Time for a change

As a military spouse, I am constantly making changes and maintaining a certain degree of flexibility.  It’s impossible to stay at a job for longer than 3 years and my career intentions fluctuate with the ebb and flow of the tides.  However, as I reflect back on the past decade, there is a common theme in my pursuits: helping others achieve something great.  Whether it be helping a 6-year old learn to read or getting a client to the finish line of a marathon.  I know that my natural skill is teaching.  I am good at it and have become even better over the years.

I have dabbled in many different areas of education.  In college,  I started off as an intern for the Bureau of Land Management working at a science center teaching environmental science to elementary students in Alaska’s natural habitat.  I quickly moved into a paid position.  I somehow convinced my academic advisor, Rusty Myers (an avid runner who recently passed away), to grant me a senior project that involved designing and implementing a shark curriculum for 6th graders even though I had no knowledge of curriculum design or any classroom teaching experience.  However, the classroom teacher was extremely helpful in this whole process.  I have continued to use an updated version of the curriculum and it is one of my favorite subjects to teach.

Next I was off to actually learn more about sharks in the Bahamas and upon my return to Alaska I dipped into the social-emotional issues of teenagers.  The following year I packed up a car load of belongings and headed down to San Diego.  I immediately signed up to volunteer as a docent at the Birch Aquarium at Scripps and found joy in sharing my knowledge of the tidepool creatures found in the touch tank.  I did need to get paid so I searched the area for an opportunity that would fit me like a glove.  I drove out to Fiesta Island and walked right into a facility with a sign that read “SEACAMP.”  I remember walking back to the shark touch tank with the owner and telling him I had recently worked with sharks in the Bahamas in hopes of getting his attention.  Not sure if it was that or my natural ability to navigate through an interview, but he hired me and the next thing I know I was teaching marine biology to middle school students.  Not only was I teaching marine biology, but I was snorkeling, seine netting, boogie boarding, making visits to the aquarium and Sea World and setting up massive bonfires to roast marshmallows and tell spooky stories (okay, I really wasn’t good at telling spooky stories).

My love for the ocean somehow translated to seeking out the Coast Guard.  Not sure what happened there, but it was quite the adventure with many ups and downs (and rolling from side to side because that tends to happen a lot on a ship in the Bering Sea).  I learned a lot about what not to do as a leader and had to put together pieces I collected along the way in order to determine the qualities of a great leader.  I’m still collecting those pieces to fill in the puzzle, but I have a much better idea of what it is supposed to look like.

There was a time during my Coast Guard training when someone said to me that I acted more like an elementary school teacher than a platoon leader (I took it as an insult back then, but a few years later I finally agreed).  As soon as my military obligation ended I stepped foot into a Kindergarten classroom for the first time.  It was immediately scary and overwhelming (and there was lots of snot and drooling), but I managed to get hooked up with the most remarkable mentor teacher ever… and her name was also Heidi.  And wouldn’t it be my lucky year that as soon as I finished student teaching in her classroom she decided to retire and hand over the keys.  The first year in the classroom was rough, but the support from my colleagues was unprecedented and I made it through unscathed and ready for more.

Eventually, I gave birth to child number 2 and decided to wing it at home for a bit while supporting my former colleagues as their go-to substitute.  I couldn’t just stay home and take care of 2 children, though.  I had to stay busy so I worked on my Master’s Degree in Science Education.  Since my husband was still in the military, it was only a matter of time before we moved to Florida.  That is where my confidence in my teaching abilities was put to the test.  I miserably taught a rough 4th grade class for a few months. The discipline issues were too much and the scripted curriculum only added to the struggle.  There was no freedom outside of teaching to the test.  I backed down and returned my focus to finishing my Master’s degree even though I felt less confident about whether or not I would ever use it.  I still spent time in the classroom at my daughter’s elementary school and continued to search for the right path.

Well, the path took me down a road less traveled.  It sure was bumpy and I often felt unsure about which turns to take.  All it took was my Master’s degree in Science Education written on my resume.  They really didn’t ask many questions.  I should’ve been asking the questions.  I also should have had a degree in Special Education.  Let’s just say that teaching science (with limited resources) to middle and high school students who can not function in the public school system due to behavioral, social and emotional reasons was the most challenging job I ever took on.    On top of that, I never had any breaks during the day (we had to eat in the lunch room with all of the students) and I had to design my own curriculum for six different classes.  I often reflect back on that time because I don’t know where I had the energy to work full-time in the classroom, spend extra time working at home, train for the Goofy Challenge and raise 3 kids (with my husband deployed).  This time I was actually saved by a military move.

We arrived in Colorado and I said “that’s it, I’m done with this teaching stuff.”  I gave away most of my teaching supplies and resources and turned my attention to health and fitness.  In one weekend, my soon-to-be new boss interviewed a few dozen candidates.  I got the job.  Not only did I get the job, but I got paid what I was worth.  Not only did I get paid what I was worth, but it was part-time and I basically had the flexibility to choose my hours so we never paid for daycare.  At the fitness center, I did everything except teach the classes, but I watched, listened and participated.  With less time to spend working, I spent more time on my family and myself.  I trained hard and achieved many athletic feats during our time in Colorado.   It was the perfect balance of work, family and self.  I even received my run coach certification and started my own coaching business.  Then it was time to move and I left the state kicking and screaming.

Then we entered Virginia and for some reason I took a look at teaching employment opportunities.  One job description spoke to me right away and I said “the heck with it, I will just apply to this one and see what happens.”  The job was mine.  The past two years have been a mix of joy and terror.  Yet, I saw something I hadn’t seen before: my potential.  I became confident in my teaching and was able to navigate successfully through the terror and absorb the joyful moments.  However, maintaining the balance was a struggle.  It worked well for the first year and then I began to lose sight of my own needs.  My running motivation hit a wall and I found myself trapped on the treadmill.   I became tired and my health started to deteriorate.  At one point, I had a cold that lasted for two months.  The worst was when I lost partial hearing in my right ear and that compensated with a constant static noise.  I doubt I will ever see (or hear) any improvement.  My confidence in leadership waned once again and I began to feel like I was on a staircase with no railing.  On days I went home to complain, my husband repeated his mantra: “you just need to work for yourself.”

As the end of the school year approached I made my decision to move on.  I turned my attention back to fitness and decided I would put my personal trainer certification to good use.  I also decided to bring back my coaching business and I am currently working on putting all of the pieces back together.  As people ask me if I am going to teach somewhere else, I reply “Yes, I am going to teach, but it will be a different kind of teaching.”  I suppose I was always meant to guide others.  Even though the military moves have caused me to go back and forth in my endeavors, I am fortunate to have so many unique experiences.

Run Club

At my recent school I organized and coached a run club. These students finished a 5K! I found great joy in doing this.

Now it’s time for the next challenge!  It’s new and scary, but that’s pretty much all I’ve ever known.  On Sunday, for the first time in a very long time, I finally let my alarm go off at 6:00 AM so I could hop in the car and drive to the beach.  I ran outside.  It was tough and hot, sticky and buggy, but it was also exhilarating.  I ran past the swamp, up the tiny hills, over the roots, through the mud and greeted all of my fellow runners who were doing the same thing I was.

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Moving On

I have some new scenery to enjoy.  I think the swamp thing is lurking in there somewhere...

I have some new scenery to enjoy. I think the swamp thing is lurking in there somewhere…

I probably should write a positive post in light of the negativity expressed in my recent post.  So, here it is.

Thus far, I found a few things that make running in Virginia much better than running in Colorado:

1.  Heat & Humidity.  What??  Yep, my body is responding to this added environmental stressor by increasing my blood volume, maintaining better control of my body temperature and lowering my rate of glycogen depletion.  In other words, I am adapting and become an even more efficient runner.  Take me somewhere cool and I will blow away the competition!

2.  No hills.  Sure, I am a lover of running up hills, but I do not like running down hills.  Now, I rarely have to run down a hill.  Also, when I say I am going to be back in an hour, I will be back in an hour.  The lack of hills takes out the guesswork of how long a run will be.  I can just be fast all of the time…

3.  Fewer rattlesnakes.  Out in the Colorado foothills you kind of have to worry about stepping on a rattlesnake.  No place is safe.  In Virginia, there are a few poisonous snakes, but for some reason, rattlesnakes scare the pants off of me more than any other type of snake.  And I don’t plan on doing any jungle bushwhacking just yet.  Oh, and no mountain lions will be stalking me during my runs.

4.  Warm weather.  I know, I mentioned heat & humidity, but to add more to that I would like to mention the fact that I don’t have to log in to the weather report every hour and figure out what I should wear.  I know for a fact that I will be wearing shorts and a tank top.  Every time.  Probably even for most of the winter.  I don’t have to worry about:  Thin or thick glove, both pairs, add a hand warmer or no gloves?  Visor, thin or thick hat?  Long sleeves or short sleeves or triple layers?  Rain coat (because who cares if it rains here, I am soaked anyway)?  Long pants, capris or shorts?  Which long pants, thick or thin?  Face mask??  Yak tracks??  Yeah, no more freakin’ questions about what to wear!

5.  No need to study a map.  Okay, so I did get lost in my new neighborhood last week.  However, getting lost in civilization is a lot better than getting lost out in the middle of rattlesnake and mountain lion territory.  I kind of had to look at a map for my run in the swampy state park this past weekend, but that state park is only about 4 miles wide and surrounded by a city.

6.  More family exercise togetherness time!  So, back in Colorado I had to squeeze the jogging stroller and the kid bikes into the back of the Acadia.  Why did I bother driving somewhere to run and ride bikes?  Well, I guess you didn’t see the giant hill that we lived on.  Our entire neighborhood was a series of hills.  Steep hills, long hills, short hills… just plain scary hills when your kids are learning how to ride a bike or when you are pushing 70 pounds of kids in a stroller.  Now we can just grab the jogging stroller and bikes and head out the door.  Our entire neighborhood is as flat as flat can be.  I won’t be losing a kid down a hill.

7.  Ah, the ocean.  I have always been an ocean kind of gal.  I was raised in California and spent some of my early years playing at the beaches and rocky shores of the north coast.  Maybe it had something to do with why I joined the Coast Guard.  And I do kind of have a thing for sharks and other sea creatures. Yep, I missed the ocean when I was living in Colorado.  Now I am only about 20 minutes from the beach.  Granted, it’s the east coast, but I will take it for now.  I just get to run on the beach during sunrise instead of sunset…

So, there you have it.  Running isn’t so bad in Virginia.  I lather on the sunscreen and bug spray and I am on my way!

 

Welcome to Chesapeake, VA.

The Beach isn't so bad, if you don't mind waking up at 5:00 AM and driving about 40 minutes so you can avoid crowds and traffic.

The Beach isn’t so bad, if you don’t mind waking up at 5:00 AM and driving about 40 minutes so you can avoid crowds and traffic.

I figured that I should write a post regarding my first impressions of my new home: Chesapeake, VA.  Maybe I will think differently 3 (please) or 4 (no thanks) years down the road when I reread this post during my departure.

As we drove through town on the day of our arrival, I noted the lack of hills, sidewalks and trails.  Maybe I was ignorant, but I kind of thought that Chesapeake would look different from Elizabeth City, hence the reason why we opted not to live closer to my husband’s work.  I thought about how it resembled Florida, but our home in Florida was surrounded by numerous walking paths and bike lanes (or at least a shoulder along the side of the road).  Here, you can’t even squeeze by on the road unless you want to get hit by a car or do some bushwhacking through someone’s property (and I mean that you are literally on their property because you have to be extra careful while driving not to plow into mailboxes or trash cans that are sticking out into the road).

So, I figured out that I can run through my neighborhood okay while staying to the side of the road (it is pretty wide), but then if I want to leave my mini 1-mile loop, I have to do some fast running alongside a narrow, busy road.  Then I enter another decent neighborhood (I have to be careful not to go the other direction or else I will end up on the ghetto street… I only call it “ghetto” because I ran past a giant penis that had been drawn in chalk right in the middle of road) and find a few sidewalks and wide roads.  From there, I am pretty much screwed on getting anywhere else without having to run down a narrow busy road or into more sketchy neighborhoods.  I have done this a couple of times and found it very unpleasant because people around here don’t seem to like runners using the side of the road (hmm, well then maybe this city should invest in sidewalks!).  Well, I suppose the lack of sidewalks and trails don’t surprise me because of the plethora of fast food restaurants and lack of places or grocery stores where I can buy natural/vegan foods (and not have to spend $10-15 on an individual Amy’s pizza… yes, I am serious about the price).  It is obviously not a city with health as a priority.

I have found that the beach isn’t so bad, but it takes about 30-40 minutes to get there.  I suppose I used to drive that far to get to a few trails in Colorado, but there were also trails only 5 minutes from my house.  It isn’t ideal to run in the sand for 10 miles and the streets are still busy and narrow.  I might have been annoyed by the vast amount of hills in Colorado, but now I am annoyed by the lack of any hills here.  Ooh, there is always the Dismal Swamp.  I read up on that trail.  There are three poisonous snakes that can be seen and black bears are spotted on a daily basis.  I am sure that neither of those animals hibernate here in the winter.  I could only wish for snow.

I should also mention that I was ignorant about the weather.  I assumed it wouldn’t be as hot and humid as Florida since we are farther north.  Nope.  Actually, it feels MORE hot and humid here than in Florida.  How is that even possible?  Also, how is it even possible that there are more mosquitos here than in Costa Rica?  Before going outside make sure you lather up with sunscreen (waterproof) and the harshest bug spray you can find.  Forget going natural with the spray… it just won’t work.  The tradeoff of avoiding malaria is being exposed to harsh chemicals.  I was all excited to come here and enjoy eating and relaxing outside.  Once again, ignorance is bliss… until realization hits.

I know.  Don’t be a whiner.  I am just hoping that I will get an attitude adjustment soon.  Otherwise I will need to take up a new hobby.  Hmm, not sure what that could be around here.  I will have even more difficulty trying to ride my bike around here.

Okay, if you are a runner in Chesapeake (note that I said Chesapeake and not Virginia Beach… because in Chesapeake there are no running groups and no running stores… I can’t imagine why) and don’t agree with my first impression then please set me straight and take me for a run on some amazing trail that I am obviously not seeing.   Remember, I said Chesapeake!  I shouldn’t have to drive an hour to go for a run!