Learning to Take Care of My Damn Self

Growing up I watched my very motivated father work his fingers to the damn bone. If there was a retake needed by a football player, he’d stay until 6 to give it to them. If a parent meeting needed to happen at 5 am or 9 pm, he’d make it happen. If he needed to learn Spanish or trombone to get the information across, he’d do it.

Every evening I watched him get home late and fall asleep minutes after sitting down. And every single school break I watched him get horribly sick and spend his time off recovering.

When I started teaching I promised myself I would find a way to work for my kids, to give them every chance I can, without burning myself out.

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I have been blessed with a team of co-workers who are caring and understanding, who always look out for me. My co-teacher tells me often to take care of myself. The beginning of every department meeting is either a self care check-in (where we talk about our specific self care goals and what we are doing to reach them this week) or a self care practice (Tai Chi, guided meditation, etc.) My Assistant Principal meets with me once a week to lesson plan/unit plan/revise curriculum/talk about what’s not working and how to fix it. My in-school mentor meets with me once a week to talk about literally anything I need help with.

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I’m supported, much more so than a lot of teachers. I’m lucky and I know it. But still I got caught with a case of ignoring my own needs.

Last Monday I got up at 4 and laid on my couch sobbing because my head was pounding so hard I couldn’t move. I called in sick but by noon the fever, headache and general ick was so bad I couldn’t stop crying.

I went to the clinic in the afternoon (I’ll be honest I went mostly because I wanted to be at work the following day) and found out I had a high fever, a sinus infection, and an ear infection.

My point is: don’t do this. Don’t let it get this bad. I was sick, really obviously sick and tried to push too hard through it and for what?

Americans especially have this notion that if you are not absolutely killing yourself at work, you’re lazy. I can’t say this enough times: that’s bullsh*t.

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In Peru, we would work from about 7- or am until lunch, go get lunch and take a nap or spend time with family, and then go back to work from 3 until 5 or 6. Yeah, that’s a three hour lunch. We also took 20-30 minutes breaks throughout the day to sit and talk.

At first I was torn apart by the difference and went to the go-to argument so many others have used (or at least thought in their head): well maybe if they worked more, their country would be more advanced. This, my friends, is also bullsh*t.

The reasons that many countries struggle has more to do with internal structure and corruption than with amount of hours worked. Hard work may be important, but worker bees working their buzzers off with no break  will not improve a country or a city or a workplace or a person.

I suppose the moral of the story is: put in the work, do whatever it is you do the best that you possibly can, but remember that half of being your best is treating yourself well. Work hard, self care hard.

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Best of luck.

Learning to Take Care of My Damn Self

Celebrate Yourself

Last month I took part in Yoga Revolution, 31 days of yoga challenge from Yoga with Adriene. It was less a New Years Resolution and more an opportunity to get back to daily yoga after a few weeks off. Either way though, I really enjoyed the thirty minute daily videos from this hilarious and kind teacher. 

During the third week I was really struggling. I struggled to get to the mat. I struggled to focus. I struggled to breathe. I got mad at Adriene and at yoga and at my body. I cried in cobra and fumed in down dog. But I finished and then I came back the next day and life went on. 

A few days later Adriene hit a lot of the crap that had been holding me down. She talked about a friend of hers who has chronic back pain and wondered, “can you shift the language? Can you let go of this back pain as part of your identity?”

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She went on to explain that being kind to yourself and loving your body even when it doesn’t do what you want is the goal. Yoga isn’t about making shapes it’s about growth and making space. I had heard this, I knew this, I could quote this, but this time I actually heard it. 

Stop being such a d*ck to yourself and celebrate doing your best.  

I’m hard on myself, about everything, I’m never good enough and my body gets the worst of it. Growing up overweight I always felt that if my body wasn’t cooperating with me it was because it was inherently wrong. My fat body was the wrong body so it did things wrong. 

Can’t do that stretch? Wrong body, bad body. Can’t run as fast or long as you want? Bad body. Stomach ache, headache, joint pain? Bad body. It never occurred to me to accept my body and help it, support it to feel better. If my body is a dear friend instead of an enemy, life can be so much less painful. 

Life and yoga are about stretching, learning, growing. Not pain, not hurt, not hate. 

I learn the best life lessons while upside down.

Best of luck

** and check out Yoga with Adriene ***

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The Negative Nancy Myth

Sometimes a little positivity sprinkled on top of a pile of human excrement can cover up the bad for a while. And sometimes it just makes the poop harder to see and easier to step directly in.

While I am trying to be more positive in my day to day existence, I’m having a hard time believing that I can be all positivity all the time. You know that friend that gives you a big speech about how strong you are when you just need to cry on their shoulder or shoot some cans? Sure the speech is nice but it’s the crying or shooting that would have helped.

I have been called a great many things in my 28 years on this planet; words meant in jest and cruelty, from strangers and my closest friends, in a variety of places, times and languages. I’ve actually been surprised and a little proud of some of the insults hurled my way.

There is one word, however, that really gets to me: negative.

As noted above, I’m not a shimmering ray of positivity all the time; I’m definitely the cynical type, I’m sarcastic and my judgment meter leans toward pessimistic.

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For the record, these are all things I like about myself. I don’t find them to be flaws. I have the ability to turn BS situations into humor. I care really deeply about the things happening around me. I also have a temper and have been known to spiral, but these are not things that I would alter my personality to change.

Last weekend, I saw an acquaintance who mentioned that he loves my Facebook posts because “they’re so negative.” He explained that while everyone else is posting photos of beautiful scenery and candids with friends at bars, my posts were so honest.

He meant it as a compliment, I know he did, but it stuck with me. When I arrived home I couldn’t get it out of my head, so like any mature adult, I sent a series of angry and confused snaps to my lovely friend Francis.*

Like a boss, Francis understood my frustration and broke it down. She explained something that I couldn’t agree with more: negative, in our society is never a word used kindly or respectfully. The only kindness that word serves is that it helps people not say “that person’s a downer/dick/pain in the ass.” It’s a good way to insult someone without insulting them.

When you call someone negative, no matter what your intentions are, you are not complimenting them. Yeah, I say what’s on my mind, but calling me negative because of the way I choose to see and communicate my world isn’t fair, it’s not something I can argue against because it’s based on your small view of me.

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We live in an inspirational quote over nature background kind of world and that’s ok with me, I actually like positivity around me, it inspires. But in a world where positivity rules and negative people are cast as these sad little, angry badgers living in a cave of resentment, how could it be fair to call me negative?

Spoiler alert: it’s not.

I suppose the moral is this: words hurt. That’s stick and stones thing is bullshit. If you must be unkind at least do so openly, don’t mask it in some false compliment. Think about the words you choose. And for Pete’s sake, stop calling people negative.

That was too many morals, but you understand.

Best of luck.

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*Remember Francis, my friend from that terrible job I was fired from? Remember that job? Oh man, that place sucked. Good news though, they just went out of business. So.

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A Teacher’s Schedule

2:00 am

Wake suddenly either from a half-baked nightmare where the students begin eating their homework instead of doing it and you’re blamed for endangering their safety, or due to a moment of panic about whether you’ve fully planned for tomorrow’s class (spoiler alert: you haven’t).

5:30 am

Wake again and wonder if you should maybe switch the third period jigsaw for a stations activity. Wonder if you should assign the essay earlier, if you should weave in more test prep for state testing next month, wonder if you’re getting enough sleep…

5:45 am

Give up on sleep, get up and get going. Review lessons while reviewing news for the day while replying to the emails you’ll never catch up on while attempting mascara.

7:20 am

Arrive at school, take a deep breath, try to let out said breath in something softer than a scream. Find hope, remember that you love them and your work.

8:19 am

Run around wildly trying to collect your things before going to first period. Forget your keys and wonder how time speeds up around the start of the day.

First Period

Teach and remember all the reasons you love your students. Because they are sweet and hilarious and great. Until one (or all) of them turn on you and put their heads down/curse you out/call you obscenities. Wonder why you do this. Run into that one kid who always makes you laugh while leaving class. Remember why you do this.

Prep

Walk to teacher’s lounge, stare at blank browser on laptop for a full twenty minutes. Ask other teachers if it’s just you, find that it isn’t. Begin writing lessons for next week, or maybe tomorrow, why are you never far enough ahead? Get excited about the lesson you’re writing and how the kids will respond.

Third Period

Teach, expecting chaos. Be pleased when none is thrown your way. Inspire students to make the world better with their intense greatness.

Lunch

Lead women’s study hall or regular study hall or maybe you’re in the gym today…? Receive hellos, hugs, high-fives from students. Answer questions. Tell students that coming to school on time/showing up for study hall/doing homework will make life easier in the long run. Smile.

Prep

Sigh, a lot, like you haven’t slept in days. Check your email while eating the lunch you packed last night. Ask other teachers for advice. Drink your fourth cup of coffee and say repeatedly it will be your last. Breathe and don’t forget to pee before class.

6th Period

Teach. Laugh. Get a little silly because it’s the end of the day and aren’t we all kind of losing it? Run out of staples. Show a video clip you thought they’d hate and find that they are actually engaged and interested. Do an activity you just knew they’d love and watch it fall apart.

7th Period

Teach. Teach like you are dragging yourself through the desert. So tired. Speak quietly so they’ll have to stop talking to hear you. Make a dumb joke and watch them try not to laugh. Remember that they are kids. Be proud of them while being irritated with their behavior. Watch the world stand still for a second while you take in this moment with these beautiful souls. Watch the room stand still for a second when someone knocks the pencil sharpener off the table. Call for a custodian. Tell them to have a wonderful afternoon.

After School

Get visits from students who struggled through your class last term. Perfect a jumping high-five with Pete. Chat with Jorge and Ally about their other classes. Yawn. Lesson plan for too long and then realize how late it is.

5:00 pm

Head home and hope you’ll get a little time to relax and maybe spend time with people who are not your coworkers or students.

5:45 pm

Arrive home because the subways were delayed. Stare at wall. Listen to Boyfriend who is also exhausted. Watch something on Netflix and eat dinner.

7:00 pm

Lesson plan, research, lesson plan, answer emails, wonder if your students are getting enough reading and writing practice, wonder if Elci’s father is still hospitalized, wonder if Franklin could get any more ELL supports for testing, wonder if you’re getting enough sleep.

10:00 pm

Try to get some sleep. Remember all the smiles and jokes and hugs. Love your students and your work fiercely and steel yourself to do it all again tomorrow.

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Whole30 Confession #1: I’m a Binge Eater

I think the first time I really noticed my binging habits was in college. I lived in the dorms but had the cheapest meal plan which meant I still had to prepare about half of my meals. So I bought groceries, only as much as I could carry, and I lugged them home on the bus.

There was always this feeling when I got home, this itching to consume everything. My home was filled with food, fully equipped for another week. But I wanted all of it. There were so many afternoons of stomach pain from simply eating too much at once.

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Binging is like being this other person, watching yourself consume and consume. It’s not even really tasting. It’s wanting another bite even when you haven’t finished the one in your mouth. It’s not satisfaction, it is only temporary euphoria followed by guilt.

This is not some small annoying habit to break, I know that. It’s a compulsion and it’s scary. The idea of eating until your sick, well it sickens me.

My Whole30 is partially about this. Particularly with sugar, but also in general. I want to remember my identity outside of food, I want to stop thinking so much about what I ‘get to’ eat next. Whole

Best of luck.

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Escaping the Food Battle

Food and I have a complicated relationship. And not complicated like we fight, break up and get back together or we don’t want to put a label on it or one of us is married to a plant. Complicated like we’re actually trying to kill each other.

We go way back. Unfortunately, however, my knowledge of proper nutrition only dates back a few years.

I grew up in a pretty classically American household; there was a lot of processed foods and ready-to-eat stuff. I don’t remember noticing my body as anything other than a vessel with which I moved through life until fifth grade. Overnight I went from running around without a care to worrying that I didn’t look the way I was supposed to and that I needed to fix it.

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Body issues bred food issues, food issues bred eating disorders and shame which bred more body issues and so the cycle goes. In college, armed with the ability to buy and eat what I wanted and a crippling depression, I gained sixty pounds. By junior year I was desperate and terrified. I was terrified to work out in public for fear I’d be laughed at, so I tried cutting calories. I tried juice cleanses, and purging and alcohol-only days. I tried sketchy internet diet pills that made me pee all the time.

It was not some conscious moment that changed everything, that part came later. Looking back now, I think it had to. At the end of my junior year of college, I studied abroad in London. My daily commute just to and from school logged a solid two miles, plus the time I spent exploring the city the rest of the day. I walked and I walked a lot. I started noticing how much better I felt, not just because my pants were starting to sag, but because my body was getting the chemicals it had been needing.

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The struggle continued through the following years, but the pant sizes kept going down and my general outlook got better. The conscious moment of change came during Peace Corps years later. I’d had stomach infections, parasites, and a myriad of other ailments through my first six months of service. After a lot of antibiotics, I finally started to heal but found that my stomach was always upset for some reason.

So I started reading and I found the Whole30 community and Paleo and AIP* and everyone claimed the same issues I’d had for years past and in recent times. Everyone found solace in changing their diet.

I’m sharing all of this for two reasons:

First, I’m doing another Whole30 reset through January, because the holidays and the stress have led my eating patterns down a dark road and it’s time to reset. I’ve recently read Melissa Hartwig’s most recent book, Food Freedom Forever, and I’m feeling mighty inspired.

Second, for too long diet changes and exercise and living a healthy life have been connected only to weight loss and that’s not what this is about for most people. I’ve felt that itching inside me to lose weight, to be skinny, to finally be beautiful and that itch wasn’t cured by weight loss, it was cured by learning to love myself and understand myself. If everyone told a story of weight loss instead of health and self love, we’d be…well, nowhere good.

I’ll keep y’all posted on the Whole30. I’d love to hear your questions, comments, and especially if anyone would like to join me on this round of Whole30 fun!

Best of luck

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Reviewsday: Wet n Wild Wildshine Nail Color

I love nail polish. The tiny bottles have oft lined my dresser in hues from sunshine to shadows, and everything in between. In Peace Corps it was one of my favorite things to receive in a care package and a sometimes splurge item in the market.

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I’ve gotten cheaper and cheaper throughout my adulthood and now find myself not only appalled at the money Pre-Peace Corps me spent on manicures and pedicures, but confused at how a tiny bottle could cost $9. Unfortunately and as with so many things, you tend to get what you pay for. The pricey brands are good but, well, pricey.

Enter: Wet n Wild Wildshine Nail Color

Wet n Wild has been a staple drugstore brand since my early years of make up and I stumbled upon it again earlier this year. After I batted away the hoards of tweens, I found these lovelies practically screaming “we’re only 99 cents!”

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I was first excited and then scrupulous. This pretty crap was probably going to crunch and crack and chip right off my nails if I so much as looked at it the wrong way. Still, for $1 I took a chance.

Not only is the variety great, but this nail color holds its own in the arena of top polishes. With these, I typically average 6-10 days without a chip and I am accident prone and tend to use my fingernails as tools*.

Today I’m going on day five with these beauties and they hardly show it.

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Plus, with these prices you could buy more than one, you could even get crazy and spend like…$10. Check out Wet n Wild Wildshine polishes and let me know what you think!

Best of luck

*They make a terrible hammer, an even worst blender.