Posted in about me, food, know better do better, mindset, motivation, physical health

The journey begins with a single step

When I graduated from college in 1999, I was pretty heavy — over 200 pounds on my 5-foot-4-inch frame.

Near the end of my first year living on my own, I decided that something needed to change, so I made a new rule:

I will eat ice cream no more than once per day.

If this sounds silly to you, it’s because you have no idea my love affair with ice cream. I ate it by the pint. Literally.

There was a great little place called Halo Farms right near college, and they made their own ice cream on site. Sold pints for $1. It was fantastic.

In the dorm, there wasn’t a freezer that would accommodate a pint-sized container (those little fridges have even smaller freezers) and I couldn’t waste it, could I? (Well, eventually I lived in a dorm that had a communal freezer, but I didn’t want someone else to eat my precious Halo!)

Campus dining room: soft serve in place of milk in my morning cereal. The best with Cap’n Crunch.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out where the Freshman 15 (and Sophomore 15 … and Junior 15 … and Senior 15…) came from. I’m not a drinker—it wasn’t from beer.

When I lived on my own, I would keep a half gallon in the freezer. Ice cream for (or with) breakfast remained on the menu. Ice cream after dinner is what ice cream is for. And sometimes, on days when I wasn’t working, there might be a third (or fourth…) serving in between.

Once a day was no easy feat.

It caused me to be thoughtful and to plan a little. If I knew I was going out for ice cream later with a friend, I couldn’t have ice cream for breakfast. Which brought me to the realization that perhaps I shouldn’t keep it in the freezer.

It worked. In the 14 years since then, I have had ice cream twice in one day very few times, and they have been closer to now than then.

I still don’t buy it to keep at home—that helps the most—though by this point I don’t usually crave it. When I do eat ice cream, I can almost always eat a fairly small amount and be content. (Even if I eat too much now, it’s still substantially less than what used to be a serving.) It was hard for a while to stop at “content” and not at “but this is good so I’m just going to keep eating anyway.” It took time, but it worked. 

And it was worth it. Because ice cream is good, but it doesn’t taste as good as being healthy feels. (Yeah, I know that sounds hokey, but I just don’t feel as good or have as much energy when I eat sugary foods. You don’t realize it until you cut them out. False friends, all of them!)

You know what was harder than limiting consumption? Being OK with dropping the “ice cream lover” label. It was part of who I was. One of my badges. Everyone who knew me at all knew I loved ice cream.

The problem wasn’t even that people didn’t change with me. I just had to let my brain catch up to my habits. Not stand in the way of myself.

I do still enjoy ice cream, but I don’t think it would be in the top five ways friends would describe me at this point. Definitely not in my top five for myself.

So. Pick a thing and go with it. It will be hard, but it will be worth it.

Posted in about me, ebb & flow, meandering, mindset

Bothering to remember people

Sophomore year of college, I went deaf in my right ear. Not completely—I have about 90% hearing loss. (It was from a mistreated ear infection—meds were for the vertigo, not the infection. Steroid treatment brought back the little I have. When it stopped working, the treatment ended, and that’s where it’s been for 24 years.)

When I’m in places that are noisy, I need to be to the right of the conversation so I can hear it. Being a passenger is better than being the driver. I sleep good side down. I can hold one ear during fire alarms—and particularly bad rehearsal moments—and always held the screaming baby on my right shoulder.

At some point along the way, I learned that we hear diction more prominently in our right ears than our left, which perhaps explains why I struggle so much in noisy places, on the phone, or just being on someone’s left side if it’s not completely quiet otherwise.

I think it also explains why I have had so much trouble picking up conversations in Spanish. Besides the rapid word delivery (and currently being out of practice), I just have trouble hearing the words. Some of that is lack of familiarity, of course, but I don’t remember having that much trouble when I was younger.

Of course, when I was younger, I was also learning German. Maybe it’s just the difference in the language. Or maybe I did have that much trouble and simply don’t remember it.

If I’m in a place where I can’t hear well enough to follow a conversation and can’t seek other conversation elsewhere, I usually just mentally check out. It’s really stressful to try to follow a conversation that I can’t hear well enough, and it compounds social anxiety.

I know that immersion is the best teacher for foreign language. I’ve downloaded podcasts to listen to in the car, but what I quickly learned about myself is: unless I’m working really hard, I employ the “can’t follow it” self-preservation technique and just tune it out.

(Does having it play in the background help?)

Beyond this, what I’ve noticed lately is that I’ve started paying less attention to other things. The checking out is spreading. A couple of times in recent weeks, I’ve run into someone who I had met and maybe had a conversation with a year or three ago. They knew me by name. I didn’t even remember faces.

Some of this was a result of my job. I started in this job five years ago and had 400 students on three campuses—with three sets of faculty. I’m just not that good with names, so my energy went to learning the kids. The next year, I had more students, less than 100 repeats from the previous year, and two new campuses. All name/face energy given to students (and a small handful of people I really needed to know on each campus). This year was the first year that I didn’t have any new campuses and only half of my students were new.

I’ve gotten in the habit of not even trying to remember people.

It’s time to check back in. I’m not entirely sure how to do that, but maybe just being cognizant of it is a sufficiently good start.

Posted in about me, meandering

FOCUS!

This is a rambling pointless post about things swimming around in my brain today. Not your thing? We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled program tomorrow…

I’ve been writing often at night lately. While that used to be my favorite time to do quiet work, nowadays I’m just fried. I have trouble focusing. The writing isn’t as good. But the afternoons—when I’ve been writing most of the school year—have been otherwise occupied. As have early mornings on the weekends. Not good.

With summer here and The Kid in half day camp in the mornings, I’ll have some solid writing time when I’m fresher, and that will be better. (That starts tomorrow! Hooray!)

I spent the last two days working on district-owned instruments for our elementary school band programs. It’s always interesting and gross, but we get a little cash for it and get to socialize a bit with people we rarely see, so it’s worth the bit of time.

While working there, I played five flutes that didn’t produce sound. That means there were five kids who couldn’t play. Did their teachers know it was an instrument problem? Flute is hard for beginners, and it’s not unheard of to have a student who still can’t do it at the end of the year (though that’s typically because they give up). But if it’s the instrument’s fault…….

I got to thinking that I might structure band next year like some sort of adventure game. Create a map and make each stop along the route a skill test or song test or some other activity. Or a map for each quarter? It has potential, but I need to think about it more and see how it would work.

The guy flipping the house next door gave me a battle rope to use in my training. I was pretty excited! Used it immediately.

The Kid wanted to show me a LEGO kit that he’s saving money to buy, so we went to the LEGO Store. While there, he changed his mind about which one to buy (and saved himself $80 in the process…but changed to one he’s talked about for a long time). Also while we were there, I saw one that was way cool! I would totally build that! Of course, it was almost $400. Not on the list of things I’ll ever own. (There will always be something better to spend $400 on. Unless I become somehow debilitated and am stuck at home sitting down for a long time and can’t do much else. Then maybe.)

The thing about teaching is that I’ve literally spent my entire adult life postponing projects “until break.” I’ve gotten better about not overloading shorter ones like spring break, but summer? There’s more on the summer to-do list than I have time to do it.

I want to write a lot. Time will be made for this. If I’m going to meet my goal of having my book written by the end of the year, significant progress needs to happen this summer.

I’ve been studying Spanish a little more formally (I do well with books and exercises and conjugation charts). Keep time each day for this, even if it’s only 10 to 15 minutes.

Keep trying new recipes. I like to do this whenever there’s time and mental energy available. Then the options are more plentiful for busier times.

Learn how to use my new camera more. I’ve given it a couple of pockets of time, but it needs more before I even know what the settings do and how to use them, much less gain any proficiency.

I thought about getting a new personal training certificate. My old one expired. I’d like to go through a different certification agency. And then tidy up the garage (which is where I currently do training) so that in the fall when it gets cooler, I could take on more clients. It’s currently looking like this is a project that’s going to fall off the list.

There are many projects around the house. Cleaning out/organizing the office will get done first or second. The wallet/keys/phone charging area is a mess; reorganizing that is the other thing vying for top spot. Others are less important and are likely to get done as I procrastinate something more important but less fun.

And there’s still The Kid. And housecleaning. And daily exercise. Socializing?

I’d like to read more than I am now. I need to clean out my inboxes. Get the e-mess on the computer cleaned up. (So much clutter!) Get my digital photos organized.

That’s a lot of stuff. It’s not all going to get done, even if I am highly efficient all summer. Which I won’t be.

*shrug* We’ll see how it goes. And maybe the things that don’t get done will get done over fall break…

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 about me, cancer, know better do better, physical health, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Cancer is not a gift

12 years ago, I began the process of sorting through symptoms and getting tests done that led to a cancer diagnosis.

In that 12 years, people have said some really stupid and/or hurtful things. (Not intentionally. But still.)

My cancer wasn’t some sort of gift.

It wasn’t given to me so I could learn a lesson or grow in some specific way.

It wasn’t a necessary prerequisite for a path I needed to walk.

It wasn’t a test of strength or character, nor was it a deliberate means to acquire strength or character.

It was a thing that happened, and that’s all.

It sucked.

It sucked way less than many other people’s cancer experiences. It sucked way more than many other people’s cancer experiences.

As a result of that experience, my lenses focus a little differently. I learned things I otherwise might not have. I met people and experienced places I otherwise wouldn’t have.

Many of those side effects have been positive, but certainly not all.

I have no guarantees that I won’t do it all again. Very unlikely for the same cancer. Odds aren’t great for certain other cancers.

In the mean time… today, I am alive.

Today, I take care of my body in a way that ties in with a culture that resists self-care.

Today, I offer support to others who are at the beginning of their terrible journey. Or are at the end of their treatment, still shell-shocked, and wondering, “What now?” as everyone tosses confetti and walks away.

Today, I get to be me for another day. Everything I have lived through—not just cancer—has shaped who I am, for better or for worse.

I have no gratitude for going through nine months of medical testing and procedures to diagnose and treat a large malignant tumor in my chest.

I have much gratitude for some of the “consolation prizes.”

But please. Stop telling people horrible things like “It’s God’s will” or “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” or “Everything happens for a reason.”

It’s not a gift.