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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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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Monday Motivation: There’s Nobody Like You

I always say to young women to know their power, whatever is it that you have done, be it at home or at work or in the academic world or wherever it is...understand that it has made you uniquely qualified. There's nobody like you.

Yesterday I watched the PBS special American Masters: The Women’s List.* It was basically just a bunch of strong, successful women telling stories and talking about life. So, fantastic and wonderful.

There were plenty of meaningful quotes, but this one in particular spoke to me. So many times I have walked into an interview, an exam, or even just a room feeling like I’m not qualified. What a funny word, qualified. That word feels like a mean middle school girl staring down her nose at me, telling me my voice is too low, my hips are too wide, and nobody even likes me anyway.** That word is the worst, because, does anyone really ever feel qualified? To do anything?

But the thing is, we’re all capable, beautiful, and yeah qualified, people who can do amazing things. We’re all capable and beautiful in different ways. We all have stories and experiences to share that make us qualified.

So go kick ass.

Best of luck.

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*Go watch this, right now. It’s on Netflix.

** COUGHashleyCOUGHCOUGH

Lessons Adulthood Taught Me

I’ve learned a lot of things in my adult life; how to apply for (and actually get) jobs, how to BS my way through classes, and sometimes learn, how to parallel park. It’s been a journey. It’s what this blog’s all about.

Here are a few lessons that have recently jumped out at me from their hiding places in my brain.

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When trying to decide if you should buy something, walk away for a while, distract yourself with something else for a few minutes, hours, days. If you still want it, go for it.

Men’s shirts button the opposite way from women’s shirts.

It’s always a good idea to keep important items in your purse and/or car. I keep febreeze, tweezers, floss, deodorant, chapstick and (my favorite) a snack, usually nuts or granola, in my car. I have used all of it several times.

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Boiling water can get candle wax out of fabric. Just dip the garment in the water in 15-20 second intervals until all traces are gone.

Rarely is it a good idea to completely wash something out of your life. Harsh cleansers pull all of the good oils out of skin, traditional shampoos do the same for hair, forever gut cleansing without a single french fry can hurt your soul, and cutting out a loved one entirely is a bold move, that should be given proper thought.

The general idea that money doesn’t matter is solid. However, money is always going to be needed in exchange for goods and services. So, hope to win the lottery  or marry rich all you want but maybe also have a backup plan in case you don’t.

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The amount that virginity matters depends on the virginity holder. No one else.

If you are worried about health issues, WebMD will destroy you. Go to a doctor, ask the professional. Because chances are it’s not cancer but even if it is, I’d want to hear it from the doctor, not Dr. MacBook.

Try not to hurt the people who always love you. Try not to love the people who always hurt you.

If you dislike something and need a situation to change, talk to the person/people who can change it. Have I ever been passive aggressive? Absolutely not. Ok maybe a few hundred times. But, as I get older, I feel more and more like there ain’t no time for that sh**.

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Best of luck!

A Burst of Love

I’ve been exploring WordPress lately and finding some pretty amazing blogs. The world is full of interesting people with cool ideas (and some confusing people with disconcerting ideas, but hey). What I’ve found quite a lot of is stories of people trying to get healthy.

Weight, body image, and nutrition are all very close to my heart. They are something I’ve struggled with and something I’ve watched too many beautiful people, mostly women, struggle with as well. There is nothing worse that watching the people you love so dearly, hate themselves.

So if you’re reading this:

Hi there. You’re beautiful. Put down the scale and the measuring tape and the cookbooks and workout DVDs and classic 80s workout headband (actually, you can leave that on). Put it all down for a minute and congratulate yourself on even beginning this journey, because that part is hard too. There is a huge difference between “I should get healthy” and “I’m going to start taking these steps to be healthier.”

I’m proud of you. Continue reading