Health and Fitness Self-Reflection

Full Stop

Rest, that period of time when going forward feels a lot like a going backward…It’s extremely hard not to judge myself too harshly when my well laid plans go awry.  However, I realize that even when I am at my most careful, I am not perfect, and therefore open myself up to injury.  The irony of my last health and fitness post being titled “Bulletproof” is not lost on me.  To think, I expounded on how I was using exercise as a means to make my body injury proof…sheesh!

This has always been my history. Even when I was lifting weights that were much heavier than I was, I could still bend over to tie my shoe the wrong way and experience the electric jolt my spine makes when it decides to go on vacation.  This time around it was more like a slow leak.  If I had been ice skating alone on Sunday I probably would have taken my skates at the first, low level pinch.  However, as I was with friends I hadn’t seen in ages, I pushed on, hoping my back would loosen.  All I can say is that it’s a good thing no one was watching when I finally took my skates off because I’m sure it looked like there were invisible magnets preventing my upper torso from getting anywhere near my lower torso.  I pretty much had to kick my skates off.

He might look friendly, but this guy pushes me!

The other day, I was flipping through the news when I came across an article on this guy, Ed Whitlock.  Ed was able to, at the age of 74, run a marathon in under three hours.  I HAVE to cling to the memory of Ed, and athletes like him, during weeks like this.  There will be setbacks!  As long as I can continue to take the long view I’m all set.  At the risk of sounding like I’m just making excuses for progress not made during my lifetime to date, I have always adhered to the idea that life is not a sprint.  I didn’t play professional sports or go to the olympics, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to develop type 2 diabetes, cardio-vascular disease, or morbid obesity by embracing a sedentary lifestyle, eating in a way I know to be counter to my long-term goals, or by GIVING UP!

I have a poster hanging in my garage that I use to help motivate me for this long-term view of health. The photo is taken from a book entitled, Growing Old Is Not For Sissies: Portraits of Senior Athletes– by Etta Clark. The grizzled man in the photo almost looks photo shopped. His craggy, weathered head sits upon the chiseled body of a man who has known deprivation, work, and drive. Were it not for the Rocky Balboa’s sweatpants, one would be tempted to search for evidence of a seam at the neckline.

I choose to believe that both Ed and this guy looked upon fitness with an eye for the long run. In the clip above Ed states, “Everyone has to find their own recipe for success…you never know…you always have to be kind of tweaking things and trying to figure out what is best. You never really know if you’ve got the best recipe for success. All you can do is keep trying to find it.” Would it be ok if I take tweaking to mean rest this week?

I found this interesting, according to Healthline, “In addition to heavy lifting, any activity that puts excessive strain on the muscles and ligaments in the lower back can cause an injury. Sports such as football and golf can lead to back spasms because they demand that the back turn suddenly and repeatedly.” The one thing that I did both Sunday and the day that I last experienced back joy was shoveling.  Turning the back repeatedly sounds a lot like moving snow.  Maybe I’ll have my wife film me so I can analyze my form.  It never hurts during the snow flurry, only when I attempt to do something immediately after.  Wouldn’t shoveling warm up the back?  

So, without any more stalling, I proudly present my abhorrent data for week 4. 

I’m not going to lie.  I thought this would be much worse.  I’ve crept up a bit here this last week, but I think when you look at this next chart you will understand why.

Only two workouts this week!

If you look closely you will see that after Sunday’s skating fun, I have done nothing to jeopardize the hard work Dr. Bob puts in to get my back into alignment.  I was given some mild stretching exercises and a lower back strengthening move to practice.  That was the extent of my physical work this week.  On a positive note, I’m feeling like I can probably get back to it in the morning.

I don’t know the secret to avoiding all setbacks. I seem to find new and unique ways to injure myself on a weekly basis. For the record, I’m being very careful to warm-up before any resistance training, I lift light weights or use my own body weight when possible, and I cool down. I also try to stretch or do some light yoga here and there too. the bottom line is that injuries are going to hit. Successful individuals taking the long view of fitness “tweak” themselves back to health and get back to it. If you need me tomorrow I’ll be in the garage.

Works Cited:

Clark, Etta. Growing Old Is Not for Sissies: Portraits of Senior Athletes. Pomegranate Calendars & Books, 1993.

Ed Whitlock Tribute #RememberingEd, 20 Oct. 2017,

Johnston, Simon.  Full Ahead…Aye Aye Captain.…

“Medical Information and Health Advice You Can Trust.” Healthline, Healthline Media,

Professional Growth

The Nuts and Bolts of Securing a Teaching Job Abroad

Perhaps you find yourself in a teaching position that you have held for many years.  You take comfort in the routine of it, you know exactly how each day is going to unfold, but still… Or, perhaps Covid has forced you to your own kitchen table.  You find yourself “teaching”, through no fault of your own, an ever less enthusiastic group of two dimensional beings, and you catch yourself thinking, “there has got to be another way!” Whatever the reason, rather than rearranging the flatware, it may be time to flip the whole table and try teaching in a foreign land.

How exactly does one secure a teaching position in a different country? 

Disclaimer:  I certainly don’t know everything. I’m merely passing on my own experience. I would invite those with different experiences to comment on this post and add their insights.  (I’m in the middle of a hunt right now, and am not opposed to learning a thing or two!)  Also, be forewarned that Covid has changed the game, at least temporarily.  Not only have things moved almost exclusively to a virtual universe, but the economic uncertainty out there right now has forced schools to be very careful about their hiring practices. Even so, let’s jump in, shall we?

Step 1: Are you qualified?

Let’s start by making the distinction that this mission of this post is to help those interested in regular education positions as opposed to those looking to teach English.  Why the distinction?  Because many reputable “regular” schools will require that a prospective teacher have at least two years experience in the classroom before they will even consider a candidate’s application. Many schools that teach English don’t. In fact, teaching English is one way many inexperienced folks find themselves positions abroad.

To give you an idea of what a typical school might be looking for here is an excerpt from a job posting of a reputable school in China:

Step 2: How to search.

As the number of international schools out there continues to grow, and there are way more than you probably think there are, you are going to need a way to winnow your choices down. According to Relocate Global,

 “There are 9,605 English-medium international schools worldwide, and the numbers are expected to grow at a strong rate over the next ten years.

According to the 2018 Global Report on the International Schools Market from ISC Research, the numbers have increased by 6.3 per cent over the past year, with a compound annual growth rate of nearly six per cent over the last five years.”

It is possible to select an area of the world you want to go, find a school in that area, and apply online directly.  I’m sure there are people with drool worthy applications that this works for, but for the rest of us non “superheroes” there are services that can assist with the process in a mighty way.  

Entry Level Services

The most basic, and least expensive of these services serve as “marketplaces” where job openings from many schools are compiled in a single location.  TIE (The International Educator) is a great example of one such service.  At $39 a year it is hard to beat in price.  In addition to job listings, subscribers also get access to some basic information about each position, including some basic benefits information and job description details.  For another $29 a year you can get notifications sent directly to your inbox.  Here is a look at a sample page to give you an idea of the information you can glean from their site:

Courtesy of the TIE website(see link above)

Another great resource is the Global Recruitment Collaborative.  Like TIE, GRC is a marketplace for schools. However, it is also a marketplace for teachers, and is completely free. As their website states, “The Global Recruitment Collaborative (GRC) emerged from a very simple premise – Create a database of high caliber educators, field tested at some of the best international schools in the world, with a passion for learning in an international context.”i

Another marketplace site similar to TIE, that I have actually tried, is Teacher Horizons.  This is a newer company, so I’m less familiar with it. This is another free site, so you can’t be disappointed when you get what you pay for.  It is founded by teachers who state, “Teacher Horizons is free for teachers and we are committed to keeping it free. We strongly believe that talented teachers should not have to pay to find good international teaching jobs or go to expensive teacher recruitment fairs.”

Here’s a sample image I took of the filter page.  If you were looking for an art position you would see something like this:

Courtesy of Teacher Horizons Website(see link above)

As you can see there are 92 jobs all around the world that match this description.  Clicking on any of the “opportunities” gives you access to a limited amount of information about each school, but does provide you with links to their websites so that you can do more digging.

More Extensive Services

Another great resource is the Global Recruitment Collaborative.  Like TIE, GRC is a marketplace for schools. However, it is also a marketplace for teachers, and is completely free. As their website states, “The Global Recruitment Collaborative (GRC) emerged from a very simple premise – Create a database of high caliber educators, field tested at some of the best international schools in the world, with a passion for learning in an international context.”

What separates GRC from sites like TIE is that at the same time that it is “pushing schools” out to you, it is “pushing you” out to schools.  In other words, you have to upload information personal to you, like your resume, your teaching experience, and your references.  The idea is that schools interested in you will have the freedom to contact you whenever they feel like it.  However, that’s not all GRC offers.  In a typical year, they sponsor a face to face recruitment fairs, typically in Dubai.  This year, due to covid, they sponsored virtual fairs.  Recruitment fairs are a staple in the international teaching community.  They are basically a giant cattle call where schools and teachers get together and try to match teacher skills with school needs.  They are stressful, expensive, and exciting.  If you can get hired without needing to attend a recruitment fair, in my opinion, do it!

What I like most about GRC is their simple website.  Every morning I pour a nice steaming cup of coffee, nestle up next to the computer and check GRC first to see what’s new in the world of job openings.

Courtesy of the Global Recruitment Collaborative (See Link Above)

You can see in the shot above, taken without any of the filters applied, that it is rather slow at this time.  In fact, today is January 24th, and there are no positions listed for today(it is Sunday though!) What I like about the site is that the newest positions are always listed first, most of the schools on the list have pretty good reputations, and I can filter quickly and easily.  I highly recommend using GRC even if you don’t intend to sign up for the fairs.

High End Services

There are two services that(that I know of) are considered to be the top of the line.  I am familiar with one, and have many friends that have used the other.  Again, there may be others, but I will only speak to what I know.  These are expensive, but in my opinion, using one of these services is almost necessary-International School Services (ISS) and Search Associates.  

I’ll start with Search because I know the least about it.  Here is a blurb from their site to give you an idea of how different their approach is:

“We ensure that we can provide personal attention to our candidates by assigning each candidate to a specific Associate, based on their geographical location or on the job fair they wish to attend. This system allows candidates to have access to their own Associate, and their team, who will personally assist them throughout the entire job search process.” 

Search has a hefty $225.00 fee for teaching candidates, but this is good for three years(or until you get a job) and there is no fee involved in registering for your first job fair.  You are also assigned an “associate” to help guide you through the process.  The big draw of Search, and of ISS for that matter, is that by registering through them, you are seen, in a way, as “vetted” by prospective schools.  The idea is that once your personal information is uploaded and checked out, schools have been saved the hassle of having to do it themselves.

Like Search, ISS also carries a cost, albeit a lower $75.00.  Also like Search, ISS represents a very large group of schools.  Some schools choose to make use of both services, so don’t worry too much about limiting your options by selecting one over the other(If there is going to be pushback to this post, it will come here. Some people swear by one service over the other).  Also like Search, candidates upload their personal information and are “vetted” before they are “released” to search for jobs.  

ISS has made the leap to the Ifair almost seamlessly, as they had practice with these before Covid hit.  The downside of all virtual fairs is that as hard as they try, in my experience they don’t/can’t replace a real face to face recruitment fair.  I had an administrator friend tell me that he absolutely cannot hire someone he has not met in person.  This was before Covid, so that may have changed.

You can see here that they represent a pretty hefty number of both job openings and candidates.


If you take away nothing else from this post, understand this, there are a lot of risks involved in teaching abroad.  Anything you can do to diminish the risks is something you are doing to increase the odds that you have a successful adventure.  Here’s a story to illustrate my point.

A friend of mine, along with his wife, accepted in a country he had never been to in Africa.  They felt it was time to try teaching abroad as their two daughters had reached middle school age.  After flying to Europe from the states, and then on to the capital of their host country, they then hopped a bush plane and eventually arrived at the airfield near the school they were to teach at.  The pilot unloaded all of their stuff, restarted the plane, and left.  There was absolutely no one there.  There also wasn’t a terminal or a phone.  They dragged their luggage to the shade of a tree and sat down.  After a few hours a gentleman on a bike rode by and began to wave frantically.  It turns out the school had the wrong date for their arrival and all worked out fine, but what if it hadn’t?  Can you imagine?

Look, there are unsafe countries, schools with poor management, schools that are in it for profit only, and a myriad of other possible problems.  Going through a reputable agency like Search or ISS is a great way to increase the odds of your success.

Finally, there are a couple of more sites that I find extremely useful for knowing what it is like to work at a school because they are written by teachers who have actually worked there. Think of them as ways to vet the schools. However, a word of warning, all entries must be taken with a grain of salt as angry teachers are the ones that seem most anxious to write.  Teachers who have had wonderful experiences are often quiet.  ISR offers reviews of schools and administrators from around the world.  It is only a few dollars to join, and is updated often.  There are also discussion boards that center around just about any topic a person might have.  If a school has a bad review or two I’m likely to overlook them, however, if nobody ever gave it a good review my antennae go up.

The last site I would recommend is sort of a combo platter.  International School Community offers both reviews of schools, and even has a section where teachers can post positions they know are open at their schools.  It is much different than ISR in that the information provided is much more objective, but useful just the same.  Again, this is teacher provided information, so some schools listings are more complete than others.  Even so, here are some of the hyperlinks to useful information a prospective teacher might be interested in seeing.

There are even more pertaining to the country and city the schools in which the schools are located.  

Step 3 Talk To People

The bottom line is that leaving all you know to move to a place you have never been is a huge decision.  Arming yourself with the best information you can get online is still a poor replacement for having some serious discussion with someone who is currently working at the school you are interested in, or at least someone who has worked there recently.  At our first job fair we met a teacher at one of the schools we were interested in interviewing for.   She was actually at the job fair to find a job at a new school, but for personal reasons.  We learned more from her than from any book, website, or interview.  

Finding a job in another country can seem overwhelming. However, with the right sources for information you can make an informed decision. First, know what you are qualified to teach. Second, use multiple online resources to know all you can not only about your prospective school, but about the country in which it is located. Finally, talk to other people-people who know the school. Asking a prospective administrator for the email address of a teacher from the school is not a ridiculous thing to do. As most schools will expect you to sign a two year contract it’s best to know going in that you can honor that!


Magazine, Relocate. “Numbers of International Schools Continue to Rise: Festival of Global People: Relocate Magazine.” Festival of Global People | Relocate Magazine,

Health and Fitness


We all age, but there are ways to age gracefully.  To be “bulletproof” is to work to improve your health in ways that will offer you protection from illness and injury, while at the same time extending your ability to do the things you love. 

Week 3 

Am I a little ready for a beer?  I’m not even waiting until tomorrow to publish this week’s results. I think I can be excused under the circumstances.  How many times is there an insurrection in the halls of congress during a pandemic the week before a new president is inaugurated?  

I titled this week bulletproof precisely because that is so exactly what I am not!  Oh sure, vanity plays a role in my motivation to carry on this experiment, but if I’m honest, it pales in comparison to my desire to eliminate as much weakness from my system as is possible.  I don’t necessarily mean I need to be strong, I mean I need system wide protection.  I am starting to have quite a collection of what I call, “nicks and dings.”  I like to tell others that the engine is running fine, it’s the tires that continue to need fixing.  Take a look:

  1. Inguinal hernia repair both right(2020) and left(2008)
  2. Torn cartilage micro-fracture repair left knee(2014)(no walking 3 months, crutches 3 months)
  3. Torn right bicep repair(2015)
  4. Torn right rotator cuff repair(2015)(no use of arm for months)
  5. CIV(Chronic Venous Insufficiency) repair-complete with leg ulcers(2018-19)repair
  6. Chronic back issues(in my view chronic back weakness)-(2008-2018)

When taking in that list it would be fair to assume I probably look a bit like Frankenstein and played professional hockey with no equipment.  I don’t and I didn’t.  What I find interesting is that it wasn’t until I was 42, in 2008, that I ever had any problems whatsoever.  

Here’s the thing, I was indoctrinated into extreme exercise at age 6.  That’s when I started competitive swimming.  Five nights of two hour practices followed by meets on weekends, year round.  By the time I “retired” to play basketball in high school I was doing two-a-days with weight training and light swimming in the mornings, and full on practice in the afternoons.  I have never been able to let that go.  Make no mistake I’m no athlete, but I am athletic.

My wife likes to joke that everyone should lay down on the floor every day and get back up to a standing position because you don’t ever want to lose that.  We say the same thing about stairs.  If you buy a house without stairs then you run the risk of losing the ability to climb and descend them.  I know this from experience.  I have already lost running.  With the cartilage injury and repair I could risk running, but why?  I’ve replaced my love of running with the lower impact joys of cycling, skating, and swimming.  My attempt at making myself bulletproof is just another version of getting up off the floor.

If you look at the literature that is out there the best way to make yourself bulletproof is to maintain a healthy weight by eating in a healthy manner(I did not use the word DIET-that’s a 4 letter word!), to exercise in ways that maintains and improves strength, flexibility, and cardio-vascular health, to limit your intake of naughty stuff(you don’t need me to tell you what that naughty stuff is!), to sleep, to laugh, to have good friends, and to find joy in what you do.  There are probably others, but you get the gist.  Knowing this, here’s my progress for week 3:

January 1-217.6 pounds January 21-210.4 pounds=7.2 pounds lost total(2.2 pounds this past week)
1/17 was a big night. It was our dog Sadie’s 5th birthday. Of course I’m eating cupcakes!
The weather was not conducive to skating this week. The extremes ruined the ice. Better temps ahead!

As I write this I’m chuckling to myself because my right knee hurts-not the bad one. I’ve taken to wearing a compression sleeve when I workout or skate. Just another ding. Maybe in 10 days when I crack that first beer, I’ll put it up and relax, but not today.

Photo Credit:

Featured Image Free for commercial use. No attribution required.


Taking A Journey

Have you ever wanted to teach abroad? Maybe you’re feeling you’re in a rut. In this post I will relate how my family found itself in Korea for eight wonderful years.

A number of years ago, after having taught urban middle schoolers for eleven years and emotionally behaviorally disordered elementary students for five, I felt mentally and emotionally drained, like there was no more ink in the pen.  About this time a new teacher at my school sat down next to me at a staff meeting.  She proceeded to pull out what could only be described as a tome, the book was thicker than the yellow pages.  Something compelled me to ask what it was.  She slid it in front of me and proceeded to explain that it was a school catalog put out by International School Services, an organization that recruited teachers for 100’s of international schools all over the world. 

As I flipped through the pages I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up. The pages were packed with contact information, benefit estimations, curriculum delineations-basically almost everything you would need to know in order to decide whether or not a school would be a good fit for you, or not. It was as if invisible tumblers aligned and something clicked into place inside me. I knew instantly that this was exactly what was missing from my own teaching experience! This was the fresh challenge I craved!

Over the ensuing weeks my wife Jo, and I, discussed the matter further, and agreed it was something we should pursue.  However, like all crazy ideas it seemed to wilt in the bright light of reality.  Were we really ready to pick up, leave everything behind, and drag our two children (10 and 13) to some foreign land?  And then, something extraordinary happened.  We went to see the Pixar movie “Up.”  In it, there is a montage at the beginning where Carl and Ellie agree that they are going to pursue their childhood dream and travel to Paradise Falls in South America.  They begin to save their money, and the coins begin to pile up in the glass jar, only for life to step in and require them for everything from car and home repairs, to doctor bills, and the like.  

Pixar’s “UP”

(This was not unlike the dream Jo and I had had to join the Peace Corps early in our marriage, only to be told we didn’t have the skills they needed at the time, and then, later, to be told we couldn’t bring our children.)  I remember walking out of the theater, and both of us, without prompting turning to each other and in unison saying, “We have to teach abroad!”

The next day, On December 28th, 2009 we entered Spyhouse Coffee armed with computers.  After two casual cups of coffee and some obligatory small talk, I opened my computer and logged into the only site I knew recruited teachers, ISS.  The reason I remember the date was because we learned the minute we connected to the site that December 28th was the absolute last day the organization was accepting teachers.  

We spent the next few hours firing off emails, some to buy more time, some to beg for letters of reference, some seeking advice.  When all was said and done we were granted a two week extension, signed up for and attended a job fair in Boston a few short weeks later, and found ourselves having to make the difficult decision of choosing between placements in Moscow, Manilla, and Seoul.  We had stumbled upon Seoul Foreign School’s website earlier when doing a preliminary search for school’s with orchestra programs that we knew would challenge our daughter.  However, when it came down to it, it was my brother’s last minute text, “Six months of winter or eight, go with Seoul!” that ultimately swung the pendulum in favor of Korea.  

Never, not for even a second, have we ever regretted our decision.  Oh sure, there were plenty of frustrations, but the positive impact living abroad had on our family was immediate and permanent.  From the moment we walked into our new apartment and my son Christopher plopped down on the couch, looked up at us and said, “I can get used to this!” to this very day. I’m convinced that getting out of our comfort zones is how we learn best. Nothing gets you out of your comfort zone like living in a different country.

My “Urban Camouflage” I’m the one in the hat.

In my next post I’ll share what I’ve learned about the nuts and bolts of how to go about securing a position overseas.

Photo Credit:

Featured Image Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

Health and Fitness

Check In

In this post I will get you up to speed on how I’m doing in this, the second week of my fitness challenge.


Down a pound!

UPDATE!: I decided that the math just wasn’t working out. How could such a drastic change in my diet and lifestyle not have more dramatic results? So I decided to weigh myself again today. This time I moved the scale a few times to make sure it was sitting flat on our stone tile floor, the result was three measures all at the same 212 pounds- a significant difference from the previous day.

Turns out dropping 500-800 calories of craft beer per day does have an effect!

There you have it.  The world’s most boring graph.  I don’t see the value in weighing myself everyday, hence the flatline with a drop at the end.  I have to admit that I’m surprised at the relatively slow rate that I’m losing weight.  Think about it, I dropped all alcohol, all sugar(not something I ate much of anyway) and most all processed food.  The loss of alcohol alone should be having a much bigger impact.  It is even more surprising when you add in the next piece of evidence.


Skating adds a new dimension

As you can see on my RunGap Chart, the addition of ice skating has really upped my game.  I chose to call it High Intensity Interval Training because that is how I used it.  After reacquainting myself with ice skating, I used the 30-40 minutes I typically can endure skating(it is way harder than I remember!) to skate laps in groups of four at my local rink.  I’m not sprinting or anything but I don’t have to either.  My heart rate jumped from about a 100 to 150 and above in that short time.  It’s hard to differentiate the skating from the P90X workouts above, but I always skate in the afternoon so skating is always listed as the second HIIT workout on each day.

Here’s a peek at a typical skating day as seen by a heart rate chart:

Very Interval-esc.

I think you can see from the chart why I choose to label it high intensity interval training, lot’s of peaks and valleys.  In effect, I’m doing two workouts a day.  However, the weather has not cooperated lately, it’s actually raining outside, more like a freezing rain on top of snow.  I didn’t think to use the iwatch to gauge it, but in the last three days I’ve probably shoveled for a total of 2 hours.  I’m usually bathed in sweat when I’m done, so there’s definitely work being done.  Also, when I cycle the iwatch asks when I’m done-it can tell when my heart rate drops.  It doesn’t do that when on the HIIT setting.  So on January 13th’s morning P90 I forgot to turn it off, to make up for it I only counted a few minutes of the afternoon skate.

Diet, Sleep, and Miscellaneous

Last night we had burgers and fries from a local restaurant.  It was an impossible burger, but I’d have to say it was my first real cheat.  For two solid weeks I’ve eaten completely vegetarian, non processed, no sugar, heavily fresh fruit and vegetable meals.  I have stayed beneath the 2660 calorie ceiling that My Fitness Pal has calculated for me to reach my goal.  However, as I stated in an earlier post, I’m not necessarily looking to lose weight.  I’d rather gain lean mass, or at my age, not lose anymore.

Staying below 2660 is my goal.

Sleep has been better than when I was drinking, but I still wake up.  I get at least 8 hours every night now, but there is often a one or two hour gap in the very middle of the night that I have chosen to use for writing in my journal.  Nobody is better at mentally regurgitating a day or a problem like I can.  I have found that rather than worrying about not sleeping I’m in a better place if I accomplish something that I would otherwise need to do when I woke up.  This way, if I sleep later than I normally do I’ve merely juggled when things are done rather than fallen behind.

The Home Gym

The winter wonderland of the home gym

So, you are welcome to go back and read in depth about how I have set up my home gym, and also the problems I’m having with it.  I think I have found some tweaks that work.  I’m leaving the attic steps down completely to give the water vapor that accumulates on the windows and doors an “escape hatch.”  I’ve also gotten smart about lifting the insulated moving blankets off the floor when I’m not exercising.  This has kept them damp at most.  Finally, I have become king of the squeegee.  I have found that if I vacuum the absorbent mat, and squeegee the bare floor when the cars are out, it stays pretty darn dry.  We have had very mild temperatures lately so stay tuned to see if these are truly workable solutions.

Photo Credit

Featured Image: Image by Ulrike Leone from Pixabay

Professional Growth


In this post I will explain the benefits of Eduro Learning as an online continuing education option for educators.  

I’m a little mad at myself.  I haven’t been taking my own advice to heart.  In my “Your Own Bucket” post, I quoted Chrissy Hellyer and her idea that a blog is not something that is necessarily written for the audience.  It is “To document my ongoing learning and professional development journey.”  However, I’ve come to learn that it has an even greater purpose than that.  I need to write! On the days that I have not published anything, I feel a sense of loss, like I have somehow let myself down, and now I know why.  It’s because, for the time being(hello Covid!), this is my creative outlet, and as I’ve learned in my Connected Classrooms Course from Eduro Learning:

(I’m opening myself up to failure today in the hopes that it keeps the creativity flowing, and that it allows me to do some growing. If this is not your cup of tea, turn the channel!) 

Why Eduro?

Let’s start with Coetail.  A number of years ago I enrolled in the Coetail Program(The Certificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy).  For anyone looking to enhance their ability to access technology in a way that allows you to embed it seamlessly into your curriculum, then there is probably no better place you could go than to Coetail.  You are placed in a cohort of like minded individuals, you can work at your own pace, and the instruction is top notch.  Even the assigned work pushes you to explore the very resources you’ll use in your classroom.  To top it off you can earn college credit.  

In my mind, Eduro is sort of a natural extension of that very program.  To be honest, I don’t know which came first, or the exact relationship between the two, all I know is that when I found myself locked in my own home during Covid, wanting to do something to improve as a teacher, I went right back to what I know worked, Coetail(and by extension Eduro).

So far I have taken two courses through Eduro.  They have followed a similar format.  Each course is broken down into bite sized lessons.  A lesson is then broken down further into four distinct sections.  Here is a page from one course to give you an idea.

  1. The “Watch” section is typically a short 15-25 minute video.  Often it follows an interview format where one of the instructors interviews a teacher implementing whatever the topic being covered is.  The videos are extremely relevant, and are a great hook.  
  2. The “Introduction” section is just that, and often reiterates a bit of what was previously viewed.  
  3. The absolute score in Eduro is the “Key Resources” section.  In addition to articles supporting the thinking in each lesson, often there are links to things likeTed talks, or teacher blogs, or slide shows, or other resources that add to your understanding, and to your ability to implement the features of the lesson.  For example, in the lesson above there are over 20 links to infographics, lesson plans, example units, and other useful online resources. 
  4. The “Action” in each lesson is typically a short assignment forcing(and I mean that in the nicest way) the student to use the new tool or idea.  The misty photo above with Kim’s quote is an example of one of my actions.  I used Canva to turn a photograph from one of my bike rides into a cool tweet.

Eduro has many offerings.  If you are someone interested in becoming a coach, then the possibilities are almost endless.  For a classroom or subject specific teacher who is content to stay where he or she is, then perhaps some of the other course offerings would be of more interest.  The MastermindEd series has offerings focused on things like social justice, inclusion, sustainability, and service learning.  There are courses on Women Who Lead, and you could even sign up for personal mentoring.

Eduro has been a great option for me.  The self-paced format offers me the flexibility I love.  In addition, the lessons are easy to navigate, they can be stopped and started at the users convenience.  Also, because courses are taught by actual teachers the material, resources, and course work is all relevant and instantly accessible for your own teaching.  Give Eduro a shot the next time you’re looking to up your game.

Image Credit:

“Digital Literacy in a Connected Classroom.” Eduro Learning,

Health and Fitness

Data Analysis

Observations After Week 1


Man, I feel like this is some kind of super scientific approach to my well being.  For one thing, I have never used so many apps and extensions to chart my progress.  Some of them are necessary just for the ability to consolidate data in a way that I can share, RunGap for example. Others are just an easier way to track things, like MyfitnessPal and Strava.  I will attempt to explain as I go along…

Week 1 

A few days before launch I tweaked my back really good.  I was spinning and felt a twinge.  I’ve had enough experience with myself to know that the best way to lose 3 weeks of training is to continue doing whatever it is I am doing at the time.  So, I got off the bike, laid on the floor, stretched, took some ibuprofen, iced, and proceeded to lose the ability to lift my leg high enough to put on my underwear.  Two trips to Dr. Bob(Avenues of Health Chiropractic) and some rest, and I was able to launch the physical part of my plan on Monday, the 4th(Diet changes started on the 1st as planned).


I typically use Strava to track my progress on outdoor bicycle rides.  It is an absolute video game for biking and will get it’s own page here in the future.  It maps your rides, allows you to compare yourself with others who have ridden any part of the route, and let’s you know how you did against your greatest rival, you.  Unfortunately, it is not ideal for stationary bikes.  So, when I spin in the winter, because it’s so much harder to wipe out on a 150 pound spin bike, traffic is always light in the garage, and I know exactly when I’m going to get home-when I swing my leg back over the seat- I use my apple watch and my Garmin to track my levels.  I use the Garmin, as mentioned in my “Forward to the Past” to track my effort while spinning.  I use the Apple watch for the data after spinning.  Why, you ask?  Simple…I lost the cord to attach the Garmin to my computer, duh.  

Anyway, Apple doesn’t have a way to view aggregate data so I found RunGap, which takes all the data from my apple account and puts it in one place. 

This is what I’ve been up to this week:

On RunGap you can also look at an individual workout:

You can even view it graphically-Nice intervals!

You can see that I have gotten two cardio workouts this week.  I would add that Covid has made me stir crazy, so I have also added ice skating to my repertoire because if I don’t get outside I will go insane.  Turns out I miss it, and love it, and it’s just about twice as hard as I remember.  I’m not removing anything, I’m just adding 30 minutes of skating when I can.


As I mentioned in an earlier blog, my garage is my gym. This has presented many issues, not the least of which is a lack of real resistance equipment.  I have secured a set of Powerblock adjustable dumbbells to go with the bands I had been using.  

Power Blocks


First of all, let me just say that in my opinion elasticity is a mediocre substitute for gravity.  So, in terms of the workout rendered, the blocks delivered!  In addition, with bands I felt like I was continually adjusting something to get the right “feel” for each exercise, not to mention, the right tug.  By this I mean that decreasing the amount of band available (by stepping on it, or creating a loop to step on) tension is increased.  There is a real lack of precision in that method. What exactly is the tension delivered if I have a 40 pound resistance band with a loop of a 3”diameter under my foot?  The blocks are quick to adjust and precise.  I think the only real drawback is aesthetics.  I feel like I have a couple of steampunk bear traps attached to my arms when I use them.  I also have dainty XX large hands.  When I wear gloves, because that garage takes a little time to warm up, it is tricky getting my hands inside them.  


With the paid version of MyfitnessPal you have even more options for data.

So I’m down to 216 pounds from 217.6.  I’m actually surprised it is not more.  I knew going into this that dropping alcohol was going to have a major impact, both in terms of difficulty in not having it, the subsequent drop in caloric intake.  What I was not prepared for was how difficult eating zero prepared food has been.  I do great in the morning with my shakes, or do I?  Does protein powder count as a prepared food? What about tofu?  I’ve decided that if the thing I’m adding is not a meal in and of itself I’m ok.  Store bought spaghetti sauce and peanut butter- okey dokey.  Vegetarian chicken patties and burritos-no go.

Final Observations

I’m sleeping much differently already.  Not necessarily any more, just more soundly.  Extra water intake may have supplanted beer as my reason for getting up in the middle of the night, but I’m getting up just the same.  However, the quality of sleep I do get  is noticeably better as I haven’t felt the need to sneak naps in this week.  I’m averaging pretty close to 8 hours per night too. 

Stay tuned for week 2.

Image Credits:

Featured Image: Photo by NOAA on Unsplash

“Free Workout Data Manager for IOS.” RunGap,

“PowerBlock Sport Dumbbells: Dumbbells For Home.” PowerBlock, 13 Oct. 2020,

“Fitness Starts with What You Eat.” Myfitnesspal,

Health and Fitness

The Hydra

Thinking of converting your garage into a home gym? Live in a cold climate? Learn from me!  In this post I will take you on a short tour of the trials and tribulation of my unheated garage gym.

I’m not one who knows much about Greek Mythology, but I did watch the Disney Hercules cartoon.  In a particularly relevant part of the movie our hero, Hercules, cuts the three heads off of the hydra. Apparently this isn’t the way to kill a hydra because two heads grew back in each place there was one, and each additional beheading produced a similar result.  That’s my garage gym in a nutshell.

If my garage were in a warm climate I would be bragging about my ingenious use of unused space.  Unfortunately, I live about as far as one can get from a warm climate without having a Canadian passport.

To review: Because Covid has closed the gyms, and wanting to err on the careful side any way, and because my house is only a step up from a tiny home, I chose to turn my unheated, detached garage into a workout space.  I insulated the walls and ceiling, putting a vapor barrier over both.  I bought insulated moving blankets and punched grommets into them so I could hang them from the ceiling on hooks, the idea being I could move them to reduce the size of the space to be used.  I bought absorbent mats for the floor to catch all the snow melt that would inevitably drop off the cars I still had to park there at night.  And I bought a small heater.  This process is all detailed in full on my “The Set Up” post.

From the day I started using it in September to just before Christmas I couldn’t have been happier with the space.  I had my music on as loud as I wanted, I never had to wait for a piece of equipment, and the only time I got self-conscious was when my wife, not knowing I was in there, opened the garage door to park the car.

Then…it snowed.

Turns out, cars and trucks tend to pick up more snow than a person would think.  Then that snow melts.  Then the mats on the floor hold on to that moisture.  Then it evaporates. Then the highly effective vapor barrier holds it in the garage.  Then it congregates on anything cold, like garage doors and windows, for example.(see images below)

Not even this seasoned sailor can see out these windows.
You should stand under these doors after they heat up in the sun = rain bath

To summarize:  

  • The really ingenious blankets I designed with the help of my wife, the ones we made extra long so they would drape to the floor to keep the heat in, well they have become pancake shaped sponges that need to be clamped to the shelves to keep them off the floor.  In addition, they are easily rolled over by truck tires which are popping the grommets out left and right.
  • The garage mats are amazing right up until there is a significant amount of liquid in them.  It’s not that they don’t perform as advertised, they hold even more water than I think is advertised.  That’s the problem.  Once soaked they are extremely hard to dry.  When I attempt to use a wet/dry vac on them it counts as my workout!
  • Now that I’ve turned my garage into, what amounts to, a huge ziplock bag with nowhere for water vapor to go I’ve had to rethink my plan.  I have a trap attic door that I have tried keeping propped open, I have even used a fan in that opening to suck air up and out the attic vents, but either my fan is too small, or the vapor isn’t interested in leaving because there was no noticeable improvement.  I have rolled up one of the mats and used a squeegee on that half of the garage in the hopes that less trapped water will equal less vapor.  The jury is still out on this idea.  
Though it’s hard to see my Yoga block works overtime keeping the attic propped open.

I’m not ready to give up yet, but I did find myself kneeling on a rubber glove today to keep my knees dry.  I never had to do that at the Y.  If you have a suggestion for me spill it. As you can see I’m willing to try just about anything. 

Professional Growth

“Full” Immersion

The summer after our first year teaching abroad in Korea the first question it always seemed we were asked was, “What was it like?” However, a close second was , “So, can you speak Korean?” The answer, invariably was, and remains to this day, “nope.”  

I spent eight years in a country and learned cab Korean.  I learned just enough to direct a cab driver to my house. Sure I learned a few others like “hello” (goodbye was harder), and “thank you”(critical!).  What an embarrassment!  Oh and, “one more please.” (That beer wasn’t gonna bring itself!). 

In my defense, Korean is not an easy language to learn. In addition, I lived on top of a mountain with other English speaking teachers, at a school(Seoul Foreign School-Amazing!) which prided itself in not only instructing in English, but also in having a population of students that used English on the playground.  Besides, in the back of my mind there was always a voice telling me that Korean was not a language that would “translate” well outside of Korea-meaning, where else was I going to use Korean except in Korea?

As part of my transformation this year I have made the commitment to rectify this situation.  Admittedly, Korean seems a bit beyond my reach at this point, but that doesn’t mean that all languages have to be.  What about Spanish? After all, I had a few years of Spanish in high school, there are many Spanish speakers and Spanish Speaking businesses in my own neighborhood-making it relevant, even now, and with as many Spanish speaking countries as there are the odds are not terrible that our next teaching assignment could wind up being in one of them.

Fifty-five days ago I restarted my Duolingo account.  (I had dabbled in it a little earlier, but this time, as I stated earlier, I’m all about achieving.)  Where my goal before was to practice each day by doing a lesson, my goal this time is to come out of Covid fluent in Spanish.  Boom!  There it is for the world to see! 

In addition to Duolingo I also purchased a lifetime membership to Rosetta StoneI’m not messing around!  Besides, at $179 for a lifetime membership with access to unlimited languages seems like a pretty wise investment in myself.

This is NOT an Either/Or Post.  It is a “why I prefer both” post.

Duolingo is obviously made by people who like video games.  Perhaps the most important feature of the program is that through it’s silly, but effective forms of reinforcement, one feels absolutely compelled to meet one’s daily goal. Here are some examples from my home page:

How many consecutive days have I practiced my Spanish?  How could I forget? I actually get emails reminding me of this streak.

How am I doing this week?  They are only too happy to tell me!

How did that stack up against my friends?  I intentionally left rest of the list off of here, but I can see I’ve almost reached level 10, and I can see where they are too!

How am I doing compared to other people in my league?  Again, Duolingo shows me that too?  Notice the “1D 6H 10M”-In 30 hours and ten minutes everyone in the top ten moves up to the next level.

They understand just how to play me.  I once had a fitbit and had to stop using it temporarily when I caught myself out in the garage at 11:30 pm “sneaking” steps in so my wife wouldn’t know what I was up to.  You see, I just had to get ahead of a friend who was competing on the app with me. You understand. Incidentally, she had to quit when she developed a foot problem trying to stay caught up with me!

Isn’t it amazing that I haven’t even mentioned how the program works?  All this is just the motivation.  As if learning a language isn’t motivation enough!(Read with Sarcasm).  Better to let them explain the process:

Duolingo: The Best Way to Learn a Language (2018)

Now, Rossetta Stone takes a very different approach to learning than Duolingo. Admittedly, I’ve only just begun the Rosetta program, but already it feels like its focus is unique. According to Money Magazine,

“Part of what makes the program so great at this is its teaching philosophy. Listening, reading, writing, speaking — Rosetta tries to combine all the basic elements of language learning into a cohesive, holistic program. Another reason why Rosetta excels in creating an immersive approach to language is its speech recognition technology, which has received praise for its accuracy and high degree of customizability. Learning to speak like native speakers is essential for learners to feel like they are making actual progress in their studies.”

I would very strongly agree with the second part of their assessment especially. It feels like Rosetta is much more about speaking. Pronunciation is a critical part of the program. There are small dials to indicate the degree of how precise a person’s pronunciation was for each word or phrase.

Notice the full green circle above the 6. I nailed it!

In addition, I feel like the pace of Rosetta Stone ensures that there are no gaps in one’s learning. This is not always the case with Duolingo. I find I rely on the discussion thread when I miss a question because, though I’m sure I forget plenty, sometimes it feels like new learning has been added without explanation.

There are many comparisons of the two programs, and others, on youtube. The bottom line for me is that the two programs complement each other in such a way that I feel like I’m getting a great education. With almost two months under my belt I don’t seem to have lost any motivation, and that’s saying something!


Images 1-4 Duolingo, Inc. (11th October, 2018). Spanish. 5900 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15206 United States of America

Duolingo. “Duolingo: The Best Way to Learn a Language (2018).” YouTube, YouTube, 27 Mar. 2018,

“The Best Language Learning Software for 2020.” Money,

Cambium Learning® Group Company.(1999-2020 ).Rosetta Stone. Spanish. 1621 N. Kent Street, Suite 1200 Arlington, VA 22209

Health and Fitness

And So It Begins

Can I just start by saying that the more I search for images to capture the spirit of what I’m writing about the more I realize I have to start taking my own pictures! That means I have to start living in a way that I have something worth photographing. That is not my bike, but someday maybe it will be!

In that vein today is the big day.  I “officially” start the physical portion of my self improvement plan today.  I know, what was I doing up until now, right?  Well, everything up to this point has been about getting the pieces into place.  This isn’t a new year’s resolution.  It’s more a lifelong resolution that just happened to launch on New Year’s Day.  The gym has been set up, the equipment purchased, and the baseline data has been secured.  

To review: Starting today, and for the next 30 days, I will eat and drink clean. For me, that means no alcohol, no sugar, and no commercially prepared food.  I will attempt to eat a fresh, organic, and plant based diet.  In addition, I will increase my intake of water. In short, I’m going to drive my family nuts.

I will use my fitness pal to track meals, and I will try to stay within the caloric guidelines for my goals, but I’m not going to lose sleep over it.  With no alcohol, sugar, or ready to eat foods in my diet I’ll have my work cut out for me just to eat enough calories.  Especially if I’m working out as much as I plan.

In terms of exercise, I will work out at least 6 days a week.  I will alternate P90X with spinning(See “Forward to the Past” post for details).  My goal is to also add at least two stretching or yoga sessions per week to my routine.  I’ve been through the P90X cycle once thus far this year, but it was, admittedly, a very disjointed effort.  I did not track my gains, I did not have access to actual weights (I used bands only), and because of a hernia surgery(not related to the workout program!) and some minor back issues, I was not consistent.  I’m choosing to do my own cardio instead of the Kempo(kicking) and Plyometric(jumping) offerings in the program.  This is just a personal preference

(I should note here that I purchased two Powerblocks (pictured below).  Now that I have tried the bands for an entire P90X cycle I just don’t trust that they offer workouts of the same intensity as true weights.  The advantage of an adjustable dumbbell like a Powerblock is that it takes up a fraction of the space as a set of traditional dumbbells at a fraction of the cost.  Plus, for me, Powerblock is a local company and I’m all about supporting Minnesota made. In addition, it seems like every retail outlet, and many online equipment providers are completely wiped out of inventory because of Covid.

Power Block EXP

Here are some baseline measures from P90X so that there is something to compare to at the end of this experiment. Again, the use of weights is going to seriously affect my performance on many of these exercises.  When I go through my first series with the blocks I may need to discard this initial data, but for the sake of a blog with the motto, “An Attempt at Transparency” I feel like I need to put it out there. 

Chest and Back

Shoulders and Arms

Legs and Back

I weighed myself one last time before the start of this experiment.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that I have only put on 0.6 pounds over the holidays.  Beginning weight: 217.6.  With a goal of losing a pound a week(not really, because I’m also trying to maintain muscle mass) I’m allowed 2660 calories per day.  Here is evidence from My Fitness Pal that the ball is rolling.  That’s my breakfast smoothie below.

So, all that remains is to actually do the work.  As this is not a fitness only blog I will check back in a week to let you know how it is going.  

Photo Credit:

Featured Image: Photo by O’car Johann Campos on Unsplash