Monday, December 16, 2013

Add Some Fun To Your Lessons

One of the most valuable tools I have in my English teaching arsenal is my tablet. If I've prepared a lesson plan on fruits & vegetables but then a student asks what a giraffe looks like, rather than trying to act it out (Yes, I've tried this. It didn't work.) I can pull it up on my tablet and the student understands instantly.

If I want to reinforce the spelling and pronunciation of new vocabulary words we can look at paper flashcards all day long. But playing a game of hangman, doing a wordsearch, or using Quizlet flashcards on the tablet takes it to a whole different level.

And if a student needs a break? Yes, they can sit quietly ... or they can play Turkey Smash or some other silly game.

But tablets are expensive and can be cumbersome to take around with you. So I decided on the highly rated, Hisense Sero 7 Pro, it was $130 at Walmart, and at 7 inches can be used by 1-3 students at a time. I'm really glad I bought it, I think it adds a lot to my English lessons.

Monday, December 9, 2013

You Don't Always Have To Reinvent The Wheel

I currently teach two English Conversation Circles classes a week. That means I am responsible for two lesson plans a week. And since the classes are different levels, and since I hadn't found a book or coursework that I liked 100%, I have been basically writing two unique lesson plans a week for the past 6 months. (So that's why she is hardly blogging.) Most of the lesson plans have been a hoot to teach, and I doubt my students would have learned these things anywhere else, so it was totally worth it.

Here are some of the things I've taught:

* All about the Portland Timbers Soccer team (including the official team schedule)
* The prep school in the US that was selling T-Shirts that said, WTF (We're The Falcons), and the uproar it caused.
* How Dolce & Gabana created a perfume marketed for babies
* One about bullying that used Pixar's For The Birds, short.

And while it has been an extremely creative 6 months, I am a little tired. Enter my savior ...

The Oxford Picture Dictionary

and its best friend

The Oxford Picture Dictionary Low Beginner Workbook.

The dictionary is chock full of clearly labelled and categorized pictures, and the workbook has worksheets that go along with these pictures. It has been very helpful for my beginner students, and my advanced students like it too. I always supplement the lessons with other photos of the objects we are talking about, or the items themselves, if portable (dish, plate, napkin, etc.). I also use flashcards, word searches, or hangman (the android app I have on my tablet is especially fun for small groups) to really cement the vocabulary words.

While using these books has cut my prep time per lesson from 3 hours to 1 hour, I'm sure I'll need to do some unique lesson plans again. But for now, I'm just going to focus on the wheel that someone else invented for me. Especially since I may have private students very soon.

Monday, December 2, 2013


Back in May of 2013 I stopped lifting weights. I know this because the last day I charted was May 20th and the chart has a layer of dust on it. Why did I stop? The allergy shots made weight lifting too hard. I couldn't breathe, and it was just too hard to do. So I stopped.

One could argue that all of my swimming is considered strength training, but I wanted more. I missed these workout sessions. So last week I started again. When I told my massage therapist that I had started again, she asked why. Was it to bulk up? Was it to tone? I answered ... because it makes me feel good.

For now, I'm going simple. Not EASY, mind you, just simple. I am following Chalene Johnson's "Sculpt 30 Class "routine from my TurboFire DVD set. (I bought it in 2011 and am still loving it!) I'm also using my red SPRI tubing.

Once I get tired of this routine, I can also try the "Tone 30 Class" and "Bonus Burn Circuit 1" but I'm guessing that by then I'll be back to my notebook of favorite workouts using weights. Either way, I'll continue to be happily sore and growing stronger by the day!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Develop Your Vocabulary

With my beginner ESL students, vocabulary development and pronunciation practice is very important. So I try to come up with ways for them to practice the vocabulary words of the day over and over for about 90 minutes without wanting to poke out my eyes.

So here are some of my tricks:
(I don't usually use all of them in one lesson plan.)

1. Flashcards: I like to put them in a brown paper bag and have the students pull them out. And yes, I get eye rolls from my students when they see the bag out, but they always go along with it. I make them read the cards, spell the words and sometimes even draw a picture.
Print free custom flashcards at Lakeshore Learning.

2. Bingo Cards: Three lessons equals enough vocabulary words for a bingo game!
Print free custom bingo cards at

3. Word Search: Forwards, diagonal, even backwards, students must search for the vocabulary words of the day!
Print free custom word searches at Lakeshore Learning.

4. Hangman: Whether on the whiteboard or using an app, such as Doodle Hangman HD (in 2 player mode, you can enter custom words one at a time), hangman never fails to be fun.

If you have any easy but unique ways to practice vocabulary, please let me know, I'm always looking for more tricks!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Savor The Inspiration

Ah, food. Some of it is fussy, but most of it is delicious. And although I am often content to eat the same thing day after day, sometimes I need something new to fall in love with.

Enter ...

1. Beating The Lunch Box Blues

(Both the book and the blog.) I'm finding the myriad of choices a little overwhelming and lots of the ideas involve buying pre-made stuff, but I look forward to finding some inspiration.

2. Naturally Ella

I literally found this blog about 15 minutes ago, but I've already seen three sweet potato recipes I must make. I look forward to reading more of her posts, when my current dinner isn't about to be ready.

OK, time for ricotta, broccoli, and mushroom quiche!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Keep Getting Your Feet Wet

I have been swimming for a year now, and I've gone through a few rites of passage: the destroyed bathing suit, the scratched goggles, and last night, the exploding swim cap. But I've found a swimsuit I like, the rip in my fins hasn't lengthened, and I know the best lane to have, most of the lifeguards, and how to circle swim if need be.

In this past year I've taught 15 strangers how to breathe properly, seen one rescue by a lifeguard, picked up 15,000 forgotten kick boards from the deck (the lifeguards are not maids), paid a million dollars in quarters for the lockers, did one on camera interview for the local community access channel, and have executed exactly zero flip-turns.

I've also gotten faster, need to breathe less, and use swim paddles (they go on your hands) on a regular basis. And yet, I still have trouble swimming more than 50 yards at once. I watch the veterans swim without stopping for hours on end and 1) it looks impossible and 2) it looks incredibly boring.

So, I've decided to change up my swim routine. Rather than adding yardage (I'm up to 1350 yards now) I am going to focus on speed. It is more fun for me, it gets me out of the pool faster, and it makes me feel better. Since I'm not trying to join any swim teams or win any swimming awards, there really is no reason not to.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Embrace Your Wild Side

Although my current allergies force me to love dogs and cats and such from afar, the internet has made it incredibly easy to still get a dose of their cuteness.

Here are three web-sites that let you enjoy animals in new and unusual ways:

1. Dog Shaming: Owners send in photos of their dogs (and sometimes cats) that have done bad deeds. The pets usually are wearing a note of shame around their necks. For example: "I ate Mom's new headphones and I'm not sorry." This web-site should be required reading for anyone considering a pet purchase. You will be amazed at the frequency of and creativity of their destructiveness. This site really should be called Owner Shaming, because most of the mess happens when the dogs are alone and bored.

2. Oregon Humane Society's Kitty Cam
You need to install Microsoft Silverlight to use this site, but once you do, you can play with the cats virtually by moving an actual toy in their enclosure. And it's free.

3. OK, so sharks aren't what anyone would describe as adorable, but they sure are fascinating. The Shark Tracker lets you see where the 40+ great white sharks that the OCEARCH crew has tagged are up to. With names like Oprah (yes, named after the Oprah), Princess Fi, and Maddox and photos from most of the captures, it is quite the entertaining (and educational) web-site.

So whether you want cute or cut-throat, you can enjoy it without even having to leave home!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Go For Ghibli

In our house we tend to watch the entirety of something, whether it be all The Star Trek movies, James Bond movies, or Wagner's Ring Cycle (that's 15 hours of opera, and we've watched it twice.)

Now, in honor of his impending retirement, I'd like to try and watch all 11 of Hayao Miyazaki's movies. (But it will depend on what Netflix and the library have on hand.) His movies are dramatic, visually amazing and often a little disturbing.

We've already seen Spirited Away, which was like I said, a little disturbing at times, I've seen Kiki's Delivery Service, which was very sweet, we are currently watching Princess Mononoke, which is only slightly puzzling, but my heart belongs to Ponyo. This was my first and is still my favorite of all of Miyazaki's movies.

OK, so 4 down and only 7 to go!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Turn Frustration Into Perspiration

I sit here bathed in sweat. I was mad and so I decided to do something about it. Mad that over the last year or so I have gained weight that I do not want. Whether it was during my excruciating 2 month sinus infection or my grueling and exhausting allergy shot therapy, I'm not really sure. I was forced to live with this extra weight as my energy got lower and my allergy shots got more concentrated. I did everything I could to keep the weight from creeping up, I stuck to my swimming routines and gave them every thing I had. I did not succumb to the desire to just give up and eat whatever was around and then deal with it later. I tried to focus on things that I could control, and to be positive and to find other ways to relieve my stress. And I truly think this stopped the weight gain from getting worse.

And now I am on the other side of this. I've been working up my routine slowly, and I am able to exercise 6 times a week now. Today, out of frustration with this belly fat that drives me nuts, I did a 30 minute Turbo Fire DVD. And I could breathe again. Yes, it was hard, yes I wasn't perfect, but I did not feel like my lungs were closing up on me. I did not need to sit down, I did not feel like I might faint.

I felt energized. Could it be? Is the old Lia back? Please! Please! Please!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Start Again

I am now about two weeks in without a weekly allergy shot. I have more energy, I'm not as irritable, and I am starting to care about things again.

Things like lunch.
Rather than snacking on whatever my husband got at the deli this week, I am actually going to have pesto tuna pasta salad with roasted red peppers (homemade) today. Oh, and I actually went to the supermarket this week! I think it's been at least six weeks since I did any food shopping. I have also ordered some cookbooks from the library.

Things like working out.
Martin and I went on our weekend walk for the first time in about 4 months. Yes, it was shorter, but it was still a fine start! I've added two yoga sessions back into my workout plan, and hope to add some more high intensity cardio in few weeks. I also have a new routine for swimming, it is 1350 yards, the longest it's ever been.

Things like waking up early.
Mornings are still hard because I am stuffed up and my allergy meds take 2 hours to kick in, but I have learned that a lot of water and a little time helps tremendously.

Hopefully things will continue to improve. The grass season should end soon, so that will also help a lot with my allergies. I still feel no positive effects from the allergy shots, but I've been told to give a few more months.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Friday is my last weekly allergy shot. And frankly, I am getting a little teary eyed about it. Yes, I will still have to get them every 4-6 weeks, but that means my body has time to recover fully between shots, instead of the strange and stressful merry go round of weekly shots. 2 days of misery, 2 days of melancholy, then 3 days of boundless energy, and around and around has been exhausting.

I have felt 80% now for almost a year, I have lost countless weekends and have yet to see any difference in my allergies. If I could turn back the clock, I wouldn't have done this.

I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself to make up for lost time, but I am very excited about regaining so many of things I had to abandon for the past year.


Thursday, July 4, 2013

Count It Down

After this week, I will have 5 more weeks of weekly allergy shots. 5 more weeks of itchy and cranky weekends, 5 more weeks of only feeling at 80%.

And then?

I only have to go get shots every 4-6 weeks.

So here is what I wish for once the allergy shots aren't always taxing my system:

1. Stop constantly sniffling
2. Be able to swim longer and faster since I will not be so congested
3. Be energetic in the mornings again
4. Be able to work out in the mornings again because of said energy
5. More energy in general
6. The desire to plan lunches and meals again
7. Fun Friday and Saturday nights
8. Stop the constant headache and neck stress
9. Be able to plan weekend events with more certainty

Now, the shots are not over. After the 4-6 week ones, I then get to spread them out even further. But I am really hoping that I will feel better once the injections are spread out to every 4-6 weeks. Am I happy I did the allergy shots? I don't know. I have yet to see a benefit, but I am too far forward to stop now.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Master the MOOCs

Even if you haven't heard the affectionate nickname for them, you have most likely heard of what it stands for: Massive Open Online Courses. They are college courses that are free and open to the entire world. In many cases, you can even earn a certificate of completion for the course.

Many places, Coursera, Udacity, etc., now offer them, and there is at least one site, Class Central, that is an aggregator (collects all the info for you.) I used this site to find two courses. My first, Teaching Adult Learners begins next Monday at Open2Study. It is offered through the Central
Institute of Technology located in Western Australia.

My second class, Foundations of Virtual Instruction, begins in three months at Coursera and is offered through the University of California, Irvine.

Doing my TESOL certification online has made me a convert to online classes, so I look forward to seeing the advantages and lessons I learn from taking MOOC classes. If they work well, I look forward to taking as many as possible!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Be Happy For Benadryl

I cannot recall exactly when it started happening, but a few weeks (months?) ago my allergy shots starting getting stronger. Which meant I was having local reactions at each injection site, plus I felt miserable from 24-48 hours after the shots. My weekends were spent lying in bed or watching silly movies made for kids.

But a few weeks ago, I got desperate and took some Benadryl. Well, technically it is the Target brand, but basically it is the same thing. I had been ordered to have it on hand in case I had a huge reaction to the shots, but I had never used it. Until that fateful day.

And now, for the past three weekends, I take a Benadryl on Friday afternoon, an hour after my injections (when I am home and no longer driving) and then later on in the evening.

I usually start feeling itchy  again (the spiders in my nose and ears that are knitting a wool sweater) about 5pm on Saturday and take 2 Benadryl then. I get sleepy, but at least I'm not miserable.

And Sundays I am at about 75% energy level but am no longer, like I said, miserable. I have 8 more weekly shots left and then I get to space them every 4-6 weeks.

Things that have been my best friends during this:

1. Heating pad/microwavable rice pack (apply directly to head).
2. Funny/nostalgic T.V. shows or movies
3. A wonderful, supportive husband, who picks up my slack when I feel sick.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

No dejar de aprender

My oh my, so much can change in a few weeks. Well, I am almost done with my TESOL certification program. I have finished all 44 units and only need to submit a final short essay and original Lesson Plan.

I graduate from the NOW class of #11 program this Wednesday night, and I will be soon teaching English Conversation Circles at an additional location.

I'd like to get some more teaching experience before I start applying for jobs at English language schools, so I will have some extra time on my hands for a bit.

What to do with this time? Why brush up on my Spanish skills of course! I have found a free site online where I intend to "take" lessons and I will also attend the Spanish English Conversation Circles put on by the library. But first I will take a Spanish level evaluation. When I am done with my courses, I will take another evaluation. Hopefully, I will have improved greatly.

My three main reasons for brushing up on my Spanish are:

1. To talk fluently with my family members in Spain
2. To grow my brain cells (Learning a language makes you smarter!)
3. To put myself in the shoes of my English Language Learners, which will make me a much more effective teacher.

I even am planning a Lesson Plan about my experiences learning/re-learning a foreign language. I want my students to know that I respect how brave they are to be putting themselves out there.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Keep It Going

Well, I am now at the half way mark of my TESOL certification course. While taking it, my thoughts range from, "Oh, I know this"! to "Oh crap, what are they talking about?" My grades are in the middle to high 90's, so I guess I am doing something right!

In addition to the certification, I continue to lead (the badly attended) English Conversation Circles at a local Elementary school. When I finish my training for the NOW (Neighbors On Watch) program with the Vancouver Police Department in a few weeks, I will get my Wednesday nights back. So I will then be able to volunteer at an additional (well attended) English Conversation Circle at the library.

I've also talked to a local ESL teacher at Clark Community College and got a comprehensive lay of the land: job outlook, salary, what students are like, etc. (Hard to impossible to find FULL time work, pay is low, student comprehension tends to be at a basic level.)

And since life cannot be all about TESOL certification it's also time to change my weight lifting and swimming routines.

For swimming, I am changing the routine by adding 400 yards (8 laps) and incorporating more kick sets (using the kick board). This means I am up to 1200 yards (~3/4 mile).

For weight lifting, I am changing to a new routine, Oxygen Magazine's Head To Toe Training (May 2013 p. 118-120).

Ok, take a break when you need to, stay hydrated, and keep it going!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Get It Started

Thanks to my wonderful husband, I now have a fancy new laptop (ThinkPad T430) with the newest version of Flash. Plus it's portable! Did you all know about this? It's quite a nice feature.

And with said laptop in place, I was able to officially sign up for my TESOL* Certification course. I am doing the 100 hour course through LinguaEdge ($250). After signing up and paying, I was able to crank out two units in about 2 hours. Two units out of a total 44. Ok, so not very far, but certainly farther than I was yesterday with ZERO units done.  I will do my best to work on it 20 hours a week, and hopefully can get it done relatively soon.

While there are a few glitches in the system (why no home button? why always back?) it's been quite fun. There are little interactive games ("match this word to its possible origin") every so often, which nicely breaks up all the text reading. It is also possible to download each unit in PDF, so I will now have copies to review from now until the end of time.

I will try and do 3 units (and an end of module project, 4 units=module) tomorrow and report back if I survive! Wish me luck!

* Often required to teach English abroad. Often required, along with a college degree, to teach in an Adult English Language school in the United States.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Make A Course Correction: Part 2

Ok, where was I? Ah yes, the epiphany. Once I realized that changing the population and subject of what I would teach could fix most of the problems, I became overjoyed. And I realized, whether the subject is swimming, insulin pumps/diabetes, exercise, etc. I am and always will be a teacher.

So I began researching what it takes to teach English to Adults in the United States (most language schools require a Bachelor's degree and a TESOL certification, community colleges require a M.A. in TESOL or an equivalent.) And also outside the U.S. (sometimes just a Bachelor's degree, but a TESOL certification helps a lot.)

Note: You have ESL=English As a Second Language (student lives in the U.S. but is a non-native speaker) and EFL=English as a Foreign Language (student lives in non English speaking foreign country and is learning English), if you combine them you have TESOL=Teacher of English of Students of Other Languages. Confusing? Yes. It took me a good week to sort all of that out.

I asked my husband, and I asked my Mom, "Does this job sound like a good fit for me?" and they both answered, "Yes".

I talked with people in the field, I attended local English Conversation Circles (I couldn't believe how quiet and well behaved the students were. What a difference from what I am used to!), I contacted local language schools to find out what they liked to see when hiring, and I spent a lot of time thinking.

And so, in the next week or so I will begin my 100 hour TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification. I have chosen an online, self-paced program so that I can still accomplish my other goals. And I am also now leading an Adult English Conversation Circle held at my local elementary school. I've been having lots of fun sketching out possible lesson plans for the program and thinking of fun teaching tools.

After my certification is complete, I plan on looking for a teaching job at an English language school. And if that goes well, I will start thinking about getting a Master's degree.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Make A Course Correction: Part 1

After a recent horrible phone interview, which left one of us in tears of frustration (Can you guess who?) I decided to take a step back from my job search.

Way back, back to high school and personality type tests. I took one and I came up with "Harmony Seeking Idealist"

Your personality type: "Harmony-seeking Idealist"

Quietly forceful, original and sensitive. Tend to stick to things until they are done. Extremely intuitive about people and concerned for their feelings. Well-developed value systems which they strictly adhere to. Well-respected for their perseverance in doing the right thing. Likely to be individualistic, rather than leading or following.

Careers that could fit you include:

Counselors, clergy, missionaries, teachers, medical doctors, dentists, chiropractors, psychologists, psychiatrists, writers, musicians, artists, psychics, photographers, child care workers, education consultants, librarians, marketeers, scientists, social workers.

Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes. The full description of a Harmony Seeking Idealist blew my mind even further. This was me on paper. Someone had put into words the things I often can't. And so I decided to stop comparing myself to others and start celebrating my uniqueness.

And if someone had already figured out possible career paths of someone with my personality type, then why not start there? But I had already tried some of those careers (SpecialEd teacher, social worker, psychologist, child care worker) and kept getting stuck.

And then I was hit with a pretty bad cold. A stay in bed unless eating or going to the bathroom cold. Too sick to watch T.V. but not well enough to read and so I just lay there and pondered: How can I have a job in a profession I am well suited for while avoiding previous issues? And it finally came to me: change the population and change the subject. Rather than kids, it will be adults. Rather than SpecialEd it will be English... (to be continued)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

You Live You Learn

I've been getting allergy shots since November and when I tell people about it I get asked the same question. "Did they make your seasonal allergies go away?" I would reply that I wasn't sure yet because I wasn't sure when my season started. Well, April 1, 2013 it started. And the answer to the above question is NO!

Monday I felt sick to my stomach. Tuesday I felt like someone unplugged my battery and today I feel like I have the flu, so I can see how last year, since I had never had seasonal allergies before, I did not know what was going on for months and months.

But this time, I am prepared. I should be back to normal in a few days thanks to my extra medicine and my knowledge that I shouldn't open the windows to let the fresh air in (I had to put up a note to reinforce this issue with myself). And I've already made some notes, so that next year I can be ahead of the game: When the birch trees start to have green leaves, start the nasal spray!

Ok, back to bed for me.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

It's O.K. To Cry

I've been called sensitive, dramatic, tender and soft, and it's all because when things really move me, I have the tendency to cry. I often try to hide it, especially when no one else in the room is crying, but I have also found it has some nice benefits: 1) stress release 2) sinus relief 3) dry eye relief.

So, here are 3 random things that brought tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat this week:

1. The singing of The Star Spangled Banner at the Portland Winterhawks game. Francis Scott Key & John Stafford Smith created a masterpiece that gets me every time. When I saw the actual flag at the Smithsonian a few years ago, I pretty much lost it.

2. The movie, Temple Grandin. Actress Claire Daines does an amazing portrayal of Temple, one of the preeminent livestock handling equipment designers in the world, who also happens to have autism.

3. An article about Amy Pankratz, in Woman's Day magazine, about how she sews superhero capes for ill children.

So, what moves you tears?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Don't Use Food As A Drug

I realized lately that over the years, I have had a number of male friends who were/are obese. While most people considered them to be scary or mean, I have found them to be the sweetest guys I know.

When my friend J. enters the pool, I can see strangers visibly stiffen when they see him. I think it's because he takes up so much space. It truly looks like he could hurt you, if he wanted to.

I gently asked J. about this and he mentioned that most people are mean to him. If he goes to a bar and there is a guy who's had a bad day, he always goes up to J. to try and pick a fight. J. is often quick tempered, and I think this is a reaction to this common situation.

Meanwhile, having had conversations with various obese friends, I keep finding that something or something along the way has hurt the guy and he has turned to food for comfort (although he usually doesn't acknowledge this). I've heard stories of being bullied in school, being bullied in the military, and of betrayal by loved ones.

So, while others see this big mean man, I see this little boy in pain, who has surrounded himself with a "protective" layer of fat.

And my friends always seem to be on a new path to weight loss. "I'm gonna be a vegan! I will do Weight Watchers! I will do P90X! I will work harder, I will fix it! Yes, I will". And then a month or two later they stop, gain back the weight and the cycle starts again.

I try not to be preachy, I try to be a friend, to support them and model good behavior. But I want to be helpful, I want them to heal. So, since I know that right now they are probably not in the right mental space to  hear me, I will send this message out to the internet hoping that it finds them.

Keys To Sustained Good Health

1. Know that when people are mean to you, it is because they are scared. This doesn't excuse them, it just explains it a little better.

2. You need to find a non-food way to deal with stress or to celebrate. I know that food is cheap, easy and often pushed at you by various sources (commercials, parents) but it is not the solution. Do not use it as a drug.

3. You need to heal whatever it is inside that is hurting so badly. This may mean therapy, this may mean medication, suck it up and do it. 


5. Ditch the fad diets and learn traditional nutritional basics: serving sizes, fiber, whole grains, etc.

6. Know that fitness is a life long journey. You will only be done when you are dead.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Grow Some Neurons

I've been feeling a little uninspired lately. While fitness stuff is going well, the job search continues to drag on. But I have some new ideas so stay tuned. After talking about this with a new friend, I had the idea to start looking at online courses and seminars instead of watching stupid television shows. (Good-bye, The Mindy Project and New Girl.)

So, as of a week or so ago I am watching about 5 TED talks a week (focused on business, psychology and human nature) and 3 lectures a week from Stanford University's eCorner series. The TED talks are only about 15 minutes long and the eCorner talks range from 45-60 minutes.

All the talks are free, and I have learned at least one interesting thing from each. (And a lot about how to give a good presentation.) So far, my favorite eCorner talk is by Adam Lowry of Method and my favorite TED talk is Temple Grandin's The World Needs All Kinds Of Minds.

You can stream them for free from their respective websites, TED and eCorner but I have found that their channels on YouTube work better. Try Stanford eCorner and TEDTalks. I add the videos I want to watch to my "Watch Later" list on my YouTube account and then head downstairs where I can watch them on the TV (thank you, husband, for hooking up a computer to the TV) while sitting on the couch, notepad and pen in hand.

After watching these talks, I add them to the education section of my LinkedIn profile, and will add them to my resume upon it's next overhaul.

I am really happy about the switch and look forward to amassing a huge list of videos I have watched.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Change Is Good

It's time to switch my swimming workout. The total length is the same, but the drills focus on new things and each set is longer. I'm glad to be making a change, it's nice to have new challenges.

I print four sets of each routine on a page, print it out and then cut it in four. I take one to the pool with me and "glue" it against the pool wall with water. When I am done, I squish it into a ball and triumphantly throw it away.

Here is my routine:

800 yds (1/2 mile)

2x75 freestyle
2x25 DK w/fins

6x25 freestyle
#1 Hip Shoulder Forehead Drill
#2 Freestyle
#3 Freestyle Fist Drill
#4 Freestyle
#5 Freestyle 3-3-3 Drill
#6 Freestyle

(Faster each time)

3x50 S&M w/fins


Like last time, this routine is based on one from Janet Evans' book, with the items in bold added by me. I will do this routine 16 times, then move on to the next one.

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: I take a 3 minute break between the Warm Up, Drill Set, Main Set and Cool down. Sorry I didn't note that in the list.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Keep On Keeping On

In some circles, I am know mostly for my Type 1 diabetes. But I realized I haven't blogged about it in ages.

So, if I don't blog about diabetes do I still have it? Yep.


Still checking my blood sugar 10+ times a day
Still wearing my One Touch Animas insulin pump
Still changing out my pump site (what connects the pump to my body) every 2-4 days
Still measuring 80%  of my food
Still bolusing with insulin for every carbohydrate I eat
Still having low blood sugars occasionally
Still have high blood sugars occasionally
Still making sure I don't exercise within 2 hours of a bolus

And on, and on ...

So, nothing new to report. But it's all still going well.

UPDATE: I just had to tempt fate with this post, didn't I? Well, now I do have news to report. While doing my monthly battery change on my insulin pump I noticed a 1 inch crack along the battery compartment. While it did not interrupt the function on the pump, it certainly voided it's claim of being waterproof. After calls to Animas, and a little UPS tango, I have a  new one and it is working nicely.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Listen To The Music

I have a number of friends and family who have been in or are currently in a band. It is usually for fun, but sometimes it really takes off. My friend since childhood, Alastair Moock, is a good example. I can still remember going canoeing with him at Sandy Island YMCA camp (I paddled, he sang), and yet here he is with a Wikipedia article and numerous awards and albums to his name.

Well, I am hoping that another friend, Patrick Curtain, will soon enjoy some stardom too. He is the bass player in a local band, Worth. And they are starting to get some recognition. I love the music his band makes and even downloaded some of the songs.

Here is the video to one of my favorite Worth songs, "Caught Up." Portland, Oregon is prominently featured in the video, and if you catch a glimpse of the bald bass player, that is Patrick.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Have A Smashing Good Time

Last year, I almost had a heart attack when I learned that Mark Zupan, star of the movie Murderball, would be speaking at our little Vancouver campus of Washington State University. Have no idea who I am talking about? Perhaps this image will help ...

I had loved the movie and was dying to hear more. Mark was a very charismatic speaker, but as he told the story of how he became quadriplegic (which they had covered in the movie) I found myself thinking, "Talk about the game! Talk about the game!" But he never really did. But he did mention that there was a local wheelchair rugby team, the Portland Pounders.

Once I got home, I looked up the team and found out that they practice every Sunday about 10 minutes from my house. Well, last weekend, I finally got my butt over there to watch. It was a little awkward (there was no where to sit) and I felt a little invasive (but we were quickly welcomed). They did end up having a short scrimmage, which was awesome to watch. I loved all the smashing of the metal chairs (Martin did not). I loved that these guys (and one girl) that are probably seen as helpless and fragile were speeding and smashing into each other with abandon. One player even fell over and was stuck on his back until someone flipped his chair back up.

We would have stayed longer, but we had a lunch date, and all of the dogs in the gym were starting to make my eyes itch.

There are wheelchair rugby teams all over the United States. They are inspirational, could use your support and are fun to watch, so check them out.  I'll certainly be back, but with my eye drops and a chair!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Find Your Real Nature

When I don't feel well, I tend to like watching cartoons (Monsters, Inc. is an all time favorite) or nature shows. I guess I find them calming.

Well, when I recently was down for the count for 11 days (a bad cold with a chaser of gastroenteritis), I remembered my luck with streaming This Old House episodes and went back to PBS to see what else they had.

Well, among other shows (including Downton Abbey) they had a number of shows from their Nature series. So, I got my tea, and my blanket and I settled in for some adorable animals.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Inspire Yourself

I often put inspirational messages near by bedside, so that when I wake up I am extra motivated to workout. My previous message was "Exercise is medicine" (from Men's Health Magazine) but I decided it was time for something new. I created this word cloud with a theme of "Reasons to exercise" and now have it printed out and near the bed.

I noticed that I didn't use the words that describe how my body looks, but how it feels and performs. And I like that. A lot.

Want to make an inspirational word cloud of your own? Try Wordle, like I did, or search for a word cloud generator you like better.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Being Lazy Can Taste Good

Hey Lia, what are you eating for lunch these days?

Ah, good question. I like easy but tasty food, and just created another dish (based on a much more extensive recipe) that I plan on adding to my rotation schedule.

Quinoa with Shrimp and Avocado

About 10 small pre-cooked shrimp (I am lazy)
1/2 cup cooked quinoa (I used a mix of red and regular.)
1/2 sliced avocado
1/2 cup black or garbanzo beans (rinsed)

Soy sauce

I was able to make 5 of these at once (portioning them out into plastic containers, but leaving out the avocado until the day I eat them). I splash some soy sauce on the mixed up beans, quinoa, and shrimp, microwave it (not in the plastic container), and then top it with the avocado. I'm sure I will eventually get more creative with this recipe (hot sauce? salsa?) but for now it works great.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Tweak Your Workout

Why Lia, I can see what you are doing each week for fitness (you've thoughtfully listed it in the sidebar of your blog) but can you break down the actual routines for me?

Why sure!
1. Swimming (or swimmaling, as my husband calls it)
3x a week, about 45 minutes each time
This routine comes from Janet Evans' Total Swimming book, but I have added the items in bold because I am a sick and twisted person. No, actually, I really like the rush I get from going really fast, so I bookended some fun in between the boring stuff.

Note: One pool length is 25 yards, so doing a 50 is doing two lengths of the pool without stopping, a 75 is 3, and a 100 is 4.
Total length: 750 yards (almost 1/2 mile)
2x50 freestyle with 15 seconds rest
2x25 DK freestyle w/fins (I push off from the wall, streamline underwater and do dolphin kicks (DK) to see how far I can go before needing air.)

(3 minute rest)

2x75 with 20 seconds rest
-Freestyle One Arm Drill (R)
-Freestyle One Arm Drill (L)
-Freestyle normal

(3 minute rest)

1x25 with 20 seconds rest
1x50 " "
1x75 " "
1x100 " "

2x50 S&M w/fins (sadomasochism swim: do a slow 25, then a 25 as fast as humanly possible.)

4x25 freestyle with 20 seconds rest

Update: I drove me crazy that I was only 50 yards away from a 1/2 mile, so I added them to the workout by adding another 1x50 S/M w/fins. So now I swim 800 yards.
2. Weight Training 
2x a week, 60 minutes

I am currently doing exercises from the Personal Training With Jackie: Xtreme Timesaver Training DVD. I love the routine, but am not too thrilled with Jackie, so I put the exercises into a spreadsheet, watched the video a few times, and now do it on my own. Each week I switch between heavy weights and low reps, or light weights and high reps.

In a few more weeks I will move on to the next routine in Janet Evans' book (adding my tweaks as necessary) and to the Men's Health Spartacus Workout (Jan 2013 issue).

Monday, February 18, 2013

Friends Come In All Shapes And Sizes

One of the reasons I started swimming at the local pool was to meet new friends.

Mistake #1: Swimming is a solitary activity.

Mistake #2: 7pm is not a popular time to be at the pool.

Mistake #3: Fighting for an open lane can make people, let's say, cranky.

But somehow, I still have made a motley crew of friends.

D. - Probably 15+ years older than me. I taught him how to breathe properly when swimming and now he spends his time doing laps instead of "oh my god, I'm drowning!" gasps.

V. - 10 years my senior, retired veteran who dreams of sailing. Although quite obese, he smokes most people in the number of laps he can do. He helped critique my swimming and gave me some good ideas. We often have fascinating conversations when the lanes are already full.

K. - Loquacious and spunky 10 year old girl. Seems to fear nothing. Hilarious to talk to. Our birthdays are 3 days apart.

I had hoped to meet a band of smart, athletic, women my age, but as usual, I found friends from different age groups and genders. And I'm fine with that. I learn more about myself that way.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Take Your Medicine

I have been getting allergy shots (immunotherapy) for the last few months and I thought I would share with you what I have learned.

1. Do not assume that your doctor uses the word "shots" because he is talking about them over a span of time. He means you get a shot in each arm each time you come in.

2. Do not try and plan out exactly how long it will take until you are done with all of your shots. Illness, vacation, and "bad" reactions will put a wrench in your chain (thus driving you c-r-a-z-y.)

3. Books are too hard to read in a busy waiting room, try magazines instead.

4. Set an alarm for your 30 minutes of post shot "hanging out" time. The nurses get busy and may never come to retrieve you.

5. Make friends with the check-in desk person, you will end up seeing her more than you see your mother.

6. If your injection site gets inflamed, ask the nurse to tape an ice pack on it next time. (My doctor's office has ravioli sized ice packs) It helps a lot.

7. No matter how cutely you ask, they will not give you a "Buy 10 shots, get 1 shot free" punch card.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Stream This Old House

I have been a fan of the TV show, This Old House, for as long as I can remember. I can even recall watching it at my cousins' house in Needham, Massachusetts in the little den on the first floor of their house.

More recently, Martin and I watched it on Sunday afternoons after returning from the day trips we took via airplane.

Now don't get me wrong, I would rather get a massage (or do most other things) than do demo, remodeling, or painting, but I enjoy watching This Old House and Ask This Old House. Why? Well, both shows have taught me that, with a little imagination, there is a solution for everything. And this lesson transfers easily to other parts of my life.

Since we stopped flying and spend our weekends differently now, our This Old House watching had become sporadic. If I happened upon it on PBS, I am psyched. A few weeks ago, I finally had the brilliant idea to see if the episodes are posted online. They are. So now I can watch to my heart's content.

Note: Having been born in, attended college in, and married in Massachusetts, the home base of TOH, also means a lot to me.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Lay Low

Although this blog is purely for fun (and hopefully educational) purposes, and although I do not make a dime off of it (notice any ads? Nope!), I wanted you to know that I have not fallen off the face of the earth.

My allergy shots are making me tired, and I find that the energy I do have needs to be channeled to vital things like: exercise and "chores" and there just isn't any energy left over. Although I often compose blog posts in my head, they just don't seem to get officially posted.

So, I will do my best to entertain you on a more regular basis, but if that doesn't happen (Well, does it ever really happen?) just know that it is because I am using my energy for other things. And once I feel a bit better, I will be back.


Monday, January 14, 2013

Speak Up

Last week I did an interview with the local community access television channel. On camera. At the pool. In my bathing suit, towel, and bathing cap.

I was minding my own business, doing laps, when one of the lifeguards asked me if I would mind doing a quick interview with CVTV (I had seen the cameras already, so it wasn't a total surprise.) I'm not sure if it was the endorphins, insanity, or total and utter confidence (or maybe a mix of all three) but I said "Yes." I was able to get a few more laps in while they took some B-roll (background shots) and then hauled myself out of the pool to do the interview. (As my lane mate shrank away from the cameras in utter horror.)

They basically wanted to know about how wonderful the community center is, how I use it for various activities, and if it has impacted my life in a positive way. I had done an interview with CVTV before, on behalf of Planned Parenthood, so I wasn't nervous. I tried my best to the answer questions thoughtfully without huffing and puffing too much. It probably took about 5 minutes and then I was able to hop back in the pool and continue my workout.

I'm happy to encourage Vancouverites to get out and enjoy what the city has to offer, and I'm happy to encourage them to be more active. But if I can't get a swimming lane anymore because they are all flocking to my pool, I'm going to be very frustrated.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Fluff It Up

I recently read that whenever you go out into the wilderness, you need to have at least 3 sources of fire. So, for our cross country ski trips I created a fire starter kit. It is composed of matches, a tea light, a lighter and 4 tampons. Why tampons, you ask? Well, they fit in a small space for packing but expand to a huge fire starter once you fluff them up.

But don't just take my word for it, here's a video that explains the whole thing:

What Jason forgets to mention, however, is that he first took the tampon out if its plastic applicator in order to prep it.

Tampons are also great for nosebleeds and other bloody wounds, so I highly suggest you bring some along on your next outdoor adventure.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Use Your ABCs

Whenever I have a hard time falling asleep at night, I* play a game. The game is distracting but also simple enough to let my mind calm down so that I can fall asleep.

It goes like this ... you pick a subject and must name items in alphabetical order.

For example, if you pick the subject: fruit
 until you get to letter Z, or fall asleep, which ever comes first.

So far subjects that I've used include:
things you find at the swimming pool
things you find in/on an airplane
song titles
items I've seen in TV commercials

You can determine just how picky you are about the rules ("Red apple" is/is not a fruit) since the goal is to fall asleep, not actually come up with correct items.

*The game also works with your bed partner, just take turns naming items.

This game has been a handy thing to have, and it works every time.