Thursday, August 27, 2009

Getting Back in the Saddle

School is back in full swing. I think I completely lucked out with getting two good/great groups of kiddos this year. The other teams might have one good class and I got two! Sweet! (We'll see if this holds true for the entire year or if the little buggers start to drive me nuts. HA!) My feet and legs have been killing me from standing all day so running was not an option. I need to nail down a regular running routine now that school has started and get back into shape so I can train for the half. I went out tonight with the best hopes for my run. It's been a week so hope was all I had. Since I was tired, my realistic goal was running a mile and walking a little bit and then repeating it. I haven't been running without stopping lately in order to get my body used to running again. Too much, too soon is a BAD thing. Once I got a few minutes in I knew I felt good and could up my goal. I ended up running 2.5 miles without stopping. Yay for me! Is it the farthest I've ever run, no. Was is the fastest I've ever run, no. Did I do better than I thought, yes. I am I proud of myself, yes.

Today: 2.5
YTD: 167.4

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Welcome to 301

Today was the first day of my third year. Crazy. Our doors opened at 7:15 for the kiddos. I had to wake up SUPER early to get there in enough time to check over everything to make sure I was ready. My mom has always told me that they goal the first day is get them home alive. Feeding them is a bonus. I use this as my mantra. I don't know if I'll ever feel completely prepared on the first day but I'm now past the "Am I going to live through the day?" and "Are they going to eat me alive?" freakout moments. I've yet to have a bad first day of school. Knock on wood. The past three years have given me quiet kids who are scared of me when they enter my doors. Perfect! Ok, the run-down of my kiddos...
One spacey talker-girl who already loses things
One boy who says, "So, let's just say..."
A couple of goof-ball boys (aren't goof-ball and boy synonyms?)
Several super quiet kids
A good mix of sweet kids, lets see how the year goes!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Best Man I've Ever Known

It's too late to go for another run to clear my head so I guess I'll type even though my thoughts are scattered and I'm sure my sentences will be too...
My grandfather, my Poppy Jack, passed away. No matter what, you are never ready for that phone call. I knew his cancer was causing his kidneys to deteriorate quickly. I had always assumed he'd be around for at least another year. Not that I would get a call that he wasn't doing well on Monday and then the news today. I've heard before that many of the feelings you have when you lose someone are selfish. I couldn't agree more. I wanted to see him again. I wanted him to dance with me at my wedding. I was his only granddaughter out of eight grandchildren. He would have doted on me (getting married) more than he usually does. I just wanted him to be around for me. I can't even breath. I wanted him to see me get married almost more than anything. I had talked with Nathan about how important it was to me. About sharing those moments that parents and grandparents live for. It would have made Poppy Jack's world.
He became ill a few months after my grandmother passed away in February. I knew something like this would happen. Nathan had told me about his paternal grandparents. His grandmother passed away and six months later, his grandfather passed away. His heart gave out and the doctors said that he died of a broken heart. The stress placed on him after losing her became too much. Now, my Mammaw had Alzheimers and had to move to a nursing home. She was not able to care for herself and my Poppy Jack couldn't lift her to take care of her. He never wanted her to go into a home and it took much convincing that he just wasn't physically able to care for her. He was there to visit her as soon as the doors opened in the morning and left after he'd tucked her into bed every night. I can only dream of love so great. Every single day. He only went home to sleep. They were married 63 years. I have never seen a greater love. Never an unkind word, short temper, or many of the other things I display in my own relationship. At Mammaw's funeral, everyone commented on the strength of their marriage. They didn't always 'have', but they made the best out of every single day.
The funeral was the last time I saw Poppy Jack. He told me then that he would get in the casket with Mammaw if he could. He also told me that the next time I came to Tennessee would probably be for his funeral. I knew then that if he got sick he wasn't going to put in the same fight that he would have if he needed to live for his wife.
I still can't believe it. Those wonderful memories I made at their house as a child cannot be added to. I can't crawl into the attic and look through his keepsakes. I can't get him to make his cornbread for me. (He knew it was done when the smoke alarm went off! Ha!) As I re-read my last thoughts I am correct in my statement about selfishness. I'm only worried about how this is affecting myself. I am also grieving for my Dad. He lost both of his parents in six months. (Six months and two days to be exact.) I can't imagine the pain.
I'm out of thoughts. Call your grandparents and tell them how much you love them.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Making it known

Sugar addiction is a term for the situation where individuals crave sugar-laden sweet foods and find it extremely difficult if not impossible to control their intake.

I will not be eating sweets until October. Yes, I said it. Although I do not enjoy putting my self through torture, I have to do this.

I'm an addict. Admitting it is the first step, right? I either go without and avoid it as much as I can or I am completely out of control. This is the case since my vacation to NYC in June. I'd given up sweets for Lent and been successful. I kept my cravings under control and lost a couple of pounds in the process. I may as well be honest even if it produces grunts, groans, and dirty comments. Before I gave up sweets I weighed 130. (Yes, I know I'm not fat!) Without doing anything else out of the ordinary I was down to 128 after Lent. This meant a calorie deficit from sweets of 7,000 calories. Gross! I told you I ate a lot of sweets. Anyway, I stayed at 128 until NYC. I let loose. It's vacation, right. Well, my sweet tooth kicked back it and it was downhill from there. When I got back after six days of late night meals and desserts I was back to 130. Not a problem, so I signed up for the boot camp class at the gym for July. Working out at 6:30 am and killing myself in the gym was not match for my addiction. I ate everything made of sugar that I could find, most of these items being at my parents house. They apparently have something called 'self-control.' I do not and spent my time there eating cookies, cakes, and ice cream. Mmm. I was still hanging around 130 when Nathan and I went to Puerto Rico. More food. Fried food. And yummy goodies like alcoholic beverages. I was 132 after that week of eating whatever I felt like. Let's just say that by the time I got back from the river I was 133. It's not like I'm fat or overweight. I do not, however, enjoy gaining 5 pounds in two months. No bueno. My major downfall is my need for sugar. A habit that can be broken. Thus, no sweets until October. This gives me enough time to break the habit of wanting something sweet after dinner and saying "Sure!" when my lovely mother offers me more cookies. It should also give me enough time to loos a couple of pounds and have it not be water weight. I eat much healthier when I eliminate sweets and this will help with my running. I'm getting back into it and do not need to run around with 5 extra pounds.
I've NEVER lost more than 1 pound in 2 weeks not matter how hard I've tried so I'll give an update in a few weeks so I can actually document some progress.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Day 6

This day began with grand plans. Drive all over the area and see as much as we can see.

We were already up and out the doors eating breakfast by 7am. Our first destination was a beach called Mas Chiquitas. I'd seen a picture while looking up places to go but didn't put much effort into finding out about it. The guy Nathan sat next to on the plane, a native, gave us great ideas on places to go and told Nathan that this was a 'must' if we were going to be in the area. We found where it was in our lovely "Places to See" book in the hotel room. The problem with it was that all we had to go on was a dot on a very large map. Let the fun begin! We headed off toward the general area with the trusty Garmin in hand. Nathan's job was to keep his eyes on the road and I would navigate. After MANY wrong turns and turn-arounds we finally made it! We didn't have time/take the time to change into our suits and swim but it was a great place to see and we'd make time for it if we ever go back. Oh, and I also found some sea glass. Score!

We had to wait FOREVER to get down this road . . .

Only to find a locked gate that would have taken us down to the wrong beach anyway.

Yes, you too can climb rocks in a dress and a pair of Reefs!

The view from the top! Worth the climb.

Mas Chiquitas Beach.

It was time to re-fuel. Good thing the road-side stands are plentiful. We decided it was time for roasted chicken. Mmm. Good choice. Eating in the car is always a challenge but thanks to a 'borrowed' beach towel from the hotel we made it work.


I'd promised my mom and Krissy that I would find Puerto Rican coffee for them. According to the hotel website there was a coffee plantation nearby. Nearby is a relative term in that country. Everything is very close mileage-wise (it's only 100x35) but the roads are so insane that it will take you forever to get anywhere. The coffee plantation, Hacienda Patricia, took a couple of hours to get to but was a unique experience. The owner spoke NO English but thankfully an English-speaking neighbor was there hanging out. She got him to show us around and we got to see the inner workings of the place. He didn't usually give tours and only worked when he felt like so we got very lucky. It's an amazing process and is so simple at the same time. When we inquired about buying some coffee he took us into a room where he packages it all by hand. We only spent about 30 minutes there but it was worth the story and coffee. Too bad I hate coffee. My mom told me it was delicious.

I may hate the taste but the smell is fan-stinkin'-tastic!

The owner and Nathan actually trusted the structure. No thank you. They dry the beans in the sun after rolling the large trays outside on this contraption.

Whole bean or ground? Whole bean of course! We got 3 lbs. at a good price I might add.

Ok, moving on. We'd seen that there was a observatory in the area. Great. Let's go there. Only one day earlier my Dad asked me if we had plans on visiting Arecibo, the largest radio telescope in the world. Nowhere in my brain did I connect seeing ads for the Arecibo OBSERVATORY and the type of observatory Nathan and I thought we were going to. I was tired, ok? It closed the gates at 4 in order to make the last tour so we had to book it. After an insane drive we made it at 3:50. Ha! Suckers! (Thanks to Nathan's super skills.) If you are in any way interested in science then it's pretty cool to see. Moody teenagers would hate it for sure. A science teacher and an engineer thought it was cool at least.

Pictures do nothing to show the incredibly large size of it.

One more stop before the sun headed below the horizon: Jacinto's Well. After watching an episode of No Reservations I decided that i wanted to visit a blowhole known as Jacinto's Well. Legend has it that his cow fell down in the hole and if you yell at the hole (something in Spanish that I can't remember) then the water will fly up and out of the hole as it tries to give Jacinto back his cow. Well, I'm a smarty pants and thought I found it on the GPS. We get out of the car and see a huge wall of water splashing in the distance. Assuming this was it, we begin to find sea glass and get distracted. The sun is falling fast and we realize that if we're going to see this thing and yell at the water to give Jacinto back his cow we need to get over there. Let's just say that I was wrong and by the time we drove around and located what might be the right beach it was pitch black and we were starving. No blowhole for me. Oh, well.

You can see Nathan over my shoulder hunting for sea glass. He told me I was a "sea glass crack-head" but he was the one that couldn't stop picking up pieces.

Oh, look! The blowhole! And there are even tourists up there! YAY!

Except the tourists were locals fishing and THAT is NOT a blowhole!!!

After this we ate at some random place and fell asleep from exhaustion. I was almost too tired to eat. We had to wake up at 5am for what the next day had in store for us. Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

If you seek my blog. . .

I love seeing how people find my blog (through Google Analytics). The latest search terms are "man vs wild chapters 2009" and "anthony bourdain cayey." I'm guessing the second person was head to Puerto Rico. Mmmm, pork.

Oh, by the way I see you reading my blog. Hmm. Stalk much? I'm going to be forced to give something away to get yall to follow and come out of hiding. :)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Day 5

I got lazy with the posts. Oops. Moving on...
We got directions from the owners of Mimi's Guesthouse on how to get to the beach behind their house. We spent the morning alone on the beach. I'm going to be so sad when I see other people on the beach now. We went snorkeling so we could look for conch shells. You can buy them all over the island but I wanted my own. I wanted to be able to brag that I found it when people asked and not have to say that I bought it. Most of the shells were inhabited with permanent residents but I did find a few that had removable tenants. Honestly, I didn't know that anything was in them until I touched a tiny octopus that was coming out of one. SLIMY! I freaked out and handed it to Nathan who waited patiently for it to leave. We only took two shells with us even though we found more. I took me 2+ hours to clean them up so I'm glad there weren't more than two.


Very cool!

After cleaning and packing up we moved on to Rincon. It was our West Coast stop. In the winter it's a big surf spot but it's good for snorkeling in the summer. After checking at the Coconut Palms Inn we went to explore the beaches. I read in my "Off the Beaten Path" book about a beach that was known for sea glass collecting. I'd found a few pieces earlier in the trip so my interest in this new hobby was growing. We found the beach and began our search. We found numerous peices and even found our first blue! (Some colors are much more difficult to find than others. If you are curious you can look at a rarity chart here. I'll post more about all of the colors we found and the things we made from them later.)

Nathan waited until I would get splashed. His plan worked.

Our first road-side stand, Delish!

Collecting sea glass!

I thought this was a lot at the time. Boy was I wrong!

Our findings for the day.

I wrote everyone's names that would be getting a gift from me and took a picture so I could attach it as the To/From card.

After the sunset we went to eat dinner at a resteraunt suggested by the hotel.

Nathan's first mofongo. This was the soup kind. Very tasty.

My dorado and tostones. Yum!

Can you tell that we were tired?

Flan #2. Coconut flavored.

I'd heard from the ladies up front that a five minute walk down the beach would get me to a resort that made a coconut drink. Lame, right? Oh, no. The drink is eight kinds of rum INSIDE of the coconut. I needed to have one. We walked down to the bar and got out drinks to finish off the night.

I was extremely tired and wanted to sleep. Apparently that wasn't going to happen. We'd heard from the girls up front that the owners were out of town. One of the ladies decided to drink out on the porch woth our neighbor. It was like they were talking on our room! I was pissed! And the worst part was that I couldn't even call the front desk to complain since the front desk was on my porch, wasted and being loud! WTF people! I finally fell asleep and other than that the day (and entire trip for that matter) was great.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Day 4

This day was the first moving day. Time to leave the East coast and move South. We began the day with Snooba before driving into the mountains for roasted pig, heading through Ponce and arriving in Guanica.
Nathan and I didn't have time to get PADI certified so we could go Scuba diving. Nathan suggested we find a Snooba place where you dive below using a long tube connecting you to the air tank that floats above. There was only one place on the entire island. Good thing it fit into our schedule. Nathan had done it before on a trip to Hawaii when he was 10 or so. I wish we could have gone Scuba diving but this was fun too.
We arrived on time which was apparently WAY too early. The other group was driving from the West side of the island and was caught in traffic. We got to sit around with the wacko instructor/owner and wait for an hour. When we finally got moving it was very rough. We learned later that he wouldn't have gone out it the other group hadn't driven so far. Once we got out there they sent to other group into the water first because they were more nervous. Nathan and I got tossed into the water and off we went. (The other group had freaker-outers that couldn't relax and get under the water. I felt bad for them.) We spent about 30 minutes underwater and the instructor guided me around so I could get closer to the coral without touching it. It had been raining everyday so the visibility wasn't as good but I still had fun and really want to get PADI certified!


I didn't know that I was so close to the bottom and could stand up!

When we got back to the dock we showered and got ready to move on. We'd watched two episode on the Travel Channel about Puerto Rico, No Reservations (Anthony Bourdain) and Bizarre Foods (Andrew Zimmern). Both of them drove to the "Pork Highway" and Cayey and ate roasted pig at one of the many food stands. We decided this was a must do. It was pouring down rain but we made it. When we got there the guy ran around to find someone who spoke English. The food was yummy and we had a great time. they let us pose for pictures and the guy found an umbrella and helped out me into the car so I wouldn't get wet. What a nice guy!

Here piggy piggy!

I ate pig skin for the first time but passed on the blood sausage. The rice was great and we had it at a few other places before we left. There are little pea-like things in it. I'll have to look up what they are since I can't remember the name.

The guy made Nathan hop up there and handed him the knife.

We headed off to Ponce with full bellies. My Dad lived in Ponce for close to a year in the 70's while working for Union Carbide. We saw the old plants on the way out of town. They shut down after a hurricane hit and messed everything up and made it too costly to rebuild. Mom and Dad looked at moving down there at one point. Can you imagine?!

We went to the town center (just find the church) and started exploring. It was lame. Very small and I got creeped out by a homeless lady that was loud and falling all over the place. We ate some sort of ice cream concoction (twice) and looked for souvenirs. We didn't find anything good and I was ready to move on.

You can't really see it but the windows on the top were all different colors. Very pretty!

Tamarindo flavored!

The Lion Fountain in the middle of the town square.

We went back for more! Vanilla and coconut this time! SO GOOD!

We headed off to Guanica to check in to Mimi's Guesthouse. It was a huge room, but the smallest at the place, and was very affordable. The owners were great and super helpful. It was kind of strange staying at someones house instead of a hotel but I'd go back for sure and would recommend it to anyone going to that area! We went out for a drink but went back and we were asleep by 9:30, maybe ever earlier. Vacation is tiring!