during training for my first half earlier this year.

~Picture frame: I am a huge sucker for quotes and mantras.  You have probably seen my pictures of the encouraging words that I Sharpie onto my wrist/hand/arm before challenging runs.  I have a favorite mantra in a little frame similar to this one on my dresser, and I and love the daily reminder:
Giveaway Frame
Feel free to use the frame to display YOUR personal mantra (or a picture!), but I’ve included one of my current favorites: “Put all excuses aside and remember this: YOU are able.” –Zig Ziglar

How to win...

Mandatory: Be a follower of Juice Boxes & Crayolas!  Leave a comment and let me know!
Bonus Entries: 
~Post about this giveaway on your blog, facebook, or twitter.  Leave a comment for each! (+1 entry for each)
~Leave a comment below and tell me which item from this giveaway is your favorite and why (+1 entry)
~Leave a comment below and tell me why you LOVE running (or another form of exercise if you’re not a runner!) (+1 entry)

This giveaway will be open until next THURSDAY, July 21st at midnight.  I will use Random Number Generator to select a winner Friday morning! (7/22)  Good luck!

July 13, 2011

On Choosing to be Happy

CHOICES.  We make them constantly.  Coffee or tea?  Pants or shorts?  Oatmeal or cereal?  Expressway or local roads?  Soup or salad?  I think we are bombarded with so many choices every second that we don't even recognize that some other things ARE a choice at all.  
source

As a teacher, I talk a lot about choices on a daily basis:

Was it a good choice to push your classmate?
What might a better choice have been?
Because you chose not to do your homework at home, you can choose to make it up with me at recess or after school.  It’s your choice.
Was it a good idea to choose to listen to your neighbor during the math lesson instead of me?

We constantly remind kids, “YOU are in charge of YOU.”  We attempt to train them to make positive choices and to take responsibility for their actions.  But we don’t always follow that advice.
When I’m frustrated about school, it’s tempting to play the Blame Game.  My job would be easier if…

…their parents cared.
…if the kids had better manners.
…if I had more help in my classroom.
…if I made more money.
…if my principal supported me more.
BLAH BLAH BLAH.

At a fantastic workshop I had the privilege to attend this summer, the presenter talked about the idea that, just as we need our kids to own their actions, thoughts, words, and feelings, we need to take responsibilities for ourselves too.  She told us to constantly remind ourselves, 
I am in charge of ME.
NO MORE EXCUSES.

No more making excuses for ourselves or blaming our problems on exterior factors.  It’s time to take control, accept the hand we’ve been dealt, and play it the best we can.  I forget sometimes that I while I can't choose to have more support in my classroom, I can choose how I react to the situation I have.  This speaker said we need to choose to STOP being frustrated in the classroom, choose to STOP getting angry when kids don't follow directions, and choose to love our kids and do our best every day.  Even our feelings and emotions are really choices.  Yes, things do happen TO us--but it's how we choose to respond to them that counts.
source
Because my lives in and out of the classroom have VERY blurry boundaries, today I’m thinking about this idea in terms of my running.  And injury.  And the fact that running and injury are two words that always seem to be in the same breath for me.  Yes, I have a new injury.  
source
And I’m not sure that my half-marathon goal in 1 month is going to happen.  Or, even if I end up being able to run it, I'm not sure that it is a good idea.  I will go into detail another time...but for now I’ve decided to take control and play the hand I’ve been dealt.  I took yesterday to complain and wallow and cry.  Today I’m turning over a new leaf.  I am CHOOSING to make peace with this situation and CHOOSING to make safe choices for my body.

I am choosing not to blame my body for injuries, and instead to listen to it and give it the rest and TLC it needs right now.  
I am choosing not to be angry, because that won’t heal my body.  
I am choosing not to be stupid and run through pain, because that will only leave me with worse problems.  
I am choosing to evaluate my running and training.  
I am choosing to be at peace with the idea that this is just ONE RACE, and accepting that if my body can’t handle it right now, there will be others in the future.  It’s not worth hurting my body.   
Most of all, I’m choosing to be happy.  

^In the end, it’s this choice that matters most.  I don’t have to like my situation, but I am choosing NOT to wallow in self-pity and regret and “it’s the end of the world”-style drama.  I’m choosing to stay positive.

*Deep breath*

What important *choices* have you made lately?

How do you choose to stay positive when things are rough?
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