Graduation: It’s kind of a big deal.

Today is my would-be graduation day. Scratch that. Today IS my graduation day. I’m not going to graduation (because it’s too damn expensive and my kids are at their dad’s this weekend anyway) but it is still my graduation day.

College, bitches, I did it!

As of Thursday afternoon when I handed my completed final to the professor and walked out of my last undergraduate class, I have completed my bachelor’s degree. Logistically I may need to check on the status of a form and complete my loan “exit counseling” to actually get the piece of paper but all the real stuff, the classes and course content, that’s done.

I can now say that I’ve got a B.S. in General Biochemistry.

I’m not sure how this changes anything or what it really means for my family and our quality of life but, regardless of what may or may not happen now, I am super fucking proud of myself! I understand that getting my degree is not some magic pass to a better life; I get that nothing changes now unless I work hard to make it change. (I’m a single parent running a one adult household so that’s pretty much the story of my life. The wheels don’t turn themselves, something has to drive them. I get it!) But, still, graduating from college is a big deal. At least for me it is; it’s been a long road and I worked hard for this!

I didn’t realize how I felt about graduating until I was leaving my final on Thursday. All week I was oddly emotional and off kilter. I blamed stress, hormones, and lack of sleep. The usual suspects. But as I walked out of class and down those five flights of stairs I was overwhelmed with a sense of pride, a feeling of accomplishment, and a little bit of that “Oh shit what now” fear. Emotions, strong ones but mostly good.  glass case of emotions

As usual they took me by surprise. Before that point I thought that finishing, graduating, was just kind of…meh. I mean, (hopefully) this isn’t the end of my education and I’m not taking part in all the pomp & circumstance, no cap and gown for this girl, so it’s just a box checked off this list of things I need to do to get to the big thing I want to be doing (Hello Dental School!) I’ve been downplaying this and not even realizing I was doing it; I’ve failed to acknowledge that graduating really is an accomplishment. It’s also a big status change for me. I’m no longer a student. I no longer have to check the “some college” box under educational status.

With finishing my bachelor’s degree I accomplished a long term goal and that is something to celebrate. I worked hard to do this thing and I did it well. So while my eyes are still trained on what’s yet to come and there is no time to take a break if I’m going to do the next hard thing and keep propelling my life forward, I’m going to revel in my accomplishments and be unabashedly proud of myself this weekend.

kind of a big deal

Let Them Eat Pie

Because avoidance is my go-to coping mechanism when life is getting crazy (which of course just makes it even more insane), I keep thinking about ways to prepare for the start of the school year, or as I’ve taken to calling it, the Oncoming Storm, but I haven’t actually done anything yet. My daughter did convince me to take her to the nearby outlet mall last week for some new school clothes but all the other things, school supplies, much needed socks and underwear, pre-prepped freezer meals, groceries beyond microwavable foods and ice cream…those are all still in the theoretical stage. I did, however, make some pies. Because that’ll be super helpful when we’re getting home from school and practices at seven o’clock when everyone is tired, hungry, and stressed out from being awake, functional, and around people all day. (In our household of six, only one of us is an extrovert.)

Come to think of it, a stock pile of pies on my freezer might be useful after all.

First there was strawberry rhubarb…

pie strawberry ruhbarb

..which got eaten within the week. Then there was summer fruit, blueberry, and a bastardization of the two…

I got the fruit ingredients for a summer fruit pie (peaches, nectarines, plums, strawberries, and cherries) and blueberries early in the week but didn’t get around to making these pies until the fruit was on the brink of going bad. When I’m looking ahead at the week it always looks like it’ll be relaxed and there will be time for some baking and making but something happens, time gets all wibbly-wobbly, and suddenly it’s Thursday and I’ve barely maintained for the week. And before you know it, BAM!, it’s September.

So there I was Wednesday night with fruit that was getting mushy and a week that was running out (my weeks end on Thursday, not Saturday or Sunday like most people’s). The only thing to do was mass produce. This was going to be a three pie night.

I used my favorite pie crust recipe. It’s basic, only flour, salt, shortening, and very cold water, but always turns out good. It helps that it’s a lot less dry than many crust recipes and that lends itself to easier rolling and shaping especially when using the wax paper roll out method. (okay, I just made that name up but it does describe the process pretty well).

After mixing the dough and pressing it into a ball (and separating it into two if you’re doing double crust pie), wrap the ball in wax paper and press it down into a disk that’s roughly an inch thick. No need to be precise though. Stack your disks in the refrigerator for however long the recipe says to (in this case twenty minutes or so…again, we’re not being precise here).  If they’re super stiff afterwards, let the wrapped disks of dough sit at room temperature for a few minutes before rolling them. Gradually roll each disk of dough between two sheets of wax paper until it’s nice and thin and big enough to cover the bottom and sides of the pie pan with some overhang.

 

pie empty shells

Once the crusts are all rolled out you just remove one layer of wax paper and flip the crust into the pie pan. This eliminates some of the breaking dough and frustration of trying to keep your crust in tact while putting the pie together. After the shells are filled, roll the top crust out the same way and place it on top. Pinch the excess dough from both bottom and top crusts together in whatever pattern or shape you want, cut a few slits in the top,and you have a pie. Or three.

pies finished two

I used the dough that was trimmed from all the edges to give this pie a sun/star type thing. Yeah, it’s a little messy but by that time it was two int he morning and I was rocking a two-beer buzz while making pies and watching Orphan Black. (I’m pretty sure that right there is  adulting done right!)

pie smiling

pies finished

Ta-da! Three pies…

pies wrapped and waiting

…wrapped and ready to freeze so that when the chaos of back to school is in full swing we’ll be able to enjoy a little taste of summer.

Riding the Struggle Bus

As you may (or may not) remember, I signed up to do the Detroit half marathon this year. It happened in a brief moment of impulsiveness when my judgement was clouded by post-race endorphins… but even then there was a small voice niggling at the back of my brain saying something about that maybe not being such a great idea. Don’t get me wrong, with three half marathons under my belt I’m starting to grow fond of the 13.1 distance and I’ve really enjoyed preparing for these races the past couple of years. But this fall is looking like it’s going to be a crazy one. My class schedule is less than ideal, my oldest is a senior in high school which means college stuff, and it’s cross country season. Did I mention my insane class schedule?

half marathon meme

It sounded like a good idea at the time.

There is not much time in my fall for training for a big race and that was before I got the middle school cross country coaching position at my kids’ school.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m super excited about coaching. As my eleven year old pointed out, I get paid (a very little bit) to share my love of running with others. And so far it’s been a fun experience. It does cut into my own personal running time. In fact, I did not even log fifty miles in July. WTF?!?!

Part of that can be blamed on the whole dental school application/completing shadowing hours thing too (yeah, I’m totally milking that for all it’s worth) but no matter what you blame it on, here I am barely a month and a half pre-race and I haven’t run more than six miles in…months? So much for just maintaining my level of conditioning from the last half marathon. It was a nice idea while it lasted.

Really my mileage for August doesn’t look too bad, I’ll probably hit 75 and a lot of those came from doing two runs on the same day. One at practice with the kids (usually at a pace slower than my not-all-that-fast norm) and one a few hours later when I’d pound out a quick three miler in the dark just so I can say I got my miles in. So last night I decided it was time to get back on the horse and log some double digit runs.

My goal was to get up early (for me, probably late for most adults) and head to the park to run the ten mile loop. It sounded like a great plan right after cross country practice where I had run four miles in a nice, light rain and then got poured on as the team stretched and did a little core. In the morning after staying up way too late making pies and drinking beer while watching Orphan Black (my new tv obsession), ten miles did not have the same appeal. I procrastinated and whined a little before changing my plans and mapping out a ten miler around town.

Around 11am I finally headed out to run. It was terrible.

I hadn’t realized how muggy it was. My first mile was decent but then I started to feel tired, my legs felt heavy and my lungs incompetent. I slogged on but found myself really wanting to walk around the two mile mark. You know it’s going to be a bad long run when you are tempted to walk before even finishing three miles. I tried to motivate myself by thinking of all the crap  motivational things I say to the middle school runners to keep them running when they want to walk. I reminded myself that if eleven to thirteen year-olds can push themselves to run so can I. It wasn’t really working though.

Clearly this run was just going to suck. Some do.

After seven miles I decided to throw in the towel and call the game  run. It was time to head home. All total today’s long run was nine miles. Nine long, arduous miles of self-inflicted torture. And a very good reminder that it’s time to get my shit together and plan some long run times. One ride on the struggle bus was enough for me, I do not want to spend thirteen miles running in front of other people if it feels like that!

So, the new goal is to figure out when and what my training schedule is going to be so as to not embarrass myself in Detroit in October. Also, I wouldn’t mind another half marathon PR…if it’s not too much to ask for.

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I ask myself this ALL the time!

 

The emails are coming

I’m a little less than half way through my much needed break from school. I’ve barely had a chance to enjoy it yet. After finals there was a work filled weekend and then a summer cold took me down!! It’s like my body knew I was on break and everything relaxed including my immune system. summer-vacation-chart-sick

I’ve basically recovered now and just getting ready to enjoy my time when the emails started flowing in. First from my psychiatric clinical instructor, then the nursing school itself and then my med/surg instructor. They all listed things due at random times during break! Ugh! No!

Work-vacation-bad-time

There’s paperwork for next semester’s hospitals, computerized evaluation tests to retake (yes! retake!), and textbooks to order. Don’t they all know, I’M ON VACATION. Is nothing sacred?

Even with things due I’m significantly less busy than normal. I’m trying to take this opportunity to finally finish my guest room. I  started it back in September 2015 before I started nursing school and it has been is disrepair since then. I’ve been too busy to have guests….ok, actually, I’ve just made my only guest stay in the basement. Hopefully after this week it will be complete.

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On that note, I need to go do some sanding!

Time to Prep

As I may have mentioned, during the school year I’m a kinda a wreck around the house. When something has to give it’s usually cooking and house work. Right now I’m finally ON BREAK! It’s such a relief. The summer classes have been brutal and it’s so nice to have a little summer. I want to take this time to prep for the next school year. I have hopes of holding it together this next semester…at least for the first week.

I just tried a “No Bake Energy Bites” recipe. They turned out really well and were super easy. Just peanut butter, honey, coconut, flaxseed, chia seeds and chocolate chips. If you click the link it’ll go to the recipe and some ideas for variation. I think it’s more like a cookie than an energy bite but maybe that means the boyfriend will eat them. (Don’t tell him there’s actually some healthy ingredients in there!)

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I also made a few freezer meals using the foil packet idea. I’m hoping they thaw and cook ok. I’ve been using Pinterest for ideas. I’d like to get some crockpot meal prepped and frozen too.

My question is how do you guys prep for extremely busy months? Any good go to recipes?

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New Goals

I was all pumped up on endorphins or something in the days following the Cleveland race and I did something that maybe I should not have. I signed up for the Detroit half marathon in October. There was a discount for it in my “virtual race bag” and, despite the terrible weather, I really did enjoy the actual running of this last half especially since I had gotten faster and maintained the average pace I was aiming for. Maybe if I just kept my mileage high between these two races I could get even faster. the allure of running a 2:05 half marathon combined with a ten percent discount was too much to resist.

In case you haven’t picked up on it yet, I’m a goal oriented person. In the spirit of building on positive momentum and adapting to my typically more relaxed (though maybe for the last year) summer schedule I’ve come up with some new running goals.

Speedwork: I love listening to other runners’ conversations. During the Cleveland race I heard a guy chatting up the woman running next to him. He explained that he hasn’t been a runner for very long and said “I’m only thirty so I should be faster.” (Because being younger should make you inherently faster than that sixty year old dude over there who clearly just runs twenty-four-seven. Yeah, that’s exactly how it works.) Her dry, almost sarcastic response of “Do you do any speedwork?” made me smile. So obvious!

Of course he replied that he did not do speed work; he didn’t know that the only way to get faster is to run faster. Running more helps but unless you practice running faster you won’t just magically race faster. Since I do want to race faster my goal here is to do regular speed work stuff. Once a week. Or maybe once every two weeks…at very least twice a month. I’m not talking about anything crazy, just a few 400’s at the track, some hill repeats, and a pace run here and there.

Long Runs: For two of the three halfs (halves?) I’ve done I ran just over thirteen miles at least once. That made a big difference in how I felt during those races even if the long runs leading up to them felt terrible. Since fall is a busy time for me with all my children and myself getting back into school routines after the less structured summer, building mileage in those long runs gets a little more challenging. To ease that challenge a bit my goal is to maintain my current (sort of…not much running had gone on the past two weeks) level of running. To put that in concrete terms, it’s my goal to do at least two ten or more mile runs a week.

Mileage: Mt running app informed me (the day before my birthday this week) that it was our year anniversary. At least I made it to a year anniversary with someone…even if that someone is an app on my phone. According to Nike Run I’ve logged 802.5 miles this year. I wish it had been 1000 because that just sounds way cooler. So, that’s what I’m aiming for this year. I’ll need and average of 16.46 more miles a month than I had this year to accomplish that. If I am achieving the aforementioned long run goal this should not be a problem.

Races: Aside from the October half marathon I want to get in a couple 10k’s this summer. Ideally I’ll find one a month for June, July, and August on the weeks I have my kids so that my First and Fourth, who both run cross country, can join me. My oldest is the type who can go out and run a 10k in 45 minutes even though he hasn’t run in months. Ugh! I’m so jealous. With it being his senior cross country season this fall I’d like to see him start running over the summer (you know, like most normal runners who have to to get in shape do). My Fourth is in middle school so his school based races are two miles. they run more than three in practices but he’s hesitant to do a 5k. I know he can do it with just a little regular running but he’s not so sure. Getting a couple fun 5k’s in over the summer would give him a great confidence boost before cross country and his second year of middle school starts.  Whether or not this happens will depend on a few things including money (my single mom/student budget is not very forgiving and races are way more expensive than they should be especially when you’re signing up three people).

Coaching: I’ve been wanting to get into coaching cross country for a while now but my life has been a little on the crazy side as far as schedule and responsibilities go. My schedule is still pretty intense but there is a coaching change happening at the school and a couple parents have asked if I was going to either coach the middle school team or be an assistant coach. I’m looking into the logistics of this and am excited that it might work out. There are a few details to work out still so maybe it won’t, but I’m hopeful.

Relaxing: I’ve been told once or twice (maybe more) that I need to slow down and relax once in a while, that I should learn to take it easy. Psh, take it easy, what does that even mean?!? But since more than one person has said something along these lines to me I’m taking it to heart and adding relaxing to my list  of new goals.

coffee & crochet

I took this picture last summer, proof that relaxing does happen on rare and isolated occasions.

Over the summer I’m also working on getting my dental school application complete and submitted, getting my house clean and organized so I can tackle a few smaller home improvement projects (I have a wall that’s begging to be knocked down), crocheting, and reading. I even have a (mental) summer reading list. It’s been so long since I’ve had time to just read for fun and interest, I can’t wait to get started. Hopefully there will be some beaches involved in this summer reading thing. I’ve been toying with the idea of getting back on some dating websites too, it seems to be my summer trend (which I promptly abandon when I remember what my life is really like each fall). Despite the weirdness of online dating, it can be fun and entertaining to engage with so many new people and the thrill and possibility that comes with someone new is exciting. However, my efforts and energy might be better spent fostering the friendships I do have and on introspection and self-improvement…and on running. Unlike online dating, running is always worth the time and rarely disappoints.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve only run once this month and I’m starting to feel symptoms of running deficiency…time to go log some miles.

crazy runner meme

Okay, so maybe that makes me a little crazy…

 

Just Don’t Suck!

It’s one in the morning and I just finished this….

I call it the messy fishbowl.

If I was Chris Hemsworth people would be raving  about what a good parent I was, making my kid’s birthday cake myself even if it’s at 1 a.m. If I was Chris Hemsworth’s wife those same people would be tearing me apart for not planning ahead and making the kid’s cake earlier or, better yet, not being organized enough to order my precious offspring a fancy cake that probably cost more than some people’s cars. Luckily I’m neither. I’m just your basic Midwest mom with blue teeth (throwing frosting away is a cardinal sin even when it’s blue, a little too thin, and from a can).

There was a time when I was the mom who made this…

cake

The not-so-messy fishbowl. Back when I put real effort into making my kids’ birthdays awesome. Okay, so that’s not the actual cake I made. I didn’t do the whole Jell-O water and fish jumping out at the top but it was pretty damn close. My then-young kids were thrilled. I was an awesome mom back then, even my kids thought so, but then again they weren’t teenagers. Things were different then.

In my defense, the current fishbowl cake was sprung on me this afternoon and I didn’t have to wait until this ridiculous hour to decorate it, I just procrastinated via a beer and Netflix (aka solo Netflix and Chill). This one is for my nephew whose sixth birthday is tomorrow, actually today now. My sister just had a baby a couple days ago, her fifth. (Yeah,that’s a thing in my family. I totally started it though). She was having a rough day so I went to help her for a bit and came home with the task of making the birthday cake. I figured I could do that before picking my own kids up from school for the evening but that didn’t happen and here I am finishing a cake after midnight on a weeknight. It’s not beautiful but it’s not terrible either. In other words, it doesn’t suck.

In three days I’m taking the DAT (dental admission test). It’s a big deal and I’m more than a little worried about it. I really haven’t studied enough; I am not ready for this. As I’m writing this I find myself wondering if I can move my testing date back. I doubt I can and I know that’s a bad idea. I shouldn’t even be wasting time thinking about it. The dental school application process is time sensitive. A couple thousand people apply; early applicants are processed first and given interviews first (if they’re chosen to be interviewed). I need to take this test now and I need to do…. average on it.

Yup, you read that right average. Although right now it doesn’t feel like that’s all that easy (#selfdoubt). I’ve been trying to maintain the ideal balance between terrified and self assured here but as test day approaches the scales are tipping towards terrified. There have been many pep talks interspersed with moments of panic. My perfectionist’s heart is struggling in this situation because I know I am not going to do great. But, like I said, I don’t need to do great, just okay.

See, all the other pieces of my dental school application are already complete or on their designated trajectories. The DAT is the only unknown piece. I’m pretty sure the rest of my stuff is looking good, very good, and overall I think I’m an excellent candidate for dental school. I’ve got a pretty good gpa with high grades in all my math and science classes (except that one C), I have years (like six) of dental field experience, my required 100 shadow or volunteer hours are in progress….(there’s more but I’m not going to bore you with all of it) As long as I do okay on the DAT I’ll be good.

I’m a big fan of mantras and lately mine has been “You just have to Not Suck. Just Don’t suck!”

Much like the cake I was making when I should have been sleeping or studying a few days ago, my test score doesn’t have to turn heads and wow people. It just has to NOT suck.

Scan_20160526 (2)This IS the actual, nice and neat fishbowl cake I made for my son’s birthday ten years ago. Those black dots on the fish are gel icing carefully applied to Goldfish crackers to look like eyes. I took the time to put eyes on Goldfish crackers. I curled Fruit by the Foot like fancy party ribbons. The little half smile on my five-year-old’s face (and the fact that he let me take a picture) show how excited he was that day and how utterly satisfied he was with his special cake. My nephew had a similar look on his face when the messy fishbowl cake was set in front of him. He didn’t know or care that his cake wasn’t perfect, it was his and it didn’t suck.

Lately I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos and TED talks by Brene Brown. She’s a social researcher and author who talks and writes about fear, shame, and vulnerability. Fun stuff, right?  Much of what she says about perfectionism resonates with me. I’ve realized that the past few years of my life have been a slow, arduous march towards self-acceptance. I’m not totally there yet but I’m getting closer. Things like this dental school application process take me back a little even while they’re showing me how far I’ve come. I feel the old bend towards perfectionism wanting to take over but also don’t feel like it’ll crush me if I don’t measure up get in the first time I apply. At one time that would have been the ultimate failure. Now I’m pretty sure I’d just do a little better at whatever needed improvement and try again. So my goal this week is to do the best I can and just not suck. It’s the antithesis of perfectionism: Just don’t suck!

I’m pretty sure I can do that.