7 months in 17 minutes, or however long it takes you to read this

wpid-20150625_120351.pngThere’s a rule in teaching that if one student asks a question, there are 5 more who have the same question but won’t ask (or 3, or 8, or a thousand like cockroaches, I’m not much into rules and numbers). So when one reader says Katie are you ever going to blog again or are you just going to leave me hanging and brokenhearted?? then I figure there must be a few others. The site says this still gets a few hits a day (thanks, Mom and Dad) so I envision a half dozen of my loved ones grumbling through their computers at me, on a regular basis. So thanks for the nudge (kick) I needed. I honestly didn’t realize it had been since October. Graduate school is all-consuming. All your time, energy, philosophies, sleep, printer ink… So this blog continues to reflect my reality: I am just now resurfacing from October.

But I do have some delightful news. I’ve completed my Master of Arts in Teaching, just attended commencement from Marylhurst University.

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Matilda, regarding diplomas

I have never felt more adult in my life than when I got my teaching license. Luckily, that moment was short because then I devolved into a giggling mess. I ran around telling the other teachers and students, because I was lucky enough to be surrounded by people who genuinely cared about the work I was doing and saw my struggles and triumphs.

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Over a weekend, my teacher and I painted this on the most prominent wall of the classroom. Attendance is kind of an issue.

My first work sample unit was centered around satire, social commentary through political cartoons, and censorship. An unfortunate serendipity occurred: the Charlie Hebdo attack. They could not have been better primed to explore and discuss the events as they unfolded. This led to a project where students created detective-style connection-boards of articles and photos related to a new story that they would follow for two weeks. In addition to Charlie Hebdo, they tackled the political posturing that happened around the release of the film The Interview (here’s a little something about that), they commemorated Leelah Alcorn (see here) and explored data about suicide rates among transgender teenagers (unforgiveably high). Anti-vaxxers came under scrutiny, the school shootings since Sandy Hook were plotted on a map, and police brutality against teenagers was viewed with new intensity in light of Trayvon Martin and the countless other deaths they read about.

I gave them a heartfelt rendition of John Green’s Will This Be On The Test? and watched them follow their curiosity (or outrage) in directions I could never have led them. And when everything was  done, tacked on the walls in a hundred pins, the last question on their assessment tried to pull them full circle. “What was the overall point of this Non-Fiction unit? What did I want you to get?” I promise, Girl Scout’s Honor, that these are their honest verbatim answers.

2nd quarterI was so excited about these responses that I printed out several copies of this for the classroom, hallway, staff room, and principal. I think I’m adopting that middle one (bold is my emphasis) for my mission statement. Free of ignorance? A sense of pride and integrity? Be still my teacher heart. I told the student as much, but they still seem reluctant to admit their way with words.

It was with all that under my belt that I decided to try the inevitable unit, the one I’ve seen to be most polarizing in an English classroom: poetry. The groans you get for suggesting it are amazing, and could be really discouraging for a teacher (or even for the student who likes writing poetry). I fully understand that many of the writers and pieces that are “standard” for academic spaces can be difficult to tackle or feel irrelevant. For most students, the worst thing you could do is begin studying poetry in order of historical eras and genres. Yes, a Shakespeare sonnet is a marvel of language, meter, form, and spirit; but you don’t give a baby a bite of steak, they don’t have teeth yet. So I started with the premise that everyone is a poet, but that doesn’t mean everyone is a Poet. Shakespeare, Plath, Poe– these are all poets. So are Silverstein and Billy Collins, and rappers like Tu Pac and Aesop Rock, and comedians like Bo Burnham:

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From his book, Egghead

In order to adequately crush the dead-old-white-poet standard, I kicked it off with my favorite kind of poetry: slam. Since the kids really like movies, there was only one natural starting point: the movie Slam. It’s cast mostly with slam poets, including a cameo from Taylor Mali (teacher/slammer, this is probably his most famous piece). Saul Williams is a powerhouse; and the movie is brilliantly written. The ending was so powerful one of my kids ran out of the room to find his best friend to say “OH MY GOD THAT’S HOW IT ENDS??” Here is a performance of Amethyst Rocks, just one brilliant piece featured in the movie. You’re welcome. It’s sampled in music and even blown up into…

a musical!

Later we watched Dead Poets Society, which proved to have more parallels than I could count. Daring, restless young boys (one group black, one white) trapped in an institution designed by old white men (DC prison and Welton Academy) in order to enforce principles and shape behavior by squashing individuality. In each, a teacher encourages their students to write honestly, passionately, and with abandon even when (especially when) someone is trying to silence them. Oh, and there’s a gun in both but I won’t tell you where they hit. I will tell you that a half dozen of my kids have said “Oh Captain, my Captain” to me and I glowed every time.

John Keating is like, 1/3 of why I became an English Teacher. Taylor Mali is another. And then probably my senior English teacher Mrs. Norton.

My kids blew me away with the work they created. Yes, I had to nudge many of them. But once they’d gotten permission to write anything, even if it was ugly or unhappy or angry, they dropped their guard and showed incredible honesty and strength. They are so often silenced, urged to act “appropriately,” and seeing the weight off their shoulders when they were allowed to say anything told me just how much pressure they’re under all those hours outside of my room. It was transformative for them, because one of the things about being adolescent (ok, or an adult) is that your experience feels wholly unique to you, which can be isolating. So when a student writes about their awful experiences with X (a family member, an obstacle, a disease…) it’s a leap of faith. But when they read that out loud, and it resonates with ten other students, suddenly no one is alone. We did not have enough tissues.

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The school district’s art show is held at the school I worked in, so that was a nice close to the year. K’ahi Pele even showed up and spun some fire for a really good group, with good food, outside a school full of really great student art. The show was all ages of course, but my kids wanted to share their writings and performances, so we made our classroom “Exploring the Edge,” the uncensored space that was not for child audiences. A video ran on loop featuring their slam performances, texts were posted in big print, and lots of supplies for blackout poetry were handy.

20150303_133807My internship was challenging, exhausting, sometimes insurmountable, grueling… but also illuminating, inspiring, and hilarious. Alternative schools are not for everyone… but they are for me.

There’s one more thing I’d like to share with you: a reference sheet I created that tries to address many kinds of identity that young adults wrestle with. Adolescent behavior can seem senseless, elusive, even volatile, and it’s important that adults interpret those behaviors carefully. On one side of an 8×10 sheet, Signs of Possible Crisis in Young Adults, arranged as a spectrum of related ideas.

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The other side of the page shows how I deal with just about anything… books.  Helpful Reading for Teachers of Adolescents Facing Crisis arranges books and authors that may be useful to each topic on the spectrum.

matrixteacherbooks copySo this is how I see things. What I learned in grad school was: to value resilience and growth mindset, to embrace creative risk-taking, to reject the idea that anything is polar, to connect and reflect, and to critically examine your actions and motivations constantly.

I missed you, dear reader. But I have been preoccupied. Happy to be back.

The annual re-post, Thirty Days of Solitude

Believe it or not, dear reader, I’m working on a much-overdue post for you, condensing many crazy months into one post that will explain where I’ve been.

But for now,

I revisit a story from 2009. I re-post this every June because I feel lucky this time every year, and this is why:

Thirty Days of Solitude, or All She Ever Wanted Was to Poop Outside

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It should come as no surprise that it’s about Matilda.

Stay tuned for additional tales from the classroom and travel pictures!

Feminists don’t have a sense of humor, an evenhanded exaggeration

wpid-2014-10-03-10.34.54.jpg.jpegThis is a little of my handiwork this week. For when someone says “I don’t remember the title of what I was reading, but it had a blue cover…” Those books needed to be organized, one way or another. This is easier than alphabetical or genre, and way more eye-catching. I was really pleased with the response from my students. I think it makes the books a little easier to browse, at least for reluctant readers.

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This is a little something I created for the teacher I’m working with this term. With the “help” of the worst thesaurus ever. One synonym for teach? Really? Educate, yes. But how about instruct, enlighten, tutor, coach, discipline, inform, explain, nurture, profess, illustrate, school, guide, or mentor?

…said the English teacher.

wpid-20140910_164751.jpgI hope you enjoyed the movies in the last post. At the risk of setting a precedent I cannot maintain, here’s another digital storytelling project. Returning readers know that I’m not shy about sharing my experience with endometriosis. This blog has been home to plenty of words and pictures that I’ve created in non-pharmaceutical therapy for my pain and frustration. Occasionally, I have hesitated to be “too open” about it. And then I remembered, whatever, it’s my blog and I’ll write what I want, just like I always have. I threw TMI into the wind and allowed myself to be vulnerable, and the response has been positive, sympathetic, even grateful.

I’m not the only one you know dealing with this, I’m just the loudest. I’ve moved from wordless art to various writings, but now I’ve got words and pictures and music. I offer this little digital piece for endo sisters and all those who love them.

Please share!

DO NOT READ THIS POST, EITHER

FREADOMYou’re still here? Brilliant, you are my kind of reader. Curious, independent, and patient with my lapses.

This week has been designated by the American Library Association as Banned Books Awareness week. Obviously, I spend a lot more than one week a year thinking about book activism, but at this time I get the benefit of echoes from other voices and other media.

Banned Book Week is not (just) a way of promoting literacy. It is not (just) a chance to read a good book.

It is evidence that our libraries are more than stores of books and resources. Libraries are sites of protest. Those books sit on contentious ground. Did you know there is a Library Bill of Rights?

The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services.

I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.

II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

IV. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas. (the complete Bill of Rights can be found here)

Honestly, when did it occur to you that a library might need a Bill of Rights? It’s totally okay if it was just right now. It was pretty recent that I had to adjust my concept of libraries. Growing up, other kids had sports and church to fill their weekends. I spent mine in the safety and comfort of the library stacks. It represented nothing but positivity, possibility. There couldn’t possibly be anything WRONG with a library. And I was lucky enough to be in a community that seemed to share my enthusiasm.

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Yes, that really is the Boise Public Library I grew up with, and it really does have an exclamation point (which is an excellent story for another time).

So you might imagine my surprise this April at seeing my childhood district in the news over a challenged book.

You might imagine the indignant face I made at all this mess. Students who have read it say The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian with genuine affection and excitement. I moved it to the top of my reading pile, and I’m glad I did, for all of these reasons.

Cut to this summer, where I was given the task of creating a digital story in service of a cause of my choice. Here’s what I came up with:

Here’s one from a fellow talented writer that Marylhurst is lucky to have; Timothy Merrit:

Closing thoughts, ala Sherman Alexie:

I suddenly understood that if every moment of a book should be taken seriously, then every moment of a life should be taken seriously as well.

Further reading: thinkbannedthoughts, bannedbooksweek.org, and now that school is back in session, here’s the update to that story.

Springtime for Katie and Marylhurst, a photo essay

wpid-2014-04-09-22.14.25.jpg.jpegHello, dear readers. Believe it or not, I think of you often. But graduate school has demanded most of my writing-energy and time, so I’ve been away from my WordPress. Luckily, my professors seem to like my writing as much as you do, reader, and that means a lot to me.

I’m halfway through my program, and it’s been a whirlwind. Here are a few glimpses.wpid-20140409_202647.jpgGuess which one I helped on? The one with no straight lines and obvious structure, of course… complete with a ladybug (top right).

wpid-1398040825649.jpgBasketball was really fun– for a while.

wpid-2014-06-12-12.04.23.jpg.jpegThe first time I saw the sunshine caught in the campus fountain. Wow.

wpid-20140512_201854.jpgIf you have homework on your birthday, wear fabulous glasses, have chocolate and wine.

wpid-2014-05-12-18.12.48.jpg.jpegOh yes, I had a birthday. 30 circles around the sun.

wpid-2014-06-05-17.44.26.jpg.jpegI got a label maker.

wpid-2014-05-14-11.45.27.jpg.jpegI got to explore a hunch I’ve had for some time– that the words people use to challenge and ban books can be used to incite curiosity in readers. So I’ve been doing a little project that is one part research, one part art, and one part cheeky teacher. The above books are popular or frequently required reading and are just as frequently banned. I taped them all to block out the covers, titles, and authors. I labeled them with praises and criticisms, and then I taped the books shut.

2014-05-14 11.42.57 I want to draw attention to how people try to censor entire books based on single themes, scenes, or words. Taping them closed elicited a stronger response than I expected, and I realized that one of the best things about books is that they are so inviting. Drop one on the floor and it opens up, saying “read me!” Opening a book is automatic, it is instant gratification. Preventing that brings on emotional (and physical) responses from frustration to anger. It makes for fascinating conversation with students– even kids who hate reading discover they have an opinion on censorship when they learn the only book they ever liked gets banned all the time.

wpid-2014-06-09-08.52.31.jpg.jpegI spent several weeks observing at the nearest alternative high school. It’s a perfect place for me.

wpid-2014-06-09-08.50.40.jpg.jpegIn the spirit of the art project/phenomenon, Before I Die (which I did in the fall with my class). Here’s another good example.

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We were visited a few times by the blondest raccoon I’ve ever seen. Matilda agreed. But if there’s any place for a ginger raccoon, it’s my backyard. wpid-2014-06-12-11.41.12.jpg.jpeg

Speaking of Matilda, she’s in pretty good shape these days. Diana’s cat got an upgraded cat tower for Christmas, so the old one was bequeathed to Tilda, and Emily and I did some improvements on it.

 

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To top it all off (literally and figuratively), my mom made a wee little quilt for Matilda’s tower, which happens to fit perfectly. She sits on this at the window for hours every day with a look that says “What took you so long?”

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I write this on an anniversary of an important day for me and everyone who ever loved Matilda. So forgive me a re-post of my most popular entry, Thirty Days of Solitude.

Here’s a balance-in-the-universe prologue to that story: earlier this spring I saw a cute little calico hiding in our yard. A few days later I saw Lost posters in the neighborhood for the strictly-indoor-tortie. I called and met the lady, and I recognized the tightness in her throat and the hope in her eyes. Luckily, her kitty was still in our yard and they were reunited after 6 days. I had so much trouble communicating to her just how much it meant to me that I got her calico back to her. It wasn’t just a good deed, it was paying it forward.

So pet your pets, and tell your loved ones you love them. I’ll be back with more stories soon.

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What took you so long?

The Condition is Usually Not Serious – and other things not to say to women

funny-stork-baby-birth-control-vintageI’m not going to talk about my diet today. Well, not directly. One of the most important habits I took on when I changed my food was to journal my symptoms dutifully.  It’s great because if I choose one day to eat a buttery glutenous cinnamon roll covered in cream cheese frosting, I can consider in an experiment instead of a failure of my willpower. If I experience cramping or digestion issues the day after, I know my body does has a problem with those ingredients. If I start my period two days later, maybe that craving was a function of where I was in my cycle. I won’t call it PMS.

When your ute makes a demand, you make it happen.

 

No three letters can dehumanize a woman faster than p, m, and s. To say it is a stigma is an understatement. It is an assumption, a dismissal, and a punchline. Women’s menstrual pain is dismissed far too easily, even by health professionals.

You can see the dismissal even in the technical definitions. “Although some pain during your period is normal, excessive pain is not. The medical term for painful menstrual periods is dysmenorrhea”  Some pain is normal? “Dysmenorrhoea refers to painful periods, including severe menstrual cramps. The condition is usually not serious but it can be debilitating” (Menstrual Cycle & Irregularities). After the words usually not serious, no one hears can be debilitating.

I use the MedHelp application. It allows me to be startlingly specific about my symptoms (menstrual, emotional, pain, and nutritional) as well as my treatments (medications, supplements, baths) and have enough data to see patterns that I would not have found otherwise. The part that is especially important for me is their Pain Tracker. 

Seriously.

Because the 1-10 scale with smiley to frowny faces is so crude a representation it is laughable to those coping with any sort of pain disorder. Now I have a journal programmed with important varieties of pain (burning, discomfort, stabbing, hypersensitivity, twisting, cramping) as well as a body map where you can pinpoint the areas affected.

Are your periods normal? Sounds like a simple question. But it’s one that I hate the most at the Dr.’s office. What they’re asking is, Are they 28 days apart and result in moderate bleeding and bloating?  I wouldn’t be visiting a specialist if they were. The real question to ask is, What is normal for you? Frequency, duration, and severity are only three of so many dimensions to consider about the chronic injury that is menstruation.

I was spurred into this post after reflecting on a telephone conversation I had today with a nurse. She must check with my doctor before clearing me for a refill of my Vicodin prescription. I understand.

“Because, it’s highly addictive, you know.”

Yes, I know.

“We don’t want you taking it regularly.”

Yes, I know. I don’t want to, either.

“It says here you were going to do some sort of… pain management… thing?”

Oh yes, I remember. I was considering participating in The Violet Petal Study, a clinical trial of a treatment for endometriosis pain. I’m thrilled that this study has advertisements in the area via radio, TV, and internet. Based on my age and the course of my treatment I am exactly —exactly— the participant they want, and my doctor gave me her full support to enroll. 

But I have decided against it. I am desperate enough to try something experimental, yes. But I’m not desperate enough to gamble on a placebo that 1/3 of participants get. They would allow me to continue Vicodin for pain… but it’s highly addictive, you know.

The American sign language speaks the truthShe asked if my condition has improved and was appropriately concerned when I told her that in the last weeks, my pain has increased. She said she would call in my prescription and genuinely urged me to make an appointment right away, so my Dr. and I can do something about it. I broke a little inside. I was overcome with a feeling of futility all too familiar to women dealing with pain or infertility. 

I knew that rushed appointment would be just like my last in August, and the one before that, and the one before that; I’ve exhausted all my medicinal options, and considering the last time I had health insurance was 2009, I can’t afford to make an appointment, no matter how earnestly the nurse believes it will help (while knowing literally nothing about my history). I wanted to tell her, there is nothing to be done… but I don’t believe that. Once I get medical coverage, I want to explore surgery to remove one or both of my ovaries. But this means, once I get coverage, I have to find a new doctor. Mine refuses to jeopardize in any way my chances of getting pregnant, even though I’ve made it repetitively clear that I’m averse to the whole fiasco.

You’re still in your 20’s, you’ll change your mind. She specializes in infertility, so of course she is going to act in a way that protects my reproductive bits. Motherhood is magical, and it gives fulfillment to millions of people– but it is not for everyone. I’m just one of a growing number of women who are eschewing pregnancy and receiving incredulity and pity instead of support.

Childfree inspiration

The Childfree Life is gaining some public recognition, and I must further that conversation by continuing to say my piece. Armed with my symptom journal, sparked up over the Vicodin talk, and my feet firmly rooted in feminism, I came to write this post. I had to meander a bit, so thank you for coming with me. I’m nearly to the point.

And I am more than my illness.

I finally realized what I need to communicate on behalf of people like myself. When someone says you’ll change your mind, or keep your options open, all I can hear is I don’t believe you, and you don’t know what you want, or you’re not old enough to say that. Don’t protect me. Help me live in good health. Even when (especially when) it is scary and potentially involving scalpels.

Someone who seeks surgery (women like me for oophorectomies, men for vasectomies) is not taking the decision lightly. I have some rough numbers I want to give you, in an awkward attempt to say… forcing me to be able to carry a child is as cruel as forcing me to have one. How old do I need to be before I am taken seriously? Isn’t 35 about when they start saying you’re too old? Let’s go with that, say I wait until I’m 35 to prove I don’t want to carry, that’s 6 years. If my condition and treatments stay roughly the same as the last 6 years, what am I in for?  42 periods, totaling 270 days of bleeding, necessitating 120 Vicodin. Careful, it’s highly addictive, you know. My endometriosis pain is not limited to menstruation times. In addition to those numbers, I’ll face 420 days in pain severe enough to distract me from my tasks. This will require an additional 300 Vicodin. Round it all off with 1-2 laparoscopic surgeries, and what do you have?The fault in our starsCruelty.
Versus: One surgery, potentially liberating me from Vicodin, tampons, condoms, PMS….. oophorectomy is fun to say, but I’ll tell you one thing: it’s not habit forming.

A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life.

Maty says "Oh hi nice to see you!"

Maty says “Oh hi nice to see you!”

Maty has been absent from the blog a while, too. But that’s because he lives in Ashland and my camera does not have that good a zoom. I am here in Shakespeareville for Thanksgiving.

So I will admit that I’ve been eating everything my father-in-law puts on the table. I have enjoyed it all immensely. But I am seeing the effects on by body, which means two things. Firstly, that my dietary changes were working; Secondly, that when I return home I’ll be back on the quinoa and rice tortillas. Since I have some space from classes this week, I’ll spend some time talking about the foods I aught to be eating.

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This array represents the inspirational people I get to hang out with in class.

I basically covered the foods and ingredients that I’m avoiding. It’s much more fun to talk about what I’ve gotten to embrace.

The spiritual advice that my Dad has passed on to me is as simple as it is true. God was in a good mood when he made garlic. And onion. And beans. There’s something to that. Those are all beneficial to your immune system, and can block estrogen receptors so that estrogen-like things in food do not throw off your natural hormone levels. Eat more beans, carrots, broccoli, and kale? No need to twist my arm.

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Flax and pumpkin seeds, plus my pretty measuring spoons.

I have added some seeds to my diet. First was flax, which has gained a lot of popularity in recent years on account of high Omega-3 Fatty Acids, anti-oxidants, and fiber. Did I talk about fiber? I’m consciously seeking out fiber for my diet so that my bowels move with ease. The muscles that take care of #2 are dangerously close to the muscles that ache and cramp from endo. One caution: they do contain plant estrogen, which your body can interpret as your own, so I make sure not to eat them daily or in excess.

Surprise about flax seeds: when you finely grind them and mix with water, you’ve got a surprisingly effective substitute for eggs! I mean, in baking dishes, not as breakfast. There are conflicting reports about including eggs in an anti-inflammatory diet; most of what I have read is against them, and it hasn’t been a problem for me to eliminate them, so that’s where I fall on the question.

Next up was pumpkin seeds, which I tried because they’re crazy nutritious, but I didn’t expect to enjoy. People go gaga about roasted pumpkin seeds at Halloween, and I’ve never cared for them. I love smelling them in the oven, but can’t be bothered to eat them.  Step one to loving pumpkin seeds: buy them already shelled.

They are full of protein and reduce inflammation. They have a lot of minerals, which is another thing I didn’t expect. They even have tryptophan, that magical Thanksgiving chemical that promotes rest and lowers depression. So for those reasons and more, I bought a bag and came up with the perfect plan. If this didn’t make pumpkin seeds palatable, then it would never be.

I eat this now as a when I’m craving salty chips, I put it on salads, add it to dips, whatever. It’s fast and easy and is worth the effort to do it right. No substitutions, commit to the fancy stuff.

Try about a quarter cup of shelled pumpkin seeds, put into a saucepan or small skillet, on medium-high heat.
Add 1-2 teaspoons of avocado oil. Stir the seeds often. Watch for them to turn toasty colors, listen for them to get steamed up and start to pop.
Season with truffle salt. Try not to burn yourself when you can’t keep from waiting long enough for them to cool.

Third seed: CH-CH-CH-CHIA! I couldn’t help myself. And be serious, if you were writing this blog you’d say it too.

Chia seeds have similar benefits to flax: high in fiber, antioxidants, and Omega-3s; I hear they can also be used as an egg replacement. They’re full of good minerals (which I will elaborate on in Part 3 of this diet-blog business). For more info than you expected or will ever need, see here.

In the picture, the chia seeds on the left are hidden by the other delicious things in the mix I bought; it has slivered almonds, minced dates, hemp seeds, cocoa powder… See here for Chia Goodness. With this, I’ve been having pleasant breakfasts:

A couple teaspoons of the chia mix, a teaspoon of strawberry jam,
a dose of probiotic (I’ll elaborate later),
Add a splash of water or coconut milk, stir it, and go pour yourself a coffee. In a minute the chia seeds will start to expand.
Top with yogurt (Greek nonfat is best).

And maybe some granola or rice cereal on top for crunch. You know, like a parfait–but with lots of protein, fiber, minerals, and little fat.

Here’s a word loaded with sensory memories: cheese. A dear friend of mine for years–we do visit every few weeks or so now when I find brie in front of me. Instead, I’ve been using Daiya “cheese,” and I’ve been really happy with it (except the provolone–that one’s sub-par).

Pictured to the right of the Chia Goodness are dry sprouted lentils. Lentils have a lot of the same anti-inflammatory benefits of beans– particularly the fiber–but I don’t feel compelled to eat them often. Either they are too hard/undercooked or fragile/overcooked. Sprouted lentils have been gaining popularity for their particular properties. If you wish to get technical in comparison, I direct you here. I do not know how much drying the lentils affects the nutrition versus fresh. But these great. You can soften them just by placing in water or soup in the last minutes. I think I’ll try seasoning and toasting them one of these days.

wpid-20131110_112043.jpgAnother something that is going on: I have art up at Latte Play in Salem. Best part is that I have FINALLY gotten to hang my Gigantic Koi Painting. So go marvel at that and have a latte. See Masterful Matilda and Animal, shown here. But there is something shown here that is no more.

It finally happened. I grew hair long enough to donate, as long as I could stand for it to be. But it had started strangling me in my sleep. It broke the vacuum. It had to go.

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So thanks for the line, Coco Chanel. My life has definitely changed.

Today’s post was read before a live audience

Good news, friends. I’ve been absent from the blog lately, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. If fact, I’ve been writing quite a bit. I’m in the thick of classes in my journey to master the art of teaching, so that’s where my thoughts and words have been focused.

Last week, I took on the responsibility of setting an inspirational tone for one of my classes. I was the first to go unarmed–no visual aid or activity, and just had to gamble that my words would be enough. I was met with really positive reactions, so I’d like to share this with you now, just bear in mind there’s brief academ-ese.

The very best lesson I ever got about the stages of cognitive development of children was not from my first psychology professor. But she was there to witness it too.

My professor was a mousy little woman– frizzy hair, thick glasses. She had two daughters. One must watch out for psychologists with children. She had perfect living examples of the phenomena we were reading, and brought them into class periodically to demonstrate.

She fondly remembered the day she brought the pair to class when they were 6 and 3.

She took Big Sister to a desk, showed her two equally sized balls of clay.
“Which one is bigger?”
“They are the same size.”
The professor would then roll one of the balls out into a thin rope.
“Which one is bigger?”
“Mom, they’re the same size.”

She would then bring in Little Sister and offer two identical spheres of clay, and repeat.
“Which one is bigger?”
“They’re the same!”
She would roll one into a rope again.
“Which one is bigger?”
“That one!” She pointed to the rope.
“Why?”
“Because it’s longer.”
“Did I add anything to it?”
“No.”
“Did I take anything away from that one?”
“No.”
“So why is it bigger?”
“Mom, because it’s longer.”

My professor would then turn to the class and explain how the girls were at opposite ends of the preoperational stage. Big Sister had established conservancy, but Little Sister was not yet capable of abstract and symbolic thought.

It was then that Little Sister took the clay rope, wrapped it around the clay sphere, and held it up proudly saying
“Saturn!”

Indeed, the child’s growing mind is a fascinating place that we cannot define nor predict with certainty. Fast forward a few years, to my class.

This time she started with Little Sister.
“Tell me, are you a boy or a girl?”
“Mom, I’m a girl!”
“How do you know?”
“Because I have long hair and skirts, my bed is pink, and I listen to girl music.”
“Tell me, could you change yourself into a boy?
“Sure. I would play a lot of soccer and cut my hair.”

My professor thanked her, sent her to the corner wheely chair, and pointed out that Little Sister, now 6, was entering the concrete operational stage. Clay balls were long gone, but she still had a lot to go before the formal operations of hypotheticals and strategies. Or so we thought.

Enter Big Sister, now age 9.
“Tell me, are you a boy or a girl?”
“I’m a girl.”
“How do you know?”
Sigh. “Because I have a girl’s body.”
“Tell me, could you change yourself into a boy?”
Rolled eyes. “No.”

This is when my professor would have made the observation that Big Sister is comfortably in the stage of concrete operational thought. She will soon be tackling hypotheticals, strategies.

But before that could happen, Little Sister hollered from the oversized chair,
“Yeah you can! You can get A FAKE PENIS and put it over your VAGINA!!”

I don’t remember what my professor said, just her mortified face and the shades of red she turned when she heard the words and heard us roaring. I remember how Little Sister lit up when she heard the chaotic laughter she had wrought. She certainly understood the concept of a punch line.

I never forgot the stages, and from what I hear she never brought her daughters back to class. Little Sisters are what make our jobs fascinating and wonderful. We are perfect for our jobs because we, too, are fascinating and wonderful.

In the weeks we’ve spent together, it’s become abundantly clear that we are committed, adaptable, creative, diverse, group, complete with shining eyes. I need to be around people like you. Because I have seen the dark side. A place where fun was squashed by schedules, where art was a special hour once a week, where we as “teachers” of a group of 30 K-5th graders were to dutifully follow an over-programmed “curriculum” that was faxed to our boss from an office in Oklahoma.

This story takes place during “summer camp.”
What I mean was, it was daycare in a school gym.

Each week had a theme, each day had a sub-theme. But every Monday was bike day. Tuesday was gameboy day. Wednesday was squirt gun day. K-3 on one side of the gym, 4-5 on the other.

There was trivia time every morning to go along with the theme. Both age groups had designated questions. One week was CSI. I will give you a moment to take that in.

Questions designated for two of us to get the 4th and 5th graders interested were these:

1. What is studied in forensic entomology?
Insects, hair, pollen, spores, or fibers?
2. What is the name given to the study of fingerprints?
Entomology, trichology, palynology, or dactyloscopy?
3. What are the three subdivisions of forensic entomology?
(This is my favorite question)
Blood spatter, trace evidence, and toxicology,
OR medico legal, urban and stored products, and pests?

Our K-3 kids only had 2 questions that day. She tackled the first.
1. Can a person with Blood Type A safely transfuse to type O?
She talked about donating blood for sick or injured people, and explained that not everyone has the same kind of blood, just like we don’t all have blue eyes. Not bad. I read question 2 silently.
What chemical can be used by scientists to determine if an accelerant was used in the case of possible arson?
Ninhydrin, cyanide, carbon monoxide, or luminol?
I should have taken the first question.

“Okay last one, stay with me. Last one and then we can have morning snack! Has anyone heard of arson?”
One hand raises from the back and a voice earnestly answered,
“Yeah! He lives next door to me!”

I’d like to think the people who designed this ordeal meant well. I’d like to think they were employing a strategy to respond to the same problems we are. How will we engage kids for a whole day? A week? A month? What happens if they are bored? Are we being creative enough? How do we keep things modern and fresh? What do these kids need?

But their strategy was just like their book of summer trivia questions.
It had. No. Answers.

I spent the two weeks following that morning growing from frustrated to vocally indignant. The kids felt the same way. We were shackled, we were herded, we were robbed of creativity, dammit, we were oppressed.

I think now that if I could go back to that place (but you can’t make me) and I could turn down the volume of my outrage, I would hear a patient whisper. “Come here, my child.” And then I would extend my hand and say, “Nice to meet you, Señor Freire.” He would say, “Let’s talk about fascinating things,” and I would say, “Yes, wonderful.”

We have to practice critical pedagogy, pedagogy of the oppressed, or we send children to suffer the pedagogy of the bored and uninspired. Then they grow up into boring, uninspiring adults. So we must continue to be committed, adaptable, creative, diverse, and cooperative– for the students of the future, and the teachers too.

Something true, which will remind the viewer of what matters most in life

Enough science and food talk for now. Time to do some art.

I have been doing a lot of water color painting lately. It’s still really challenging for me. But I picked up something a little less messy and easier to blend dark shades: watercolor pencils. They draw just like colored pencils, but just add water and you can soften and smooth the shading lines and brighten the colors.

image

I really like colored pencils for illustrations, but I always wanted them to have more saturated color, which I can achieve now with the watercolor stuff.

This was shamelessly inspired by a vintage illustration. I was aiming for Matilda colors but I think it’s a passable Siamese, too.

wpid-2013-08-27-11.45.02.png

Now taking nominations for the name.

This one has been in the back of my mind for a while now (har har har), I’ve wanted to do some personification of pain. I was recently “helped” with an attack and this was my result:

wpid-2013-08-27-11.43.22.png

Mad Madam Migraine

And here is the really fun one.

I put out a request on Facebook for something I should draw one evening. The immediate first response was from Ruth, (a very fine artist) who suggested:

Something true, which will remind the viewer of what matters most in life,

what brings significance to our existence as humans

and illuminates our struggles with beauty and meaning.

No pressure. So I thought and thought, and then I thought:

Tacos.

…Bacon.

Because I am just that irreverent and had only a 4×6 inch page to work on.

Ben came in second, nominating himself as the subject of my doodling.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I ended up with this gem:

wpid-2013-08-27-11.40.58.pngThree cheers for collaborative art!

Thanks, as always, for checking in on my little corner of the interweb.

A brief venture into the diet-blog genre

The newest sign that I’m kind of a grown up: adopting (and sticking to) a diet. It’s been about 6 months and I’ve lost about 8 pounds. I feel better, almost all my clothes fit, and people have noticed the difference. People have been asking questions, and this is the best route for me to give context and facts for what I’ve been exploring and experiencing. Although it is the most visible effect, losing weight was not the principal goal in changing my diet. It’s another strategy I’m employing in my ongoing battle with endometriosis.

susan sarandonIsn’t it silly that we need to be reminded this? But that’s fodder for another post…

Today is Part 1 of my Endo Diet. Here’s the information that made me willing to give up cheese and bread which I could (and have) lived on exclusively. It’s closely related to the anti-inflammatory diet that has gained popularity with arthritis sufferers. First it starts with a wee bit of science: Prostaglandins.

Prostaglandins are lipids made in your body when and where they are needed, in response to an illness or injury. Here’s the quick and dirty on them in the general health and wellness sense. They are obviously important little helpers. Here’s the short-story-long about their connection to dysmennorhoea. But for my purposes, here’s the gist:

They control processes of inflammation, redirecting blood flow, the formation of blood clots. You know, the Unholy Trinity of Womanhood.

They control ovulation, menstrual cycling, and induce labor. You know, the Gauntlet of Womanhood.

for dummies

Have I mentioned this? I read it. I loved it.

So, they’re useful and necessary and helpful for recovering from injuries, be them occasional like a bruise or recurring like menstruation. Eventually, your bruise heals and the swelling goes down. Your period ends, the bleeding stops, the cramping stops. What I think of as the good prostaglandins step in to inhibit the inflammation, they tell your muscles to relax.

With endometriosis, I’m sort of always injured. I may not always be bleeding, I may not always be hurting but those growths are always there, and my body always knows they shouldn’t be. So the prostaglandins are telling my guts to cramp (get rid of those clots!) and my abdomen to swell (to protect from the angry ovaries!).

How do you try to control something that your body creates naturally? Turns out that diet can make a big difference in two ways: limiting things that excite the prostaglandins responsible for inflammation, and adopting things that help your body inhibit inflammation.

Since they are lipids, your body makes them out of fat. The first thing to change in my diet was fat.

None trans fats. That’s an easy enough one to avoid with anything that comes with nutrition facts and everyone knows they are unhealthy. Saturated fats are to be avoided too, I haven’t been able to eliminate them, but I’m choosing them differently. Dairy is almost totally out, because it heightens your body’s inflammatory response. (I rock fat free Greek yogurt though, for protein and live cultures for digestion) I’ve actually gone for months now without any butter, and rarely vegetable oil.  I have adopted avocado oil for cooking, it’s full of great things. I’m using coconut oil for baking and damn near everything else because it’s perfect for… DAMN NEAR EVERYTHING.

champagne diet

Soy. This one I really have eliminated entirely, because it’s easier to avoid than you might think. And there are many more reasons to do so than you might think.

Soy is high in phytoestrogen, which for purposes here you can just read as estrogen (but please read more because it’s kinda fascinating). My body is super sensitive to estrogen. I don’t want to put any in it, like, at all. This property of soy can inhibit your body’s absorption of calcium, magnesium, and iron. These are crazy-important for women with cramping and bleeding. It can raise your body’s need for Vitamins D and B-12.

Gluten. This one is getting easier to avoid because people are so much more aware of gluten allergies and intolerances. Women with endo seem to be a little more prone to gluten sensitivity. Either way, processed flours and wheats contain phytic acid that can aggravate cramps. It’s with reluctance that I avoid bread, but it has given me the reason to try pumpkin seeds, flax, hemp, and chia seeds.

no soy no gluten protein

I’ll rave about these things in Part 2

Red meat: not all that hard for me to eliminate. I’ve never been into burgers. Steak only excites me if it’s super high quality slabs of heaven that was grass fed and smothered in a wine reduction. That is an exception to my diet I’m willing to make, because grass fed is not only delectable, it’s better for you. Note the Omega-3 and antioxidants.

Sugar–Another that is getting easier to avoid, but I recognize it’s going to be a long process for me to be close to sugar-free. A sugary diet can heighten your inflammatory response. I’ve adopted coconut sugar for my coffee and baking. Stevia is too sweet for me, agave gives me a tummy ache. So I’ll stick to coconut sugar, honey, and maple syrup.

Corn has been a bummer–I can eat myself stupid on Juanita’s corn tortilla chips. My first summer without corn on the cob since the days when I had braces. I’ve pretty well cut out eggs, as well. Both of them can worsen inflammation in your body.

So there’s the over-view of what I have cut out or limited. I’ve already acknowledged I’ve dropped some weight. But has it helped my endo symptoms?

Yes. I am confident in saying that it has helped. I am not cramping on a daily basis anymore. I’m with Susan that it’s not OK yet, but for me to have days at a time free of cramping is a damn fine step closer.

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