Friday, June 17, 2016

Cultivating Joy

Joy.

An emotion that, at times, eludes me. Cultivating joy is my goal for this year. So far, I have been able to identify those activities that enable me to celebrate the joy in my life. Skiing, especially skiing hard and fast in deep snow; hiking in the woods, off trail, with my family and friends; and, being in the ocean and in lakes all bring me great joy.

Right now, all of these things are beyond my reach. As I go through this healing process and revisit the concept of cultivating joy I am having to rethink how to find this in my life while I am not able to ski, hike or visit the ocean. While visiting about this with my chiropractor's assistant yesterday, we both had an epiphany: life happens, joy is a choice that comes from within.

Crap. That means I can actively choose to not let this ACL/knee injury get me down emotionally and mentally. Well, that changes things, doesn't it. Now I just feel like an entitled baby: I am going to recover and I will be able to do all the things that I love. I am not mourning a permanent loss of my mobility. I can choose to find the joy that exists within me and cultivate that. Time for a little research.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Looking Back to Start Strong

Tomorrow is August 1, I have one more week of summer...

I didn't need a calendar to tell me we were getting close to the beginning of this next school year. The last few nights, my dreams have been full of lesson planning, teaching, and grading. I have much to look forward to but first I must look back and see what worked and what didn't. I need to understand where I have been to know where I am going.

Inspired by a fellow teacher-blogger, http://www.loveteachblog.com/, I want to look WAY back to 1996 when I first started teaching and write a letter to myself:

*********************************************************************************
Hi,
I know you didn't sleep much last night.

Today, you will be running on a combination of adrenaline, caffeine, and what little food you can keep down. And, while this job won't necessarily get easier, you will rise to meet the daily challenges. For now, eat a little breakfast, make a big go-mug of coffee, pack a nice lunch, and put on that killer outfit that even middle school girls will approve of. You are ready for this!

You have a full load but you can handle it. After you drop your little munchkin off at day care, you get to your classroom early. It is beautiful: motivational, colorful, and informational. The rules are posted clearly, the books are ready to hand out, your grade book is set up, and the lesson plans are well designed for the first two units.

Now. I hate to tell you this. Those plans? Well, they are a beautiful start but be ready to throw them out the window. They might not work. The kids might not get it. You may have to start over again. You will learn to roll with the kids and their learning. Some days, you won't plan enough for them to do. Most days, you will have too much for them to finish in class and you will have to find ways to motivate them to finish the activities at home or juggle future lessons to give them time in class. Once in a while, they will finish them right as the bell rings. You will learn what works, what doesn't. Be patient with yourself. You are learning along side the kids.

What is amazing is that the kids won't care. They do care about how you make them feel. Don't be afraid to do crazy things to inspire them. Let them into your heart and they will let you into theirs. Watch their faces and body language and you will figure out who is "getting it" and who might need more time. Remember you are teaching kids some science, don't just teach science to kids.

Oh. Another thing. For the first several months or so, you may dream about school a lot. You will dream about the students, the other teachers, what you need to do, and what you forgot to do. This won't go on forever. You are getting used to this new life and it is intense at times. Take a deep breath and roll with it.

Speaking of breath. At the end of every day, take a little time and do some yoga. Even if it is only 10 or 15 minutes, you will benefit from it greatly. It will help you release the day to itself and move into family time.

Don't try to grade everything the students do. You will find yourself hauling stuff back and forth to school each night. Some of it will get graded, some of it won't. It is ok. You will learn what is important and what you can let go. You will get better at prioritizing things.

Summer. Summer is great. Spend it with your kids. Do things you can't do during the school year: hang out in your hammock, watch sunsets from the swing-set, and go for lots of walks, hikes, and bike rides. Enjoy the garden but don't let it control you -- the weeds will wait.

Finally, trust yourself. This is what you were meant to do. You do it well. Learn from the bad days then let them go. Cherish the good days. Get a big box to save nice notes that your students write to you. Drink coffee. Wear Danskos and Birkenstocks (your feet will thank you). Laugh!!

Watch what you say.
Don't take things personally.
Do your best.
Don't assume anything.

Love ya - me

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Summer

As a teacher, I love summer more than most people. That is not to say that I tend to do anything special or consistently engaging. Some summers are filled with camping, hiking, backpacking, and travel. Others are focused on gardening and yard work. And some, like this year, involve spending a lot of money fixing myself and my house.

What's up with me now? Bilateral Plantar Fasciitis that I have been dealing with for almost two years. I am finally dedicating myself to getting my feet better: Physical Therapy, twice daily exercises, lots of stretching, orthotics and birkenstocks, athletic tape, and no going barefoot. I am slowly seeing improvement but I wonder if I will ever be able to wear cute shoes again :(

Next, the house. Ripping up carpet, replacing trim, painting, laying flooring, fixing storm windows, and donating a lot of stuff me and the fam no longer need. It feels so good to lighten the load. Plus, I am very cheap labor. I may not be as highly skilled in carpentry and flooring but I can take my time and do a good job. What is the quote? 
"Good, fast, cheap: pick any two.
  • You can have good and fast, but it won’t be cheap.
  • You can have good and cheap, but it won’t be fast.
  • You can have fast and cheap, but it won’t be good."    Erwind Frand
All of these very necessary changes come as my oldest gets ready to head off to college -- something that will leave me as a tearful pile of goo in August, right as school is getting started. So how do I plan for that emotional train wreck?

In the next few weeks, I will create order from all this chaos and start planning. Most people don't know this but me and many other teachers out there plan, write, and work on next year's curriculum for several weeks before school starts. No I don't get paid but this time is essential in keeping my sanity, especially during DEVOLSON (http://www.loveteachblog.com/search?q=DEVOLSON), that dreadful time between Labor Day and Thanksgiving...

So, for now, I take a deep breath, work with my hands, and give my brain a break. All too soon, I will be neck deep in kids, parents, and grading.
Cheers!


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Discovery

I LOVE FOOD. The savory, smokey sauces in Vietnamese Catfish in a Claypot, the crispy and tender fried veggies dipped in taziki sauce at my favorite Greek restaurant, the way melting butter pools int the tender and chewy gluten bubbles in a loaf of sourdough bread, and the bittersweet combination of fresh strawberries dipped in dark chocolate. I love it all. I always have. I am the quintessential NOT picky eater.

There was only one meal I remember not being able to eat because I didn't like how it tasted. The cook didn't like it either so I will just say, Peanut butter Stew was icky. But it doesn't count, no one liked it!

In college, I lived off of dinners of ramen with frozen veggies, dark beer and peanuts, beans and rice, and eggs and toast. I was a breakfast cook so that was covered. I don't even remember eating lunches back then...

Then I grew up.

Six years ago, shortly after my 40th birthday, I was having my typical lunch of apples, celery, and peanut butter. Later that afternoon, I discovered a rash all over my torso. Same thing the next day, and the next, and the day after that. The weekend rolled around. No rash. Then a rash every day the next week. HMMMM?

I stopped eating peanut butter, the rash went away. I have never been "diagnosed" with a peanut allergy. I just know it isn't good for me. Anytime in the last six years that I have eaten peanuts, I have reacted badly: swollen lips and tongue, rashes, stomach aches, intestinal problems. So, I don't eat peanuts.

Last fall, I got bit by a dog. The doctor prescribed a round of antibiotics which made a lot of sense to me. The dog was old, had dental issues, and ate her own poo. In the three months that followed, my intestinal system became a war zone between the good and bad bacteria. By December, I was no longer digesting my food and I had to know where the bathroom was in any establishment where I ventured.

Over Christmas Break, I contracted influenza and was on my back for a week. I was miserable and didn't eat anything. The upside? My gut felt better. That was a clue for me: something I was eating was making me sick. I rediscovered my book, UltraMetabolism, by Dr. Mark Hyman, and put myself on his  recommended diet. Within the first three weeks, I had lost 18 pounds. Yeah, much of that weight was water that was being stored in my cells as INFLAMMATION. I was thinking more clearly and best of all, I felt amazing.

The UltraMetabolism diet prescribes no sugar, caffeine, dairy, eggs, peanuts or gluten. No peanuts? No problem. No sugar or caffeine? No worries - I had not been eating those when I had the flu. I am not a milk drinker but I love cheese and yogurt, so that was a bit tough. Eggs and bread? Whew, they were the hardest ingredients to give up. But, I did it. When it came time to reintegrate these things in my diet, I did it one thing at a time. Eggs were first and they tasted good and my body was happy. Two days later, I added yogurt and cheese back with no bad consequences. Two more day and, with one piece of beautiful, homemade Pain de Champagne, I was down for the count. I felt horrible: stomach ache, head ache, tired, diarrhea - YUCK!

So now I join the ranks of millions of other people in giving up gluten. It is a bit ironic because I am the daughter, granddaughter, and niece of wheat farmers. Will I miss eating the grain that I grew up with? Yes. But not that much. I am a creative cook. I will discover the ingredients, recipes, and menus that I can eat and my family and I will be better for it.

I have dealt with a strange and rare skin condition since my early twenties called Granuloma Annulare. It is a painless but unsightly skin condition that, for me, gets much worse in the winter. Raised red lesions develop on my arms and legs and torso. The weird thing is that these erupt symmetrically: if I get a spot on my left knee, within a week or two, I will notice a spot on my right knee. I have dealt with my "spots" for a long time and have learned to accept them as a part of who I am. In the four weeks since I have been gluten free, I have noticed the spots are lightening. From what I have read, gluten intolerance has been linked with Granuloma Annulare. Could I have found a cure to GA, at least for me?

Discovery is a challenging process because it often comes with loss or pain or indignity. But, when you are on the other side of it, you realize that life is good. Life is precious. Life is to be celebrated. Giving up a little something to feel so much better is a good thing.

I am grateful for this discovery. I will live my life gratefully with compassion toward my body and I will celebrate the opportunities for more discoveries in the future.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Education, Controversy, and Climate Change

In the last couple of months, I have had more interviews and more conversations about Climate Change education than I have had in my entire life. And, this is something because I talk about climate change a lot. From documentary producers to public radio and newspaper reporters, I want people to know that teaching about climate change may come with its own special challenges but the facts are as clear as they are for plate tectonics: the climate is changing and the burning of fossil fuels is causing much of the change.

In March, I met with Claes Andreasson, a reporter for Swedish Public Radio.  From some science education colleagues, he had heard that I had a very negative incident a few years ago and he wanted to learn more.  Climate change science and education are going through a "rough patch". Numerous states have generated and passed legislation about teaching controversial science in public schools.  South Dakota, Louisiana, and Tennessee permit, encourage, and even mandate that science teachers must teach "both sides" of the political story -- in science class. Claes wanted to do a story that highlighted the challenges of teaching a scientific theory that elicits such political fervor - if you can read Swedish, you can read the story at http://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=3345&artikel=5054424 .

I first started teaching about climate change sixteen years ago. I thought it was an important aspect of atmospheric science, it was relevant to students because they might be hearing about it in the news, and it was becoming evident that my students would be living through many of the predicted changes we were being warned about. While the details and the evidence have been refined over time, what I teach is on very solid scientific footing: 
  1. The climate has changed in the past and it will change in the future.
  2. There are many factors that can cause the climate to change and we have known about these for a long time: 
    • carbon dioxide has been recognized as a heat-trapping gas since the 1890s
    • impacts of solar cycles and variations in the Earth's relation to the sun have been known about since the mid-1900s
    • there are "feedbacks" that can amplify and minimize the heating or cooling of the Earth's atmosphere
  3. Since the mid 1800s, we have been changing the composition of the atmosphere:
    • when we burn fossil fuels, old carbon from deep in the Earth's crust is moved into the atmosphere
    • This is a non-trivial change
  4. There are many lines of evidence that indicate that the climate is changing and how the changes are impacting ecosystems and human civilizations.
    • Melting mountain glaciers, permafrost, continental glaciers and retreating sea ice
    • Rising sea-levels
    • Cores of ice and sediment that provide information about past changes and this current episode of change
    • Direct measurement of atmospheric composition and temperatures
    • Changes in ecosystems
    • Major storms and weather events
  5. There are things we can do to mitigate change and impacts.  Beyond that, we will have to adapt the changes.
Please understand, as a trained geologist, I know that the Earth's atmosphere has been richer in carbon dioxide in the past (1385ppm in the Cretaceous compared to 392ppm today) and this meant a much warmer world.  It is not the Earth I am worried about.  Humans were not around back then - there weren't 7 billion human mouths to feed.

If we want to continue to thrive in a world of natural beauty and wonder with a rich variety of species, we need to change how we acquire and use energy. We need to take responsibility for our actions and change how we do somethings so that the world around us doesn't have to change.

Here are some links for you to read-listen-learn more about my work with climate change education:

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Quiet Celebrations

I learned earlier this week that I have been successful in earning my National Board Certification.  After hundreds of hours of filming, writing, thinking, and rewriting it was a relief to get my test scores and portfolio grades back.  I feel really good about the work I did, the scores I earned and the quality of my portfolio; however, when I learned that my mentor didn't get awarded the NBC, I was devastated. She was going through the process at the same time and I was sure that she would get it and I would have to try again. 

How do I celebrate now? How can I talk up the process of serious professional iteration, reflection, and critique when she is struggling to figure out what happened?

I wish there was a simple answer. I will let my principal and the building leadership team know but I will not advertise.  I will have to keep this accomplishment to myself.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Growing a Pair


I have given money to the 2012 Obama campaign.
I will vote for Obama.
I would love to volunteer but I refuse to do so.

WHY?
The President needs to step up, acknowledge the Occupy Movement in a positive way, and defends the First Amendment Rights of those protesting and condemn the actions of those who want to trample on the less powerful.

He needs to start talking about why there are so many people out of work and underemployed while the few make millions, pollute our planet, degrade free and public education, and maintain a status quo for energy giants who are dragging their feet to move towards sustainability.

Many of us understand we are moving through an adjustment period where we must learn to live with less. I have no problem with that but there will be increasing political unrest as long as the people in this country perceive economic injustice.

The campaign can call me when he addresses these issues.