Contests and Cruises

When it comes to contests, I never come close.

I was always given a “head start” at Easter egg hunts because my sisters would find several eggs before I found a single one. Even with a handicap, I still had a hard time. It wasn’t until my sisters were finished, had already eaten several pieces of candy, and my entire family had to coax me with “hotter” and “colder” clues that I encountered any eggs.

Let’s not talk about the numerous times I’ve searched for my cell phone or keys. The most embarrassing time was when I spent several minutes searching for my keys…only to find them in my hand. I wish I were kidding.

I’m even worse at contests that you enter. I never would do the “Guess how many jelly beans are in the jar?” because I would guess something like “50” when in reality, there were 5,000.

I have never won a contest that I’ve entered. Ever. Until yesterday…sort of.

I received a phone call from what sounded like a male, who did not specify the name of his company when he called. Our conversation simply went like this:

Person on the Phone (POTP): “Hello, Kristin! Did you go to Country Thunder a few months ago?”

Me: “Ah, yes?”

POTP: “Well, from going there, you have won a free cruise! As long as you come to claim your prize, that is.” [He also discussed many details of this prize, which I couldn’t really understand because I was simply too excited to hear the mix of “won” “cruise” and “Kristin” together].

Me: “Wait, I WON?!”

POTP: “Yes, as long as you come to Downer’s Grove to claim your prize!”

Me: “Well, er, I actually live in Iowa.” [For those who don’t know, Downer’s Grove is a Chicago suburb].

POTP: “You do? Well, what do you do there?”

Me: “I’m a high school teacher.”

[This is where the conversation started to get strange].

POTP: “You are? But you sound so young!”

Me: “Well, er, I’m 24…”

POTP: “My husband and I have two kids…aged 11 and 9. I bet you get all kinds of attention being a young teacher. My kids have had some of their older teachers replaced by younger ones and, well, you know! Those high school boys!”

[Keep in mind that this person did not have a feminine voice. Although I was initially intrigued by the cruise, I was now just as eager to uncover this person’s identity].

Me: “Well, er, things are going well so far!”

POTP: “What grades do you teach?”

Me: “Well, all of high school…”

At this point, I was wondering 1.) The name of this person to figure out his or her gender and 2.) When we were going to get back to my cruise information?

After talking about teaching for an uncomfortably awkward amount of time, the person on the phone eventually explained that a family member could pick up my prize if they wished, which included a 3 night/2 people cruise and airfare. The person also revealed his name to be “Deann,” which I’ve never actually heard as a male name.

I hung up just as perplexed about this potential trip as the identity of this person.

Have you ever “won” something? Has your prize been serious, or did it turn out to be a sham? 

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Why I’m a Runner

I remember one of the first times I ran. My dad, a lifelong runner, would often go on runs around the neighborhood. I didn’t understand why. Running around in circles without holding onto a ball or a bat, or shooting into a goal or hoop seemed strange to my 7-year-old self.

I did know that I had alot of energy, had trouble ever falling asleep, and asked alot of questions. For all of these reasons, when I asked my parents “Can I please run with dad?” they didn’t object.

I think they preferred me doing something productive to hopefully get me to stop doing gymnastics in our living room, start sleeping, and prevent them from pretending that they knew exactly why the sky was blue.

The first time I laced up my running shoes, it was hard. Really, really hard. So hard that I vowed that the only way that I would do it again would be if it was part of another sport that made sense to me, like soccer or basketball. A sport where running led to a goal or basket, rather than a simple high-five or “Way to go!”

But, just a few days later, I did it again. Then, a few days after that, again. A few months later, I signed up for a race: A one-miler. It was not easy, and I was not fast.

What I was? A determined girl who loved a challenge. Each year, I ran that same race, trying to run it just a little faster.

I replaced running for quite a few years. Other than running that race—specifically, the Ridge Run—I played other sports instead. It wasn’t until my freshmen year in high school that I became a “runner” again.

I became a runner again because of the same reason: I was a determined girl who loved a challenge. My high school was small, and no one wanted to run distance. I didn’t, either. I believed a mile was “too far,” and wanted to long jump. [A side note: If you’ve ever seen me attempt to jump over a puddle, you know that me as a long jumper is laughable].

However, I couldn’t say no to my coach and agreed to do distance. It was still hard. But, again, I was still a determined girl who loved a challenge. Every race, I worked at decreasing my time. And, every race, I fell more in love. I loved that you could put in the work and get results. I loved that you were doing something that others found slightly crazy. Even more, I loved that incredible feeling when you crossed the finish line…especially when you received a personal record (PR).

I also loved that you burned enough calories to eat many cookies.

My love of running eventually lead me to run at Drake University and, later, complete the Chicago Marathon and run many other races. My 7-year-old self would have thought running 26.2 miles for fun was absolutely insane. The day after the race, I agreed.

In many ways, I am similar to my seven-year-old self. I still sometimes have an energy overload. Sleeping is still sometimes a struggle. I still love (asking) questions. Yet, in others, I’m different. I hardly ever question the reason why I run. As in the popular Nike saying, I “Just do it.”

But, today, I thought about the reason. I’m currently coaching High School Girl’s Cross-Country, and the girls had an incredibly tough workout (12 400s) in incredibly tough conditions (so windy and rainy you could hardly see). Many of them were struggling.

But, as soon as it was over, they were smiling.

I run exactly for that reason.

Are you a runner? Do you feel similar about another sport? 

Strange Song Lyrics

I love music, and will listen to (almost) anything. Yet although I love music, I am sometimes naive when it comes to lyrics. I find myself humming or singing a particular song, when it is eventually pointed out to me how strange the lyrics are.

Or, worse, how strange of a spot it is to be singing that song. For example, I was once caught by my 8th grade students when I was student teaching humming Afroman’s Colt 45. Talk about an awkward teaching moment.

There are quite a few songs that I didn’t realize were a bit disturbing until a later date. Here are a few songs that I was eventually shown have some seriously strange spots:

“Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix A lot. I have always loved this song (I am well aware that this fact is strange). I also sang the lyrics about what my anaconda wants (listen to it here) before realizing that the lyrics were wrong on so many levels.

“It Wasn’t Me” by Shaggy. As in the case of “Baby Got Back,” I hardly realized that saying that what you, er, saw someone doing on the sofa was strange…and, also, a bit stalkerish.

“Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People. I definitely had to give this song several screenings before realizing that it was referring to “a cowboy kid who found a six-shooter gun in his dad’s closet fun of fun things…[who’s] coming for you.” Is it strange that I now get a little creeped out hearing about this cowboy kid?

Too Close” by Next. In junior high, I played this song about “poking” plenty of times until it was pointed out to me that this poking had nothing to do with the pestering kind of poke.

What are some song lyrics that you had to give a second listen to understand the lyrics?

Just Keep Going…and Going…and Going

There are only a handful of days each year where I don’t go for a run. [Case in point: I ran on the grounds of an airport after being stranded for two days with a bag of soaking wet clothes].

I run for many regular reasons: I love it, it’s good for your health, and I can pretend that running means that I can eat absolutely anything. If I run for a few miles, I can eat multiple donuts guilt-free. Just pretend that this is plausible for me, please.

I also run for one very important reason that I often forget: I’m like an Energizer bunny if I don’t.

Yesterday, I ran in the morning before work. I do this often, as rough as it is to see the bright red digits flashing 4:45AM, a time that even this man would loate:

I really hope he's already caffeinated.

Usually, if I run before school, I run after school with the girls that I coach as well. Before you think I’m completely crazy, keep in mind that I break up my “regular” length run during these days. Although I don’t find waking up before 5 awful, I’d prefer not to push it up to an hour where it is more likely to be finishing your night than starting it.

It is incredibly odd to experience people cranking up car music to Ke$ha at full blast to cap off a night when you’re rising to run.

Yesterday, I didn’t run after school (the girls had a pool workout). Rather than running, I came home, fully intending to relax before going out for the night.

Instead, I did gymnastics in the living room. Yes, seriously.

I played nearly every sport growing up (including a short stint in ballet, where I was a permanent fixture in the back row behind girls half my age). I’m pretty sure part of the reason my parents did this was because my energy would be endless otherwise. I already couldn’t sleep, and having stored up energy from sports would have probably meant I would have run around my house looking like this:

I actually did look like that in my living room yesterday. Luckily, I didn’t sprain my ankle while doing so like I did the summer of 2010. I attempted a one-handed cartwheel while coaching Cheerleading camp. Considering I can’t even accomplish the Electric Slide without bumping into at least 10 people, I was obviously the ideal cheerleading coach candidate.

Were you an energetic kid? Do you need to get up and move to release your energy? 

From Chocolate Cake to Carrots

The summer before 7th grade, I ate a slice of chocolate cake almost every day for breakfast. My mom would actually buy a sheet cake from Sara Lee and freeze the pieces individually so that I could do this.

If you’ve ever met my mom, this is probably only slightly surprising.We have enough food in my house to feed a professional football team for an entire year.

The days I didn’t eat chocolate cake were “nutritious”…that is, by comparison. I would melt peanut butter and chocolate chips in the microwave and then either eat it plain or put it on a bagel.

I was under the impression that peanut butter = protein = healthy. Always. Regardless of whether it is blended with a cup’s worth of chocolate chips. This also was the reason why I would pop Reese’s like they were vitamins.

The main reason why I ate these delicious (and far from nutritious) breakfasts? These were only 2 of the around 10 foods I would actually eat. My other main “food groups” were chicken fingers, pizza, ice cream, and pasta.

Luckily, I was a fan of fruit. Even luckier, I was a fan of fitness.

I did eat vegetables sometimes. I “liked” carrots. The only reason why I ate carrots were because I was told that doing so would turn my hair curly. Am I the only one who was gullible enough to actually believe this?

Suddenly, my pickiness went away. At some point during college, I started to make regular stops at the salad bar and liked it. I actually found eggs edible (I used to shiver just thinking about scrambled eggs). I was willing to eat any Chinese food (not just my former loves—anything that was deep fried and had a crispy coating that completely concealed whatever was underneath).

I still did make a daily (er, 2-3) trip(s) to the all-you-can-eat ice cream bar. I added a scoop of peanut butter every time as well, because, yes, I was still convinced peanut butter is healthy when mixed with anything. I may still tell myself this.

Were you a picky eater? Are you still a picky eater, or will you eat anything?

How I remember 9/11/2001

I woke up nervous on the morning of September 11, 2001. My nerves had nothing to do with the tragedy nor tears that would come upon so many later that day. They had nothing to do with strong skyscrapers falling down like legos. They had nothing to do with a panicked phone call from a plane, or frantic calls about your firefighter family member.

My nerves were strictly related to Volleyball. 10 years ago on September 11th, I was a Freshman in high school who woke up worried about my serves and sets.

I had just started playing for the Freshmen team a few weeks ago, and was always anxious on game day. Throughout the day, my heart felt like it had a Slinky trapped inside of me. One minute, I would feel great—the next, it would leap over to one side, as if its calm could simply not be contained for long.

When I heard news about the first plane hitting the World Trade Center, my heart remained like a Slinky. However, my unsteady heart had nothing to do with whether I would serve well enough to score an Ace.

I heard about the first plane hitting on the way to school. To be completely honest, I didn’t entirely understand what that meant. But, during that day, I wasn’t the only one that was unaware of how airplanes would impact our lives forever. Every high school passing period, which was typically filled with greetings and gossip, had turned into five minutes of tears and fears.

The school day felt like someone had stuck their extremely high prescription glasses on my 20/20 eyes. Everything that was usually in focus was instantly hazy the minute I heard the news. It was as if I needed to intensely squint to make sense of my surroundings, but, even then, I couldn’t see straight. The glasses were permanently attached to me for days. No matter what I did, the glasses remained a permanent part of me. Of everyone.

I still had my Volleyball game that day. Looking back, this is shocking. How could we possibly worry about serves and spikes when so many others were worried about whether they would wish a family member “Happy Birthday” or say “I love you” ever again? How could we possibly panic about our performance when others were panicked on an airplane destined for destruction?

I played Volleyball that day through those high prescription glasses. Even when I focus really intensely, I can’t remember a single second of the game.

What do I remember? I remember my teammate spreading her arms as wide as an eagle, running across the gym floor with the speed of a panther, to give her mom the hug of a bear.

I remember stopping at a KFC drive thru for dinner after my Volleyball game. I remember sitting in the drive thru and hearing “Can I help you?” and wondering how it was possible for something so normal to sound so strange. I remember thinking of firefighter, friends and families, and thinking how lucky I was to be eating fast food.

On September 12, 2001, the situation began to stick. Our world was not what it once was. The glasses started to lose their strength slightly, but my heart added an entire box of slinkies. I went outside for gym class on September 12, and experienced one of the eeriest sounds I can ever remember.

I heard the sound of silence.

Living by Midway Airport, I had become used to hearing planes take off and land. But on September 12, the whir of a plane was world’s away. Not a single plane took off that day. Even as the world regained focus, and I began to grasp what occurred on that horrific day, and how it would impact my live—and the lives of all others—in the years to come, I still cannot shed that deafening sound of silence.

10 years. It is incredible for me to think that 10 years ago, I was a 9th grader, and, today, I am teaching high schoolers who were too young to really remember 9/11. However, regardless of whether we were 4 or 14 when the horrible events occurred, it is a permanent part of our lives. Some of us may recall the day like it was yesterday, while others can only recall the events in the way you do an image of you at age 2. You’ve seen the image so many times that you feel like you remember the details, even though, in reality, you don’t.

Yet regardless of our age, today, we remember and never forget.

What do you remember about September 11, 2001? Where were you when the tragedies occurred?

Crazy Blog Search Terms

For the most part, I’m pretty certain that those who read this blog are people that know me. I mostly share stories about what happens in my life. If you’re a regular reader, you know that these are usually embarrassing. Although this blog is public and I love when people tell me that they read it, I realize that the amount of strangers that read it are sparse.

However, I’ve recently realized that there are other, random people that read this blog. How do I know this? From a little tool called “Search terms.” On WordPress, this basically tells you what people searched in order to get to your blog. Some of them are hilarious and BEYOND random. Here are a few of my favorite search terms that led people to this blog:

  • “ugly lap dance”
  • “Kristin can’t blow bubbles”
  • “how to prepare canned salmon”
  • “americanidol easy puzzel” (yes, spelled exactly like that)
  • “saved by the bell shampoo”
  • “i know who you are. your love is as sweet as candy. i’ll be forever yours. love always, mandy. “
  • “teen sleepover pic”
  • “dancing sweaty palms”
  • “vegilicous bars”

How are these random terms and my blog possibly connected, or, how did you start reading this? If you have a blog, do you also have random search terms show up?