We spent last night in our new place, which we worked to clean all week. It’s nice and we are out of the dirty, loud apartment from campus, but now we are facing new problems:

  • The internet we’ve paid for is worthless. We get 1megabit/second when we paid for 100megabits/second. And that’s without a VPN. 
  • The mattress is hard even by Chinese standards. (This will be fixed by a mattress pad, we hope.)
  • The internet is faster on our phones via 4G than it is wired to a laptop. o_O
  • Our upstairs neighbors have three children who run basically nonstop. (They are also Korean so we can’t even speak to them. Not even “Ni hao.”)
  • The technicians showed us that Chinese websites load just fine with our internet, and don’t seem concerned that we can’t access English sites. 
  • The internet doesn’t work, meaning we can’t work, skype, or watch Netflix. 
  • Did I mention we can’t use the internet?

We knew connectivity might be a challenge here, but we never imagined that we would get less than ten percent of the speed we paid for. Or that literally no English websites would load. 

Andy is working to see what he can do now. He can’t get our router from home to work. It honestly worries me that he is so upset about it, though, because if he can’t fix it, I literally don’t know anyone who can. 

This was supposed to be how he kept his job from home. How we kept in touch. How we stayed sane. Its implications are frightening. This is more than just not being able to get on Facebook. This is basically being cut off from the rest of the world. 

Upcoming virtual race: The Puppy Run (special discount code!)

Dog lovers, hold on to your leashes! Coming up in early June is a virtual race to outdo them all: The Puppy Run.

Brought to you by the same folks that created the amazing Pi Day 5k (on 3/14/15), The Puppy Run has 5k (3.1 miles), 10k (6.2 miles), and half marathon (13.1 miles) options! With adorable medals and shirts, sweet swag for kiddos and pooches, and a great charity to support, how could you *not* want to run this race?

Better yet is the possibility of winning awards. (I won a prize for my Instagram video for the Pi Day 5k, so I can vouch for the fact that these people know how to pick awards!) There are a number of categories for awards including largest team, best team name, best photo, best puppy photo, fastest runner, and most inspirational.

So here’s the rundown…

Who can run?
Anyone. Adults, kids, dogs… anyone who wants to get moving in the name of love for our four-legged friends.

When is it?
Run your chosen distance between June 5 and 8. The “virtual” aspect of the run means that you run when you want, where you want, however fast/slow you want.

What’s in it for me?
A good time, a well-motivated run, sweet swag, a nationwide group hug for puppies, and the knowledge that your registration fee supports a good charity.

Want to sign up? Good! I have a discount code for you. 😀

Use code karissa10 to receive 10% off your registration. You can share it with friends, family, colleagues, or other pooch parents to share the love so everyone can participate in The Puppy Run. In fact, I’d prefer that you share it as much as possible! Register here!

My pup Trixie will be joining me on a 5k that weekend, so feel free to join us in this virtual event!

Methodology for vocabulary exercises: just add fun

A week ago I promised a blog on this topic… A week ago I was more than a little ambitious. Ha! Things have really exploded with springtime activity both in my professional and personal life, so I’m just now getting around to this.

The vocabulary exercises I learned at TESOL 2015 are still blowing my mind. The presentation was the most delightful one I attended at the conference a month ago, and now that I’ve marinated on the methods for awhile I’m finding ways to incorporate them into my upper level ESL classes.

Laurel Pollard‘s vocabulary presentation inspired me to find ways to make words more accessible to my students. I have often struggled to teach vocabulary building because I find the students are bored and the lessons are boring too. So my goal was to teach it in an interesting way that would provide a lasting effect on their lexicon.

I gave my students reading assignments as usual, but in the list of links I included “45 ways to avoid using the word ‘very.’” They loved it! They came to class prepared to talk about the important of choosing the right word for the right situation. They had questions about whether or not people actually say these words aloud or if they just write them (a fantastic question that gets into social and class politics, on some level).

I came to class ready to help them get personal with these words. Whether or not they had seen them before, they practiced getting familiar with the meaning and usage. I gave each student a sheet with a grid for all 45 words. The directions were to write the new word at the top, and “very” word at the bottom, draw a small picture that would help them remember the word, and write a sentence using the word.

They left class with lots of laughs while drawing pictures of ferocious lions, ravenous dogs, and terrifying ghosts. They also left knowing that the following week (last Monday) they would have a vocabulary quiz.

My vocab quiz? Jeopardy! Here are links to the game boards I made for class.
Jeopardy part 1
Jeopardy part 2

They loved the game format. They worked in pairs to come up with the correct words (answering in the form of a question and under a time crunch!). It was delightful to hear them conjure the terms–“Oh, I know this one! I drew a picture of a witch’s hat!” (villainous) “I remember my sentence was about the winter weather here!” (freezing)

I was astonished to watch the recall taking place before my eyes as they played the game. They were so competitive! I’m delighted with the lesson and so were they. I’m planning to repeat this for other classes and vary it to expand the kinds of words I can include in the gameplay. Making it fun has already helped the students with recall because the new papers I’m grading have nary a “very” in them. 🙂

Adventures in español

One of the perks of my teaching job is getting to take classes from other teachers at a low cost. This semester I signed up for Spanish I. I already know French rather well (and there weren’t any higher level classes for me to take), so I forayed into this, my third language.

The semester has been thrilling! My faculty mentor is the professor, so I’m learning a great deal from her pedagogically in addition to learning the language. I’m signing up for the second half of Spanish I today to take in the fall semester.

One of the assignments for the class is (surprise!) a collection of blogs. I’ve posted five total so far. Here’s a synopsis of my posts.

  • Self-identification in the Spanish-speaking world – I discussed the tricky task of self identifying for people who have Spanish-speaking heritage or live in part of the Spanish-speaking world. (I discuss use of the terms “latino/latina,” “hispanic,” “Spanish,” and [insert name of country]-American.)
  • Spanish music composer calls Pittsburgh home – Inspired by the sound track to my daily commute, I discussed the dearth of Spanish classical music composers and introduce a famous composer who actually lives in Pittsburgh.
  • La vocabulario de los parientes en francĂ©s – Don’t let the title scare you: I wrote in English! I recognized differences between English, French, and Spanish in the terminology for various family members and, finding it notable, discussed its potential implications.
  • AcciĂłn OrthogrĂĄfica Quito: public grammar correction – Finally, a topic I can wax poetic about! Grammar! I learned about a group of vigilante graffiti artists who correct the grammar of graffiti in their (Spanish-speaking) neighborhoods, so of course I had to discuss this…
  • Conflict Kitchen: “#YoTambienExijo” – A restaurant in Pittsburgh highlighted political injustice for artists, specifically regarding freedom of speech, re-creating a performance art piece by a Cuban artist, Tania Bruguera. I discussed the implications of the artist’s imprisonment, the re-creation of her work, and the connection of language to this movement (represented by the hashtag #YoTambienExijo).

Hope you enjoy these posts! I’ve had fun writing them and I’m already registered for the second part of Spanish I for fall semester!

Guest blogging for TESOL International!

At the end of March, I attended my first TESOL International conference in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It was incredible!

More incredible, though, was the opportunity to blog about grammar and writing for the conference! Two of my favorite topics? In a blog? For a professional conference? Sign me up! (And they did.)

Here’s my post. Enjoy!

P.S. Also cool? Being listed as an author on the blog!


Oh good heavens. Have I really not blogged for six months? For shame, Karissa…

It’s been busy, for sure, but so many blog-worthy things have happened! I used to write apologies to my blog when I left it forlorn, barren of my prose. I’m not going to do that here. Now that I’ve been blogging for 12 years, it feels like my adolescent blog should be able to handle a hiatus without much trouble.

But you, dear reader: to you, I apologize. I’ve got some fun ideas for running, writing, teaching, and various related posts. Hopefully you’ll be entertained, intrigued, and engaged. 🙂

Fueling crisis

It’s been awhile, blog.

For the past week, I’ve been following a strict restrictive diet in hopes of determining if I have food allergies… Because just treating the hypothyroidism hasn’t returned my energy and I’m desperate to feel like I’m my own age again, not three times my age.

The detox itself has been a challenge. Today, though, I learned a little more about why I need an answer to my energy problem.
I ran the Great Race 10k in Pittsburgh today (third year in a row). I was really looking forward to it. But this past week I was on the restricted diet, which included fish, chicken, fruits, and vegetables. No grain, which is how I usually fuel for races…

I was okay for the first three miles. After that, well, I kind if fell apart.

It was hot. I probably drank too much water. I wasn’t fueled properly and I knew it.

I got dizzy. My hands tingled. My feet tingled. My goal went from racing, to just finishing, to just not passing out…

I’m pleased to report that I didn’t pass out. I finished in 1:21:15. Definitely not my best time, and I walked most of miles 4-6, but I finished.

I’m more desperate than ever to get my energy back. The way I feel is not okay. I see my doctor tomorrow–the one who prescribed the detox–and I’m hoping to learn some answers. I’m hopeful, but I’m also trying to be realistic. I just really want to feel better.

Giving Bits a try

Hypothyroidism is still running the show here… And I’m sick of it. Blood tests from last week indicated that I need a higher dose of the thyroid medication, so I’m trying that, but frankly I’ve tired of being tired. I have no energy (despite medications to keep me awake), I’m not running much (despite wanting to), and the weight I’ve gained? Well, I didn’t want to make weight an issue on this blog, but it is an issue.

In the last few months, I’ve put on over 20 lbs without trying. Despite eating well. I know that inactivity isn’t helping me, but how can I get active when I’m so tired all the time?! It’s horrible. At 6’0″, I still look much the same as I did >20 lbs ago. (At least that’s what friends say.) I feel MUCH different, however. The way my clothes fit, the way my body moves, the way my face looks when I smile… It’s not okay with me.

I’m increasing the thyroid medication per my doctor’s orders, but I need to do something else too. Feeling desperate, I decided to order Skinny Bits, a product similar to Energy Bits, which I tried out (and reviewed) last summer.

I need energy. They promise energy. (And I experienced that last summer.) I need to slim down. They promise to help with weight loss.

I bought a whole bag, so I have more to try than just the samples I reviewed last summer. I’ll report back as I journey along with Bits. Wish me luck. 🙂

Crying through rust

Today was a pretty traumatic day for me. It shouldn’t have been, but it was.

It started with a simple repair to my Jeep: replace the old weatherstripping. My car is 13 years old, paid off, and, mechanically and aesthetically, in great shape. But I noticed some water down near the pedals awhile ago, and my boyfriend (mechanical engineer and general car genius) suggested we replace the weatherstripping to solve the problem.

Removing the weatherstripping was easy. Replacing it was easy. But moving some of the carpeting to access some panels revealed standing water.

Removing the seats, center console, and carpeting revealed rust. Body rust.

I handled all of that well. It was when my boyfriend touched the rust that I lost it. Pieces crumbled away under the pressure from his hand. To see the extent of the damage, he hammered it gently. Then I could see through the car’s body to the ground.

I sobbed.

He stopped hammering and hugged me and said that it will be okay, but it will take some work. Fortunately it isn’t the frame. Fortunately said boyfriend also knows how to weld. Fortunately we fixed the problem of how the water (evil, dreaded water) was entering the car.

He will remove the bad part and weld in new material. But for now I have no carpeting because the old stuff is waterlogged. The interior needs to dry really well before we do anything more work.

It’ll be a few weeks till hints are back to normal with my beloved Jeep. Till then, I have a very rugged interior.

Mad about mantras

I used to think it was bunk. Hubbub. Brouhaha. But the truth is, sometimes mantras keep me going.

My mantras made the short list for the Oiselle blog post about what keeps you running in the summer heat.

Screen Shot 2014-07-05 at 12.12.44 PM


I recently started running without music. I still use my iPod nano as my timekeeper, but I don’t wear headphones. I feel a little safer running along the roads near my house without the music playing, even at a dull roar. More, though, I feel a little more connected to myself and “the run.” (Note that I’m also running outside and not in the gym… I desperately need music when I run in the gym… too many distractions, so it keeps me focused.)

When I started running, music was imperative. I couldn’t get through a workout without it. It felt strange to run, even with friends, and *not* have my music in my ears. But trying to run without it leaves me searching for that peace that I get when I find a good pace and just run for the sake of running.

And what pops into my brain when I’m just running to run? Sometimes it’s worries or things I need to do, sometimes I’m thinking about my posture or my breathing or that I think I might have a rock in my shoe.

To get myself back on track, I’ve found that a little mantra helps. Being mindful during my running has made the workouts feel like a reward. The two mantras I mentioned in the Oiselle blog post (screenshot above) are the ones I go to most.

If I am struggling, I remember all those laid to rest on the couch who aren’t running and how even though I’m struggling–up a hill, catching my breath, with that dratted rock in my shoe that may or may not exist–I am still running. And that is enough in that single moment. That is enough.

When I feel good, I just try to feel even better. “Head up, wings out” is what the Oiselle Flock taught me and I use this to push though the miles.

Sometimes I miss my music. Maybe I’ll listen to it on later runs. But for now, I’m living free.