Sunday, July 28, 2013

8 Good Things

1. Saving money while working less! I chalk it up to not eating out very much. I finally cracked down on that, and even though I'm earning less than I was in the spring, I'm coming out ahead at the end of the month. And I do still eat out sometimes, but there's less reason to eat out between my CSA and delicious summer fruits from the farmers markets.

2. Speaking Spanish. Okay, so I'm pretty bad at it, but I like surprising native Spanish speakers with what I do know, especially since I've picked up a lot of slang.

3. Scoring some great felting yarn from a yarn swap I had with my knitting group. My sister's requested a bag like the felted bag I made here, but I've been putting off buying the yarn. Now I won't need to. 

4. Improved posture. This yoga thing is great, you guys. A friend told me that I was looking different lately (in a good way), and I admit I've been feeling pretty good physically, but I don't think I've trimmed down any. I have, however, noticed that my posture is improving, and I feel that I stand and sit taller. It's a good feeling.

5. A surprisingly good pho/ramen soup I made a couple nights ago. I was inspired by Ashley who recently posted about making vegetarian ramen. Mine wasn't vegetarian because I used chicken broth (I'm almost 100% vegetarian now, but I still have a lot of chicken broth in the house to use up), but everything else was just vegetables and tofu. I added some anise to give it that pho flavor. It was ridiculously easy and good.

6. Twitter. I'm enjoying it far more than Facebook. I tweeted (ugh, I did I just say that?) a message for Austin Kleon, the author of Steal Like an Artist, and he responded! That's exciting. And yes, I'm a dork. I need more followers by the way.

7. Fruity drinks. I've been making smoothies with tangerine juice, nectarines/peaches, strawberries, and a splash of soy milk, and today I tried some infused water (because that's the new thing apparently) with strawberries, cucumber, and basil, which came out great! 

8. The end of the summer semester. I still have grading to do, but the class is finished. It's always a whirlwind experience teaching a 6-week condensed course, but as always it was fun, and I received some nice feedback from students. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

I Am Jan

There's a post I keep wanting to write but never do because it's too personal for this blog and because I'd end up dragging someone else through the mud. Recently a friend shared the article, "When Your Mother Says She's Fat," and there's one part that essentially says all you need to know about my own story. It brings me to tears every time I read it or even think about it.

‘‘Jesus, Jan,’’ I overheard him say to you. ‘‘It’s not that hard. Energy in versus energy out. If you want to lose weight you just have to eat less.’’

That night at dinner I watched you implement Dad’s ‘‘Energy In, Energy Out: Jesus, Jan, Just Eat Less’’ weight-loss cure. You served up chow mein for dinner. Everyone else’s food was on a dinner plate except yours. You served your chow mein on a tiny bread-and-butter plate.

As you sat in front of that pathetic scoop of mince, silent tears streamed down your face. I said nothing. Not even when your shoulders started heaving from your distress. We all ate our dinner in silence. Nobody comforted you. Nobody told you to stop being ridiculous and get a proper plate. Nobody told you that you were already loved and already good enough. Your achievements and your worth—as a teacher of children with special needs and a devoted mother of three of your own—paled into insignificance when compared with the centimeters you couldn’t lose from your waist.

I see myself in Jan, but her story is also not about me. It's about all of us--all the Jans with tiny plates and silent tears as well as those who are complicit in allowing worthy people to be reduced to a number on a scale or a dress size.

It starts with the overreaching idea that Jan must lose weight in order to be attractive or happy and that her value is determined by her size. The belief that she has extra weight is socially constructed and accepted. If Jan's accomplishments, kindness, or career were valued more than her body size, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

Then, it's "You're not only fat but also stupid because you can't figure out how to feed yourself correctly." In other words, fat people are dumb and/or lazy because staying trim is so simple. This belief accuses fat people of not being able to figure this out for themselves and of not being able to execute the necessary actions based on that knowledge.

I mean, it really is simple isn't it? After all, anyone can just subtract the exact number of calories they burn throughout the day from the exact number of calories they take in throughout the day. For that, all someone needs to know is their resting metabolic rate, additional calories burned during structured exercise as well as unstructured exercise like cleaning the house or playing with children, additional calories burned post-exercise, genetic predisposition, all medical conditions or emotional states that affect metabolism, and how all of these factors change daily. Jesus, Jan. It's not that hard. 

But Jan listens to her partner's advice, despite its oversimplification and cruelty. She takes it upon herself to act. She controls what she can; she eats less.

Then comes a breaking point. The silent tears. Even a woman in distress can't make noise, can't disturb others, and certainly can't expect sympathy or concern. Why not? Because this is Jan's problem. She brought it on herself. In this story, there's no room for other possibilities.

And what are those tears about anyway? Jan might have been thinking and feeling lots of things: Why do I have to eat this way? Why can't I just lose this weight? What's wrong with me? This is ridiculous. This isn't fair. I don't know what to do. 

But I can say with certainty that it comes down to this: Loneliness. This is a lonely place to be. She sits with the people she loves most, yet she can't ask them for understanding. At best, they ignore her struggle, and at worst, they participate in it by blaming and insulting her. The people she takes care of don't take care of her. She is alone.

So, here I sit with my own tears. Jan, I'm sorry you had to go through this. You deserved better.

Now, at age 33, after probably 20 years of a tumultuous relationship with my body, I work hard to not be Jan, to not beat myself up. I also try to surround myself with supportive people. I've simplified my life in an effort to get to what's most important, but when it comes to looking at myself in the mirror every day, I have a hard time saying, "This isn't the most important thing in my life." It's true, though. I'm much more than that. We all are.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

8 Good Things

I totally failed at taking photos the past several days. Three jobs will do that to you. Wee! 

1. Root beer float almonds. 
2. A student playing the song from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air today as he walked into class. I rapped along with Will Smith to the delight of all my students.
3. Being able to do a certain modified handstand unassisted the other day. I hated it the last time I tried it a couple months ago, but I forced myself to give it another go. I'm not sure I looked quite like the person in the photo up there, though :)
4. LoterĂ­a. 
5. Potato tacos.
6. Salsa dancing with my honey.
7. Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls, David Sedaris' new book.
8. My friend Ruth. She's definitely a good thing who's about to go and do great things in another state far, far away. I'm happysad. My selfishness aside, she's brilliant and charismatic beyond belief. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

8 Good Things

1. Peaches, nectarines, and pluots from the farmers market! I heart summer.

2. A totally unsolicited pun at the store: A woman is perusing the almond flour cookbook, trying to get her husband interested in it. She flips the book open to a photo and says to him, "Look at all the things you can make with almond flour. It's nuts!"

3. Quinoa. I got out of the habit of eating it until recently when I made a couple dishes. It's so versatile. I mix it up with some fruit and maple syrup for breakfast or I mix it with vegetables and treat it like a salad.

4. Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon. It's not really a book--more like a short manual for being creative. So much of what he says is right up my alley. One tidbit: "Make something." As in, get off the couch, away from the screen, and make things with your hands. Hence the t-shirt project in my last post. I've been spending too much of my off-time idle or in front of a computer screen, and this book has reminded me how happy it makes me to create something.

5. Hot baths. I enjoy them anyway, but they also seem to be the only thing that relieves my plantar fasciitis.

6. My summer class. They're rockstars. As I've done with a couple other classes, we have a class blog, which is usually a little bit of a diaster as everyone figures out how to use it. Contrary to popular belief, college students are not all digital natives. Anyway, since the summer class is only 6 weeks long, it's a challenge to get everyone on board quickly, but this class has taken to it pretty well. Just a few bumps and bruises along the way. I even got them to post photos!

7. My future fall class. I've decided to use creativity (or divergent thinking if you want to get all academic) as our course theme, and I'm looking forward to the things we can do as participant observers. I've never planned a class this far in advance. I think I'm going to divide the class into three units: creativity in learning, creativity at work, and living a creative life. Reading Austin Kleon's book is just the beginning!

8. A potential move on the horizon, and I don't just mean to a different apartment. I'm excited! And I'd just like to say that I'm really happy that my fiance and I are able to talk about and plan our future together. For the first time, I feel like I have a true partner.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

T-Shirt to Necklace

I've seen a bunch of tutorials online about repurposing old t-shirts into necklaces and headbands, but when I've tried to do it, I've come up short. Literally. I'm not sure why my neck and head are so much bigger than other people's, but I wanted to find a solution. So, here's a little project I worked on tonight to get a necklace the right length. Also, no sewing!

[Edit Dec. 4, 2013: I've figured out that the length issue is caused by using a shirt that has side seams. With side seams, you can only cut across the shirt from seam to seam. The tutorials I've seen use t-shirts that do not have side seams, so the strips are much longer.]

Warning: Bad lighting ahead. I have a tendency to not only work on the floor but also in the dark. 

Any good craft project begins with a cat. You didn't know that? Kira loved my shirt scraps for about five minutes. Anyway, first things first: I cut off the top part with the sleeves and neckline. Then I cut off the bottom and side hems. I used some of these pieces later when I needed scraps.

From there, I cut from the bottom up, making 1-inch strips. In retrospect, I should have cut across for both color advantages and to get longer strips, but it worked out okay. Pulling the strips makes them curl into tubes and stretch a bit.

Then I tied a knot around three strips and began braiding. I made four of these braids.

When I had my four braids, I retied one of the end knots on each side with an extra long tail. This is used to tie around the back of my neck and give the necklace the longer length. If you try this and your strips are longer, then you might not need the extra tail.

I took some electrical tape and tightly wrapped the four ends together on each side. Then, I covered the tape by wrapping it with some of my leftover scraps (I used the leftover hem) and tucking in the ends. It's quite possible that these wrapped sections will come undone at some point, but I don't care. I just made a necklace from a t-shirt for crying out loud.

 Here's the finished product! And my bra strap!

I really thought I should get an outside shot because that's way more granola and bohemian than yellow lighting in my bathroom, but then I cut off the bottom of the whole subject of this post. I'm such a dork. 

I still had quite a bit of leftovers, so I made a matching bracelet with the same method, minus the longer tails of course. The shorter strips made for really great color combinations, but I always think bracelets look funny on me, so I think I'm going to call this a friendship bracelet and give it to a worthy friend :-)