30 before 30… update

My birthday is about two and a half weeks away.
Which made me realize that I’m going to be 28.
I seriously feel like a 21 year old in this body.
When I was younger, I wasn’t ever one of those kids who dreamed
for the day that I could be “grown up.”
I’ve frankly been having too much fun as a kid.
And I still feel like one, but I guess I am one no longer.
But then again, I guess I’m a kid as long as I say I am.
And I guess I’ll decide to be “grown up” when I’m 30.
So you’ve seen my list before,
but now I’ve decided it’s really time to get down to business.
My new thought is that I’m going to try to pick one thing a month,
and if I can’t cross anything off, at least I can make plans of how I’m going to do it.
Here’s an update on my progress.
The ones I’ve done already are in bold.
30 Things Before I’m 30
1.     Run a full marathon – I have plans to do the California International Marathon as my first marathon.  Was supposed to be this year,  but that didn’t work out due to injury.  Boo face.  But, warriors don’t quit.  So a little injury is not going to get in my way.
2.     Run in a destination race (Races I have in mind are: a Rock and Roll series race, Bloomsday Race in Washington, etc.) – Did it! Ran the Diva Half Marathon in May of 2012 with my friend Jen in San Francisco.  The goal here was just to do a race not in Sacramento.  I’m sure to add more destination races before I’m 30, but technically, this item is done!
3.     Attend an NBA game in an arena other than Arco (Power Balance Pavilion)
4.     Bet on March Madness in Tahoe/Reno/Vegas
5.     Learn to make my Abuela’s ‘Arroz Con Pollo’ by myself
6.     Coach a youth soccer team
7.     Take a picture of our Old Fair Oaks brick and frame it
8.     Hike Half Dome
9.     Build and Grow a garden in my backyard
10.Go beach camping
11.Go to the Garlic Festival in Gilroy
12.Maintain my “Running My Life” blog – So far, so good!  I would say that I’ve maintained my blog pretty well since starting it in 2011.  The goal is to at least post once a week about running, teaching, or fun adventures.
13.Sew something I can wear (without Abuela’s help, or too much of it J ) – This one is also done!  I sewed a cute circle skirt a few weeks back.  My abuela went to Miami and gave me a mission: Sew something without her!  And I did! Boo yah!
14.Ride in a limo for a special occasion
15.Take a picture with all of my cousins in one photo
16.Decorate my house/apartment for Halloween
17.Visit the NBA hall of fame
18.Host a dinner party
19.Spend a month committing random acts of kindness
20.Plan a girl’s weekend
21.Get married
22. Go to Hawaii
23.Meet someone famous
24.Attend a boot camp or personal training session
25.Make an ice cream cake
26.Visit the corn maze in Woodland
27.Bake bread from scratch
28.Go on a road trip down Highway 101 – Did it!  This summer I went on a crazy road trip from Sacramento, to Olympia, WA to Portland, OR, and we concluded our trip with a drive on the Oregon coast on Highway 101!  It was beautiful!  Originally I had in mind to drive down the coast in California, but that trip still counts!  We were driving “down” the coast back to California.
29.Learn to play Craps
30.Volunteer to help with a race (host one, aid station, etc.)

 4 out of 30…not amazing, but at least some things are crossed off!

Hmmm…which one will be the next one I do???

Stay tuned!


Something weird happened yesterday.

I was driving back from Target to my apartment

and a Brad Paisley song came on the radio.

I sang along, because I always sing in the car,

but before I knew it, I was uncontrollably teary eyed.


The song randomly reminded me of a few of my former students,

which is weird, because the song was about his son.

But I guess the lyrics made me feel a little motherly towards them,

and it just hit me that I can’t take care of them anymore.

They are out in the world.

And I felt sad for a minute.

Will they forget me?

Will they remember all the life lessons I tried so desperately to teach them?

But then I felt lucky.

My school campus hosts a K-5 school, and a 6-12 school.

Which means many of my students will leave my door

to other classrooms across campus until they are seniors.

I get to see them evolve and grow into real people.

I can’t even imagine the teachers that say goodbye in June

and are left wondering, “What ever happened to ______?”

After a long week of parent-teacher conferences,

there is nothing better than leaving work on Friday

knowing there are non-school related plans for the weekend.

But despite all the long hours, the challenges, and the stress,

it’s these kids that make everything worth it.

In particular, a former student who probably averaged two trips to the office a month

in the course of two years being my student.

The one who slammed the door and said

“This school is ridonkulous” on her first trip there.

But so far this school year, has not been sent to the office once.

And when I saw her after school this week to congratulate her,

her smile of accomplishment made me melt.

And then again when she said, “It’s hard!” with a smile.

I always knew she could do it.

I do this work for her.

And then there was another one.

The one who always found himself among the troublemakers,

but had a potential to be something greater.

Who was far below grade level, but left my class approaching advanced.

Who knew a little responsibility is all he needed?

He needed to feel needed.  He needed to feel like he had a purpose.

Little by little, he transformed from a troublemaker to a leader.

Doing little jobs for me around the classroom.  Doing things when he knew I forgot.

He, too, continues to grow without me.

Today he came to visit me before school

just to ask me to sign a recommendation form for a classroom job.

“Teacher’s Assistant.”

How perfect!

Of course I signed it, and filled out all the lines under “Comments about this student.”

These are just two of the students I do this work for.

To watch them grow, and hope I’ve made an impact on them.

Don’t get me wrong, my new class of students are wonderful!

But for me, the satisfaction in teaching sometimes comes from the after-fact.

To see what I’ve taught in action.

To see that they really did learn something.

Here’s the song that started all the reminiscing…

A day I won’t forget

When I think of the people who jumped out of buildings

instead of waiting for their death on that terrifying day

I still get goosebumps.

I was just sixteen.  But I remember that day clearly.

I woke up to get ready for school, to my mother staring at the television.

If you know my mother, she does not watch TV. It’s just not her thing.

That morning, however, she was glued.

“A plane crashed into the World Trade Center,” she had said.

“Tons of people are going to die.”

I swear, I thought the world was ending.

I had never seen her upset like this before.

Fast forward a few hours later.

I remember sitting in my car, listening to my favorite radio station

hearing them say that the second plane hit.

I can still hear the DJ’s voice vividly.

And then, forced to class, I was stunned

because instead of taking notes on a lecture,

we sat in front of the television.  Watching.

Then another hour later.

I’m out in the parking lot, decorating a friends car for her birthday.

It felt so wrong.  Helping someone celebrate this day,

when people were dying.

I am not still friends with her, but I always think of her on this day.

How would you feel to have this day as your birthday?

Does it feel strange?  Does it feel ruined?

As an educator, I feel it is important to share this day with my students.

Though I was not affected first hand, it still brings me some emotion.

How do you explain this horrific day to 9 year olds?

It’s tricky.  Yet, last year, a teacher blog I love to follow

posted this great Brain Pop video that puts it simply enough for them to understand,

yet doesn’t seem to leave anything out.


If you are looking for a way to share this piece of history with your students,

I recommend this video.

It’s been 11 years, but I still haven’t forgotten.


I do this work for the kids

At my school, we try to pump our kiddos up big time for state testing.

This past spring, we told our kids that if they gave their very best effort

on the CST (California Standards Test) that we’d have a little celebration.

For every increment of 5 points beyond last years school score,

the teachers would wear school uniforms,

while the students wore “free dress.”

Boy, oh boy!  Apparently bribery works.  A little too much.

Here’s me in my ‘school uniform,’ shirt tucked in and all!

Not only did our kids surpass our schoolwide score from last year – 802,

but they grew 25 points! – with a score of 827!

Holy cow!!! So, that calculates to one school week worth of wearing uniforms!

Can’t say I love it.  Can’t say I hate it.

This is what we call the Joy Factor, people.

Getting our kiddos to love school for any reason at all.

It keeps them pumped and keeps them working hard.

Excuse me while I go throw in a load of laundry.

I’ll be wearing that polo all week.

Sewing some Independence

My abuela is an amazing seamstress.

Most projects, she doesn’t even need a pattern.

Only a vision in her head.

She forced me into sewing lessons at the local fabric store as a preteen.

At the time, I can’t say I was too thankful or impressed.

After all, most young girls spend their evenings watching the latest hip TV show

or go to swim practice or dance lessons.

Not me.

I can still hear the hum of the sewing machines in the back corner of the store.

I can vividly recall the Troll fabric I chose for a pair of culottes.

(Oh boy, can you tell I am a child from the early 90s?)

I was capable, but I was never too impressed with any of my final products.

Nor was I thankful for this treat to know the tricks of sewing.

Years later, my gratitude shines.

Abuela and I have become regulars at our local JoAnne’s Fabrics.

She loves to boast and brag to the ladies

at the fabric counter about our latest idea for a project.

“I’m teaching her how to sew!  Isn’t that wonderful!”

She says to them practically every time.

(This is not a joke, nor an exaggeration.)

Though sometimes I blush in embarrassment,

I am proud to say that I am learning to sew my own clothes.

If you recall from my 30 before 30 list

one of my dreams was to sew something

on my own or with minor help from my Abuela.

There is one downfall sewing with Abuela.

Sometimes she ends up sewing the whole project on her own,

after-the-fact realizing she forgot to teach me.

Well, a few weeks ago she went on a 3 week long trip to Miami,

left me the key to her house and gave me a challenge:

Sew something without her while she was gone.

I have to admit, this was not a  quick and dirty endeavor.

Choosing the perfect pattern and fabric took one hour alone!

But after a morning of sewing, seam ripping, and sewing some more,

I had sewed my very own skirt!

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I am also proud to share that I successfully altered

the pattern a little bit, by changing the belt waist!

Though I am also here to admit

that I lost my patience when it came time for the hem,

so I left it for Abuela to finish when she returned from her trip.

However, there was no greater satisfaction

than hearing her on the phone the day she came back.

“Gina, when I saw that skirt I was screaming!

 I couldn’t believe you did that all by yourself!”

Independence in Abuela’s eyes.  Finally.

The whole idea behind putting this on the list

was to prove to her (and to myself) that I can actually sew.

Well, here’s proof!

And another 30 before 30 item to check off the list!

May this inspire me to complete a few more before

I turn 28 in a few weeks.