So Long, Sweet Summer

As a teacher, summer has been over for about a month now. As a human being (and according to the calendar), the curtains of summer are drawing closed this Thursday.

Either way, I have some thoughts to share as the transition from summer freedom to autumnal mayhem continues to build (or begins, depending on which way you look at it).

This summer was great. I accomplished a lot what I set out to do (as seen here) such as traveling, developing my Stats course, taking pictures, and working out consistently.

This summer, I fell in love with lifting free weights. It was scary in the beginning as the free weights area is typically 95% dudes. But I love the freedom that it offers; I can do so many things with a set of dumbbells versus only being able to do one exercise at a time on the machines.

I got to travel quite a bit this summer, too. I began the summer going home to Western NY for our friends’ wedding and to see friends and family, then I went to the Poconos with my high school friends in July, and then Tom and I went to Virginia to celebrate our birthdays and anniversary all in one trip. We also spent the last couple weeks out with my in-laws in Long Island which is totally traveling and feels like a vacation. I went to the beach a couple times and hung out with friends quite a bit. [Check out my Instagram for pictures]

Volleyball started the day after my birthday and by then I was really excited to get back into having a set daily routine. The following week was the start of teacher meetings and classroom setup. I had been in my school at least 10 times over the summer to get work done, so it kind of felt as if I had never left. We then had students the week of Labor Day and that was a rush of stress and excitement for sure.

The following week (last week), we had 2 days of school and then we went on our annual retreat with all of the students. In past years, the 9th and 10th graders went to a Quaker conference and retreat center 3 hours north of the city while the 11th and 12th graders went to a summer camp 2 hours north of the city. My first year teaching at my school, I went with the upperclassmen, and last year I went with the lowerclassmen, so I had been to both places and had my opinions about both.

Last year, we all realized that there was no way we could continue going to the 9/10th retreat center because we just had too many people squeezing into the place. I was in a committee meant to plan the retreat and we decided that all four grades would go to the summer camp this year. I was pumped. I loved my experience at the summer camp and couldn’t wait to go back.

And this year’s retreat didn’t disappoint. It was frustrating and exhausting at times, don’t get me wrong; teachers spending 2.5 days with their students is not a bed of roses. But this place made for such an amazing time; from the ropes courses and the various sports courts/areas, to the delicious (in comparison to the retreat center) food, to the beautiful weather, and of course just being in nature, I had a fantastic time and can’t wait for next year’s retreat.

Retreat 2016
                               Post sunset first night; Sunrise second morning

This weekend was spent recuperating, catching up on sleep and alone time (with the exception of Tom), and preparing myself mentally and physically for the first full week of school. Not only do we have classes all 5 days (haha that sounds so dramatic but the past 2 non-full weeks have left me feeling totally wiped out) and I have 3 volleyball games to coach.

And as I’m sitting here writing this, I am in awe of how I am less anxious and worried about everything than I usually am this time of year. I tend to go through major problems this time of year: both of my Crohn’s flare-ups happened during this time of year, I went to a doctor for anxiety and sleep problems 2 years ago (my first year teaching full-time), and I just tend to have a low self-esteem regarding my teaching abilities and an overall low sense of self-worth during this time of year. It’s a lot, all at once, and I get a little [read: very] emotional when I’m tired.

And yet, here I am, feeling capable and ready to take on this week. I think it helps that I have become accustomed to working a bit on weekends: I have grown to like going to Starbucks for a few hours on Sunday mornings to get ready for the week and set my mind at ease while enjoying a PSL and a bagel.

>>Side note: I’m reading a book for school called Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do and it’s all about stereotype threat. While in line getting ready to order, I realized that I was feeding a stereotype threat as a white female ordering a PSL. I felt like maybe I shouldn’t order it because that would make others confirm said stereotype…but I didn’t care and ordered it anyway.<<

I hope to continue on with this feeling and not wake up at 2 a.m. with overwhelming anxiety such that I cannot fully fall back to sleep until my alarm goes off at 6 a.m. It happens sometimes.

I hope to continue to pump myself up and stay on top of things to aide in this general feeling of well-being and happiness.

I hope to continue making gainz in the gym and make it a priority even with school. I didn’t go at all this weekend because I pulled a back muscle (are you ready for this?) while pulling my shirt over my head to get dressed on the last day of the retreat.

Yeah. It’s embarrassing. I was up a bit early, getting ready for a morning run with the cross country team, and as I was pulling my shirt over my head, I felt a sharp pain, couldn’t breathe fully, and couldn’t move or find a comfortable position. I ditched the run, took some Aleve, and am still feeling a bit sore in that spot tonight. I’ll blame it on the uncomfortable mattress in the bunk and on playing tennis without warming up first. Getting dressed must’ve just exacerbated it.

So anyways, I hope you’re soaking up the last bits of summer (although, according to weather reports, we’ll be enjoying summer weather for at least another 2 weeks) and have a good transition to fall and all that it offers. Cooler weather. Sweaters. Boots. Excitement for the upcoming holidays. And pumpkin everything.

Virginia Mountain Adventures! [Planning & Video]

My husband, Tom, and I decided that the money we would be spending on our summer birthdays and anniversary gifts could be better used toward a vacation together. We brainstormed a few ideas – a beach resort in the Dominican Republic, or maybe a European-style stay in Montreal – but we ultimately settled on a mountainesque trip. Someplace where we would be surrounded by peace and tranquility, nature as far as the eye could see, yet within a 20-30 minute drive from civilization and fun activities.

While looking through Airbnb, Tom found some listings for treehouses. Some were actual houses built around or into trees, while others were simply houses built amongst trees. We decided on one that was the latter because of the location and price. The house we chose was located in Basye, Virginia, right near the border with West Virginia.

Going into the trip, we really didn’t have anything set on our agenda. We both wanted to catch up on some leisure reading, do some hiking, relax, enjoy nature and, ultimately, each other’s company. It’s really easy the get caught up in millions of other things in New York City – from the general, everyday hustle and bustle everywhere you turn, to the millions of stores and street fairs, to just sitting in your teeny weeny apartment, watching Netflix or getting lost in a black hole that is the internet. There’s always something to do, so it’s hard to shut your brain off or really sit down and read that book for fun or get a real touch of nature.

We knew there would be no internet, so right off the bat that took millions of options off our plate, in a good way. The place was also located in a mountain resort (it’s mainly a ski resort), so it was mainly going to be families on vacation or people that live there year-round. It seemed like our to-do list could stay as simple as we wanted, and I loved that.

Once we booked the treehouse, we decided it would be better (AKA cheaper and easier) to just rent a car in NY and drive down ourselves. Flying would take the same amount of time, what with getting to the airport 2 hours early, the flight, unboarding, and then renting a car to drive the hour from the airport to the resort, and would probably cost way more money. A train would be less stressful, but, again, we would have to rent a car to drive that hour to the resort again (the train station and airport are both in Charlottesville, VA).

I also liked the freedom that came with driving: go at our own pace, beautiful scenery, and singing out loud to good tunes. I love singing to music in the car because you can’t really do it in NY – people on the subway or on the street with think you’re a bit kooky and quite annoying.

So instead of going through every detail in writing, you can just watch the video I made of our first day! There will be 2 other videos after this one showing the other three-ish days (the fourth day was another travel day, so there wasn’t much footage). It’s pretty self-explanatory, so I hope you enjoy!

Things I want to accomplish this summer…

As a teacher, I have the privilege of having 2 months off from work (in theory) while still getting paid. While this is true, we are usually doing school-related work over the summer months to prepare for the school year and the lack of time we will have between September and the following June.

Although I want to relax as much as possible and don’t want to work anywhere near 8 hours per day for the next 2 months, there are a few things that I definitely need/want to accomplish over the next 60 days.

  • Create a really great Statistics course – it is not only a new course for me but is also new for our school and I couldn’t be more excited about it!
  • Learn ASL – my work friends agreed to teach me in return for some food and beverages.
  • Relearn Calculus – although I won’t be teaching it, I would like to re-explore and remind myself of the concepts.
  • Develop/explore projects for my classes – Students love projects and I love projects, so if I can find some really great and applicable projects, that would be a win-win!
  • Read a whole lot – I have a whole shelf’s worth of books in my apartment that I have yet to read and would like to do so this summer.
  • Exercise at least 4 days every week – since I spent the majority of last summer on the couch recovering from surgery, I want to up my fitness levels and spend very little time on any couches.
  • Spend a ton of time outside – walking, sitting, eating, running, etc.
  • See all the people I love – work friends, school friends, family, etc.
  • Explore NYC
  • Volunteer – Last summer I volunteered with BARC (Brooklyn Animal Resource Coalition) and walked two of their shelter dogs and had a blast. Granted, this happened on the hottest day (it was well over 90°) but it not only helped a community in need, but I got the chance to hang out with cute animals and get some exercise!
  • Continue the Uncharted series – I got all four games a couple weekends ago and just finished the first game of the series. I really like it although there were times that stressed me out so much! That’s how most video games affect me, though; I get better as I get used to the game, but for awhile I am a giant stressball.
  • Take tons of pictures – I want this to be a memorable summer.
  • Travel – We’re going upstate for our friends’ wedding and I’ll be staying a bit longer to see friends and family back home. In August, a group of my high school girlfriends and I are heading to the Poconos for a girls’ weekend getaway. Tom and I are also trying for a trip to the Dominican Republic in August.

Are there any activities/experiences you would suggest or that you hope to accomplish this summer?

Summer 2015 Favorites: People, Surgery, and Stuff

Although summer isn’t “officially” over, it is for us teachers, so I gotta get this in now! Another season, another set of things to appreciate…

First, let’s start with Tom and my in-laws for their love and support before, during, and after my surgeries this summer. Tom helped me get comfortable by gently arranging pillows to my liking, brought me food sometimes, hugged me when I was frustrated, and has literally been my crutch a lot since my foot surgery. My in-laws have been nothing but generous in letting me stay at their house to recover, letting me take over their couch, and making me feel welcome and comfortable throughout the whole summer. And, finally, Finster for his wonderful cuddles and endless entertainment…except when he’s napping, which is 75% of the time.

Cuddle time!!

Also, for all the people, friends and strangers alike, who have reached out and offered help and/or encouragement in any form since having my surgeries. I seriously appreciate you all.

Touching story time: on our way back to Stony Brook from Brooklyn about a week ago, Tom and I had to actually cross over the track at Huntington because our connecting train was on the other track. Usually the connection follows behind the current train, but whatever; usually, it’s not a problem. However, I was moving at a snail’s pace because I was only 2 weeks out of surgery.

We made it to the elevator to go up just as the doors were closing, so a man inside held them for us. We walked over the train via the platform and found the elevator to go down on the other side; by now, about 5 minutes have gone by, so the train is about ready to take off. When we finally got down to the ground, I was telling Tom to run to the train and hold the doors, but he refused to leave me.

Wouldn’t you know, as I’m walking up the flight of 5 steps to the platform, I saw the man from the elevator standing halfway out of the train, waving to the conductor to wait for us. I was so grateful and totally exhausted from that trek, so when Tom and I sat down, I bawled like a baby. Silently, so as not to draw attention, but nonetheless, tears were a-flowing.

I was frustrated with my lack of mobility and felt hopeless and scared about a potential future like this. Mainly, I was having flashbacks of my mom when she used a cane, and then a walker, and then a motorized scooter. I was always the one by her side and appreciated the people who helped her and me during those tough times.

And now, I was so thankful for this man that took the time to hold the train for me. He could have just gotten on, taken a seat, and not had a second thought about me. But he didn’t. I thanked him as we got on, but I wish I could thank him 100 times more. He doesn’t realize just how much that meant to me.

Gah, all the feels.

Which brings me to said surgeries. Although they’ve been burdensome, and as much as I may have cursed myself for doing them while in the recovery phase and feeling like my summer was nothing but recovery, I’m happy I went through with them and am glad I got them out of the way!

redressed feet

Now let’s go to some of my favorite products from this summer: First, my trusty Batiste dry shampoo. I’ve mentioned this in multiple blog posts and will continue to recommend it to anyone interested in minimizing the number of times they wash their hair in a week. It’s been great all summer as I let my hair go unwashed for 3-4 days while also sweating and/or being pretty much couch-ridden after surgery.

Similarly, I used Oribe dry texturizing spray while I stayed at my in-laws after my foot surgery. It smells delicious and doesn’t leave any trace of white film or powder in my darker hair. I received a sample size in my Birchbox subscription, so it’s handy for traveling. What’s not handy is the price; the teensy weensy 2.2 fl. oz. purse sized one retails for $22. Yeah, disgusting! A regular 8.5 fl. oz. costs $42.

Batiste Hint of Color Brown Dry Shampoo     VS.   Oribe dry texturizing spray

>>MATH TIME!!!! Batiste is usually around $6 or $7 for the 6.7 oz. can – at $7, that’s $1.04 per fluid ounce; Oribe costs $4.94 per fluid ounce for the full size can! You’re paying almost $4 more per fluid ounce with the full size of Oribe! But wait, it gets even grosser: the Batiste travel size is usually $3 for 1.6 oz, coming to about $1.90 per fluid ounce while the Oribe comes in at $10 per fluid ounce for the travel size! Horrendous. Awesome product, I just don’t see it being worth that much money.<<<

Speaking of, my next favorite is wearing my hair 95% au naturel during most of August. After washing my hair, I’ve been letting it air dry with just a couple spritzes of my It’s a 10 Leave In spray and it actually doesn’t look all that terrible. I love not having to use heat on it as it’s already 80° so I’m sweating a lot, I save time, and my hair feels sooooooooo much healthier! I think I’ve only used heat (in the form of a straightener to curl my hair for my birthday dinner with Tom) once in the past month. Woot! I totally recommend anyone who wants to try a no heat challenge to do it – embrace your natural hair and notice the difference that it makes when you let your hair be who it wants to be without heat. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

au naturel hair

I am loving the Lash Sensational mascara by Maybelline. I’m on my third tube and really enjoy how it makes my lashes look fluttery and separated while also lengthening and defining them. I have been using the Very Black non-waterproof one and I have had no fallout or flakes and it stays all day; it actually takes quite a bit of [gentle] elbow grease to remove it entirely at night!

Which brings me to Simple Micellar Water. I saw a couple YouTubers talk about this and I was suckered into trying it out. I think it’s great! It’s a facial “cleanser” (doesn’t foam up or anything…it’s, like, water) and makeup remover that is super gentle, doesn’t sting my eyes, and takes off makeup with a few swipes of a cotton pad! Plus, I don’t have to rinse it off like the oil-based makeup removers because it’s pretty much like using water already.

Going with the skin theme: sunscreen. I’m white. Like, ghostly white. I went to Virginia Beach in July with a group of my best girlfriends from high school and we spent a few hours lounging on the beach on our first full day there. I sprayed myself multiple times with SPF 50 as the sun was really intense, but between that and the fact that we were in and out of the water to keep cool, I got pretty darn burnt.

Which brings me to my next favorite: Aloe. Any aloe. I used an entire tube (with a little help from my friends, but mostly me) of Walgreens’ brand Aloe Vera because, well, it’s cheap. I got the one for sensitive skin so it doesn’t have any added scent or lotion or anything. Just aloe.

I’m glad I brought the tube because all of us benefitted from it at one point or another. I actually bought another tube after coming home because I ran out of the first tube. I got burned so bad, I ended up with some sun blisters…yeah, it wasn’t pretty. Even with the excessive aloe and lotion applications, peeling happened, but it wasn’t as gross or as extreme as I expected. It was bad, don’t get me wrong, but I think the aloe helped it a bit.

And even though I got sunburned, I still favorite time at beautiful beaches. Here we have Montauk at sunset – Tom and I stayed on the beach until all the stars were out because we don’t get to see them in Brooklyn.

Montauk beach

How about my smashbook? I’m happy with the progress I’ve made and hope to finish it by the end of this year! I got a lot of it done out in Montauk as we sat on the front porch of our bed and breakfast.smashbook collage

Side note: I got a different journal to house the smashbook – I went with this gorgeous one that has ring binding to allow more room for expansion as I fill it.

smashbook cover

I also loved celebrating my one year anniversary of marriage to the wonderfully handsome Thomas!!! And going to Montauk for a weekend away together!!!

At the beach

Last, but certainly not least, I’ll favorite that I’m a teacher and had the privilege to have a summer vacation. Cheesy, but whatever. I spent lots of time reading for school and spent some time prepping a bit for my classes, but I spent more time not doing work stuff. I hung out with coworkers [friends], and although work stuff always tended to creep its way into conversations, we always ended up talking about life outside of school, too. I’m excited to be going back, teaching all math, coaching volleyball, seeing old friends, and meeting new ones. And I can proudly say I love going to work every day even though it gets stressful and overwhelming a lot (second year teacher here, I’m sure all the veterans are rolling their eyes).

The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness. — Dalai Lama