Posted in audience participation, follow-up, food, physical health

Follow-up to the dinner post

Last week, I answered a reader question about dinner. Planning. Dealing with busy evenings. Dealing with low energy.

When I posted it to social media, I asked what others do for quick, easy meals. Here’s what people shared:

  • breakfast for dinner
  • We just had make your own taco night. Fry’s has great vegetarian already-seasoned meat crumbles you literally just put in a skillet and heat up for about 5-8 minutes. I cut up the black olives while it is heating and put out all the toppings and tacos/tortillas. The girls love this and it is so easy and quick! We also heat up black beans for those who may want them as well.
  • pizza on flour tortillas baked in the oven

Great ideas!

Posted in differences, know better do better, mindset, thoughtfulness, vulnerability


In my home state of Arizona, the only reason today is recognized as a holiday is: the NFL rescinded the Super Bowl in the 90s because we didn’t recognize it. Magically, we had a change of heart.

(It was “them” not “we” at the time—I didn’t live here yet—but we still tend to be in the news for impressively ignorant things.)

I have a lot of thoughts about today …

…about the incident at the protest the other day…

…about the exaltation of good people to “infallible”…

…about the state of race relations in this country…

…and all of the other “other” relations in this country…

…about how people speaking out for social justice are supposed to turn the other cheek while the denigration and exploitation of people in this country (to say nothing of elsewhere) rises at an alarming rate…

…about how I have the privilege with most of these issues to think about them and deal with them when I have time and energy because they don’t affect me directly…

…about how my employer is putting us through Deep Equity training, and what it’s like and what it means…

And I couldn’t tease it all out and come up with a post that didn’t wind all over the place (bring Dramamine!) or get ranty (I do try to limit rants and there was one just yesterday and a bit of one the day before).

I wanted an end product that was strong, thoughtful, and maybe would make one person think twice about any one of the myriad of issues that are part of all of this.

So instead, I just ask: when you see injustice, speak up.

You would want help if you were on the losing side of any of those battles.

Let your mind be changed by people who are walking the walk. You don’t know more about someone else’s experience than they do.

Posted in education, mindset

A rant on teaching

With all of the news on teacher strikes and the like in the last year—including one here in my home state of Arizona and one currently happening in Los Angeles—there have been a lot of … opinions that I disagree with. Usually, I scroll by, because I’m substantially unlikely to change the mind of one of those people.

(Ultimately, their “button” isn’t education, and without knowing what about this is triggering to them, I can’t attempt to have a rational conversation. And depending on what the trigger is, the conversation may be impossible.)

But the other day, I didn’t pass on by. Here is his comment, in part:

If you don’t like what you’re getting paid for the time being, get out of the profession. You don’t do it for the money and you knew that from the get go. Either learn how to take advantage of other money making strategies while teaching, or get out. Plain and simple. There are plenty of ways you can make extra money and still be a teacher alone. Self educate yourself in the art of financial literacy through books from Tony Robbins, Warren Buffett, Grant Cardone, Robert Kiyosaki. There is too much complaining and not enough innovating. You have all the tools in the world to thrive while doing what you apparently love, and all I here is complaining and laziness. Ridiculous.

And my response:

I’ve taught for 20 years. In that time, I’ve attained a Masters degree and National Board Certification.

My salary is 40% higher than it was my first year teaching; at least half of that is because of the degree and cert. My heath insurance costs and it didn’t used to. (When I went through cancer treatments, it cost me a total of about $700, over 8 months, including 2 ER visits, a 2-week hospital stay, 6 months of chemo, a month of radiation, and countless doctor’s appointments, scans, and blood work. If I went through that today, it would cost over $10K.)

But because teaching is so severely devalued, the skills I have aren’t seen as transferrable. I’ve tried to change careers and can’t. Because entry-level everything right now is paid shit (it’s not a teaching problem, it’s a capitalism problem), even at my salary, I can’t get entry-level that’s close enough.

I didn’t go into teaching expecting to be wealthy. But I expected a raise every year, I expected a good benefits package, and I expected solid retirement, because those were the norms 20 years ago. I haven’t gotten a raise every year (two years in a row we took cuts) and I don’t have a good benefits package (again, a capitalism problem).

I also didn’t go into teaching expecting to need a second job. Would you tell other professionals with advanced degrees that they were lazy for not working after work, after working more than full-time hours to start with?

Are there teachers who walk in and out with kids (aside from meetings and other required events)? Absolutely. They’re not good teachers, and those aren’t the people you want widespread.

Support the people who are working their asses off to make their classrooms effective, engaging, and thorough for kids. Because we need well-educated people if we’re going to turn this country around.

And what I should have also said:

Teachers are innovating. We do more with less every year. The mix of abilities in my room—both academically and socio-emotionally—is vastly different (and more challenging) than it was when I started. Parent involvement is different. Expectations of schools and of what schools provide is different. Our load is heavier in every metric.

We offer classes to the community, special services for kids. We have 92 ways to teach every lesson and an army of backup for when our bags of tricks run empty.

I remember hearing business people talking about taking hours at work to prepare for a presentation. Must be nice to have hours on the clock to prepare for every presentation.

I could go on and on, but for today, I’ll stop there.

Posted in mindset

Ramblings on cancer

Eleven years ago today, I had my last radiation treatment.

For my particular cancer, remission and cure are measured from the end of chemo, so medically, today’s end of treatment is somewhat irrelevant.

From a practical standpoint, I didn’t have to get up to go get radiation every day before work. I’m very much not a morning person, and my job is already too early for my happiness, so daily 6 a.m. appointments didn’t enhance my quality of life.

There’s not really anything about cancer that enhances your quality of life.

From a health standpoint, radiation is really bad for you, and I was glad to end my intentional exposure to it.

As a result of having had radiation, I am at substantially higher risk of many other cancers.

As a result of having had chest radiation, I am at risk of my heart and/or lungs hardening or shrinking and not really working any more. Or possibly, as stated in my consent form, “requiring surgical correction.” And “increased problems after surgery” … because I had radiation.

But that’s way down the road. Fifteen or twenty years. From when the treatments were administered. Not so far down the road now. And a lot of road after that.

Honestly, I don’t think about it often, because at this point, there’s not anything I can do about it, as far as I know.

Science either hasn’t worked on or hasn’t figured out how to minimize long-term side effects from radition. Heck, science couldn’t even tell me if it was safe to breastfeed my kid after having had chest radiation. (I did.)

The job of the cancer treatment is not to have the end result of a long-lived healthy person. The job of the cancer treatment is to have an alive person without cancer.

So why would we worry about not-cancer side effects? Especially long-term ones? As long as you don’t have cancer, you’re good.

It makes me angry.

Don’t get me wrong—I am grateful that the people who took care of me were able to rid me of a football-sized tumor in my chest and that for 11 years and counting, I’ve been able to live a nearly side-effect-free life.

I’ve watched friends die from this disease. I’m acutely aware that from the lot of unlucky people, I’m one of the lucky ones.

But I’m angry that this procedure—which was prophylactic; the chemo is what took care of the tumor—is so dangerous and is administered without a second thought.

This is part of what’s wrong with Western medicine. It’s reactive. We have a problem, we fix it with drugs or surgery or both. The solution causes other problems. We fix them with drugs or surgery or both. And on and on.

We don’t re-establish health—we create repeat customers.

There’s nothing proactive.

Culturally, what we do know to help us be proactive is mocked or dismissed.

Diet is an enormous contributor to all of our health problems: cancers, heart disease, autoimmune diseases, and on and on.

Stress is an enormous contributor to all of our health problems.

Environmental pollutants—pesticides, plastics, exhaust, crap that makes food cheap and “tasty,” crap that makes cleaners marketable, crap that makes our faces and hair look the way someone else told us they need to look—are enormous contributors to both our health problems and our planet’s health problems.

But we’re too busy or too shamed or too invested in convenience and “progress” to worry about those things.

I digress.

For now.

I am grateful for the efficacy of the treatment I had. I am grateful that it is friendlier on the body systems than treatments that came even just 15 or 20 years earlier. I am grateful that so far, chemo brain has been my worst long-term side effect.

I take joy in being cancer-free the second-best way.

(The best way, of course, is not to have it in the first place.)

Posted in meandering, thoughtfulness

Something borrowed

Nearly everyone has borrowed something from someone else at some point.

Sometimes, we give it back; sometimes not so much.

I’m in the process of getting ready to return something that was loaned to me (I didn’t ask to borrow it, but I was happy it was offered) two years ago.

Two years ago.

Yeah, I feel kind of stupid about returning it now. But: integrity. What’s left, two years later…

That said, there are things I’ve loaned out that years later, I still wish had been returned. (If you have my CD of Looney Tunes music, drop it in the mail, would ya? Someone in college had it, but I don’t remember who…)

I assume positive intent, and that people just forget to get stuff back.

There have been things I’ve taken a long time to get back to the giver, and they’ve told me not to worry about it. (Because they didn’t miss it? Because they already replaced it? Because it didn’t fit any more anyway?)

What’s your timeline on comfort level on returning something?

Posted in know better do better, mental health, mindset, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

An African proverb

The tree remembers what the axe forgets.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.

I can, as the quote states, tell you stories about being a tree. Sometimes the giving tree (codependency much?). Sometimes a tree in a razed forest. Sometimes, um, a tree that fights back? Hahahaha the analogy only works for so long.

I can remember, though, some instances of being an axe, and in many of those cases, I’ve at least tried to apologize, even if it’s years later.

I’m sure there are others I forget.

But more important than either of those is this: when people tell me that I hurt them, I believe them.

I read somewhere else: “If someone tells you that you hurt them, you don’t get to decide that you didn’t.”

True story.

Because that resonates with me so deeply on the receiving end—the biggest hurts I’ve endured have been dismissed by perpetrators—I do my best to acknowledge being on the giving end.

I’m not flawless at it. And if I’ve been your chopping block over and over, you’re much less likely to get that bit of vulnerability from me. Right or wrong, it is what it is, and for now, I’m OK with it.

What’s your experience?

Posted in differences

Geographic friendliness

There is “common knowledge” about what the personalities are like in different parts of the country.

This body of knowledge told me that the people in the northeast—where I’m originally from—are rude and standoffish and always in a hurry—and that life is slower and people are friendlier in AZ.

I’m here to tell you that this “common knowledge” is wrong. (I can’t speak to its accuracy about other parts of the country, but feel free to fill me in!)

First, life is not slower here. People are in just as big a hurry—there just aren’t as many ways to get from here to there, and there aren’t as many people.

And, I think because most people here are from somewhere else, driving here is insane. I think everyone brings their region’s unwritten rules about driving with them, but everyone else doesn’t know them, and it’s just a mess. There are a ridiculous number of accidents, and most of the time, no weather to blame them on…

We’ve lived in this house for a year now and have met three of the neighbors: next door on one side came over, greeted us, brought cookies. On the other side, they have a bunch of kids and The Kid has played with them. We met their dad (presumably) when he came over to talk to us about tree roots disrupting the property line. And one other neighbor we met once.

I have to tell you—I don’t think that’s friendly.

We all have 6-foot concrete walls around our back yards. They call them fences here. Where I grew up, if there were fences, they were chain link or three-rail wood fences. Fences where you’d still have a conversation over or through the fence. You could see if the kids were playing. We knew all of our neighbors. (Maybe that has changed since I’ve been gone.)

I don’t notice a difference in friendliness in retail locations.

People here are more likely to require you to be like them in order to be friendly or accepting; there’s an undercurrent of hostility.

And there are snowbirds. They do not enhance the region.

Back east, there is a straightforwardness** and a lack of patience that I can see coming across as rudeness to people who aren’t used to it. Honestly, I think the only difference truly is volume of people. You don’t have 50 people trying to cram on a train car here. Because public transportation is for poor people. (This was a common opinion while debating whether or not to build the light rail.)

And sure, there are plenty of people in the northeast who are certifiably rude. But there’s no shortage of them here, either.


I don’t find Arizona—at least the Phoenix area—to be any friendlier or more laid back than Jersey was.

But the house next door and the house across the street are both going up for sale in the coming months. (Well, one for sure, and the other we’re assuming; might just be for rent.) I’m hopeful for excellent neighbors. And plan to go and greet them after they move in.

**What’s funny about the “straightforwardness” is that it’s pretty common—maybe to the point where it’s the norm, but I can’t say for sure—for people’s families to be champions at passive aggression. There is nothing straightforward about how families interact, except when they’re aggressive-aggressive.

Posted in food, mindset, physical health

Tasty, healthy food

The Kid was helping me prepare dinner the other night. He was chopping tomatoes; I was chopping onions. We were talking about upcoming Thursday night’s dinner.

“Swiss chard is so good. And it’s healthy! Which makes it perfect!”

“Did you know there are people who think that healthy food can’t be tasty?”

“WHAT?! Well, they should try Swiss chard … And I bet they’ve never heard of tomatoes. Just hamburgers and carrots. I’m not really a fan of raw carrots.”

I had a good chuckle at many aspects of that, including anyone on a fast food-based diet being offered chard as an introduction to tasty, healthy food.

To switch the mindset to enjoying healthy food, there are a few potential considerations.

Part is finding foods or meals that are close enough to what you’re used to that you don’t reject them before you’ve tried them (or being open to “weird” foods … but most people find it easier to try familiar-ish foods first).

Part is letting your taste buds acclimate to the taste of unprocessed food. (Junk food—sweet or not—tastes different when you haven’t had it for a long time. Much of it will become undesirable over time.)

Part is not believing that any “healthy replacement” is actually going to taste like what it’s a substitute for. It’s not. It doesn’t. That doesn’t mean it’s not good. I’ve had some amazing burgers made out of all sorts of not-meaty things. But they’re not burgers.

And part is believing that food can be healthy and tasty, that eating well is not a drag or a punishment. Occasionally, I really want crap and I eat well instead, and I’m not excited about it, but our daily meals? They’re tasty. I enjoy eating them, for the most part. And they’re healthy.

You can get there, too. Takes time, takes effort, but it’s possible.

Just ask The Kid.

Oh, and the chard recipe? It’s here. We add the equivalent of a can of chickpeas for bulk and protein and are more generous with the parm; we serve it over rice. For three of us, I double it. And it’s delicious.

And if you have an Instant Pot or pressure cooker, you should make your chickpeas instead of buying canned. They’re substantially better. (You don’t need a pressure cooker, but you can make them with little notice in one.)

Posted in gifts, mental health, mindset, motivation, physical health

Gratitude for pain

So … I climbed on Tuesday until my hands wouldn’t hold onto the rocks on the wall any more.

My forearms (from gripping) and lats (from pulling) hurt for two days.

On the second of those days, I had a session with my trainer. Leg Day.

My legs were hurtin’ the next day. And, from all of the weights I held and moved in addition to just legs, my lats and forearms were unhappy an extra day.

How glorious!

My body is strong enough that I can try to climb fake rocks until I physically can’t any more. I can train (hard!) with a trainer. I can walk around at work all day, noticing that I’m sore. I can run 5Ks and ride my bike and play on the playground with my kid and move furniture and carry laundry.

Lucky me.

Why do it? Because you can.

A friend’s mom recently completed her first 5K. Except that she has a degenerative disorder, making walking long distances painful. She walked it. With a walker. Took WAY longer than everyone else. But she did it.

There are countless examples of people working through massive obstacles to be able to walk or run or lift or climb. (I’m sure there are examples in other sports, too–those are just the ones on my radar.)

Do it! Because you can!

Posted in follow-up, food, tips

Answering follow-up—3

Question from a reader:

What are some of your go to meals when you don’t feel like or have time to make dinner? I assume you plan out your menu for the week in advance?

First, yes, we plan meals for the week, make a shopping list off of that plan, and shop from the list.

There are a few meals that the recipe makes way more than we’ll eat in a few days, so we’ll freeze half for later.

Others, we can double for the same purpose.

We have a few ready-made things from Trader Joe’s in the freezer for nights when it’s just not gonna happen for whatever reason, including “we tried a new recipe and it’s really not good at all.”

(New recipes are judged on the following four-point scale: Tasty! Make it again!; Don’t need to make it again, but will eat the meal and the leftovers; Don’t need to make it again, and will eat the meal but not the leftovers; What’s Plan B, ’cause we’re not eating the meal or the leftovers.)

When we plan meals, we also look at the calendar so we don’t plan something that needs to cook for an hour on a night when we have things going on until 7 and won’t get started until 7:15 or later.

Crock pot meals are good for those nights.

Meals with a lot of leftovers are better earlier in the week because: leftovers.

I’ve seen a lot of “prep 8 zillion meals in two hours!” types of pins on Pinterest, where a large grocery run, an afternoon of prep, and a box of Ziplock bags makes a couple of weeks’ worth of crock pot meals in the freezer. Most of them are meat-based which doesn’t work for me, so I haven’t tried them, but those might be worth looking at.

I started a spreadsheet of recipes we like a lot, divided by ingredients (produce, beans/nuts/grains, dairy, spices, etc.), so I can easily see what we need (instead of looking up each recipe). As time goes on, I’m adding other things to it. Streamlines the process a little. Also helps to find recipes that use up ingredients I have.

Readers, what are your go-to prep-at-home suggestions for nights that are busy, or the end of a day that’s exhausting?