Friday, June 28, 2013

8 Good Things

1. Birthday breakfast at Katy's Place. What do you mean French toast is not a healthy breakfast? It totally had fruit on it. 

2. The view from my job selling nuts. Not a bad way to spend my summer, right?

3. Happy Herbivore's breakfast quesadilla, which is a misnomer (it's more like a crepe), but as the weird grandpa from Sixteen Candles says, "You don't spell it. You eat it."

4. Finishing up a baby blanket for my future niece. 

5. Um, summer? I think I lost 10 pounds this week in sweat alone. It was pretty uncomfortable all week, but now that I have some days off, I can actually enjoy the warm weather.

6. Pizza and beer. Oh, and getting to have a belated birthday celebration with awesome friends (with pizza and beer).

7. Deciding to give my students my cell number so they can text me with questions. So much better than my school email, and I actually kind of like the more personal nature of using the phone.

8. Having a really great partner in my life. He continues to be my all-time "good thing." 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

On Balance: What It's Not

Balanced by San Diego Shooter, Flickr
Over the past couple years, I've heard people talk about balance in a way that makes me think there is a misconception of this word. They seem to think that balanced people are bland and uncompromising compared to their less-balanced counterparts who are adventurous, passionate, and in the moment. The reasoning goes that if you want to love life and make an impact, you have to be off-kilter.

Let me set the record straight: Balance is not a state of being in which everything is calm, controlled, and in equal proportion.

In recent years, as Eastern influence has become increasingly popular here, the word has popped up everywhere and has been synonymous with mental, emotional, and physical control and evenness. Basically, when we think of balance, we picture meditative yogis in a bamboo hut chanting in lotus. Naturally, people who can't or wouldn't like to be quiet or calm all the time challenge this notion of balance--and they should challenge it because it's boring and unrealistic.

Instead, I offer another way of looking at balance that includes celebrating highs, enduring the lows, and allowing yourself to be pulled in one direction by something you care about deeply.

Let's take surfing. It takes balance to get up and stay up on the board. It does not require an equal distribution of weight but rather an ability to counterbalance. That means a surfer must have a keen sense of self in relation to the environment. Surfers must constantly shift their weight and position depending on the conditions. Of course, surfing wouldn't be much fun if the sea were calm all the time. The waves are the thrill.

People who meditate or seek greater balance aren't necessarily calm or dull. I'd say it's quite the opposite. These are people with full, complex lives who often experience stress, conflict, anxiety, and a lack of focus. They are keenly aware of the ups and downs in life, and they even allow themselves to experience great interest and passion; they just don't want to drown in any one part of their lives.

Seeking balance in life is not about some industrial-age dictum about devoting x hours to work, x hours to leisure, and x hours to sleep each day. It's not about always being evenly distributed.

I don't see myself as being evenly distributed at all! But I do seek balance in my life. Right now, for example, I'm working a lot. In fact, I'm in the middle of a 12-day work week today. But for one, this is a temporary surge in workload. In less than 5 weeks, I'll be working a lot less. Two, my jobs are all part-time, so I have time to rest and renew pretty regularly. I pack a lot into my life, but I'm careful to not overwhelm myself (usually).

Bottom line: life comes in unpredictable waves. Balance is about learning to ride these waves while keeping your head above water.

How do you stay balanced? What do you think about the way we perceive balance in our culture?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

8 Good Things

I've been slacking in the photography department!

1. Riding my bike to my summer job. I've managed not to hit any slow-moving tourists, although I've come close (seriously). Every time, as I walk away from my locked-up bike, I feel like I should click my car key to lock it. It's a weird feeling.

2. My summer job. It's funny being back in retail, but this shop is vastly different from working at Target or Marshall's. I love our product, for one, and the shop is pretty low maintenance. And I don't feel insulted by the wages.

3. Sparkling water. When I was a kid, my parents would drink flavored sparkling water, and try as I might, I couldn't stand it. Now, on a warm day when I'm feeling extra thirsty, sparkling water is the only thing that'll do.

4. Blended drinks. A while back, I ordered a blended fruit drink at a restaurant that was just orange juice and papaya. It was ridiculously good, so now I make them at home with orange juice and banana. Something about frothy orange juice is delicious. I also recently made a strawberry lemonade by heating some strawberries in a little honey and blending them with fresh squeezed lemon juice and water.

5. The start of the summer semester. I'm excited to get to know everyone, and I love summer classes. Plus, it means the return of my yoga class. The first day back reminded me how far I've come.

6. Rick Guidotti. One evening recently, I saw him on Rock Center, and I was really touched by the work he's doing. Not only is he redefining beauty but he's also helping doctors and med students better understand their patients' conditions from their point of view.

7. Having a rockin' Zumba class tonight. I'm subbing for a woman who's out of the country for a month, and tonight was my first time with this group. Although she and I only get about 3-7 people in our classes usually, tonight I had 12! They were fun too and had nice feedback for me at the end of class. 

8. A great new vegan (you heard me) Mexican restaurant. My friend, who's also a vegetarian, and I were dumbfounded when we saw the menu--so much good stuff to choose from. We've been sad since our two favorite vegetarian-friendly Vietnamese restaurants closed. Now we can rejoice!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Is This Working?

After working on my syllabus for my summer class yesterday, I realized there's a question I ultimately ask myself when I encounter a problem with something I'm doing: Is this working? 

Semester after semester, we teachers complain that students don't pay much attention to our syllabus. So much important information is there! How could they just ignore it? Students never seem to know when things are due, how their grades are calculated, what the policy is on late work, or how absences might affect their grades. 

Well, I ignored my teachers' syllabi in college. Why would I expect my students to react differently? It's not defeatist to assume that students are going to continue ignoring this very important document; it's a reasonable prediction to say that if all conditions are the same, then the outcome will be the same. 

Question: Is the way I'm creating, distributing, and discussing our courses' expectations, policies, and content working? 

Answer: No.

Resolution: If I want students to react differently to their syllabus, then I must significantly alter the conditions. I believe the best solution is to create a more memorable document. I don't know if having a more visually-oriented syllabus will have a drastic effect, but it won't hurt to try. By the way, the real solution might be to do away with the syllabus altogether, but I have to have one.

It's still in progress, but I'm happy to report that repositioning my usual syllabus material made me question a lot of the stuff I usually put in there, and I made a lot of edits. In fact, I'm changing other things about my course as well all because I took some time to ask a simple question.

Is this working? It's a question I've often asked, whether I realized it or not, and sadly, it's a question that sometimes I wait too long to ask. But once I do ask it, the situation usually comes into focus. 

Facebook friend who openly opposes same-sex marriage. 
Is this relationship working? 
Do not reason with this person. Do not insult this person. Unfriend.

Cable TV costs $50+ a month so I can watch three channels I like.
Is this service working for me?
Use low-cost Netflix and HD antenna instead. 

Sometimes the resolutions are difficult to work out. It might take some trial and error, but continuing to act and improve is what's important. You cannot expect different results if you keep the conditions the same. 

Sometimes I feel like a pessimist because I don't believe that other people or systems will change, but the empowering part of this is that I can change. If there's one thing I've learned as an adult, it's that people will change but only when they see the need. If I see a need for change, I start with what I can do about it. 

Have a you ever had a lightbulb moment about something that wasn't working? 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

8 Good Things

1. R.I.P.P.E.D. classes at the gym. If you're into fitness classes and you can find this in your area, check it out. Don't be scared by the name either! My schedule for the past several months hasn't really allowed me to take these classes, but now that the semester is finished, I can start going again.

2. The Happy Herbivore weekly meal plan. I'm not following it exactly, but I like getting a weekly email that basically tells me, "Get your ass to the grocery store and cook your own damned food." I'm just trying it for a short time until I can get into some good habits. Pictured above is the tomato-fruit gazpacho and a bean and avocado mash that's supposed to go on a sandwich, but I decided I liked it better as a dip.

Side note: I'm using the individual plan, which I think complements my CSA share nicely because I can make a salad or a vegetable soup with the CSA vegetables to pair with the single-serving recipes from HH for a 2-person meal.

3. Getting a tour of the Stewart & Jasper operations! Pretty neat.  They took me out to lunch and gave me--what else?--a gift box of almonds to take home. This is how to hire employees, folks. Also, did you know that people in the almond business pronounce it "ammond?" They informed me that it's just like the word "salmon." And the only place where almonds are grown in the U.S. is the area between Chico and Bakersfield. It was an educational day.

4. Getting a break! I'm really in need of some down time, and I'm getting it. I start my nut job (heh) tomorrow, but I'm in the middle of a week and a half vacation from teaching.

5. Finally starting to get over what I think is plantar fasciitis. Lots and lots of massage helps. I'm also using pain relief gel with arnica in it. I'm not sure what caused it--maybe it's been accumulating slowly--but I'm glad it's going away. I want to start running again!

6. A couple knitting projects in progress (photos to come later)

7. Celebrating 2 years with my beau (standing next to what I think is a large boat cleat that totally looks like it has a face).

8. The original Star Trek series. I'd never watched more than a few episodes, and I decided to watch the whole series on Netflix. It's so bad it's good. It's like the poster child for misogyny. If the men aren't treating the women like delicate flowers, they're slapping them around. But I'm surprised by how many actors and story lines in the later series came from the original.