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

How To: Batch Cooking

I’m back!*

So a couple of days ago, a friend asked me for advice about batch cooking/meal planning. I’ve been doing it consistently for a while, mostly because it makes for fast lunches when I wake up late and quick dinners when I come home tired, but also because it’s hot as balls in NYC this summer and turning on the stove once a week keeps my teeny apartment stay much cooler.

Seeing as school is starting soon, fall is coming for us, and change is around the corner, it seems a good time to share some of my hard-earned knowledge.

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Am I a professional cook? Absolutely not. Am I an expert of kitchen tools and food quality? Not even a little bit. What I am is a perfectly average cook with an interest in saving time and a propensity to walk away from a cooking session with at least two bandaids. I do not own a zester of any kind and for the last four years I’ve either cooked in the corner of a tiny studio apartment or shared a partially outdoor and entirely oven-less kitchen with a Peruvian family.

So why am I, the oft injured non-expert, writing about batch cooking? Because I can’t be the only one with a lot of interest and almost no skill. If we all read advice from only the experts, we’d start to get worried about our abilities. This one’s for you, average cook with very little time, I raise my box of bandaids to you!

Lessons I Learned While Batch Cooking:

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Have a Plan

Sure this seems obvious, but until you’re splashing boiling water down your pant leg because you have thirty seconds to strain it and oh sh** you should have but the meat in before the greens and is that FIRE, THAT’S FIRE…you don’t understand just how little you can wing it.

This is particularly important in the beginning: planning not just what you want to cook but the order in which you will cook it and a rough timeline is key.

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Mix Up Staples and New Recipes

This took me a while, but especially starting out, you don’t want to have to cook some new and impressive recipe for every meal. That’s 21 new recipes.

I don’t know about you but around 20% of the new recipes I try are sub-par. 20% of 21 is more than four meals. Four meals that you have to box up and eat later, knowing they aren’t going to be very delicious.

Avoid this by choosing 1-2 new recipes for the week and sticking to what you know for the rest. It’s also important to mix it up, cooking some full meals (ex: Beef Curry on Rice, Cracklin’ Chicken) and some things that can be mixed with other things (ex: boiled carrots, vegetable mix**).

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Ask For Help/Take a Damn Break

Cooking food for the entire week is not a simple task. While I’ve gotten better at it, almost every week I end up either hurting myself or getting tired doing it. Boyfriend has gotten very good at stepping in about five minutes before I hit this wall to help me finish up and clean the kitchen.

If you don’t have someone right there to help you, consider planning in a place to take a break and sit down with a glass of wine for twenty minutes. This does not make you weak, it makes you smart and less likely to injure yourself.

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Choose smarts, not the emergency room.

 

I hope these tips help in your future kitchen adventures and may the odds be ever in your flavor (Yeah).

Best of luck!

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*At this point, I’d like to say that I’m going to pick up the blog, cradle it in my arms, and rekindle my loving relationship with it, I would really like to say that. But I don’t want to lie to you. I’m starting the year of my life where grad school and full time work as an NYC public school teacher intersect and I’m still trying to figure out how to fit eating and sleeping in. But right now, I have a vacation and I’m going to blog, because even in the darkest times, something something, idk I’ll write when I can. But I do love you, you perfect cupcakes and I appreciate you reading the blog at all.

** Pre-cooked vegetables make for really fast omelets in the morning.

How To-

Stress, Anxiety, and Starting Over

You know when you get a text and totally mean to respond to it when you think of something funny but you put it off and then suddenly it’s been three weeks and you haven’t relied? Well that happened with me and this blog. Oops.

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Three weeks ago, almost a month now actually, Boyfriend and I moved to New York, saw our tiny, studio apartment for the first time, panicked, proceeded to fill it with furniture, I started school, and the giant rolling Boulder continues chasing me through the tunnel of adulthood.

So let’s talk about stress.

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Oof. It’s a killer. Stress has made me cry, vomit, lose sleep, oversleep, yell, thrash. It’s made me angry and mean, it’s paralyzed me with pain doctors couldn’t diagnose. It’s caused migraines and panic attacks and dangerously low blood pressure.

It’s like that person who swoops in after you’ve procrastinated on something and you’re in the final countdown to get it done, not to help but to say “you know, if you’d started earlier…”

Stress is not my friend. And it isn’t yours either.

I’ve talked before about self care, and actually written a similar post about stress, but in the past week of endless papers, books, students, and a sense of not belonging, I’ve noticed the need for a “help me, I’m panicking” guide. So here it is, friends:

STOP:

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Unless you’re crossing the street, in which case cross and then stop.

I know you have a septillion things to do, but just hold for a minute. Sit down or lay down.  Take ten deep breaths. Drink a glass of water, it replenishes your body quickly and helps increase focus. Think of one thing that makes you happy: a goat falling down a slide, a cat and a crow who are best friends, that time your friend repeatedly fell down on the ice and you tried not to laugh. Anything.

DROP

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The self deprecation, the self hate, the self pity. Drop it. Let it go. Forget if you wasted time before or you’re running out of time now or you’re scared that you’ll mismanaged time again. You did, you are, you probably will. Getting upset over it won’t help you. Hating yourself for it won’t make you better.

ROLL

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If all else fails, find a big hill, lay down and roll down that damn hill like you mean it. Nothing eases stress quite like acting like a kid.

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If you’re still in the red zone, reach out. Friends are friends because they listen. And if none of them want to listen, I’m here.

Best of luck.

How To: Get Over a Cold

My bloggery has been lacking this week, but I have a good reason! For the first time since winter of 2012, I have a cold.

Between Peace Corps and working in schools, my immune system has gotten pretty dtrong. Well, it’s either that or the universe saw me struggling with IBS, Arthritis and steadily greying hair at 27 and thought “maybe we’ll just leave her be on this one.” Either way I don’t often get sick and this week I’m realizing, it is the absolute worst.

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So in honor of my sniffles, here are some tips for when you’re feeling crappy too.

Rest

I am the worst at this, but it’s so important to give your body a break. There’s an epic rap battle happening inside you between white blood cells and this sickness, so they’ve got enough going on without you thinking you need to do anything but rest.

Make sure you get enough sleep at night and let yourself relax as much of the day as possible. Now is a great time to turn on a show you don’t really care about and nap through it.

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Hydrate

Normally I’m pretty good at staying hydrated but for some reason I hate water when I’m sick. Whether you love it or hate it, water is the key to surviving this. So drink it plain or with lemon, or as tea, or full of good wishes, but drink up.

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Calm the **** Down

I probably got sick due to the added amount of germs in my daily environment, but I also got sick because I’m been stressed as hell lately. Physical health is affected by mental health, so it’s important to maintain your mental health as well. If you’re anxious, stressed, upset about something, handle it, don’t just let it continue to mess you up.

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Essential OIls

A friend of mine gave me a couple of bottles of essential oils for Christmas and her timing was impeccable. I’m not an expert by any means but I know that inhaling Frankensence (and even putting a drop under my nose) has been helping clear my head like nothing else.

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Drink My “Special Tea”

Every time Boyfriend starts to get sick, I make a variation of this tea. This time around it’s my turn to drink it and I’m finding that it helps. It’s not only good for a stuffy head and sore throat but it’s loading with Vitamin C. The recipe is roughly as follows.

-Special Tea-

8 c. water
6-8 Tea Bags (I like ginger or camomile)
1 lemon
1 orange
1/2 grapefruit
1/2 c. chopped, fresh ginger
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
honey to taste

Put water and tea in large pot to boil. Chop lemon, orange, and grapefruit into large chunks and add to pot. Add ginger and spices and bring to a boil. Let boil for one minute and turn heat to low. Add lid to pot and let simmer for 20-30 minutes. Strain and add honey or other sweetener as desired.

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For anyone out there battling a cold, the flu, or just holiday exhaustion: I feel you, pal. And I hope you feel better soon.

Best of luck!