i am not neutral.

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” –Desmond Tutu

Friends, I barely have mental wherewithal to keep my own days together, nevermind parse the exhausting reality that our black brothers and sisters face. However, I realize that by being silent and posting only the minutiae of my life, no one is hearing my voice on the fears I harbor for the community that I work in and the world that I live in.

I am decidedly NOT neutral, even though my curated Facebook life may appear to be.  I am not neutral, not since the day many years ago that my friend, coworker, and visionary leader told me that there is no such thing as being apolitical in my line of work.  Those who I have worked with who have made me and changed me over these 15 years, I thank you and I think of you every day.  I hope you never have a moment where someone sees you as someone who you are not, or worse yet, does not see you at all.

If you can’t understand why Kaepernick takes a knee, if you think any of these shootings could be “misunderstandings”, if you don’t see that Black lives can matter without diminishing “Blue lives” or “All Lives”, please do not engage me in dialogue unless you intend to listen, see, and be changed.  The time for dialogue has passed. The time for change is now.

14 years as an educator.

The view from Eastie to Logan was eerily similar to all the images of Boston being broadcast on the TV stations.

This day, September 11, is indelibly tied to my roots as an educator. In 2001, it was my 5th day of my first year teaching 9th grade Algebra at East Boston High School. Without any practice teaching or experience in a full-time classroom, I barely understood what it meant to teach math yet on that day. Yet, I found myself having to be an anchor for students when moments before, I didn’t even realize that was in my job description. The TVs were turned on in all the classrooms.  Students had questions. Questions like, Do we still have football practice?  Can we take the bus home? Are we at war? I mean, teachers are supposed to end their classes with “does anyone have any questions?” and then answer those questions, but I didn’t have any answers.  We all just sat in our classes talking in muted tones trying to make sense of everything as parents picked up their kids throughout the day.

14 years later, I’m teaching 9th grade again for the first time in a long time. Some of our 9th graders weren’t even alive 14 years ago, and the rest were infants and toddlers on that day.  But now I know the answers to questions, and even more importantly, I know the questions that lead to more questions.  I know that empathy should be at the heart of all my interactions.  I know that my job description includes “anchor” between the lines of the day-to-day tasks.

There are a bunch of 28-year-olds out there today who don’t know that I still think of them on this day, every year. Although the memories become less crisp each passing year, today is always a reminder of where I have come from in my chosen profession, and how much work there is still to be done.

Yes I did: “this will only take one hour”

A Dress-up Pillowcase Play Kit for my niece.

Spoiler alert:  it didn’t take one hour.

I have “just one more thing” syndrome.  To others, it mostly looks like chronic lateness mixed with insanity.  However, in the moment that I am having these brilliant ideas, I feel like time is an irrelevant and malleable construct in which I can warp to fit my gnawing desire to complete JUST ONE MORE THING before I leave the house.  One more thing before I go to bed.  One more thing before I start that project or chore that I’ve been putting off.

Being a task-oriented yet capricious person is super frustrating.  I need to get things done.  I only want to do things that I’m inspired to do.  That makes no sense at all.  So I invent things to do when I have a whole task list of other things to do that can’t even be completed in time.  It’s totally maddening — I can’t help myself.

So, the words “Yeah, I have this exciting project, and it will probably only take one hour” really did leave my mouth yesterday.  I had bought the Dear Stella Dress Me at the Playground fabric because I saw it and was thinking I could make a play mat for my niece and nephews for Christmas.  Better get the fabric now because who knows how long it would take me to make it, you know, I’m oh so busy with opening a new school and moving the last of our belongings and renovating our kitchen and a baby and all.

Of course all the beautiful fabric arrived, and along with it came the rationalizations: I’m actually going to see my niece this weekend, she’s driving 9+ hours to get up here, maybe I could make her a play set to take home in the car…it’ll be small and reeeaaaally quick.

SUNDAY

I decided to make a pillowcase with French seams (only 15 minutes, it promises!) and it would be great for the car.  Well, let’s wash and dry the fabric and see what happens with my time.  Oh OK, I can iron the fabric too.  Just one more thing.

MONDAY

I tell my friend I have a cool one-hour project. She gives me the knowing side-eye, and says “Sure.”  I got home and I was just going to make some of the clothing pieces.  The instructions for the clothing print are to “cut them out, adhere to fusible fleece or flannel, and they’ll stick to the Dress Me fabric.”  Oh no, that’s too simple. Fusible fleece falls off and the edges will ravel.  So I stitch around EVERY PIECE OF CLOTHING.  Well, I start to, at least.  I get through about one-third of the clothing pieces, and then baby comes home and we do baby things until he goes to bed at 7:30PM.  OK, I’ll do the other two-thirds before I go to bed and won’t cut anything tonight, I’ll just sew.  Hm, it’s only 9:30PM.  I could cut the pillowcase pieces.  Hm.  It’s only 10PM, the pillowcase is only 15 minutes right?  Wow.  It’s 11:15PM.  But I have this extra fabric to make a pouch to hold the clothing pieces, and the sewing machine is out anyways.  HOW IS IT MIDNIGHT ALREADY?

Pro tip: No 15-minute project ever involves pinning things together.  BUT HOW CUTE IS THIS FABRIC??

Pro tip: No 15-minute project ever involves pinning things together. HOW CUTE IS THIS FABRIC??

Pillowcase and matching pouch.  Because matching.

Pillowcase and matching pouch. Because matching.

TUESDAY

Morning.  grrghsnrrgh. Ben: do you have to BE anywhere this morning?? Me: ughhh. Baby: <waah>  slog slog slog.  Nursing while sleeping is a thing right?  Brain: YOU DID THIS TO YOURSELF.

In the afternoon, I need a mental break because I’m tired.  Go figure. I decide to cut out some pieces of clothing.  I decide to cut all pieces of clothing.  I decide to organize and take pictures of clothing.  I decide to finish the project. I DECIDE TO BLOG ABOUT THE PROJECT.  WHY?  WHYYY?

All the individual clothing pieces, stitched around and then cut out.  Clipping threads was the worst ever.

All the individual clothing pieces, stitched around and then cut out. Clipping threads was the worst ever.

No outfit is complete without shoes.  And an ice cream.

No outfit is complete without shoes. And an ice cream.

Do they make this dress in adult sizes?  Here's the crazy thing about the Dress Me fabric collection - you COULD make any of these in life sizes.  Diabolical, Dear Stella.

Do they make this dress in adult sizes? Here’s the crazy thing about the Dress Me fabric collection – you COULD make any of these in life sizes. Diabolical, Dear Stella.

Yes, I also made a

Yes, I also made a “closet” where outfits could be laid out. I’m not a monster.

Ok, it was more like 5 or 6 hours.  5 or 6 hours that I should have been 1) working, 2) sleeping, 3) organizing the craft room in order to make room for the move, 4) doing ANYTHING ELSE.  I hope my niece finds it as fun as I do — I just want to sit around and make outfits for the bunny and the cat.  But I “know my limits”.


Funny post and cute project aside, “just one more thing” is a real problem for me, and I hate that I feel literally compelled to do something other than what I need to do.  I just can’t help it when there are so many awesome things to do.  I have always been this way. I need to learn how to stop myself from giving in to the instant gratification of awesome things in order to do other things that lead to greater and more awesome things.

Open…your mind and heart, Greg Glassman.

I emerge from an eventful half-year – new job, new baby, nay — LIFE, all to write more about diabetes and Nick Jonas?  YES.

Both these things happened last week:

What have I tagged in Shazam to deserve this notification?

What have I tagged in Shazam to deserve this notification?

Greg Glassman, CEO of CrossFit, you are a ignorant and heartless bigot.

No matter how many medical facts you want to spew, there are people behind these diseases, and a stupid tweet like this does not incite “discussion”, raise “awareness”, or save lives.  (Truthfully, it doesn’t make me want to do CrossFit either, so it really fails as a marketing ploy as well.)

Talking Point: If you’re fat, you’re gonna get diabetes.  That is, if you didn’t already have it because of your fat laziness.

There are people who are thin and diabetic.  There are people who are obese and not diabetic.  T2D is simply insulin-resistance or your body just not producing enough insulin.  Lifestyle factors are part of it, but if you are an overweight person with low activity, you don’t necessarily catch diabetes.  You might be facing death for other reasons unrelated to diabetes though, so cut that out, if you can.

Talking Point: Excess sugar causes Type II diabetes.

It is among the causes of Type II diabetes.  But here’s the thing.  What is “excess” sugar?    The problem with T2D is that you don’t know what’s excess until you totally overdo it and your insulin says, “uh-uh, not dealing with that”.  Until I looked at my diet as a whole, it was really hard to grasp what “excess” sugar was, as I was not regularly downing sugary sodas, donuts, or ice cream (until after baby, that is.  Diabetes vacation!  Working on that.)

It took counting macros for me to realize where the sources of sugar were, and how deeply I had to cut them down to maintain control on my numbers.  And yet, plenty of other people could eat my daily intake and not be diabetic.  Huh.  Lucky them.

Talking Point:  Genetics.  Your momma’s so fat…

What’d you say about my momma??  Yeah, she has T2D too.  So does my dad.  Lucky me.  It means that with work, I can control my T2D but all the people who say “reverse” and “avoid”…I’ll have to manage it forever.  So yeah, maybe if CrossFit wanted to give a diabetic discount, the discourse from Greg Glassman would be great, but that’s not what he’s proposing, so…

Back to Greg Glassman.

Yes.  So per the previous talking points, ignorance.  Willful ignorance.  Fight ignorance by educating yourself – if you want to know more, here are more mythbusters from the American Diabetic Association.

This brings us to the first thing that happened.  I’m sorry for insulting you on my Facebook feed, Nick Jonas.  Nick Jonas has so wonderfully stepped up for T1 diabetics and called out Glassman. Of course, I still have issues with T1s who are all like, nah, I’m not fat like those T2s, but for the most part, go diabetic solidarity.  (But seriously, Nick Jonas, who is your lyricist??  Get a new one.)

ALSO – pour a glass for “dead homies?”  I can’t EVEN at this moment with the privilege and cultural appropriation and INAPPROPRIATENESS of that statement in this world that we’re living in right now.  I hope to tackle that in much smaller chunks, over time, as the red subsides from my vision and I can see the keyboard to articulate things clearly.

And there’s the heartlessness.  I previously posted about Type 2 diabetes being treated and prevented with two luxuries in our modern world:  time and money.  Not opening a Coke doesn’t address either of these luxuries that many people in our country do not have.  And neither do many of the causes that your CrossFit franchises have supported – cancer, education in Kenya, veterans, firefighters.  All of these are noble causes, but not helping diabetics.  CrossFit itself doesn’t really help diabetics – gym memberships are $200/month in my neighborhood.  No diabetic discount.

And the bigot.  Oh, the bigotry.  I didn’t even want to link the initial tweet, but just go to CrossFit’s Twitter to see how much the organization (and I don’t care who’s handling that account, they speak for CrossFit) has doubled down on the perpetuation of their “correctness”.  Ugh, no one likes that guy who has to be right all the time, even when they’re wrong.

There are many things that have happened in this half-year that I want to write about – education, racism, violence and hatred, and the inspiration of my everyday work.  I chose this topic because I have a fairly concise thought about it, and it comes down to this:

Shame for shame’s sake is not an effective motivator.  It is only effective if it forces people to be accountable to themselves and others.  Putting a general “shaming” statement out and then doubling-down and calling it “saving some of the 1/3 of Americans who will get T2 diabetes” is just narrow-minded, ignorant, and UNHELPFUL.  

Much like the theme of my blog, if there’s nothing helpful to say, say nothing at all.

2015: Staying true to myself

It’s been a while, WPeeps.  My life has been too busy for me to make time for me, as I’d feared it would become.  As arbitrary as the gateway of New Year’s is, it’s always a good time for reflection.  I want to say so many things about 2014, but I’d really like to talk about what’s ahead in 2015.  So let’s get on with the recap and pre-cap:

Looking back at 2014: How’d I do?

My non-resolutions for 2014.  I didn't include "happy".  Maybe I should have, or maybe I am assuming that it will be a given.  Hm.

Look at that optimism, 1 year ago!

Here are some of the things that have happened in 2014.

  • I’m back in the classroom, teaching 6th grade math full-time.  I’m using my classroom time to learn more about how students learn, and to get reconnected to schools.  I go to work daily knowing what needs to be achieved in a day, and I try my best to do it.  I’m really enjoying being part of a lovely and supportive staff that treats each other like family — the good and bad of family — and I accept dynamics for what they are.  I work (mostly) efficiently and constantly from about 7am to 6pm, but I try to leave work at work, and spend minimal time outside of work on work things.  CHECK: Professional, stable, sustainable, prosperous, productive, appreciative, confident, educational.  NOT QUITE:  less angry…or clean.
  • I’m going to be part of a founding team at a new high-tech school next year, and serving as the head of instructional technology.  I am excited to flex all my experiences building culture and systems for students and staff, and grow and learn in this new professional opportunity.  CHECK:  Professional, proactive, productive, fearless, confident, and exciting!  NOT QUITE:  fearless.  Not quite fearless.  There is some fear that is not quite latent.  It could be disguised as excitement.  Or gas.
  • I had a huge closet edit in June – my friend Kattie came over and brutally edited out two-thirds of my closet, and made me throw away things that I loved dearly, like a lot of my hand-knits that really didn’t fit well (and were mostly boleros because I got lazy about finishing objects…and decided they were long enough).  In addition to the closet edit, I did a large makeup edit as well and have had more fun learning how to use my makeup and wearing makeup.  There’s more editing to be done, but the purge was a good start.  CHECK:  Fashionable, appreciative, confident, reflective.  NOT QUITE:  Well, fashionable is always a work in progress.  Maybe I should stick to confident.  I feel better about my clothes and makeup.

    So much delicate work.  No, it doesn't fit, and it never did.  Why didn't I just make it longer??

    Yes, I made this.  So much delicate work. No, it doesn’t fit, and it never did. Why didn’t I just make it longer??

  • There’s a baby on the way in 2015.  Any day now in the next 5 weeks of 2015, actually.  This has forced me to manage my diabetes in a rather rapid and drastic fashion.  I now do multiple finger-sticks a day.  I take insulin regularly (at least 4 more needles a day).  I’ve even managed to lower my A1C to a normal level (from a high of 13+ to last recorded 5.4). I’m not even sure what that means for my diabetes post-pregnancy.  One hopes for “cure” or reversal, but I have come to terms with what lifetime management of the disease might look like.  I have managed to only gain about 12 pounds throughout this pregnancy by keeping mildly active (I guess my gym apathy earlier in the spring was due to regular exhaustion) and watching what I eat somewhat carefully.  I use a Fitbit with some regularity to help monitor my insulin needs as well as try to maintain some baseline activity.  CHECK:  healthy, proactive, physically “active”, and definitely (re)productive.  NOT QUITE:  fearless and exciting.  More on that as we move to 2015.
Roscoe is no longer going to be the baby.

Roscoe is no longer going to be the baby.

2015:  O. M. G.  What have we done?!

Yeah.  A baby.  I could tell all the stories of what it’s been like so far, but after doing my share of surfing around on the internets, it’s really nothing earth-shattering that’s happened in this duration of gestation.  I’ve been REALLY tired.  I’ve seen MANY doctors.  Everything looks NORMAL.  Worst symptom:  rhinitis and exhaustion.  Best symptom: getting my ass in gear about my diabetes.

So I guess I’ll just tackle the hopes and fears for 2015.

I fear:

  • That I won’t be able to be myself anymore.  All the things that I have just come to terms with about myself over the last (nearly 4) decades — that’s all about to be “something else” that I don’t even know.  I worry that my foodie love life is over.  I worry that I will never travel again.  I worry that my crafting days are over.  I worry that my hard-working days are over, and I’ll have to be more flexible about my “get it done” compulsion.  I haven’t finished a craft since June or so.  I’m missing a 2nd snowboard season in a row.  Life is over as I know it.  Everyone keeps telling me this, and I get it.  I even get the fact that I don’t even “get it” yet.

    Okay, I finished ONE project since June - a set of boo-boo bunnies for my Secret Santa.  The cats want to eat them.

    Okay, I finished ONE project since June – a set of boo-boo bunnies for my Secret Santa. The cats want to eat them.

  • That my house will never be clean again.  That the construction here will never be finished due to time, money, and priorities.  That our “home” is on indefinite hold.  I have a few posts in draft mode brewing about this “lifestyle” that is our home, but I haven’t fleshed them out yet.  In short, we bought a fixer-upper, and we’ve been working on it for upwards of 2 years.  We’re not done.  We’ll never be done.  And now, we’re racing time to get ourselves to a state where we can live here with a baby.  I’m confident we’ll make do if we don’t make it in time, but it’s definitely a fear that weighs on my mind constantly.  We haven’t had many guests over since March because it’s been that much of a disaster.
  • I won’t know how to be a mother.  I’m not excited yet — it’s mostly been panic and fear.  Every melting down child around me that I’ve seen in the past few months paralyzes me with fear.  My kid is going to be that guy in the grocery store melting down because they can’t have something NOW.  My kid is going to be the one that makes themselves so anxious that they force themselves to vomit.  My kid is going to be THAT GUY, whatever that guy is.  So. Afraid.  And I’d like to say that I have high parenting standards, but I know that 1) I have no idea what my standards are at this point, and 2) every single kid is different.  So regardless of genetics or my upbringing, I have NO IDEA.  Terrifying.  And this is not the extent of my fears about my child, but it’s a starting point for me to articulate some of this fear.

I hope:

  • I can still have my own goals for 2015.  I started a list on my Notes of things I wanted to accomplish in 2015.

    2015 so far

    Notice how “baby” is one word of one line in 2015? I’m sure it’s not going to be like that in real life.

  • I can still grow at work now that work-life balance is about to take on an entirely different meaning.  I have so many things that I want out of work for next year, for myself, for my community, and for the students that we are going to serve in the school.  It is exciting, and I hope that I have the capacity to accomplish what I want or accept my limitations and still do my best.
  • I will have time to write and reflect and save memories for the future.  I have taken very few “maternity” pictures or recorded few moments in the latter half or 2014…but I need to work on preserving memories for people beyond myself now.
  • I will learn more about our growing family and what it means to be a family beyond cats (and dogs).

We’ve already had a lot of challenges getting ready, and I KNOW we’ll never be ready, but oh well, time’s up and here we go…I hope we’re prepared for 2015.  Because it’s January 1, and 2015 is here, and it’s time to buckle up for the crazy ride.

Happy New Year, happy 2015 to all!

diabetic privilege: the socio-economic reality

Farmgirl Fare bread recipe, it was nice knowing you while I could. Baked goods, I miss you so much.

Farmgirl Fare bread recipe, it was nice knowing you. Baked goods, I miss you so much.

I’ve been meaning to write more about the diabetes lately, but it’s been so all-consuming.  Since my last post about my diabetes class (which got cancelled after that first session, BTW, what a let-down!) I have actually started insulin treatment.  My irrational fear of needles and blood has morphed into 4+ finger-sticks a day, plus 4 shots of insulin a day.  Under doctor’s orders, I’m still in the “tight control” range, meaning that I need to keep blood glucose (BG) really low, and I have to send a report to the doc every week.  I’ve been using MyNetDiary (Diabetes Edition!) to dutifully record all my BG readings, my insulin administration, and my food/carbohydrate consumption. I’ve been seeing an endocrinologist who reviews my BG logs and makes suggestions.  I’ve been seeing a nutritionist who checks in on my BG logs and my food logs and makes more suggestions.

What was supposed to be “6 weeks off” this summer has turned into a constant battle of “what to eat”, “how much to eat”, and “when to eat”.  At the moment, I’m still in the battle of counting and logging carbs, and it is stunning to see how my years of living to eat has been detrimental to my health.  I’m no crazy glutton (ok, maybe a little), but I was definitely not cautious when it came to looking at the nutritional value of what I needed.  I once read (skimmed, or maybe overheard) something about Clara Davis’ 1939 study where babies left to choose from an array of healthy foods would choose what they nutritionally needed, and somehow justified all my whims using this (unsound) argument.

My carbohydrate goals for the day are 30g for breakfast, 45g for lunch, and 45g for dinner, with 2 or 3 15g snacks between meals or before bed.

What this looks like in reality:  eggs.  Lots of eggs.

Just kidding.  Sort of.

After a few weeks of fastidiously measuring and reading labels and typing things into my phone like a tech-obsessed nerdulon, I’m getting better at figuring out that almost all things are possible, when choices are made.  A few things I’ve learned:

  • Breakfast can be a very pathetic looking 1/4c of granola-based cereal and 1/4c of milk.  Or it can be a blueberry waffle with peanut butter instead of syrup.  Or it can be 9 tater tots, 1 fried egg, and 2 breakfast sausages. There are days when I want one and days when I want the other.
  • 56g of pasta (1 serving) is less sad when it’s bulked up with other friendly ingredients.
  • A McDonald’s burger is not out of the question.  Fries with your burger—now that’s out of the question.
  • When I’m told can’t have carbs, that’s when I’m going to want to start eating all sorts of fruit.  Also, only eating 3-5 cherries for a snack is really sad.
  • There are many things that you can’t adequately account for with an app:  dim sum, non-chain restaurants, soup. Sometimes, you just have to hope that you did OK.  It would be more fun to eat these things without the worry and the guilt.  Perhaps that will dissipate in time.
  • When in doubt, get the hangar steak, and substitute the fries with a vegetable.

It’s this last point that really gets me thinking about diabetes and nutrition education, and the phrase which I’ve adopted: “diabetic privilege”.  The truth of the matter is, I’m able to adapt for my health quickly and (fairly) successfully because I have two very precious resources right now:  time and money.

Time

I’m currently in a 6-week phase where I don’t have to report to a daily job.  (This ends next week.)  I started on my current insulin-taking, carb-counting regimen in mid-June, after I had stopped working.  This has given me the ability to do several things:

  1. Read all the nutrition labels.  ALL OF THEM.  My first grocery trip probably took me about 2 hours. I had to read the labels to see what I could eat, what I could portion out by serving size, and what had to be avoided right out.
  2. Figure out what I can choose from when we go out for meals, provided that there is a menu online and that there is some basic nutrition information available online.
  3. Try out new recipes of things I had never made before, using all the low-carb substitutions (coconut flour, almond flour, flax seed).  Truthfully, I have not found anything I have loved yet.  Maybe the coconut flour mug cake, with whipped cream on top.
  4. Go to multiple specialty doctors to learn more about getting my diabetes under control.  Read about diabetes online, participate in forums, and generally learn more about the effects that different types of food choices and food timing will affect my BG.  I have been devouring diabetes knowledge like Johnny 5 lately.  (Yes, that does totally date me.)

I could not do any of these things without the luxury of time, and I am fortunate to have a support system that allows me to take this kind of time.  Soon, I will be back to work, without this kind of time, but the knowledge framework is already there, and I know that things will get faster as I get used to them.

Money

Obviously, money makes it a lot easier to do many things, but specific to my diabetic journey, I have been able to:

  1. Buy a lot of different kinds of foods to “experiment” with.  On that first 2 hour grocery trip, I had a hard time distinguishing between things that were necessary now, and things that “I could have”—so I bought a LOT of things.  Some food went bad, some were way too expensive, but the glamour of having things that I could still eat was really difficult to resist.
  2. Not worry about medication “experimentation”, because my insurance is good, and covers a good portion of my insulin and supplies.  In addition to that, if I use more test strips than prescribed, buying strips off-prescription is not prohibitively expensive, so I have not had to curtail my BG testing due to worries about supplies or money.
  3. Just eat a steak when I’m confused.  Yeah, it’s really nice to be able to say, “hey, I don’t know, I’ll just have a steak.”  I mean, we’re not made of money, but an occasional (or more than occasional) steak won’t break the bank for us right now.

What happens to people who don’t have these luxuries?  The fact that I have diabetic privilege does not escape me, and it plagues me to some extent.  No, I’m not going to sacrifice my own care because others do not have the ability to maintain this standard of care, but it really makes me feel for the diabetic parent who doesn’t have time to read the label or spend 2 hours grocery shopping, measuring, and recording in order to stay on track.  Or the many many families who do not have the ability to say “I’ll just have a steak” when they are faced with a number of carb-heavy bad choices that are fast, cheap, and available.

And what happens to these people when they are forced to choose from bad choices?  There is so much judgment in nutrition choices.  You can’t buy the food you need to eat to manage your diabetes?  Well, then you chose this health for yourself and you gave yourself diabetes/obesity.  You just need to choose better.  Or worse yet, you must not be smart enough to make the right choices, here’s someone to tell you what to do.

I get frustrated with memes/comments/things that blame people for their health like it’s always about choices, but there is so much more to it than that.  I’m not obese (well, actually, according to BMI, I AM obese, I guess…I’m just big-boned) and my diabetes is genetic.  Many ethnic groups are pre-disposed to Type II diabetes.

I wouldn’t say I feel lucky that I have diabetes, but I definitely feel lucky that under my circumstances, I’m well-equipped to treat myself properly.  So lucky and so grateful.

 

A math facts pack

When I was in 3rd grade, my classmates laughed at me because I accidentally said my times tables in Chinese.  Ching-chong, people.

When I was in 3rd grade, my classmates laughed at me because I accidentally said my times tables in Chinese. Ching-chong, people.

When I was teaching, I often found myself struggling with the question of parity for my students.  If I do something for one student, would it only be fair if I did it for all my students?  It left me in the position of providing fewer “extras” and reserving rewards for situations with equal opportunities, because I was often concerned with being fair.

But, some students just need a little extra, and some students will make the most out of these added opportunities.  I can never resist a child who asks for more help in a specific, constructive way.

I’ve been fortunate enough to return to the classroom at the end of this year, working with students with individual needs in math.  One of my students in particular is amazing with visualizing geometry, good at solving procedural problems, and really really really terrible with her basic math facts. So when she looks at me, stops saying “this is hard” and “I’m bad at math” and instead says, “you know, this is the only thing holding me back from doing much better in math class,” I am unable to ignore that plea.

After confirming that she is good with using the resources given to her, and talking with her about using tools to brush up her math facts this summer, she and I picked out the following:

She is self-aware enough to know that regular flash cards have not helped her to learn her times tables, and she doesn’t memorize things visually in that way.  Since she is good at recognizing relationships, we are hoping that the three-corner cards and the math-wheel cards will be different ways to look at the times tables and develop a better sense of numbers that go together.

In addition to the flash cards, I made a book of 150 Mad Minute practice sheets and a tracker for her to track her progress with the times tables.  These will go into the binder she picked out, and she will use the timer to administer her own mad minutes.

Of course, once I get going with these things, I can’t stop myself.  I had to make a cute little backpack to store her math practice toolkit.  It only took about 15 minutes and I had all the materials handy in the house.  (It’s taken me far longer to format this post than to make the backpack.) I also found a few stamps and a few stamp pads that I threw into the pencil case.

The Math Facts Pack goodies - stamps, pencils, timer, flashcards (and binder in the background)

The Math Facts Pack goodies – stamps, pencils, timer, flashcards (and binder in the background)

OK, I think the pack is pretty cute.  Then again, I'm not a 7th grader, so who knows.

OK, I think the pack is pretty cute. Then again, I’m not a 7th grader, so who knows.

I have high hopes that she becomes a math facts wizard by the end of the summer, and can come back in the fall and be a mentor to 5th graders in the school who may be struggling with their own math facts.

I’m not really doing this for her appreciation, but it’s so little in the scheme of my day, and can be so big in the scheme of her life.  I couldn’t NOT do this when it asks so little of me.  I know this kind of attention isn’t scalable, but not every student needs this.  Other students will need other things, and hopefully I’ll be able to answer them when the opportunities arise.

Yes I did: 18 hours to a baby shower

Have you heard of the Five Love Languages?  They are: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving (Giving) Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch.  My interpretation of these principles is that you have primary love languages that you “speak” and other love languages that you “hear”, and that they are not necessarily the same.  Christian-roots aside, I believe in the simplicity of this concept—by understanding which languages you and your loved ones speak and hear, you improve communications in your relationships.

For me, I am most comfortable expressing myself with Acts of Service and Giving Gifts 1.  No “diagnostic quiz” taken, just deep introspection over time and many dinner conversations with friends rehashing examples and hypotheticals.

Given those love languages, making handmade gifts is my favorite expression of affection.  It pains me when I don’t have enough of my own time to create personal gifts by hand.

I had grand plans for this weekend’s baby shower – I was going to make a small tag blanket 2, with one knit side and one minky side, and a matching baby hat with ears.  With 18 hours to go (6PM Friday), I was looking at 10 rows of baby hat, AND had just remembered that I volunteered to make a savory finger food.  NOT ENOUGH HOURS LEFT. I resigned myself to purchasing a more substantial gift off the registry, but was going to make a great effort to finish the hat and make some food.

FRIDAY NIGHT:  Finish baby hat & decorate and wrap the present.

One last-minute baby hat, still made with love.

One last-minute baby hat, still made with love.

I really wanted to make the Flour Sack hat from Baby Beanies: Happy Hats to Knit for Little Heads by Amanda Keeys, but I don’t want to buy books of patterns anymore, so I decided to wing it with a basic square hat.  (If this pattern were individual PDF on Ravelry for $3, I would have totally bought it because I’m lazy about knitting trial and error.)

My “pattern” is basically a square hat, with the corners tied off for ears.  Same as book?  I wouldn’t know!

Yarn: Berroco Comfort in Boy Blue.  It’s a washable nylon/acrylic blend that is actually pleasant to knit with and I use it on nearly all my items for kiddos these days.

Needles: size 8 40″ circular, using Magic Loop method

  • CO 60 stitches, divide for Magic Loop.
  • K2P2 ribbing for 10 rows for a foldover brim.
  • Knit in the round for 36 rows (or for the height of the hat to fit the entire head, then extra rows for the length of the ears).
  • Turn inside out and use 3-needle bind-off. Weave in all ends.
  • Turn right side out.
  • Thread needle with yarn, and run thread from side “seam” 8 rows down, to top seam” 8 columns over on both sides. Tie in a square knot to form the ears. Leave ends as bows or trim.

I managed to finish all the decorations at 11:30PM.  Bedtime until the AM and then, savory snack-making.

SATURDAY MORNING: Savory Treats before 9:30AM

Of all the days, Ben & I had to go to a bath showroom today to look at and pick out a bathtub for house renovations Round 3 (definitely for a different post).  With the baby shower at noon, and the showroom opening at 10AM, this meant that all baby shower preparations had to be complete by 9:30AM.

Mac & cheese muffins
mac-muffin-prep

You can eat mac & cheese with your hands. Genius!

The momma-to-be does love her mac and cheese, and I really wanted to make these for her shower.  However, I didn’t have cheese in the house, and it was really tempting to shelve this in favor of something where I already had all the ingredients.

I opened my eyes at 7:08AM, still felt like mac & cheese was the right choice, ran to our local grocery and picked up cheese in order to make this happen.  Fork-free mac & cheese, what’s not to love?

I used Food & Wine’s basic technique:  undercooked mac folded into cheese-enhanced white sauce (butter, flour, milk).  I doubled the recipe for 1 pound of pasta and 24 muffins. I substituted 1/2 the amount of mozzarella for the American cheese.  I added seasoned breadcrumbs to the parmigiano reggiano at the base of the “muffins” and also on top of the muffins to make a better crust and to add flecks of green color.  I also baked in the oven at 375-degrees instead of 350 for about 20-25 minutes until the tops were super crispy and the bottoms held together, checking frequently to make sure they didn’t burn (too badly).

I left them out to cool, plated 21 of the 24 muffins, and left 3 to be devoured by Ben at some point during the day.  He claims that they’re even better at room temperature, because of the increased crispiness factor.

Bacon-wrapped apricots
bacon-apricot-prep

Everything is better when wrapped in bacon. Yes, everything.

This was my original plan – bacon-wrapped apricots with sage.  The prime reason was because I had some sage growing like crazy in the herb garden, we have apricots on hand for snacking, and I had a package of bacon in the fridge.  I scrapped this for the mac & cheese muffins because I wasn’t sure about pregnant women and eating bacon.  (Big Data must think that I’m pregnant with all the searches I do for what pregnant friends of mine can and can’t eat…)

While the mac & cheese was in the oven, I found myself a little idle…and craving some bacon.  So the bacon-wrapped apricots were back on the menu.

Things I learned from the recipe:

  • You really only need 1/3 a slice of bacon for each wrap—the flavor balance is perfect.
  • You don’t need a whole sage leaf.  I cut my leaves up, because I had a few GIANT sage leaves on the plant, and I also didn’t want to completely decimate my sage plant so early in the growing season.  It was plenty sage-y and the flavor complemented the bacon so nicely.
  • Seam-side down means you don’t need toothpicks.  I didn’t believe it, but it worked like magic.
  • YASSSSS…brush lightly with maple syrup.  NOM.

I managed to get both these dishes out by 9:35AM and make us a breakfast with the leftover egg whites and some ham from the fridge.  We were out the door by 10AM, and had picked out a tub by 10:50AM.  (I could have mooned over everything at the bath/kitchen/lighting showroom forever.)  Back in the house by 11:15, and off to the baby shower at noon. Productive morning all around.

Mac and cheese and bacon and apricots and sage.  Eat all of the things!

Mac and cheese and bacon and apricots and sage. Eat all of the things!

Why?

Why did I put myself through all this?  It would probably have been fine to pick up a vegetable platter and some dip and just have the registry gift.  In fact, no one notices at a shower whether you actually brought a gift at all, and a late registry gift to the house would have been totally acceptable.  Well, two reasons:

  1. I have a hard time backing off of my commitments.  Once I say I’m going to do something, like “make a savory finger food”, I will MAKE the food unless it is completely impossible, or else I will feel bad about it.
  2. Handmade with love is my best love language.  If I can give you a gift made with my time, that is the best gift that I can give you, whether the time is spent knitting, cooking, or just decorating the box that the gift will arrive in.  I don’t need my recipients to treasure their gifts forever, just to recognize that I care about them.  (Once a gift is given, it’s yours to do what you want with it, as gifts SHOULD be.)

People often tell me that I should sell the things that I make, but I don’t craft or cook for money, and I don’t think that I can be motivated to make things for people that I don’t love.  Actually, it’s hard for me to get motivated to do anything that I don’t love.  That’s a growth area for me.


  1. The love languages I “hear” are Quality Time and Acts of Service. Gifts are nice, but only if the giver has thought about the gift and has chosen something meaningful, so effectively an act of service. 

  2. Try to avoid buying from the Taggie company.  They are excessively EVIL about protecting their patent, which basically says that any ribbon sewn in a loop between two pieces of cloth is FROWNED UPON in this ESTABLISHMENT.  Google tells me that not only are you not allowed to sell them, but there may be issues if you even MAKE them.  Who knows if that’s truth or just paranoia, why can’t I make what I want if I’m not selling it?  I will thumb my nose at that, here’s a pattern for a great tag toy for babies from Sew Like My Mom, and here’s a picture of one that I made for my nephew:

    I made this ..."soft toy"... any resemblance to other real toys is purely ... coincidental.  Yesss...coincidental.

    I made this …”soft toy”… any resemblance to other real toys is purely … coincidental. Yesss…coincidental.

     

I’m worth it.

Roscoe is a LOT lazy.

I’ve been a little lazy lately. Oh wait. That’s Roscoe. He’s a LOT lazy.

Without WP, (or writing in general), I seem to have lost my ability to think.

Because I need to write stuff out to sort stuff out, you’d think I’d be an ideal candidate for regular blogging.  But in this age of carefully curated online branding, I have been mostly afraid to think “aloud” to this amorphous audience.  I mean, after looking over my LiveJournal existence…it’s probably better that that account is gone.

I enjoy reading people’s blog posts where they discover the minutiae that really shape how they view the world.  I love catching up with The Bloggess, and following her struggles as well as her crazy taxidermy collection.  I feel like I can never miss a single installment of my dear friend, K.C. Wise, as she builds her house, her home, and her foundation in (gasp) the suburbs.  I would love to do the same as either of those bloggers, and have that regular release to organize my thoughts in the clutter of my brain.

But I “never have time”, and it “takes too long to write”, and it “isn’t a big deal”, and “I’ll write when I have something important to say.”

If I can look other people in the eye and tell them that they are important, and their thoughts are important, and I am willing to listen to their thoughts and help them work it out, then why are my own thoughts less important to myself?  Who’s going to listen to me if I’m not going to listen to myself?

Bongo Mots once told me she couldn’t go out to dinner with me because she had to go home and “think” about Jenny Dell (a Red Sox sideline reporter who decided to date a player…publicly), meaning that she could not exorcise her thoughts without having a jam sesh with WordPress.

Priorities.  My biggest weakness is that I prioritize others’ needs and my more immediate (less important) needs over things that are more personally sustaining to me.  I put out fires.  I’m good at putting out fires.  I’m still figuring out how to maintain my own fire at the proper temperature and intensity.  (Man, that is a GREAT answer.  Why can’t I answer this question in interviews?  It’s like not having the perfect comeback for bullies until 10 minutes after they’ve gone.)

It’s not like I live a scripted or curated life.  In real life, I am a rough, not-well-thought-out, burst of brilliance and hot mess.  And sloth.

I guess writing is like exercise.  I know it’s good for me.  I mostly like it, when I’m on the bandwagon.  But when I’ve been lounging on the couch for a while, physically and mentally, it’s really hard to get back to it.  There are a million reasons why I can’t.  There are NO reasons why I can’t.

This isn’t even what I got on here to write about, but this’ll do.  I already feel more sorted out.  Missed ya, WP.

Yes I did: reclaimed bookshelf

During the move to my 11th cubicle in a year at my office space (co-working space growing pains), we ended up with this weird corner space that really really needed a bookshelf to organize our crap.

After searching on IKEA and Target and all the usual suspects, I remembered that I had a house that we were busy demolishing and a fairly huge stack of “reclaimed wood,” a.k.a. things in the demolition pile, and a basement workshop full of awesome tools to play with.  Obviously, it would be easier to just build a bookshelf that fits in the space and meets our needs, right?

I mean, this is our basement workshop:

Doesn't this look like a creepy murder room?  Oh wait, it probably was one.

Don’t all the corrugated tin walls look like a creepy murder room?
Oh wait, it probably was one.

Just kidding, that picture was from when we first moved into the house, just after we removed the shower curtain/vapor barrier that was covered with wet moldy carpet remnants and discovered the newts living under them.

THIS is our basement workshop:

vault basement

This workshop is pretty sexy, no?
The main workbench is an antique surgical table bought off of Craigslist. Totally preserves that “creepy” feeling.

Anyways, I pulled shelves out of our demolition pile in our garage, ones that I had already labeled “not worth saving” and set to work putting together this office bookshelf, armed with a general idea, some measurements from the office, a rough sketch, and an extra set of man hands.

This pile of yucky wood boards from the walls of the attic:

Nail-filled, tar-paper-covered, fairly musty reclaimed wood.

Nail-filled, tar-paper-covered,
fairly musty reclaimed wood.

Took about 5 hours, some elbow grease, a hand sander, and lots of force (some of the 2x3s were warped) to become this:

She is a thing of beauty.  (The bookshelf, not the man-butt.)

She is a thing of beauty.
(The bookshelf, not the man-butt.)

Not all the wood was super-old; we did find this awesome note on one of the 2x3s:

Adam Dyott, 3/1/88, THE BEST CARPTER IN THE WORLD.

ADAM DYOTT, 3/4/88, THE BEST CARPTER IN THE WORLD.  
What is a carpter?!

And here is the bookshelf in its rightful space, in action:

Now to actually organize the things in the bookshelf...

Now to actually organize the bookshelf…

What was trash is now treasure again! Here’s to hoping that there are many more reclaimed wood projects in the works.  Maybe I can make the radiator covers in the house out of reclaimed wood this summer.  So ambitious, so many projects, not enough time!