Posted in food, gratitude, mindset, socializing

Trying new foods

When I moved to Arizona 16 years ago, I was a pretty conservative food consumer. I didn’t eat many foreign foods (Americanized or not). Some Polish (see: weird last name heritage), some Italian (see: married to the Pole), Chinese as long as it came in one of those highly-recognizable paper boxes. Tacos.

In grad school, I had friends whose palates were more adventurous than mine. They took me to many types of ethnic* restaurants: Ethiopian, Thai, Korean, Vietnamese, Mexican, Lebanese, Indian, Greek.

My world expanded incredibly in those two years. I distinctly remember the first time I had a piece of avocado, now a delicious and luxurious staple in my diet. (I also remember going back East once, going to a grocery store, and asking an employee if they carried guacamole. “That’s that green stuff?”)

In the years since then, despite my options becoming limited through vegetarianism, I’ve continued to be introduced to new foods (and am more adventurous with what I’ll cook at home as well).

And I’ve paid forward “come with me to this amazing restaurant and I’ll teach you what I know about their menu and food.”

Walking alone into a restaurant serving an entirely unknown cuisine is much more intimidating than going with someone who knows what they’re doing. (Except that I can’t help with the meat dishes.)

I’ve introduced many friends to Ethiopian (Cafe Lalibela), Thai (Thai Basil), and Indian at an assortment of places. We’re lucky to be in a region with so many amazing foods. I’m grateful to have friends who will come with me to places they’ve never been to eat food they’ve never tried.

These foods are so good. Very different if you’re a meat-and-potatoes kind of person. But tasty.

Beyond seemingly endless restaurant options, there are also a few phenomenal Asian markets, a giant Indian market (with a restaurant inside), a huge Middle Eastern market (with counter service inside) and several smaller Middle Eastern/Mediterranean places that are half and half.

And these are only the places I happen to know about within a 10-ish-mile radius of my house.

So glad to have had my world opened by friends. So fun to open others’.


*I don’t like describing restaurants serving foreign food—Americanized or not—as “ethnic.” Everything is ethnic. Those places are simply foreign. I used the word ethnic there just to be able to make this footnote.

Posted in audience participation, mindset, parenting

Yelling at kids playing sports

There was a guy at The Kid’s last track meet. We called him Yellow Screamer Guy, because he was dressed in yellow and walked up and down the length of the straight, yelling at runners.

It didn’t matter where they were on the track. Opposite side? Still yelling.

I made a comment that years of yelling at football on TV had prepared him for this.

But really—where is the line?

Many (most?) kids need prompting to work their hardest. (That is not limited to kids.)

Do they need to work their hardest? After experiencing a season of track, I’d say that if you’re not going to work hard, don’t bother doing it.

(I don’t think that about all things—or even most things—and wrote about that here.)

But at the end of the day, they’re kids.

Also at the end of the day, it’s just a race. (Or a game, when applied to most of the not-racing competitive athletics people do.)

I vacillate between “I know I work better at physical tasks when I have someone pushing me, and that was true of me as a kid, too” and “Sheesh! It’s children running races! Calm down!”

(There’s also the facet of judgement on my part. I don’t know his story or the kids’ stories.)

Most of us need some external motivation or pushing to get us to work at our peak and stay there.

Does the yelling make it high pressure? Or just improve short-term performance? (Or neither? Or both? Or some other things entirely?) And does the content of the yelling matter?

As evidenced by the questions, I don’t have any solid resting place in all this—still just thinking.

Either way, it’s probably a good idea to keep yourself in check enough not to be screaming at children who are out of earshot anyway. (Or not children. The pros can’t hear you, either, nor can anyone on TV.)

And that was my resting place, until I remembered a conversation I had with a friend the other day about cultural differences in conversation style. Is my judgment of Yellow Screamer Guy a black/white issue? Completely could be.

So many facets at play.

What do you think?

Posted in about me, ebb & flow, meandering

Ding dong! My hair is gone!

When you think about the 80s, one of the first things that probably pops into your head is big hair, Aqua Net, or something in that vein.

I grew up in the 80s, and I never had big hair.

That’s my evidence for how little I care about doing my hair.

It was long throughout my childhood and well into college, at which point I decided that it was too much work (and I never did anything with it except a pony tail anyway) and cut it short.

That version of short would be way too long for me nowadays. Over time, it got shorter and shorter.

Chemo, of course, led to it falling out. I didn’t wait for it to start falling out before I buzzed it, and the worst part about it falling out was that it was patchy.

A year or so ago, I wore it spiky for a few months. That was the most high-maintenance I’ve ever been with my hair and the only time I’ve ever used crap in it on a regular basis.

Fast forward to this past December: I missed my hair cut. Then I couldn’t get an appointment in January. And I don’t even remember all the things that happened, but eventually, my hair was long enough that I thought maybe I’d grow it out and see how it looked.

Once it got long enough, I started using tiny alligator clips to hold the bangs back. (I recently learned they’re called alligator clips.) I had them on hand from an orchid; they had been holding it to the support post in the pot. The orchid was long since gone, but I still had the clips.

Eventually, the hair was too much for those little clips.

I went and got it cut but in a different style than I’d had before. Was cute, but within a week the bangs were bothering me again. I wasn’t going to go for another cut a week after I’d just had one, so I just buzzed it all off.

And life is happy.

I can wear my sunglasses on my head (not possible with the alligator clips).

I don’t need to wear a bandana when I run (since we’re having extended spring; I’ll use one when I start sweating hard again).

Because I don’t need a bandana for exercise, if The Climbing Daddy and I go out after exercising, I don’t have to wear a bandana or hat or something.

I don’t need to do anything to it when I get up. Or at any other point during the day.

I can cut it myself.

Super-short hair is excellent! I don’t remember why I grew it out the last time I had it this short. Perhaps in a few months or a year, I’ll remember. Until then—#3 all the way around!

Posted in mental health, mindset, parenting, physical health

Free time isn’t free: the sequel

So yesterday I wrote about the consequences of giving kids free time at school.

Those thoughts definitely 100% do not apply to kids at home.

Kids need free time.

Kids need free time to play, to be bored, to imagine, to create, to be with friends.

Also, adults need free time to play, to be bored, to imagine, to create, to be with friends.

We all need down time. Not crash-on-the-couch-in-exhaustion time.

If you’re having time finding it, schedule it. Make it a regularly-scheduled non-negotiable appointment.

It’s rare around here to have a day when The Kid doesn’t have some unscheduled time. Even with his crazy track schedule, he had some time after school to play or read or do whatever he decided to do that day.

(He doesn’t have homework, and he is, sadly, at an early-start school, so he had an hour after school. Those are variables I don’t have control over that happened to work in our favor. I’ll write more about homework soon.)

I have some unscheduled time at least three days every week, often more. (That’s not writing time, or time when The Kid is here but not directly supervised, which is often spent in tasks around the house.) The Climbing Daddy gets some unscheduled time regularly; he’s getting better at not protesting that there are other things to do.

So. Make time for yourself to play. Make time for your kids to play. (That includes the big kids!) It’s worth it.

Posted in ebb & flow, education, mindset

Free time isn’t free

I’m a teacher. Years ago, I had an excellent assistant principal who said, as the year wound down, “Free time isn’t free. Someone always pays for it.”

The message was: keep kids engaged and learning all the way to the end. Most of the time, the teachers are the ones who pay for the free time. Not always the teacher who gives it. (Every now and then there’s a class that can have some free time, behave appropriately, reengage when it’s time, and not continuously ask afterwards when they’re going to have free time again. Those classes are rare indeed.)

Do something meaningful with the time, as often as possible.

We so often kill time then later lament that it’s gone. Even if it’s not always in the context we’d prefer, use it while we have it.

At this point in the school year (for me, four student days of school left), we’re not playing instruments any more. We’ve gotten them all cleaned (whew!), we’ve gotten them all accounted for (whew!), and there’s time left. (So much better to have time left than to run out of time.)

We play music-based games. I’ve done the 90-second rule meditation from the Calm app with some classes. We do self-reflections and planning for next year. There are other things we could do if there was even more time, but we’re rarely that efficient at inventory. Some things that used to be end-of-the-year fun are now part of my regular curriculum.

We (teachers) spend a lot of time complaining that we don’t have enough instructional time. (And we don’t, based on mandates. That’s a whole separate train of thought that I won’t tangent into today.) Here’s some time that’s unaccounted for. Use it to do something interesting and fun that The Standards don’t permit the rest of the year.

Keep kids engaged. Keep yourself engaged. And may the force be with you.