November 10, 2016

Counting Sheep and Weighing the World...A Teacher's Night

One sheep...Two sheep...Three sheep...



I crawl into bed, fluff the geriatric pillow into place and peck the on button for the alarm clock. Then I slowly try to shut-off the valves in my mind.  I think how I should have walked on the treadmill.  I think how I should have graded one more set of papers.  I think how I can fit onemorething on my plate.  I think and I think and I think...




You ask what keeps me up at night?  When darkness envelopes the room and moonlight creeps through the shade...when eyelashes slowly weave into one another and breathing paces a slow, peaceful rhythm?



It is me, asking why my alphabet was suddenly mixed into my numbers and being told to sit down and just do it.  It is my friend, being called into the office because he was chasing a girl who just didn't look like him.  It is my brother, surviving as a round peg pounded into a square hole. 

What keeps me up at night is what I see...snapshots of lives...vignettes of tomorrows shaped by todays...because as water shapes the rock, we shape the by and by of those who pass through our care.


It is my firstborn: smart, sassy, and a little smart-assy.  Graceful and full of God's grace, but not so great with ones, twos, and threes. Oh, but give her a pencil and witness the gift flow from her. Where does she fit in a world of AP and Honors?  When art is her language, but everyone else's tongue is data and algorithms and procedures, what future do we paint for her?

What keeps me up at night is the young girl swirling through life, grasping at willow branches, smiling and shining and singing and working and reaching and then...gone. Plucked from her day and herded and shuffled into strange places with strangers...strangers trusted with her heart and soul and safety...No longer the girl reaching and smiling, but a girl with a casefile and a social worker. Gone.

It is a brown-skinned girl rushing into the room, tears caught on the tops of her apple cheeks and eventually cascading down her face. Because someone called her black and black is ugly to her and she'd give anything to step out of her skin in that moment, but none of us can.  We can change our hair, our eyes, our job, our spouse, but we are forever in our skin and her's is itchy and uncomfortable at that moment.  

What keeps me up at night is greatness...greatness I was fortunate enough to receive and witness.  It was teachers giving and giving and giving of time and wisdom and energy.  Souls laid bare every day...sacrificing so much so I could arrogantly waltz through their classrooms stealing bits and pieces of their knowledge without so much as a thank-you.  

So, while others slumber and dream, I lie wistfully thinking and thinking and thinking about how I can sell the great dream of education and knowledge to children who are poor in love and short on time, about how I can cast the net farther than the last day, about how I can...So I check the alarm clock one more time and begin to count again until, finally, at last, sleep rescues me.

June 22, 2015

The Health Chronicles, Vol. 2...Apparently You ARE What You Eat

I know, I know.  You already know this.  I did, too. I've read it a million times and all the research to go along with it, but it was so easy to fall off that damn wagon.  I mean, really, who doesn't love all those things that are oh-so-tasty?  Fresh doughnuts dripping with sugary glaze?  Fresh pasta with creamy, cheesy sauce?  Homemade ice cream on top of chunky chocolate brownies dripping with caramel sauce straight outta the sauce pan?  S'more?! I see you drooling.

I've learned a lot in the last month.  Mostly I've learned that there are some slow doctors out there.  No disrespect intended, but I could have incubated a baby before some doctors are able to get me an appointment.  Because of this, I've had plenty of time to read up on inflammation.  Lots of time...which is good because there is lots to read...apparently anyone can write a book. Who knew?

One thing that keeps showing up is how much inflammation is related to diet.  I had an intuitive (don't laugh; a nearby metropolis employed him for murder cases!) tell me to stay away from all white foods.  I laughed, but I'd bet he's the one laughing now. Apparently white flour, white sugar, white potatoes, etc. are my kryptonite. Shocker.

When I got home from our family vacation last month, I told the man lucky enough to be married to me that I had to make some changes.  I also told him they likely wouldn't be cheap, but anything was worth a try to make me feel better.  Off I went to the grocery store with no list but a promise to give it an honest effort. That meant organic as much as possible, little sugar except from fruits, no gluten, and no dairy.  Let me break that down for you:  all gluten free pastas, breads, crackers, cookies...no cheese...no milk...no ice cream...no sour cream...

Plants.  And meats.  Plants and meats. Meats and plants.

I've found several amazing substitutes since that first trip.  Almond milk ice cream is amazing.  I am in love with almond/coconut milk.  One of my favorite dinners is salmon with a tablespoon of pure maple syrup, sauteed napa cabbage and mushrooms, and organic rice. A new family rule established by my oldest is we try one new food each week.  Some are huge fails, but others have been tolerable and a few might be repeats!  (Psst!  Anybody know how to cook yellow beets?!)

Here's the big, important part:  Within three days of changing my eating habits, I was headache free with only a few episodes of the burning sensation I was having.  Don't get me wrong, there have been a few moments where I've ached a bit, but I've not had an "oh, hell, I've gotta take to the bed" headache.  Prior to vacation, where I started eating better because, hello, fresh seafood, I was spending about two hours each day in bed with headaches in addition to sleeping 8-10 hours each night.  With all that beauty sleep, I should've been Mrs. America.

I'm not healed.  Forty years of eating (mostly) crappy, inflammatory foods can't be undone overnight.  I still have a long way to go, and I know there are bound to be days where I'm not 100%.  I still need to see my doctors and have bloodwork done. What  I do know at this point is that this is having a positive impact on my life.  I rarely have any acid reflux anymore, and I'm tasting natural flavors again.  Although there is chocolate ice cream in the fridge, I opted for fresh Mt. Rainier cherries.  That's Mt. Everest big, people.

As each day goes by, it gets easier.  It takes more time...Dear Lord, does it ever. This is not even in the ballpark of convenient.  I never would have survived 120 years ago if my family had to depend on me to prepare the meals each day!  There are nights I cook for just myself because the rest of the family just wants some tacos or something, and that's okay.  I'm finding little nuggets of yumminess, like The Piping Gourmet's gluten-free, dairy-free Whoopie Pies. (Seriously, I fight my kids for these.)  Rudi's multi-grain bread is gluten free and quite divine with an egg over easy.  There are plenty of ways I can make this work, and I will because I never want to go back to where I was.  That place was, quite frankly, a little bit too close to what I would envision Hell to be like. I'm no saint, but I envision my real estate in the hereafter to be a little more climate controlled...then again, I might be too optimistic.

Feel free to share any food hacks, comments, or recipes!

June 7, 2015

The Health Chronicles, Volume 1...My ANA is Rocky Mountain High

*Sigh*  Where to start...  I've thought about this post for a long time, and I'm still not real sure where it'll end up, but I guess this is where it starts.  I've typed about 10 lines and erased (deleted, I suppose, in this age of technology) them all.

My goal with these posts (it won't fit into one) is to share a little about what I'm experiencing in hopes that either (a) someone else knows what the hell I'm talking about, and/or (b) someone else might be relieved to know you're not going crazy (I can't promise that, but...).

Here we go.

For about, oh, all my life, I've not felt good.  As a little kid we had to complete a 600 yard walk/run.  I couldn't really run it at all, but I'd try to keep up with all those speedy little bastards in my class.  It usually ended up with me sucking wind while finishing it up in a slow walk.  All those other kids were back in the cold AC by the time I was done, and I know my gym teacher cursed my name every year.  I was plenty active, but running kicked my ass.

I believe I was probably the only kid in Trigonometry that needed an extra chair to prop up my swollen, purple knees.  While I wish I had some super athletic story to share (winning basket, sliding in homebase), my amazing maneuver was simply walking to class.  I went on a date once with a boy to a dance place for teens, and I could only sit.  *sigh*

Through my 20's and 30's, I went around and around to doctors.  All I could describe was that I didn't feel well.  My bloodwork always looked good, and I had nothing that could be "seen" by anyone.  The best description I had was that I felt like I had a bell jar over my head.  Imagine the look I got as I described this..."Well, have you read Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar?  That's how I feel, like I'm an insect trapped inside and the rest of the world is out there."  I feel disconnected from everything...

Essentially, I feel like my body is flipping me the bird every.single.day.

In my early 30's I learned I was allergic to milk.  I love milk.  In all forms.  Ice cream. Whole milk. Cheese. Yogurt. Sauces. Coffee Creamer.  Me and milk?  We good.  My allergy didn't take an epi-pen kind of approach, so I just kept on consuming it.  I learned that soft cheeses and whole milk kinda messed with me, so I avoided those, but I still kept on.  I'm beginning to wonder if I have kept my immune system in overdrive for so long fighting the allergy that it's just had enough?

I also have the amazing luck of having polycystic ovarian syndrome.  This is endometriosis's sort-of cousin.  Recently while having an transvaginal ultrasound (the tech and I are VERYCLOSE after this procedure.), I got to see what polycystic ovaries look like.  The answer?  Swiss cheese.  Those bitches hurt, too.  One burst a few months ago, and it was what I expect I would feel if I were being stabbed by a long, rusty blade in the lower abdomen.  

PCOS screws with your hormones, and not in a good way.  I guess there's really no good way to screw with one's hormones, but...  I've always struggled with my weight, and the only time I've been able to lose weight has been right after being pregnant, when my hormones are as close to normal as they will ever be. I've been lucky in that infertility has not plagued me as it does a lot of women with PCOS.  Still, it's a pain in my arse.

So here I am....According to my ANA test, which measures inflammation in the body, I have very high inflammation right now.  I've changed my diet completely.  No milk.  Let me repeat that:  No milk.  None.  I'm sure there are trace amounts sneaking in, but to my knowledge there is no lovely, delicious milk entering my very pissed-off body.

That is where I am at today.  Of course there's more to how I know my ANA is high, and I'll let you in on that in the next post (did I mention this business makes me super lazy and fatigued?).  On a high note, I managed to vacuum the living room today! Doesn't everybody get excited about that?  No?  Oh.