Wednesday, June 25, 2014

10K Running for Beginners Plus my Training Playlist!

So I want to post my 10K music recommendations for beginners but first I want to give a little pep talk!

Recently I went to dinner after running my first ever 10K. During dinner two of the waitresses found out I had run a race and talked to me about it.  After we talked for a few minutes one of the ladies then said she would never be able to run a race. This was a feeling I understood well.  I am not small and I am not fast and a year ago I would have said the same thing.  I told her that I had been running for 9 months and still had to take walking breaks frequently. After 9 months I have only worked my way up to a 13 min/mile pace (which most others could do walking). She seemed pretty surprised to find out that I hadn't actually "run" the entire time. She then shared that she feels embarrassed to start exercising because of what other people will think and genuinely asked if I had ever felt that way in front of others.  And in the beginning I had. I told her I would try and find places that no one would see me -which is hard in a small town. I tried doing a lot of my runs early in the morning so I could avoid other people -which doesn't work, by the way, because that is when the really die hard runners are out :) I tried wearing baggy clothes so that you couldn't really see my body shape but they made exercising even harder. And talking with a complete stranger about it really made me stop and think about how many people out there probably feel the same way when they don't need to.

In college I was never thin but I was sporty.  I felt confident to join in sporting events or just play around.  After I had my youngest (who are twins) I was up from a size 10 to a size 18. It is really hard to be the largest person at the gym, trust me I know, but it's better than not being at the gym. And it might feel embarrassing to train for months and be passed up by people who just barely started running but the great part about running is competing with yourself.  You can stop worrying about size and pounds and other people and just work toward going faster or farther or just feeling better. And I totally know how embarrassing it can feel the first time you try a new exercise (seriously you should see me doing would burn 1,000 calories just laughing)but think of how good it will feel when you master it! Just get out there and try it and don't worry if you are slow, or uncoordinated, or overweight!  When I first started running I was embarrassed to post my times on Runkeeper but after talking to a couple of my friends I decided to post it.  Not to get attention or brag but just to say "look, I'm short and plus sized and slow but I'm out there trying and you can do it too!" To most people running a 10K in 1:19 might not be a huge accomplishment but the first time I tried it it took me almost 2 hours.  That's progress that anyone could make it and it feels so great! So if you are thinking about getting in shape but are worried about what others will think, stop worrying! Just think about how you will feel! I feel so excited and happy when I hear about a new friend picking up running or trying a new workout class. And it's was so fun to talk with real runners about my training.  They get so excited and will welcome you with open arms no matter how slow you are. Because exercising makes people happy and they want you to be happy too! So now I'm paying it forward...if you need a cheerleader let me know! I'm there for you!

Also, my last little thought is to just be happy where you are.  That doesn't mean stop trying to improve but just take time to celebrate little victories!  My husband and I laughed recently when we found one of my old journals. I signed out of almost every teenage journal entry with some discouraging comment about my weight followed by a commitment of "tomorrow I'm cabbage soupin' it".  Anyone else remember the cabbage soup diet? It was one of many that my teenage friends and I tried to lose weight.  Basically you eat nothing but cabbage soaked in tomato juice for a week and then every Wednesday you get to eat a banana. Healthy! Oh how I wish I could go back and tell my cute little teenage self to stop being so crazy about my weight and just enjoy size 8 while it lasted!  But who knows what the future holds.  Right now seems like the hardest time in my life so far.  But I'm sure in a few years I'll be wishing I could come back and tell my 30 something self to just enjoy it while it lasts. My point is this, don't keep waiting until tomorrow to make a change and don't think your change has to be all encompassing.  Start with something little you can do a little better and do it.  And celebrate it! Then when you reach your goal set a new one right away! Then celebrate some more. Then share what you are doing because it motivates me and I love to hear it! You don't have to be a fitness instructor or lose 100 lbs. in order to motivate and encourage other people.  There will always be people who are running further and faster but guess what, at the end of the race everyone got a medal and a massage and a free Jamba juice no matter how far they ran! And it was a big awesome party. And a year ago I missed it because I was too embarrassed to try.  Next year I want to go with a big group of friends! Free Jamba juice! Who is with me?

10K Song List for beginners (About 1 hr. 30 min.)
Pump It -The Black Eyed Peas
Set Fire to the Rain- Adele
Behind These Hazel Eyes- Kelly Clarkson
Magic -B.o.B (featuring Rivers Cuomo)
My Song Know What You Did in the Dark- Fall out Boy
The Anthem (clean)- good Charlotte
Girls Chase Boys- Ingrid Michaelson
Good Time- Owl City
Stronger- Kelly Clarkson
Dance, Dance- Fallout Boy
This is How a Heart Breaks- Rob Thomas
Roar- Katy Perry
The Monster (clean)- Eminem
I Knew You Were Trouble- Taylor Swift
Fighter- Christina Aguilera
People Like Us- Kelly Clarkson
On Top of the World- Imagine Dragons
We Used to be Friends- The Dandy Warhols (Veronica Mars, anyone?)
Best Day Of My Life- American Authors
Hall of Fame- The Script (featuring
50 Ways to Say Goodbye- Train
Holding Out for A Hero-Bonnie Tyler

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Charity meets the Internet

I've debated writing this blog post because it is very personal to me. Its also a little out of the norm for a recipe/homemaking blog. However, I feel like it's time for me to say something. I have two main intentions with this post. 1) to explain some of my beliefs and 2) to do so in a loving way that invites open discussion.

For the last several months during my personal study I've been trying to narrow down some thoughts about avoiding contention and self righteousness. I am a person who likes to debate. Avoiding contention and being slow to anger are two things I struggle with on pretty much a daily basis. Studying out HOW contention and anger can have less of an influence in my life is the inspiration for this post. Because I am still learning, I would really appreciate your comments or feedback after reading.

In today's internet connected world you don't have to go very far to find contention. You can access the inner thinkings of many self righteous bloggers, journalists, and politicians at the click of a button. Contention is something that has existed, in my belief, since before the world began. But I also believe it will not always exist. Most who know me and/or read this blog know that I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. As such, I believe that Jesus Christ has been to this earth before, has atoned for our sins and will return one day to judge and bless our eternal futures. While he was not recognized as the Savior by everyone during his first mortal ministry, he will be during his second. The Book of Mormon is comprised of several smaller books (much like the composition of the Bible). In the book of Mosiah, Chapter 27,verse 31 it reads "Yea, every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess before him. Yea, even at the last day, when all men shall stand to be judged of him, then shall they confess that he is God". The knowledge of what is to come helps me in my personal life: 1) It tells me that at some point the arguing and contending over doctrines, and religions, and beliefs will be over. 2) It reminds me that only God has the ability to righteously judge anyone and 3) It reminds me that I must do my part NOW in avoiding contention and unjustly judging those around me.

If you are LDS like me, or maybe even if you aren't, your news feed has probably been full or articles about women and the priesthood or Mormons' opinions about gay marriage or defending traditional families, etc. And it's honestly getting to the point that if I weren't LDS then I would think that the only things Mormons talked about were gender equality and gay marriage. Not that these topics aren't important things to discuss, but there are so many of our fundamental beliefs that we should be focused on first. Things like we believe in Christ, we believe in doing good to all men, families can be forever, we believe in modern day revelation and prophets, etc. (See LDS Articles ofFaith 1-13

Why aren't we talking about these things? If people were to ask me to explain my religion these are things I would start with...not my opinions about if I should have the priesthood or not. Yet on blog after blog about "Mormon beliefs" these are the only things being talked about. When we argue about these issues, no matter what side we are on, we are not focusing on the core truths that we need to be focused on. The Gospel is not just about priesthood or marriage. The Gospel is about returning to live with our father in heaven. Yes priesthood and marriage are important parts of the Gospel but our focus should be on the Savior and our path home.

Many defend their focus on these things by claiming they are threats to the family and to our path home. However, when we stop to think about the people who have the most ability to harm our families we realize it is ourselves! Our time would be much better spent trying to eliminate our own behaviors that pose a threat to our family. Am I being unloving? Am I being contentious? Am I spending more time talking about what I believe on social media than I am living what I believe? Am I angry? Am I letting feelings of betrayal effect how I treat my family? Being an unbalanced or unloving parent can cause much more harm to my family than gay marriage or gender inequality can. In Matthew we read about some symptoms leading up to the last days. Chapter 24 verse 12 says “And iniquity shall abound and the love of men will wax cold”. One of the ways that we can allow our love to wax cold is by giving into worry, fear and anger. Many people, in the pursuit of defending the truth have allowed themselves to become angry with their brothers and sisters who have different opinions. In the beginning of Alma (another book from The Book of Mormon) similar disagreements begin to arise within the church. At first members of the church ignore the persecution coming from others. When that doesn't seem to work some begin to take a stand. Sadly however, in verse 22 we read that some of the members feel proud in their righteousness and begin to “contend warmly” with those who oppose them. And that is how our love waxes cold. As we warm out heart to contention we place aside our charity. As anger grows, love decreases.

So how do we take a stand without "contending warmly" with those around us. And the answer is humility. What is our intent? Do we want to spread anger or love? Do we want to shame or to inspire? Marvin J. Ashton, in speaking about contention, offers up some other justifications we might make for engaging in a fight. “When one considers the bad feeling and the unpleasantness caused by contention, it is well to ask, 'Why do I participate?' If we are really honest with ourselves, our answers may be something like: 'When I argue and am disagreeable, I do not have to change myself. It gives me a chance to get even.' 'I am unhappy and I want others to be miserable too.' 'I can feel self-righteous. In this way I get my ego built up.' 'I don’t want others to forget how much I know!' Whatever the real reason, it is important to recognize that we choose our behavior. At the root of this issue is the age-old problem of pride. 'Only by pride cometh contention.'”

Christ discusses self righteousness in the parable of the pharisee and the publican. Luke 18:9-14 says, “And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” Have we seen others use social media in order to exalt themselves? Blogs dedicated to thanking God that they are not as bad as other men? Elder Oaks says “Those who engage in self-congratulation over a supposed strength have lost the protection of humility and are vulnerable to Satan’s using that strength to produce their downfall. In contrast, if we are humble and teachable, hearkening to the commandments of God, the counsel of his leaders, and the promptings of his Spirit, we can be guided in how to use our spiritual gifts, our accomplishments, and all of our other strengths for righteousness. And we can be guided in how to avoid Satan’s efforts to use our strengths to cause our downfall.”

Many times the way we say something is just as important as what we say. This is why Christ was such an effective teacher. There are just as many lessons to be learned from HOW Christ says things as there are from WHAT he says. And the reason Christ knew how to do things is because he had a perfect knowledge of WHY he was doing what he did. I feel like bloggers today spend so much time deciding what they are going to say they spend very little time on how to say it and even less time on why they are saying it. This goes back to intentions. Christ's intentions were clear. He taught the people because he loved them. In Matthew 22 he teaches that the first and second commandments are about love. The first and great commandment to love our Father in Heaven and the second to love our neighbor as ourselves. So, if as members of the church our goal is to become more like the Savior, then it seems that our intent should be to love those with whom we associate. That includes being loving in our blog posts. Christ didn't use shame, guilt, or sarcasm to convert those around him and when we use those things in our everyday speaking we are not being like Christ. So are we writing about the priesthood and gay marriage because we have a true belief that we want to share with others or are we writing to put people in their place? Is our intent to build and help or is to tear down? Are we trying to put ourselves on a pedestal by only discussing the things we think we are doing right while ignoring our own shortcomings? Can you imagine a world where everyone is worried more about their own shortcomings than about each others? The truth really is that you can only change yourself. So the beginning of any significant change in the world starts with people loving and changing themselves, not with ranting and raving against others on the internet.

Matthew 7: 3-5 says "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye. Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” President Monson told a great story about a woman who judges her neighbor for having dirty laundry on the line until one day she realizes that she's viewing the laundry through her own dirty window. I have been guilty of this in my own life so many times. However, being judgmental and self righteous doesn't just hurt the other person, it hurts ourselves. Being overly preoccupied with the mote in someone else's eye makes us suffer because we are allowing the beam to remain in our eye for longer than it needs to.

One of the stories that we read about in the Book of Mormon is the vision of the Tree of Life. For those unfamiliar with this story you can read it on by clicking here

There are two main groups in this vision: a large group in the great and spacious building and a smaller group making their way to the tree of life. The large group represents the world while the small group represents the followers of Christ trying to make their way to God. Most of us identify ourselves as being in the small group making our way toward the tree. So when someone disagrees with us about something we tend to get self righteous and assume that they are in the great and spacious building pointing and mocking us for being different. And we use this analogy to justify ourselves in getting upset with them or defensive. But there is a big problem with that. In the vision of the tree of life, those who make it to the tree are the ones who don't get upset or defensive. They instead love those around them and are desirous that all will come and partake of the fruit with them. They don't point, or shame, or write scathing blog posts about the people in the great and spacious building. They enjoy the fruit for themselves and then lovingly offer to share it. Their focus is always on the fruit. So my point is that no matter what side of an issue you are on, if you find yourself spending a lot of your day pointing at others or feeling upset inside, it could be that you have put yourself in the great and spacious building by your actions. Don't let yourself get angry because of what other people do. Don't let yourself get so preoccupied fighting every fight that is thrown your way that you stop focusing on the fruit of the Gospel. Don't let your life get so clogged up with articles and opinion columns about “what makes a good Christian” that you forget to read the Bible, or pray, or act like a Christian. Focus on the source, the fruit, the good. In order to share the fruit you have to stay close to the tree.

We cannot fight others into salvation. Each of us has been given the power to choose for ourselves. When we require others to choose the same things as we do in order to participate in our lives we are not allowing them the free agency they have a right to. Obviously, if there is abuse or dangerous behavior involved we must protect and distance ourselves. But in matters of differing opinions I truly feel we must forgive and we must love everyone. I've had family members leave the church. I still love them. I've had friends who hate the church. I still love them. I've had times where I doubted and almost gave up. Luckily I had others who loved me enough to lift me up. Yes, There are times in our lives when we have to stand up for our beliefs. There are times when as a parent, or a church leader, or a friend we will have to correct someone who has gone astray. As a member of the church we believe our leaders are called of God and with His help can lovingly do this. Doctrine and Covenants 121:43 tells us how this is done. “Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy”. We are commanded to love our enemy as well as our friend. The easiest way to do this is not to allow people to become our enemy in the first place. Often times we allow ourselves to believe that because someone disagrees with us they are our enemy, which is not the case. Christ had true enemies. People who betrayed him to death. People who actively sought out and succeeded in killing him. In comparison our “enemies” are usually born out of miscommunication, differing backgrounds, ignorance, or extremism. When compared with the trials of our Savior, the argument of “they were meaner to me on the internet” hardly seems a valid excuse for withholding forgiveness or perpetuating contention. If Christ can forgive others for killing him, surely I can love someone who is in a different political party than I am, or has a different sexual orientation than I do, or someone who disagreed with me in Sunday School.

In a class I am taking on the atonement, the teacher recently pointed out that when we try to facilitate someone else's salvation we can actually be putting ourselves between them and the Savior. We try so hard to connect them with the savior that we actually stand between the two trying to get them to meet. But when we put ourselves in between our loved ones and the Savior it can have unintended consequences. Instead of being a bridge, we become a wall. When we argue with our neighbor we become a wall. When we use derogatory names we become a wall. When we turn our backs on our family or friends because they choose a different lifestyle than us we become a wall. When we invite people to leave the church, such as saying “why don't you just go find a different religion” or “why do you even stay” we become a wall. In the end, not only will we have to account for the positions we took, we will also have to account for how we treated those who disagreed with us. I wonder will Heavenly Father care more about our views on homosexuality or will he care more about how we treated our gay child, sibling, or friend. Probably both. We can disagree and still love, because of Christ.

Having faith in Christ means having faith that he will be judge and savior for the world (including our loved ones). Having faith that Christ will do these things means having faith that we don't have to. And if we free ourselves from needing to judge and save others, that leaves plenty of time to love them. As we allow ourselves to feel more love for others, we will allow ourselves to feel more love for ourselves, which will allow us to feel more joy. And as we feel more joy and love, guess what, others will naturally be more open to hear what we have to share! The Gospel message!

Because Christ has atoned for our sins he is also our advocate to the Father. He is allowed to judge us because he knows us perfectly. He knows our background, our baggage, our heart and mind. He knows our fears, and pains, and desires. He knows all of the intricacies that make us individuals and influence our choices. While others see only our actions he can see our intentions. And because of this he has asked us not to judge one another. The parable of the wheat and the tares demonstrates this well. Only God knows which are wheat and which are tares. And he allows them the entire season before he reaps them. To the untrained eye a small wheat may appear to be a tare and could be weeded out before it was given a chance to grow. Some tares might appear strong and hearty but when consumed will disappoint. When we judge others with our untrained eyes we run the risk of damaging the entire crop. When we begin to think we can distinguish between the wheat and the tares we place our faith in ourselves more than in our Heavenly Father. Consider the conversion of Paul or Alma the Younger. They antagonized the church for many years before becoming two of the greatest missionaries in the scriptures. What if instead of loving his sons, Mosiah had just told them to go join another church? I'm sure many believed them to be tares in the beginning but look at the fruits they eventually brought forth. The only righteous judgments are those we make for ourselves. The only person we can judge as a wheat or tare is ourselves. Do our words and actions nourish like wheat or do they spread the weeds of contention?

Satan will try to use our pride to lift us out of a moderate life and into the extremes. For some it may be to the extreme that nothing matters and that a loving Heavenly Father wouldn't require any action from his children. For others it may be to the extreme of thinking everything matters and that Heavenly Father would require complete conformity in all things (such as the Pharisees). My belief is that God's plan for us is a plan of moderation (there are a few ordinances and practices that he requires exactness in and many other practices that are more flexible and moving and changing). Each of us will have to decide for ourselves what Heavenly Father requires of us. As a member of the church I believe in Prophets and leaders that can help us navigate these questions. I also believe in continuing personal revelation which is the light that can lead each of us out of the darkness. I believe in scriptures, where we can read about those who have gone through similar trials that we now face. When we know what God expects from us and actively strive to do those things, we will have peace in our lives. As we strive for peace in our lives the Spirit can be with us and more peace can be added to us. As we turn away from extreme anger we can begin to feel the ultimate power of love and healing in our life.

Let me finally end by quoting the 13th chapter of Corinthians. Yes the entire thing. It is that good. For me it is the summation of the Gospel.

1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

We are all of us imperfect. We all know only in part. We don't need to criticize and demean others because they are imperfect. We don't need to speak childishly about one another. It doesn't matter our credentials, our callings, how many followers our blog has. If we have not charity we have nothing. Paul reminds us that even though the day will come when “every knee shall bow” we still live in the now. And even though contention may abound, we also know that faith, hope and charity live in the now. Do our actions and words promote faith? Do they give others hope? As a member of the church I am ever trying to live by this council. I know that I have hurt others. I know that I've written snarky blog posts. I know that I have overlooked needs, miscommunicated, and fallen short of being charitable. But it is something that I'm working on. I hope that others on the internet will join me in first seeking to have charity. It is the only thing that will never fail. It is the only thing that will convert. Before you write that blog post, before you copy that link, before you leave that comment, ask yourself, am I showing charity? Because no matter how smart, or funny, or true, or well written it is, if it has not charity, it is nothing.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Read How a Mom Doesn't Destroy Common Core (Warning: It takes me more than 3 minutes)

Okay, "Uncle, uncle"! Please everyone stop with the common core posts! I can't take anymore. I've been trying so hard to hold my peace and not write a super long blog post about this but it's starting to bubble over and I can't stop typing...and, oh it comes...

As many of my friends know, I was a teacher in a former life before having the 4 cutest little girls ever!  So as a former teacher, and now as a parent, I try to keep up with whats happening in our schools. I've been doing my best to follow common core, listen to its supporters and opponents, talk with teachers, check out how it's being implemented in my child's school, etc. I assumed that most other parents would be doing the same things. Unfortunately, it seems many don't have time because instead they are too busy writing and reading never-ending rants of other parents who are supposedly "destroying" common core in 4 min. (I've also enjoyed how it has kind of become an internet game now, similar to "name that tune".  I can destroy common core in 3 min.  Well I can do it in 2. Okay then Lou, destroy that common core!) I mean don't get me wrong, I'm all for shorter rants but the fact of the matter is I've yet to see a video that actually "destroyed" anything but my belief that most adults have a working knowledge of how their child's education system actually works.

Let me start by explaining that a core standard (be it a standard written under no child left behind or under common core) is simply a statement of WHAT should be taught, it does not dictate HOW it should be taught.  And while they are sectioned into grade levels common core doesn't even specify when in the year it should be taught.  Common core is not a curriculum.  Common core is not the one creating the homework problems you see on Facebook.  Common core is a set of standards that set the bar for whatever curriculum a state, district or school chooses.  So basically it says, choose whatever texts you want but at the end of the year here is a list of what your child should know.  So standards are important.  I'm not here to argue with people about if those standards should be decided locally or federally or what...but I just want people to understand what a standard is and why knowing the standards for you child's grade level is helpful and important!  To find out what the actual standards are please visit  You might be surprised to find that the standards have nothing to do with any of the memes you've seen on facebook.  In fact, hopefully you'll read them and say "I remember learning that!".

So, what is a curriculum you ask? Well, in the United States there are numerous companies which sell curriculum plans for districts to use.  When I did my student teaching they used Investigations. When I taught we used Saxon.  Currently my daughter's school uses Everyday Math.  Just to name a few! So when you see a homework assignment on Facebook labeled "Common Core", it's really Investigations, or Everyday Math or something like that. So if you are unhappy with your child's math program then the first step is to find out what math curriculum your school district has selected.  This would be true for your child's reading program also.  Since these curriculums are not chosen federally, if you see a bizarre homework assignment from someone in Florida and you currently live in North Dakota, chances are your child isn't even participating in the same curriculum. So before you freak out and send out a spam email to everyone you know, check out what curriculum your child is using.

Right now, you probably want to argue that the standardized testing associated with common core is what is driving these curriculum programs to write all these crazy homework pages that you've never learned before.  However, most of these programs existed long before common core was in place.  Some may even pre-date no child left behind. Also keep in mind that they are not all created equal. Do some research and see what you think.  Even in my few years of teaching I could easily determine my preference for Saxon over Invesigations. Do some research. What do you like, what don't you like? What is working, what isn't?

Okay, so you've figured out what curriculum your child school is using but you are still unhappy with the work.  What's the next step to making a change? (Hint: it's not writing an angry Facebook post).  You need to find out who chose the curriculum, how long they've been using the curriculum, who chooses the textbooks, and how to get involved.  Often a district will be given suggested texts or curriculum programs from the state and a district commitee will then decide what they are going to use.  In my town they have a curriculum committee and a textbook committee. These boards are often comprised of parents, community representatives, teachers, principals, and district representatives. Find out when open school board meetings are, when they are planning to discuss curriculums, and what committees have openings.  You can find out this info by visiting your districts website. If you still have more questions go visit the district offices and they will help you.  I know it sounds like a lot of work...but you cared enough to discuss it on facebook...the next step is to get involved.

Now, just as not all curriculums are created equal, we also have to remember that the same is true of parents and teachers. Each of us is wired differently.  Some people can see a problem in many different forms and solve it but most of us are going to pick and choose which method works the best for us.  I get that, and as the parent of a special needs daughter, I understand the frustration of having to teach our children new ways of doing something when they already had to fight to find one way that works.  But I do know that being able to come to a solution or tackle a problem in a variety of ways is important for critical thinking.  The more ways we teach our students to look at a problem the better chance they have of understanding the reasons behind the formula and/or finding the way that clicks for them.  In some real life situations simplicity will be valued but in many scientific or technical jobs memorization of formulas is not enough.  My husband works in a job where it is critical for all involved to understand the WHY of the processes they complete just as much as understanding the HOW. So, a complete education becomes a balance then of learning the formulas and also the process behind the formula.

However, teaching a variety of methods requires a higher undestanding on the part of the teacher, or parent, or tutor.  I'm not saying this is an "always" true statement but is it possible that some of the frustration with the "new" math (which isn't really all that "new" anymore) is actually rooted in the parent or teacher not understanding the math as deeply as they need to? Please don't get me wrong my children and I have had wonderful teachers who completely know their stuff inside and out! However,  I also have vivid memories from when I was obtaining my degree of a group of grown women crying in my "teaching mathematics" course because they didn't know HOW to multiply fractions, let alone teach it.  They were angry at the teacher when she told them that her course was to instruct them how to teach math not how to do it.  You see my university, as well as myself, was under the assumption that someone who had entered a four year university had a 4th grade knowledge of math. I also remember my first day of student teaching.  I watched my mentor try for half an hour to teach the class a problem from Investigations math and without getting the right answer.  I knew in 2 min. what she was doing wrong but I was too nervous to speak up.  Finally she asked me if I knew what to do and when I got it right she said "Perfect! You can teach for the rest of the time you're here". And from then on, I kid you not, she went to the teachers lounge and took a nap every day while I taught math.  I'm really not trying to get into a teacher bashing session here but I have to admit that both of these stories rattle around in my little brain often.  And then I add that to the hundreds of other parents complaining on Facebook that they don't understand how to use a number line (and that they aren't embarrased to admit that in front of hundreds of people). So am I really that bad of a person when I begin to think maybe it's more of a comment on the educational system of the 80s and 90s than it is about common core. Really, we can't figure out number lines?

So now lets discuss the many, many teachers who are amazing and know their stuff.  They work hard to help our children succeed.  They spend countless hours coming up with lesson plans, getting supplies collected and organized, grading our children's papers, and preparing our kids for the next level.  We've also been hearing from an increased number of teachers that they are spending a significant amount of their time reteaching their students information that they should have been learning in earlier grades.  Many people attribute this to poorly written standards.  However if you look back over the last 20 years how many times have the standards and tests changed? Is it possible that it's actually the swinging pendulum of educational standards that is making life harder for our teachers and not the standards themselves?  When the target keeps changing how can we expect teachers, or parents, or children to hit it?  I've had several friends ask me how I can't get worked up about what my child is going to have to know in high school or how common core will affect my special needs daughter and my answer is usually that the whole system will probably be revamped in the 8 years before my kids even get to high school. In my opinion the biggest threat to my child's education isn't the common core standards, it is the fact that the standards will never be constant.  It's the fact that every time a different political party gets a majority they will roll out a new program and millions of people will love it or hate simply based on if their "guy" is in charge.  That people will continue to post angry Facebook posts about educational systems they haven't researched for five minutes.  We have got to value and listen to our teachers.  They are the ones in the trenches.  We've got to find out what they need, what they like, what's important and how we can get involved.

So in conclusion, I get that people are unhappy with the way public schools are heading. I hear you loud and clear.  I have my concerns too.  Hopefully after reading this you can at least realize that your problems may be with your child's curriculum instead of common core.  Identifying the problem is half the battle.  I've yet to see one article about common core that actually addresses a specific standard from common core. But whatever your concern, you are left with a choice.  You can A) write a sarcastic Facebook post and hope it goes viral or B) you can identify the problems, do your own research, get involved, and actually be a part of a solution.

Well, if you've made it this far through this super long post...kudos.  I would love to hear your thoughts on the issue. You may be nodding in agreement or you may be fuming mad. I'm hoping we can all still be friends but if you must "destroy" me in a Youtube video I only ask that you do it in less than three minutes.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Book Review- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking

Okay, so I'm actually going to take time and review this book because I have so many thoughts that I want to remember for book group. I gave it 2 stars on goodreads, not because I hated it or anything, but because I just thought it was ok. However, I think it is going to really bring out some awesome debates at book group and being an extrovert (who likes a little conflict now and again) I'm excited!!

The book seemed in many parts to contradict itself and there were several historical chapters that seemed to only tell part of the story (I'm not sure if that was just to serve the purpose of the book or if they just weren't well researched). I know that so many of my friends who are introverted loved this book and I hope I don't offend with my low rating. I just thought I'd share my impression of the book, from an extroverts point of view. I really did go into this book hoping to understand my introverted friends and family better as well as learn what I could do to relate with others better. However, that was hard to do when I felt like the book was attacking me (an extrovert) at every turn. I seriously got the impression that the author is annoyed to the point of being fed-up with all things extrovert which left me that how my friends and family feel about me? So in an effort to minimize my "loud-mouthed-ness", I'm writing down my feelings here so as to prevent my introverted friends from voting me out of book group forever! I can change...I promise I can change!

So...where to start...How about...Why do we need to tear down extroverts in order to build up introverts? At first glance this book doesn't seem to tear down extroverts. It's careful to state a couple of times that the world needs both introverts and extroverts working together. However she never really gets to the point of how they can do that...or why they would want to...because she never really says anything that an extrovert does well. The book tells us that introverts are smarter, better managers, make better decisions, keep in better shape, and are more faithful. It doesn't really leave much for extroverts to excel in. And even when she does delve into a strength that an extrovert might have she usually downplays its importance. “Maybe extroverts are better at some things than introverts, but those things don't really matter anyway”.

When you pay closer attention to the actual words used to describe extroverts within this book you find that the author sees no use for them whatsoever, carefully dropping hints that extroverts might just be terrible human beings. At different points in the book they are referred to as loud mouths, "speaking nonsense", and self centered. There are at least 3 times in the book where she makes sure to point out that the introvert she's interviewing is trim and in good shape while the extroverts are described as large or overweight. She even goes so far as to describe a bossy 5th grade girl as chubby...just in case the word "bossy" wasn't enough to put this young extrovert in her place. Even in parts where she falsely offers an olive branch she still manages to get in a backhanded compliment. At one point, while trying to describe that all of us fall somewhere in the middle on the spectrum from introvert to extrovert, she says something to the effect of "not ALL introverts are geniuses and not all extroverts get drunk and wear lampshades on their heads at parties" See how she carefully ties introverts to a positive behavior and extroverts to something bad. Another way to say this would be “Only MOST introverts are super gifted and only MOST extroverts are lazy drunks”. I understand that this book is meant to empower introverts but tearing down their extroverted loved ones doesn't help accomplish this. How does feeling superior help anyone become a better mentor, manager, or lover. Never once does she mention any of the pitfalls that might be associated with thinking you are better than someone else. Just pokes fun at the extroverted dummies and moves on. I would just think that if you wanted to empower introverts you would help them understand extroverts and how they can successfully work together, not how they might be superior. And for the record, even though introverts might be more sensitive than extroverts it doesn't mean that extroverts are fine with being trampled.

As I mentioned before I was hoping to learn more about my introverted family and friends. I thought it would be good to read about how better to work together. How we compliment one another. What I might do differently in my interactions with my husband and others. But the book made me feel like probably, my introverted friends were barely tolerating me as it is. The book seemed to make the point that the divide between intro and extro was too large to cross so maybe it would be better if I didn't try.

Second, the use of famous introverts and extroverts in this book left me scratching my head. If we are going to use history to learn lessons about ourselves then it would be most beneficial to study their entire life. Not just pick and choose the stories that will support the point they are trying to make. For instance the author points out many times that extroverted Franklin Roosevelt cheated on introverted Eleanor. Helping to make her case that extroverts are less faithful and worse at relationships. However, she never brings up the fact that Eleanor for sure had one ongoing affair of her own and is rumored to have had multiple affairs, with both men and women. I'm not trying to say that Eleanor wasn't still a very influential and inspiring introvert. Just that the author should tell the whole story. She also uses Kafka and Einstein as examples of successful introverts. And indeed both show us that introverts have given us many huge advancements. However, again, when we look at their lives as a whole we find that Einstein is a bit of philanderer who cheats on his wife and has an affair with his first cousin. While Kafka has multiple fiances that he never marries and is very into pornography. It's true their sex lives don't diminish their other successes but its hard to take her seriously when she is offering up a poem from Kafka as advice on how introverts can have success in relationships.

In another chapter of the book she talks about how introverts tend to do better in hard childhoods then extroverts do. A point that was well made until she brought in famous examples to make her point. First, she list introverts that had hard upbringings and still managed to shine. Very good. But then she mentions that it takes a good childhood to make a successful extrovert like Oprah. I would think by now that there isn't a person left in America who doesn't know Oprah's childhood story. She was moved back and forth between her mom, grandma, and aunts for most of her childhood. She was raped by two family members and had very little money growing up. Not exactly a privileged childhood yet she perseveres and finds success. Now it could be that Oprah is the exception to the rule, but even if she is, why use her as an example without discussing her whole past.

Third, I had a difficult time understanding the chapters about introverts being better managers. I truly believe that introverts can be wonderful managers. I'm not arguing her point at all, but what I didn't understand was how first she talks about how introverts are more willing to listen to others ideas but then follows it up with how much introverts want to work alone. So I wished she would have bridged the gap there for the reader better. How does someone who prefers working alone listen to others ideas better than someone who actually wants to work in a group? I'm not going to lie, personal experience might have tainted this concept for me too. My husband and my father are both introverts and both of them like to get their way. I even discussed this with my husband and he agreed that he preferred to make decisions himself over listening to others*. And if I'm being completely honest I'm an extrovert that likes to work alone. I like getting my way too, but usually when going head to head with my husband or dad, they are victorious in getting their way. Maybe then it's a gender difference thing coming into play too? Which quick side note: I felt like most of her relationship examples in the book where of an extroverted husband and introverted wife. Is the dynamic possibly different if the wife is the extrovert? I was hoping to read about more situations like that.

*My husband would like me to add that what he really said was that he didn't mind me making the decisions as long as my decisions were the same as his. How very introverted indeed. ;)

Fourth, and this might be the extrovert in me, if we really want to empower someone we can't just point out all their strengths. We have to help them overcome their weaknesses too. I never quite felt like she did that for her readers. However, she does address in the book, that extroverts are more motivated by critical words than introverts are. So maybe she is trying to spare her readers feelings? Or maybe introverts are more self-critical than are extroverts so they don't need someone to tell them about their weaknesses? When I read a self help book I'm usually looking for three things. 1) Things I'm doing right 2) Things I'm doing wrong and 3) What can I do differently to turn my wrongs to rights. I think this book really gave me a lot to think about and helped me take some time for introspection but didn't really give me any new tools to empower myself or those around me. But then again I'm an extrovert so I'm not the intended audience. If you are an introvert and it did give you those tools then I think it accomplished its goal anyway. And maybe it's not really all about me ;)

There were a lot of things I just didn't quite understand about this book. Maybe I really should have spent more time studying in college than I did dancing around with lampshades on my head. I look forward to hearing what all of my introverted friends at book club thought of it. Like I said, it's not really about me, so in the end if it is helpful to introverts than I think it accomplished its goal. As an added bonus, if they finished it without hating me for being a loudmouth extrovert, I'd really appreciate it. I just barely finished apologizing to everyone about being a red personality (after we read the color code) now it looks like I need to apologize for being an extrovert too. Maybe I just need to read a book about being an extrovert so I understand myself more before I can understand others. I think a good title would be “Loudmouth: How to be an Extrovert In a World that Wants Me to Shut Up!”.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Running Songs for Beginners

So last year I did a few 5k's so now I'm working toward a 10K. I'm running my first one in June and can't believe how hard it is to make the switch from running 3 miles to running 6! Taking basically all of December off probably didn't help things much either :/

Anyway, as I've been getting going again I've been collecting fun songs to listen to/work out to and I thought I'd share some.  Some of these songs have quick tempos but for the most part they are songs with a really strong beat that helps me keep on pace.  I try to average about a 12 minute pace which means that sometimes I'm running at a 10 min. pace and sometimes I'm walking at a 14 min. pace.  In an ideal world I would just jog the whole thing straight through but I'm not there yet.

My friend Angela and I have been running together for about the last 4 months. I worked my way through a couch to 5K program which was great but never really helped with my speed. (My average is 39 min.)  That worked fine for the 5K but now that we are working toward the 10K I really want to focus on speed as well as endurance.  So we've recently started running 2 minutes, walking 1 minute, running 2, walking1, etc. It feels a lot harder and I was pleasantly surprised that it shaved 3 minutes off my time!

Anyway, this playlist has been great to get me through the walking/running process. Some are fast and some are slow but they all motivate me and help pass the time! This list straight through gives you just over an hour of music. I'm no expert on running but I'm giving it a shot. You can too! Give some of these songs a try and see what you think.

1) The Distance by Cake
2) My Songs Know What you Did in the Dark (Light Em UP) by Fallout Boy
3) Holding Out for a Hero by Bonnie Tyler
4) Radioactive by Imagine Dragons
5) Dance, Dance by Fall Out Boy
6) Can't Stop Partying by Weezer (edited version)
7) Stronger by Kelly Clarkson
8) Everybody Talks by Neon Trees
9) Smooth Criminal by Alien Ant Farm
10) The Middle by Jimmy Eat World
11) Any Way You Want It by Journey
12) (If you're Wondering if I Want You To) I Want You To by Weezer
13) Why Pt. 2 by Collective Soul
14) Come Original by 311
15) 50 Ways to Say Goodbye by Train
16) Elevation by U2
17) Roar by Katy Perry

Book Review: Saints Volume 1

Saints: The Standard of Truth by Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints My rating: 4 of 5 stars I enjoyed volume one of the church&#...