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

Budgets and teaching and capitalism

So … this is likely to ruffle some feathers, but that’s how things go sometimes. (I’m always amazed at things that ruffle feathers—this one, at least, won’t catch me off guard.)

There’s been a lot of media attention to teachers’ salaries, and it’s rightly deserved. We’re not appropriately paid for the work we do.

Lots of teachers have multiple jobs. Right now, I do some personal training on the side and teach preschool music once a week. I’ve taught lessons, done health and wellness coaching, sold lip balm, done copy editing, played gigs, and whatever other bric-a-brac comes up.

I do it because those are things I enjoy and I’m happy to have some extra spending money. (Well, and a little slice of that I was hoping to make my full-time gig.)

But here’s the thing: I can pay my bills and contribute to retirement on my salary and have some left over for fun. The only times in my career that this has not been true was when I have been working only half time. No leftovers at that point.

When I graduated from college, I had a decent little apartment, a car with a small monthly payment, some credit card debt, some student loan debt, and I could pay my bills and have a bit left over.

I no longer carry credit card debt, and, except for a bit in grad school, haven’t since I paid that off the first time.

With few exceptions (inspired by poor judgement, not poor budgeting), I’ve always lived in the type of neighborhood I would prefer to live in, in an apartment or house that was well-kept and affordable. The apartment over the karaoke bar next to the drug dealers is a notable exception.

I don’t owe anything on my car.

We just paid off my most recent student loan debt.

No matter this has all ebbed and flowed, I don’t need another job. I just budget what I have.

We eat healthy food. We cook most of it at home. I was able to feed my son and I for six months on food stamps without compromising the quality of our diet. I budgeted for food a little differently then, and there were a few meals with more expensive ingredients that we just didn’t eat, but healthy doesn’t have to be expensive, even when none of the food you eat has coupons.*

I am not much of a shopper, but I also don’t buy cheap plastic crap. Not for the kitchen. Not for The Kid. Not because “it’s so cute!”

I’m generally healthy, which is part luck and part work. I had good insurance when I went through chemo, which was all luck.

My car hasn’t been hit, so I’ve not dealt with those expenses. I recognize all of this and understand that people have expenses that I don’t deal with.

But how people define “needs” baffles me sometimes.

If you don’t have enough money to pay your regular bills, then maybe Christmas cards at half off still aren’t in your budget. Or new clothes, even if they’re on sale. Or a trip to visit people, even if you miss them a lot.**

Scale back the need list. Live more simply. Cook at home. From ingredients. Use all the food you buy. Stop the endless stream of incoming.

If you’re in limbo with your place to live, choose wisely. (Moving just to save money needs to be a fairly drastic move to actually save money, but it might be an option.)

Someone on a teacher thread was complaining that they were making $60K (in my metro area) and couldn’t make ends meet; that makes me crazy.

On a larger scale, if you have less crap, you can live in a smaller space. Smaller spaces are cheaper to buy or rent, they’re cheaper to heat and cool, they’re easier to maintain.

The amount we spent on our house (just over a year ago) is substantially less than the amount we qualified for. Our spending would look quite a bit different if we spent up to what the bank deemed was our means.

Our culture is one that very highly values buying stuff. Occasionally it values actually owning the stuff, but mostly, we’re just encouraged to buy.

If, in this situation (like so many others…) we can just be a bit mindful, we can slow down the influx of stuff, we can have more money for things that are important to us (which might at first be getting rid of debt, which is not at all fun but so very important), and we can have more time to do things that are important, because we won’t have to work as much to sustain our lifestyles, and because we won’t have to spend as much time taking care of all the stuff we have.

*I had the advantage at that time still to live in the neighborhood that I lived in—there are many grocery stores within a couple of miles—and to have a car, and to have a kitchen and things to cook with and electricity. These are all hurdles of chronically impoverished people, and I don’t feel that my situation and theirs are at all comparable.

**There is an exception to this, but I’ll write about it another day.

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

MLK

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 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 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 mental health, mindset, vulnerability

Suffering in silence

You don’t announce a pregnancy until the end of the first trimester, because you want to be as sure as possible it’s a viable pregnancy first. Everyone knows this.

I hate this rule, and I think we should get rid of it.

For many women, miscarriages are extremely emotionally painful.

Why would we want to suffer in silence? Suffer without the help of our village to lift us up?

I know so many women who had a miscarriage and talked about it months or years after the fact, and about how horrible it was.

We grieve publicly when other members of our family die. Is it really only because everyone already knows them?

(Don’t read into my politics on this post. I’m talking about personal experiences, not legislation.)

There are so many personal things I’ve posted about, often on Facebook but sometimes here too, and I get texts or emails in return: thank you for talking about that. I don’t talk about it, but that’s me, too.

The whole #metoo movement highlights this.

How many women have a story of trauma that they don’t tell? How does this secrecy affect them in any or all other areas of their lives?

But let’s not leave out the men in this one, either, because in our culture of toxic masculinity, men aren’t supposed to talk about feelings at all. No good comes of keeping all of that inside.

(The rest of this post is written in hetero-normative language. I’m aware, but making it otherwise made it clunky to read.)

I’m not saying that every time we feel something, we need to have a conversation about it. But men (and, indirectly, women) are done a disservice when taught not to talk about things that hurt.

(How many women complain that their male partner won’t open up? How many women have been emotionally or physically injured by a man who sees women as property—whether they articulate it that way or not? These are some indirect consequences.)

People—all people—we need to learn to be more vulnerable. And we need to learn to take care of each other in our vulnerability. Listen. Hug. Be present. Let ourselves hurt when we connect all too well with other people’s pain instead of throwing up judgements in self-defense. Keep the walls down.

This is how we build emotionally healthy people. Of all ages. Of all genders.

Vulnerability is not weakness. Vulnerability is strength—because it’s scary, and we do it anyway.

Ladies, announce your pregnancy at 8 weeks and let us grieve with you if you lose the baby.

Men, find someone who is safe and talk to them about what’s going on with you. If your marriage is volatile, your wife might not be emotionally safe. (Don’t make it another lady who you then connect with…)

Ladies, if your man is finally ready to start to be more open, let him. Even if an eye roll and “finally” is your initial (internal) response. Better now than later (or never), right?

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

New year detox?

A Facebook friend asked her online universe why cleanses and detoxes are so popular.

My opinion?

They’re popular because people believe they can trash their bodies for days/weeks/months/years and then “detox” for 2-5 days and call it even. It’s justification, and it lets people do what they want without feeling guilty because they “fix it.”

The best way to keep your body in good working order is to fuel it well on a regular basis. Perfect every day? Nah. But mostly great stuff most days. Minimal not great stuff most days.

We have built-in systems for cleaning out crap. The problem is when we overload the systems on a regular basis.

The more problems your body has, the stricter you’ll need to be for it to be happy (or happier).

Allergies typically require a modified diet (though when eczema or something similar is the consequence, many will use creams instead of diet to manage it).

Autoimmune disorders (which I would argue are a more severe case of allergies) have low or no tolerance for added sugars, fried foods, processed foods, alcohol.

Diabetes (regardless of type) requires dietary maintenance, and if you don’t do it, you’re going to have severe problems (immediately, down the road, or both).

The list goes on and on, but illnesses that we weren’t born with have some link to diet; some can be blamed entirely on diet. (And some that develop in utero can be blamed on mom’s diet. And now, we’re learning, grandma’s diet.)

What we eat and drink is really important. REALLY important. But because the side effects are gradual, because we’re “all” tired and a little (or more) overweight, because we’re “all” a little achy, we assume that’s just how it goes, but it’s not.

A detox doesn’t fix it.

Eat well. Drink well. Your body will thank you. It’s the only one you get. Treat it well.

Posted in mindset, thoughtfulness

Driving

As I mentioned, on New Year’s Eve, The Climbing Daddy and I did a 10k with an intermission (more commonly known as two 5ks). The second one started at 12:10 a.m.—shortly after a sparkling cider toast.

We ended up leaving around 1:00 or so.

My hesitation on this run was driving home at that time on New Year’s morning. The races were a solid half hour drive from home, mostly freeway, partially on a freeway that has had a rash of wrong-way drivers in recent years.

We did it anyway.

And on the way home, we noticed something: people were driving really carefully. Not 10-under-the-speed-limit or other things that feel careful but aren’t (bad weather notwithstanding). Still going the speed limit or a few mph over. But less tailgating. WAY more blinkers. Just generally being thoughtful of the people around them.

People, if we drove like this all the time, there would be so few accidents. Especially here, where weather is so rarely indicted for accidents.

So. Drive like you suspect everyone else may be tipsy. We’ll all be better for it.