Thursday, October 31, 2013

Shootout Shenanigans!

Hockey has never really interested me. I didn't understand the rules. The smashing of each other into the boards seemed a bit barbaric.The puck was so small and moved so fast that even the camera man had trouble following it sometimes. Also, being from Iowa, hockey isn't really a big deal. With no pro teams to root for or college teams that play it, hockey was always that obselete sporting event that no one really cared about. Let's just say that all of those sentiments of mine have changed over the course of the last year or so...

My roommate last year, Kevin, and his girlfriend, Erin, were both huge hockey fans. Being from Chicago, they worshiped the Chicago Blackhawks and followed their every move (even following them on Instagram and Twitter - obsessive, I know). So when the season was almost cancelled last year to do the lockout, I thought they were both going to lose it. I did my best to try and figure out who the players were, but really had no real interest/investment in the sport. However, once the playoffs began, my tune changed.

The Stanley Cup is one of the most electrifying championship series in sports today. Anything can happen. Lower seeded teams constantly upset the favorites. Games are won and lost by mere centimeters. The hits are harder and the fans are rowdier. A small group of us (Erin, Kevin, Phetsada, Cathy, Brad, and myself) started watching the games together. Hockey became our life blood. Every other night we were either at Bru's Room or Brad's house, taking in the games and watching the Blackhawks slowly make their way towards hoisting the Stanley Cup.

The final series was filled with nothing short of thrilling games. The first game went into 3 OTs, blood was spilled on the ice, and tempers flared. In the end, the Blackhawks took home the cup in dramatic fashion, scoring two goals 17 seconds apart from each other. Pandamonium rained down upon the 6 of us as the ultimate goal was finally achieved. My love for hockey had been officially solidified and I couldn't wait until the next season began!

With the beginning of October came the start of hockey season. The first thing that we did once the schedule was announced was see when the Blackhawks would be making a trip down to Miami to play the Florida Panthers. The fateful day ended up being Tuesday, October 22nd. Brad was able to score Phetsada, Cathy, and I awesome seats in the ADT suite (the same place that I watched my first hockey game earlier this year with the $1,000 seats). We weren't a complete 6, but Erin and Kevin were with us in spirit (and through SnapChat/Instagram/Facebook/Text Messaging). Gotta love that technology!

The game itself was a super exciting one. The Blackhawks were up 2-0 going into the third period, then allowed the Panthers to tie it up with two goals of their own. With the score knotted at 2 a piece, the game headed to overtime. No goals were scored, so this led to the always exciting shootout! The Blackhawks ended up winning the shootout 2-1, a result that sent the pro-Blackhawks crowd into a frenzy. It also sent the mom's of the players (who were sitting a couple of boxes over from us) home with high spirits and smiles on their faces.

It was great to finally see the Blackhawks play in person. The end result definitely was what we wanted and the game didn't disappoint. I'm super excited to see where the season goes and how far the Blackhawks can make it this year. So far, things are off to a good start and hopefully the boys will keep it up!

Next goal: watch the Blackhawks in Chicago in the United Center with Kevin and Erin. Bring it on!

The Super Six at graduation last year (Kevin, Phetsada, myself, Cathy, Erin, and Brad)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Zombies Invade Miami!

The Walking Dead. World War Z. Zombieland.

A common theme in today's media centers around zombies. People are creating action plans for what they would do is a zombie apocalypse were to occur. Supplies are being stocked up that would help sustain the population in case we were ever faced with these flesh eating monstrosities. Not only has this become an obsession that TV and movies have taken and run with, it's also being incorporated into other aspects of life. One such example of this was held last Saturday, October 19, 2013 in Miami.

The Zombie Rush 5K is an event that is sponsored by Ultimate Combatant and involves people dressing up as zombies chasing after participants, trying to pull flags that represent their lives. It's an event that I hadn't participated in prior to this event, so the anxiety levels were pretty high leading up to the actual race itself. I really had no idea what to expect. Personally, people/things jumping out of hidden places is not a favorite pasttime of mine - hence my dislike of haunted houses. Needless to say, the car ride down to Miami was a bit tense.

Once we got to the race location, Nick, Hallie, and I picked up our race packets, pinned on our numbers (some of us with greater ease than others - right Nick?), looped our flag belts around our waists, and started to amp ourselves up. We had about an hour before our heat took off, so we walked around for a bit and took in the sights and sounds. The race itself started in an old, "abandoned" storage unit that had been spray painted with warnings about upcoming zombies and dangers ahead on the course. It definitely helped to set the mood for the race.

Finally, 9:30 am rolled around and it was time for us to begin! We were greeted with piercing sirens and clouds of smoke as we emerged from the storage unit. Also waiting for us was the first round of zombies. Dodging through grasping, flag-grabbing hands and stumbling runners, I was able to make it through unscathed with all three of my flags still securely attached to my belt.

As the race progressed, obstacles that had been strewn throughout the course were encountered. Mud pits, ladders, walls, tiling tubes, and sand pits were amongst the various objects used to slow down and challenge us runners. Along with the obstacles, groups of zombies were spread throughout the run, which called for random bursts of speed in order to survive. I managed to make it through all of the obstacles without losing a flag (I donated one to Nick because he continually lost his flags due to his lack of elusive moves/stupidity). That is until we reached the last group of obstacles.

By the end of the race, we were all exhausted. Between the random sprinting, daunting physical tasks, and the Florida sun/heat/humidity, energy levels were low and a precious commodity. The end of the race was comprised of a pile of tires, sand pit, water slide, and mud crawl before finally reaching the finish line. As we approached the pile of tires, we were met faced with 4 zombies all between the ages of 8 and 14 (aka small-children-with-ample-amounts-of-energy-chasing-tired-runners-and-ruining-their-no-lives-lost-streak). My luck had finally run out.

As we crossed the finish line, thirst-quenching bottles of water were grabbed, the rinsing off of mud and grime commenced, surviror tags were handed out, and t-shirts were attained. The race itself was a lot of fun and not as stress inducing as I had pictured it to be. Following the race, we headed over to Nick's sister's house for a proper shower and clean-up. From there, we grabbed some lunch at an awesome sub shop and then headed to our hotel for the night. We were meeting our friends Cassie and Jordan that afternoon and heading to a beer festival in nearby Coconut Grove.

After checking in, Nick, Hallie, and I strolled around South Beach for a bit, scouting out a possible plan of attack for later that night. When Cassie and Jordan arrived, we hailed a cab and headed to Grovetoberfest! I went last year and had another great experience this year as well! We met up with our friends Ashley, Ali, and Jen and enjoyed the over 200 various craft beers and ciders that were available for sampling. Three hours and ample amounts of free samples later, we were all ready to head back to the hotel to prepare ourselves for a night out in Miami.

We finally made our way out of the hotel around 11 pm after taking in a couple hours of college football and fighting over covers to keep from turning into icicles in the hotel room. The night started at Wet Willie's with a round of slushies that never disappoint! We then met up with Phetsada, Vanessa, Javelle, and Ali at The Clevelander, where we made our way up to the rooftop. The sights of Miami at night provided a nice background to the thumping beats and dancing bodies that littered the rooftop. The night was capped off with some fantastic pizza. All in all it was a great way to end a long, fulfilling day!

*All pictures of zombie race signs are courtesy of Ultimate Combatant*

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Flying Solo

Teaching is one of those professions that is definitely not for everyone. Having qualities such as patience, organization, and the ability to multi-task are all vital aspects that many successful teachers possess. Being able to roll with the punches, so to speak, and utilize flexibility is another important thing that comes in handy quite a bit. Take my day today for example...

At EdVenture, I team teach with another teacher,Carly. She is the other Language Arts teacher and her and I get a long really well. We compliment each other very nicely and this helps make for a smooth day filled with lots of laughter and memorable moments. We tend to switch off classes and in turn end up teaching about three classes a day each. This helps to save our vocal cords and nerves as our students can be a bit trying at times. It's definitely a great trade off and I'm learning a lot every day.

However, things were thrown for a bit of a loop today when I got to school. I was informed upon my arrival that Carly was sick and was not going to be at school. A tiny bit of panic set in as I've never taught all day by myself yet, but luckily we had the entire week planned out (we're discussing personal hygiene and proper laundry technique - something I feel every high school student should learn about!), so I wasn't worried about the lesson itself. The thing that had me a bit worried was the students themselves.

Carly has been at the school for about 6 years now and has developed some close relationships with many of the students. I'm still rather new on the job (many of students are still learning my name, referring to me as "Sir" or "Mister" or "Dude over there") and am still getting to know the students and their tendencies. Also, new students are being added to classes daily and other changes are being made as well, so cohesiveness hasn't quite set in yet among all of the classes. So being in front of all the classes by myself caused a small spat of nerves to set in.

Since I'm an AmeriCorps member and not a salaried employee, I am not allowed to be alone in the classroom with the students at any time. Due to the nature of EdVenture, there really aren't substitutes that can be called on like the rest of the school district to fill in when a teacher is sick. To compensate for this, the other staff members will step in and provide coverage when needed. So I knew that I wasn't going to be the only one in the classroom - I just knew that I was going to be large and in charge.

Turns out the day ended up being one of the most successful and rewarding ones that I've had at the school to date. The students were amazingly receptive and participated in our class discussions and activity. I was expecting some of them to push boundaries because Carly wasn't there, but I was treated with a high level of respect that most of the time is lacking amongst our student population. Heck, I even made a few of the "hard and tough" kids laugh and smile. That is considered a win in my book!

I received multiple praises and thanks from other staff members for the job that I did today. For me, it wasn't the outside praise that mattered - it was the fact that I was able to make it through the day without wanting to pull my hair out (too bad). I also realized that I have made more progress with some of my students than I didn't thought I had to the point. Today's experience has further solidified the fact that being in front of a classroom full of students is where I'm meant to be. So in hindsight, Carly's absence, which could've been a negative, stress inducing experience, turned out to be a positive, confidence boosting one.

Let's just hope that she's at school tomorrow...

On a side note, I've realized that I never passed along the fact that my address has changed. I moved apartments and have just neglected to share my new place of residence. If you are in the mood to send me mail of any kind (care packages and hand written notes are always welcomed and appreciated!), they can be directed to the following address:

Michael Owen
377 E Woolbright Road
Boynton Beach, FL 33435

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Color Me AmeriCorps!!!

That picture above says it all...pretty much!

The Color Run was held this past weekend at the Homestead-Miami Speedway and you better believe that I was there, participating again in full force! It was once again an amazing experience that I can't wait to do again!

Saturday, 14 of us (Tasha, Kelsey, Krystle, Sam, Chris, Cait, Andrea, Hallie, Cassie, Ryan, Jessica, Courtney, Priscille, and myself) rolled out of the parking garage at Las Ventanas at the dark hour of 5 am and made our way south to Homestead. After the "eventful" 1 1/2 hour drive, we arrived at the Homestead-Miami Speedway before the sun had even peaked over the horizon. Having to still pick up our race day packets, we headed over to the check-in tent hoping to beat any lines. Turns out that we were the very first ones to check-in for the race! Once we picked up our packets, we headed back to the car to get all tatted up and ready to go.

Since we arrived so early, we had plenty of time to kill before the first heat of the race began. We strolled around the grounds, collecting free stuff left and right (backpacks, bandannas, wrist bands, food and drinks). We made multiple trips to the car to deposit our souvenirs and then made our way to the start line. With adrenaline pumping through our veins and music pulsated through our ear drums, we took our place in the first heat of runners, anticipating the start of what promised to be an awesome experience!

The tail end of the National Anthem was eventually replaced with a thundering countdown. Once "1" was yelled, the Color Run was on! One of the really awesome things about this event is the color aspect. Every kilometer of this 5K is marked by a different color zone. Kilometer One was yellow; Kilometer Two was pink; Kilometer Three was blue; Kilometer Four was orange; and Kilometer Five was the after party! We walked/ran/skipped our way through the course, taking in all of the sights and sounds that abounded around us.

Once we hit the finish line, we were greeted with a much needed and appreciated bottle of water and many smiling, colorful faces. Being that we were in the very first heat, we were one of the first ones done, which meant front and center access to the best part of the entire experience - the after party! This mosh pit type gathering involved many free giveaways, including frisbees, socks, sweatshirts, t-shirts, and the most coveted item - packs of color. The makers of this race not only use colored powder on the race course, but they also use them after the race is done. This is where most of the "color" damage is done as every 15 minutes a color throw is executed. Color packs are opened, the powder inside is flung into the air, and mayhem ensues! The video below details what it's like inside a color throw...

After experiencing about 4 of these color throws (and swallowing/choking on our fair share of powder), we decided to head out and find some food. We cleaned up to the best of our ability at the cars, piled all of our clothes into plastic bags, and left in search of food. Naturally, we ended up at the food court of a local mall. You can imagine the looks and stares that we received. 10 20-something-year-old's caked in multiple colors in line for food at random restaurants. It was quite a trip! We finally made it home again and took a much needed nap!

This Saturday we also had the opportunity to attend a BBQ hosted by the president of the Board of Directors at the Literacy Coalition, the parent organization for our AmeriCorps program. This is the first time that any of the AmeriCorps groups have ever had the privilege of being over to Mr. Bob Patterson's house and it definitely did not disappoint. His wife and him prepared a gorgeous meal, consisting of chicken, BBQ ribs, a multitude of salads, rolls, wine, beer, soda, and numerous desserts. It was such a generous offer and was thoroughly enjoyed by all of the members! Thanks definitely does not fully express our gratitude!

This upcoming weekend features the zombie run, Grovetoberfest, and a night out in Miami! Hopefully I'm able to survive being chased by zombies to enjoy some beer samples and Miami nightlife. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Off and Running...Again

Since coming home from Korea, lots of things have reverted back to how they were before taking a year off from life and living halfway around the world. My comfort foods consisting of cereal, mac 'n' cheese, and meaty hamburgers are back in my life. My favorite shows are available on TV once again (and when I miss them, Netflix and Hulu). I am able to get around by car again and don't have to use public transportation (even though I miss it quite a bit). However, one big change that I've made, especially this year, is that of exercising and running more consistently. It's definitely paying off!

One of the new members, Hallie, and I have been staying consistently active. We are out running at least three nights a week (if not four) and are currently training for a half-marathon in November. In the meantime, we have the following events to look forward to as well:

1. Color Run in Miami (Oct. 12) - I'm super excited to be participating in this awesome event once again this year! There are 13 of us going down and I can't wait to get dirty, sweaty, and color-fied!!

2. Zombie Run in Miami (Oct. 19) - This is just as it sounds - running from Zombies! Hallie, Nick, and I are going to be partaking in this 5K in an attempt to evade zombies that are after flags (not our flesh) before crossing the finish line, hopefully all in one piece!

3. Electric Run in Miami (Nov. 23) - Still haven't decided about this one yet, but this 5K takes place at night under black lights and other glow-in-the-dark apparatuses that promise to make this experience unforgettable!

4. Turkey Trot in West Palm Beach (Nov. 28) - I did this run last year with Kourtney and am planning on taking part in it once again this year on Thanksgiving Day. A low-key fun run around downtown West Palm, hopefully Zoey and Taz (our two canine roommate) will be joining us as well!

As you can see, I've got quite a few runs coming up to look forward to! I'm loving being active again and finding out that I can fit exercise into my busy daily routine! Yay for fitness!!