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

Clothing Sizes are Not Your Friend

Last weekend I took decided to be brave and go on a hunt for new pants. This might seem silly to some, but pants are hard for me. My big (but not big enough) hips and butt, my belly squish and my big (strong, gorgeous) thighs mean that I don’t easily fit most of the pants on the rack. 

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When I was younger and many sizes larger I thought it was because I was just “too big” overall. Choices were limited. But as I’ve shrunk over the years I’ve found that pants are just a b*tch in general. 

My biggest issue is that if I can find jeans that fit my legs, they’re way too big in the waist. If I can manage to squeeze my legs into pants that fit in the waist, the legs end up being so tight they pull the waist and stretch the pants. Either way same uncomfortable problem. 

Anyway, lately I’ve noticed that my pants are a little big and decided to buy some new ones. Unsure whether it was due to two years of stretching fabric and I was still a 12 or if I’d actually lost weight and was something smaller, I went in unsure of my size. 

Naturally I went to the jeans wall in target and got ten pairs of jeans in three different fits and four different sizes. At one point I put on a 12 that was a tiny bit too big and then a 6 that was too short but otherwise almost right. Yeah a 12 and then a 6. Same brand. 

What the hell?

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I could go on and on about how the numeric sizing in women’s clothing doesn’t even make sense and men’s clothing going by measurements if much more useful, but that’s a post for another day. My issue is that, if I can manage to not let a number define my body and if I can avoid the media barrage of impossible bodies, I’m still confronted with total confusion in the dressing room. I’ve grown a serious garden of love flowers to cushion my body but I can only take so much of this bull honkey. 

Eventually I went into a random store in the mall and bought a 29…This number sounded like men’s sizing but unless I’m measuring myself incorrectly, that’s not true. 

So, I ended up buying pants and I like them but bro, what the hell? The fashion industry has got to be stopped with the confusing numbers and the ridiculous sizing. 

Oh and then I went back to the same store a week later to get another pair of the exact same pants and ended up needing a 27…what?

Have any of you had a similar experience or is it just me and my “weird” body over here? Let me know in the comments and, as always, best of luck.

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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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Success! Finally Being Good at Something

I’ve been decent at a lot of things in my life. I’ve been a decent musician, a decent student, a decent retail worker, a decent volleyball player.

Ok that last one isn’t true, I was pretty awful at volleyball. Your girl does not have hand-eye coordination.

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My point is, I’ve felt like I’m ok at so many things and truly, comically awful at a few, but I have rarely really felt like I found my jam.

Until now.

Before winter break I had two teaching evaluations. One was in October and came back with pretty typical results for a first year teacher: a mix of developing and effective marks. The second evaluation was in December, right at the end of term one. I got those results recently: all effective and one highly effective mark.

It’s ok. You can say it. I know. Daaammmmnnnnnn.

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Now this one evaluation does not mean I’m perfect and I’m also not about to place my worth as a teacher on it. But it made me come back to a thought I’ve had many times in my four months teaching:

I have room to grow and learn and I always will, but damn it if I’m not a really good teacher. I’m good at this. This is my jam. I always thought people who claimed to have found their calling were liars, but then mine came out of nowhere and body checked me.

I only wish I could go back to retail me and paraeducator me and food service me and college me and tell them that they’ll get there. The suffering is real but it will pay off. You will get to your dream one day.

And it will feel so damn good to be great at something.

Best of luck.

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Classroom Portraits: Pete, Javier & Mercedes

I’ve decided it’s time for me to introduce some of my students and celebrate the magical moments of my profession. I’m hoping this will be a regular series, so please let me know if you enjoy it.

Pete

I had Pete in my government class first term. He was always sweet but spent a lot of time trying to sleep through class, begging to be given a task that required less effort and in the end, he barely skated by.

Going through this brought us pretty close. Every single day he comes into my classroom after school and we do our patented jumping high-five, where we back to either side of the classroom and run at each other, jumping and high fiving mid-air in the middle. Every time he exclaims “now my day is complete!” and runs out the door.

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Javier

Javie and I also had a rough first term together. He’s known for leaving class suddenly and disappearing for half the period, cursing out teachers who call him on his behavior, and generally keeping everyone off task. This term, after so many good days, bad days, and long meetings, he’s in my class again. He has grown up a lot in a few weeks.

Last week we held a Class Court for the case of NLRB v. Jones and Laughlin. Many of the more engaged students participated in the court early on and I watched as Javie alternated between talking to a student near him and listening to the other side. I would have been happy with this behavior, but then there came a booming voice from his side of the court.

Javie spoke clearly and with all the professionalism of an attorney defending the rights of workers and the role of the government. He stayed calm when questioned by the judges and stood for his team when challenged. At the end of the period I stopped him and told him I wanted to see this every day. He grinned at me and said “I’ll try.”

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Mercedes

Mercedes is a very sensitive kid whose hurt usually turns quickly to anger, cursing, and fighting. She struggled through the first term but passed. She says hi to me in the hall everyday and has this infectious, crooked smile that I just can’t describe.

At the beginning of January, she came into my classroom at lunch and talked to me about her second term classes. She complained about biology and English but said she liked art well enough. She turned to leave and get some food but then turned back enough and said, “I never got a chance to thank you for all your help last term, I couldn’t have done it without you.”

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These precious moments with this amazing young people bring me up from the very drudges. The best advice I’ve received so far as an educator is to write down this good moments, these students showing you their best selves and cherish them. These moments can save you from the very worst days.

Fellow teachers (and others), do you have any of these moments you hold on to?

Best of luck.

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3 Awesome Uses for Turmeric

The other day I was riding home from a basketball game with a car-full of teachers and for some reason paprika came up. Clearly we are exceedingly interesting human beings and you should be jealous. After discussing how smoked paprika is amazing and plain paprika is lame, someone said “well, nothing is as bad as turmeric, it doesn’t taste like anything and it turns everything yellow.”

WHAT.

Turmeric is easily one of my favorite spices, for so many reasons. Personally, I’m in love with it’s anti-inflammatory properties that save me from IBS and angry old person joints again and again.

Don’t you worry, I set him straight, by telling him about three of my favorite ways to use turmeric:

1. Calming Golden Milk

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Golden Milk is a fantastic for tummy trouble, joint pain, or just a soothing hot drink. There are many different recipes to make this lovely elixir, but I tend to use the following:

  • 1-2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2-3 cups milk alternative (almond, soy, coconut, cashew, etc)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch of black pepper

Warm the milk over the stove and stir in the other ingredients. The black pepper seems a little strange, but don’t leave it out as it helps with absorption (and you really can’t taste it). Feel free to add in any natural sweeteners as well.

2. Face Mask

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I was hesitant at first to put a substance that’s know for staining this yellow on or near my face. This face mask however, did not stain my skin and, even better, it really helps keep it clear. I’ve noticed that the morning after I’ve put this on my skin, any blemishes I have are greatly reduced and my face in general is smooth and glow-y.

Again, there are many variations, but the mask I tend to use contains:

  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 3 tsp coconut oil

It’s messy so beware, and wear something black for sure. Rub the mixture on your face lightly until entire area is covered. Leave for 10-20 minutes. I also typically carry a tissue around with me while it’s on, to blot any possible drips.

3. Turmeric Seasoned Rice

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I love me some seasoned rice. I also love me some cauliflower rice because rice is not my stomach’s BFF. No matter what type of rice you’re eating, mixing in turmeric, (smoked) paprika, and salt and pepper make it so tasty. Put a fried egg (or three) on top and I’m in heaven.

Not only is it a solid meal though, the anti-inflammatory effects of turmeric work through this dish too. I find myself eating “yellow rice” (or yellowish, reddish rice)  when I’m feeling crumby and feeling better quickly.

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Whole30 Confession #2: I have IBS

I believe I’ve talked about this a few times on the blog, but there’s always room for another IBS post. Right? Right.

A little over a year ago I was feeling pretty crummy on the regular; nauseous and constantly battling stomach cramps. Someone once likened this type of stomach pain to feeling barbed wire run through your intestines and I’ve never found a more spot-on comparison.

One Friday evening my symptoms got worse and worse until I was sitting in bed realizing I could no longer take a full breath because of the pain. By the next day I was really struggling to breathe regularly and couldn’t eat much without increasing pain or nausea. Not eating regularly made my blood sugar crash and I got dizzy and sick. And as often happens when my body is overstressed, my blood pressure crashed to the ground and so did I.

I passed out at least twice, though Boyfriend says three times. I’ll go with his answer because I wasn’t really there. Eventually I went to the clinic* and saw a lovely on-call doctor who poked, prodded, asked questions, ran a few tests and eventually said “I can’t see the cause but you’re obviously in pain.” See wrote me a prescription for Vicodin** and told me to come back and see my doctor.

I went back that Monday and saw my GP who declared that it was Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I praised, I rejoiced, finally a diagnosis!

Then she explained further – IBS has no cure, treatment, or reliable cause. Basically it’s the diagnosis you get when you have chronic stomach issues and every other possible issue has been ruled out. Cool, a diagnosis…

IBS is a b*tch. It’s what I would image having a teenager would be, except that the child is your digestive system. You can’t control it, it argues with you constantly, but you can’t just get rid of it. IBS is enjoying a cupcake but knowing you’ll be sick later. Maybe. IBS is waking up one random morning, after weeks of healthy eating, in horrible pain for no reason. Like I said, IBS is a b*tch.

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Since then I’ve been through many different diet restrictions and natural methods, though the only thing that’s made a real difference is the Whole30 reset. I’ve learned a lot about my body and what it doesn’t like doing multiple Whole30s and I’ve come to look at food differently.

My body is angry much of the time and I’m by no means perfect when it comes to food habits, but I’m taking a step every day toward food freedom.

Best of luck.

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* I waited until Monday and went to a clinic because my health insurance did not cover ER charges. This absolute hell brought to you buy: bullshit rich people in health policy who don’t f***ing get it.

** My crappy state insurance did, however, cover prescription painkillers. So, I guess if you can’t get emergency healthcare, get drugs.