Thursday, December 26, 2013

2013 in Books

**I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! I had a lovely low-key day at my parent's house with my bro and sis-in-law from Texas (and lots of food). They came in on Christmas Eve night, so we didn't do much on Christmas Eve, but I did get to spend part of the evening with my friend and her family before heading to the airport, which was great! My other brother and his wife are coming in tomorrow for the weekend. We will do Christmas #2 when they arrive! **

As for the topic of this post....I read a LOT of books this year. I have no idea how it happened...I attribute a lot of it to ticket sales at my school where I read for basically 4 straight hours twice a week, and my summer schedule where I could read at work, laying out at the pool, on vacation, while traveling, and when I was just hanging out at home (I had a lot of time). I would guess I read 30 books this summer. I also didn't read any particularly difficult books, which helps my reading speed! This is the first year that I kept tabs on how much I read, so I have no idea if this is more/less than usual. I am guessing more, but I will keep records now each year to see. It is nice to remind myself that I have read certain books!

I am starting a book club with some friends this year, so I am looking forward to their recommendations, but take a look and read some of these titles that I recommend (**) if you need ideas! This list is pretty much in reverse order of when I read them (most recent reads are first).
  1. The Wedding Girl by Madeleine Wickham
  2. **Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch
  3. **One Second After by William Forstchen
  4. **Room by Emma Donoghue
  5. **The Gatecrasher by Madeleine Wickham
  6. **Divergent by Veronica Roth
  7. Allegiant by Veronica Roth
  8. Insurgent  by Veronica Roth
  9. **Kate by Katie Nicholl
  10. About a Boy by Nicholas Hornby
  11. Oogy by Larry Levin
  12. **The Orchard by Theresa Weir
  13. Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos
  14. The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman
  15. Hopeless by Colleen Hoover
  16. **Slammed by Colleen Hoover
  17. **Where We Belong by Emily Giffin
  18. A Summer Affair by Elin Hilderbrand
  19. The Good Daughter by Jane Porter
  20. Mrs. Perfect by Jane Porter
  21. The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner
  22. Odd Mom Out by Jane Porter
  23. **Easy on the Eyes by Jane Porter
  24. **The Good Woman by Jane Porter
  25. Hell's Corner by David Baldacci
  26. **Stay Close by Harlan Coben
  27. Nights in Rodanthe by Nicholas Sparks
  28. The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory
  29. Dead Until Dark (next four books are by Charlaine Harris as the Sookie Stackhouse Series)
  30. Living Dead in Dallas
  31. Dead as a Doornail
  32. Definitely Dead 
  33. All Together Dead 
  34. The Search by Nora Roberts
  35. **Sleeping Beauty by Phillip Margolin
  36. The Racketeer by John Grisham
  37. Folly Beach by Dorthea Benton Frank
  38. The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani
  39. **Table for Five by Susan Wiggs
  40. **Good Grief by Lolly Winston
  41. **Bulls Island by Dorthea Benton Frank
  42. **The Island by Elin Hilderbrand
  43. Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns by Lauren Weisberger
  44. **Mirror Image by Danielle Steel
  45. The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb
  46. **Southern Lights by Danielle Steel
  47. **Suzanne's Diary to Nicholas by James Patterson
  48. **Naked in Death by J.D. Robb
  49. Desperate Networks by Bill Carter
  50. Recipe for Love by Katie Fforde
  51. **The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
  52. Whiplash by Catherine Coulter
  53. **Defending Jacob by William Landay
  54. South of Broad by Pat Conroy
  55. Tough Customer by Sandra Brown
  56. Notes From the Blender by Trish Cook
  57. **The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
  58. At First Sight by Nicholas Sparks
  59. **Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand- BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR! READ IT!
Whew! Think that was enough? But I am always looking for more recommendations if you have any! What great books did you read this year?


Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Newsletter That Wasn't

So I had plans to continue my holiday newsletter tradition this year...

but it didn't happen.

I honestly felt that I didn't have much new information to share due to me seeing so many friends and family this year and the fact that I communicate about my life on this blog.

So I wrote one, but decided against mailing it out. For those of you who care, feel free to read below to see what you would have gotten in the mail!

Christmas Prom!

Thanks to all the great feedback from my inaugural holiday newsletter, I decided to keep the tradition alive this year (oops)! I know you were worried.

  No big complaints from me about 2013. Nothing incredible and/or awful (thankfully) happened this year, but I stayed busy enjoying myself.  The main item from the beginning of the year was training for my 1st half marathon. After 12 longs weeks of training (too long, I might add), I ran the Virginia Beach Shamrock Half Marathon in March beating my goal time of 2:10 by 5 minutes! I celebrated by eating my weight in food (why else do I run so much if I can’t pig out?!)

  April was awesome because my mom and I traveled to Spain during my spring break. We went to Madrid, Seville, Granada and Barcelona and highly recommend anyone to visit Spain. We want to go back!

  The school year finished up quickly with me coaching varsity soccer. That kept me busy after school and involved a lot of me yelling at the girls to run, which meant I could run too. (I have come to the conclusion that yelling makes high school students like you more…don’t ask me why).

  I spent my summer working as an assistant pool manager at a local country club and attending 9(!) weddings and 1 bachelorette weekend (NYC, baby!) in addition to a week at the Outer Banks. Shout outs to all my friends who got married- all the weddings were unique and fun and get my food seal of approval (love those bacon wrapped dates)!

  I started back at my high school in late August for year four! It is crazy to think I have been a “real” person for so long. There were many administrative changes at my school, so the year has felt different (and my office moved). My role as counselor is pretty cyclical in terms of college and career readiness programs with the day-to-day differing depending on student crisis and needs. I added babysitting to my after-school schedule 1-2 days a week in addition to playing social wiffleball, which was very fun! Fall also involved trips to many local college football games, though I mostly routed for Ohio State since my alma mater did not have a stellar season. Good thing I don’t really care who wins and just like the social atmosphere of games and tailgates!

  I last minute decided to run half marathon #2 in Richmond in November and established a new personal record with the time of 1:58:03! Perhaps minimal training is the best race prep? I now have the marathon bug! We’ll see:). I finished up the year with a trip to Austin in mid-December to visit my friend Jane and her hubby.

  Twenty-Fourteen looks exciting as well. I start my new job at the end of January as School Counseling Coordinator for the Chesterfield Technical Center Hull Street Campus and have some BIG trips coming up, including San Francisco (winter), somewhere tropical TBD (spring break) and Greece (summer). If you ever would like to join me on a trip or want to go somewhere and no one will go with you- please give me a call! I am up for ANYWHERE!

  Wishing you all a safe, happy and healthy holiday season and new year!!!

Much love,
Robyn


Monday, December 16, 2013

Everything Happens for a Reason

I rarely post on work, but I must fill you all in on something...

I got a new job:)

This has been a very unexpected, humbling, and exciting development. One of those rare moments in life where I was truly caught by surprise. 

Going back 8 months, I started applying and interviewing for numerous jobs as the school year was ending. I was looking for promotions or a new atmosphere. I got interviews, did well on some and not so well on some, and ultimately was surprised when two jobs I thought I had ended up going to other people.

I was sad, confused and frustrated, because I felt that I wasn't getting jobs I deserved. I hated feeling stuck and stifled, because I wanted opportunities to grow and develop as a counselor and educator, but I wasn't able to in the way I imagined. I even applied to different counties in hopes that I would get the opportunity to begin at a new place.

Fast forward to August, I started back at my school under new leadership. It was hard for me to go back because I had felt cheated, but I also enjoyed the changes that the new leadership brought to the school. I was content to stay another year and hopefully develop more qualities to be a better applicant.

Then something unexpected happened- a new job opened up in late November for a new Technical Center Campus opening in September.

I read the job description, and from what I knew about the responsibilities of the current Tech Center, I applied thinking I had a shot. I talked with coworkers at my school who had previously worked at that school or in related fields and got information. I called a few people for more scoop on the position. I got an interview.

I knew this was a highly sought after job, so I was very pleased with getting an interview. My goal was to go in and have a good interview. I just didn't want to embarass myself!

The interview happened last Monday. Before the interview I saw another interviewee leave, and I felt defeated. Of course, she would get it. She had more experience than I and would do a great job. Why was I even here? I made up my mind while waiting in the lobby before going into the interview that this would be the last "promotion" I applied to until I could get experience at different schools or levels.

I went in and did ok. I felt my personality shown through very well but that someone else probably answered the questions better. However, I had good rapport with the principal, so at least I didn't feel embarrased! I left and told those who knew I had applied that I surely didn't get it. Three days went on and no news was heard, so I was 100% convinced it wasn't me.

Then came Friday morning.

I was getting off a plane in Austin at 10 AM Texas time when I turned on my phone. I had a voice message from HR. It was like my heart stopped.

I called back once I got in the terminal.

I had gotten the job.

I was literally shaking and at a loss for words. So rarely in life does something so unexpected happen. 

It was a great start to the weekend, but it was also hard to be away from work when this developed as news was spreading and I was not one to deliver it. I also had questions that I could not get answers to until Monday. A few sleepless nights (and a fabulous trip) later, Monday arrived.

I was nervous and excited to go back to work and see everyone. From the minute I walked in, though, I was overcome with support. The encouragement from the administration, my counseling team, the staff at my school and even from around the county once the announcement went out was incredible.

I hope everyone has one day in their life like I did today- where you see yourself in other people's eyes and see the reach that you can have within a small place.

I will miss my school, the students and the staff. Leaving is always hard, but this whole experience has taught me that everything happens for a reason. If I had moved to another school or gotten another job last spring or summer, I would not have the opportunity for this new job. A job that I truly believe is the best fit for me.

So thank you to everyone reading this for your support! I am humbled, honored and grateful to be where I am today, and I will work to never lose this feeling.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Silent Sunday- Austin Style





























(Thanks for a great trip Jane and Doug!!!)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Austin-bound

Hey there!

The sun finally shown through yesterday, and though it was chilly, I got in a nice, long 7 mile run after work. Finishing up my run as the sun is setting is one of my favorite things. Unfortunately, I stepped in water when I was in my socks at home before my run so I ended up getting some blisters. I am hoping that a few days off and proper protection will let them heal. I forget that my feet are very sensitive to blisters and damp feet + a long run = bad news for me. Last winter when I was training for my half it took me weeks to stop wearing protective bandages on my blisters. They fully healed by spring but now I am afraid I have opened the wounds again...ugh!

Luckily a few days off to let them heal will be easy because I am going to Austin today!!!


People keep asking why I am going doing a trip so close to the holidays when I already have built-in time off, but this trip was planned back in October to visit my friend Jane and her hubby with another friend of mine. This was the best weekend that worked (and we got great ticket deals)! The thing that has been the most stressful, though, is getting my Christmas shopping done early since I am losing a weekend. It is also sad to miss some holiday parties, but I am also glad that my main parties are NEXT weekend so I am not missing many gatherings.

I am excited to get out of town for a few days and that all the bad weather was LAST weekend, so hopefully everything will go smooth traveling. We should have a solid two and a half days to play in Austin! It will also be warmer than Virginia, so I am excited for a few less layers:)

Recap to come when I return! Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Rain, rain go away...

All this rain makes my running heart sad:(


I am attempting my first treadmill run this morning...
I will let you know if I survive (I may die from boredom).

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Holiday Hustle

Whew. December is a busy month!

Getting back into the swing of work after the long holiday weekend was really tough. I was not feeling it AT ALL. Work was super busy, and I also had an event every single night after work (except Monday...but I had workout plans with a friend that evening), so I was never really given the chance to regroup. As I have said, I like to have plans about 50% of my days after school (maybe slightly more depending on my mood), but having something for 5 straight nights is too much for me. Of course, once I am at my activity I always have fun, but leading up to it I get stressed and don't want to go! This week those activities included babysitting (Tuesday and Thursday), dinner/drink plans (Tuesday and Wednesday), ticket sales at my school (Thursday), and hosting a party (Friday). Whew!

Speaking of hosting a party- I hosted my first Premier Jewelry show on Friday at my condo! I went to a show back in October and had a great time and thought it would be a great way to have friends come together for a ladies evening of wine and dessert and holiday shopping! This is such a busy time of year that many of my friend could not attend, but it was a lot of fun with the six girls who came. That actually ended up being a comfortable amount of people to host in my condo. I think I will do my next show around my birthday and maybe in a restaurant?! I love the rep who comes and sets up all the jewelry- she is great! The collection is great, too.

Last night, after finishing up ALL my Christmas shopping, I attended a 90's Party with my coworkers at one of their apartments. It was pretty hysterical seeing people dressed up in their various 90's gear, the complimentary slap bracelet people got as they came in, the super nintendo set up in the main room, and the food they served- pizza bagels, pudding, airheads, ring pops, bubble tape, gushers, various "fruit" juice packs...:) The games and music were the best part! Great idea for a party!

A little clueless, 90's rock, 90210 and tacky holiday gear.

JanSport!

Our favorite childhood drinks!

Love the 90's!

Awkward family photo:)
Today the weather is not so great here in VA, so I am catching up after the busy week! I have another busy one coming up, but I go to Austin on Thursday to visit my friend, Jane, so it will be a short one!

Oh, and for those of you who care, I decided NOT to send out a Holiday Newsletter this year...I honestly didn't feel like I had anything noteworthy to say or announce, and I saw SO many friends and family this year at various weddings, I feel like people are pretty caught up on my life. And you have this great blog to read in case you are ever feeling out of the loop...:)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving!

Hello, friends and fam and Happy Thanksgiving!



It has been very raining and cold the past day or so in Virginia, but I am looking forward to a sunny and chilly day tomorrow! I am also thankful not to be traveling in this mess. 

I am running the University of Richmond Turkey Trot 10k again tomorrow morning like I did last year, but sadly it will be by myself. My friends and family waited too long to register and the popular race sold out! Luckily, I lured my dad to accompany me to the race since a very nice Starbucks is nearby and he can do his walk while I run. Since I know how hilly the course is, I come in with the expectation of not earning a PR this year but to beat my last year time (I got around an hour last year). Since I have since completed two half marathons (with great 10k splits), I should be able to do it if my legs feel good tomorrow. You never know, though, how you will feel on race morning, so we shall see! At the very least, I will enjoy a beautiful rain-free morning that will make me work for all the delicious food I will be eating later! This is the first year friends are also coming over for dinner at our house, so it should be fun!

Safe travels and Happy Thanksgiving (and Hannukah) to all! And please don't shop until Friday- enjoy the day as it is meant to be- with friends and family. Don't contribute to the culture of people having to work on Thanksgiving (coming from the retail and restaurant industry, the day of Thanksgiving was once sacred)! Stay home, eat food and enjoy the company of others- the real world and rush of the holidays can wait a day:)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Why I almost (but didn't) get a smartphone.

I came very close today.

Too close.

My current cell phone is slowing down and my computer is aging. I was thinking that a smartphone was the answer. I could kill two birds with one stone. 

But I can't.

I was standing in the Verizon store ready to do it after looking at the newest iPhone. Then I started talking to the salesman. $199 for an upgrade with a two year contract...and an extra whopping $30 a month when I don't even come close to maximizing my current minutes or data on a 3-year-old slide phone.

It just makes no sense.

Why would I pay an extra $360 a year for a luxury that I do not need, already pay for at home, and more importantly, provides nothing to enhance my life? Sure I could kill time on my phone at work or at the store or while in traffic, but what I lose by doing all of that is the ability to live. To be alone with myself and my thoughts. Or, shockingly!- the ability to communicate with people when I am waiting around. 

Not having anything to do in specific times of waiting is no excuse to need a phone. I don't need cell phone games or apps or to be connected with the internet every second of my life. I can ask for directions. I can call someone to help me if I need a service. I can do math in my head. I can walk away from facebook, twitter or instagram for a few hours every day (or even a long weekend!) and be ok.

I just can't do it. I think it is a waste. I am happy typing right now on my laptop in the comfort of my own home. I don't need to bring technology with me everywhere. In fact, when I am away for a trip, I love the idea of having less connections with the "internet world."

Smarphones do not provide happiness or life-enhancement. This is a great quote from an article online:

"You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That's what the phones are taking away, is the ability to just sit there. That's being a person." 





I can call and I can text with my phone. And if I leave it at home for the day, my world is not shaken or even bothered very much.

I will just have to submit to the fact that it will be a long while before I can be included on group texts:)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Richmond Half Marathon

Wow.

Wow is the only word to describe the feeling of being not only proud of your yourself and your race time, but proud of your friends and your city and feeling a rejuvination of the human spirit.

And all from a run!

I cannot begin to tell you how motivating yesterday was. Despite the rain (and, yes, it did rain for a few miles), the Richmond HCA 8k, SunTrust Half Marathon, and Anthem Marathon were a great set of races in the capital city. The spectators were incredible all throughout the race, despite not ideal watching conditions, and the attitudes of the runners were contageous.

Best sign right at the turn to mile 11.

Runners are a crazy, fun bunch. I commented that to my friend Kate at mile 3- people were cracking jokes, thanking policemen and spectators, and talking amongst other runners. It is such an interesting and wonderful experience to be amongst a pack of runners in the middle of an intense race because despite the sore muscles, tired feet and poor weather conditions, runners are happy and great spirited.

As for my race, I am happy to report that I made a PR and ran the half in 1:58:03 crushing my time from March by 7 minutes and with minimal training! I think fresh legs are the key when you know you can do longer distances and a great route and running buddy help too!

The finish line was a glorious site from a .2 mile downhill sprint!

My friends and family commented how happy I looked along the race route. I saw friendly faces at mile 3, 7, 11 and the finish, so that was great motivation! I admit I felt good the whole way (sans the last 4 or so miles...my speed caught up to me then) and really enjoyed the route through the Northside of the city. My final mile pace was 8:58 which is crazy for me for a half! I guess running really is my favorite hobby, because I enjoyed myself the whole way and can't imagine a better way to start my weekend, despite some nerves and tummy issues the day and morning before.

It's crazy that I love running now as much as I do. It is the most challenging, frustrating, comforting, and rewarding thing I have ever done. It is where I am at my best and feel my best (or worst on some days). It gets me through struggles and stress and is where I do my best thinking. It wakes me up for the day and energizes me. It makes me better in all areas of my life. It makes me love my body not for how it looks but for what it can do.

Happy smiles after some food and re-hydrating!

When I run I know I can do anything I set my mind to. Just put one foot in front of the other.
Perhaps a marathon is in order...?!
Thanks for all the sweet comments the last few days! You all rock!!!

Friday, November 15, 2013

No Processed: Update

Ok folks, we're halfway through November, so it's time for an update!

I have done pretty well on my challenge for the month! Mainly, I have been cooking so much more and eating less sugar (besides at work...grrr). I still have eaten candy bars and gone out to dinner, but most of everything I have made myself follows all the rules.

It has been easy overall and I like that I don't worry so much about how much of this or that is in the foods but instead the ingredients. It makes eating much simpler, I listen more to my body, and I feel better. My energy has gone up along with my mood!

I have made homemade pizza twice, two crock pot chicken dinners (each of which last me 4 meals or so), quinoa, pancakes, bread, smoothies, overnight oatmeal, and various forms of spaghetti squash (a la spaghetti and as a baked dish). I still have my crystal light "cheat" beverage but have only had one soda and am mostly drinking water. I eat dates and larabars for my desserts at home instead of cookies and ice cream...but I still enjoy fro yo on occasion:) My fuel for long runs are dates and gatorade (which is technically processed but is mostly sugar water), and I limit those as well.

Overall, I probably follow the rules 70 percent of the time. Hopefully for the next part of the month this will get even better!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

2 days until #2!


Two more days until my 2nd half marathon!


I have been tapering this week, which sucks in running world because you are so used to hitting high mileage every week that cutting that back is HARD; you just want to run! I know, I know, we're weird. I did a very quick 4 mile run on Monday (9:00 pace) and a slower 3 mile run yesterday morning before work/sunrise in the COLD (9:20 pace). My legs feel great. My goal pace for Saturday is 9:30 a mile, which is what I averaged at the Shamrock Half, and since I have been running faster than that the last few weeks, I am hopeful I can stick to it. Now I just have to wait...even though all I want to do is go for a run. Walking and the elliptical in small doses will just have to do...

The race starts at 7:30 AM on Saturday, and my friend and I are meeting at her parent's house, which is about a mile from the race course, so they can drop us off at the starting line right before our wave begins. It should be warmer than it has been lately (upper 40's at the start, ending in the mid-50's), so I am planning on shorts and a t-shirt and maybe a throw-away pair of gloves. The half marathon in March was much colder, and even though I like running in chilly temps, I think these temps will be great. Chance of a small shower around sunrise, but clearing skies throughout the morning. 

In case you are familiar with Richmond, I have the course map below. It is relatively flat with a few hills in Bryan Park, which is where miles 5-8 are. The marathon route is absolutely gorgeous...I wish the half did the first part of that course. I might just have to run the marathon next year....





But the leaves won't hurt the beauty of the course, either:)


Good luck to all the runners, including my friend Jessica who is running her 1st marathon after having to drop out last year due to a bone fracture (I will be watching her after I finish) and a former classmate of mine who ran 12 half marathons in 12 months to raise money for Massey Cancer Center and is now tackling a full! See her story here.

I will post a recap after the race!

Friday, November 8, 2013

I Love Fall

This is my time of year.

Low humidity, cooler temps, darker nights, colorful leaves, cooking, pumpkin, the smell of cookouts and smoke in the air.

I love fall.

Fall and spring are easily my two favorite seasons (especially in Virginia), but I think fall takes the cake. I am naturally a morning person, so I love the change to the shorter, cooler days and the excuse to be in my pajama's and cooking by a warm oven by 6 every night. I always get annoyed in the summer when people are outside hanging out until 9! Whatever happened to my cozy, snuggly evenings wrapped in a blanket?

I love running in the fall at sunset along the lakes of Byrd Park.


And all the changing colors.


And the crunch of leaves in the fan.


And all the races!



And a good book under a blanket.


And cooking...especially with pumpkin.


Life seems to slow down a little in the fall. 


It gets a bit easier.

And I love it:)