Buy Donuts: Kids Hate Flaxseed Muffins

Screen Shot 2014-02-15 at 8.00.16 PMAs it happens, I was too lazy to make flaxseed muffins.

Our advisory has breakfast on Fridays. We take turns bringing in “food,” a.k.a donuts. I make jokes that there’s no police academy nearby, eat healthy food. I promise vats of scotch-oats or flaxseed muffins when it’s my turn. But, as adults wearing many hats are wont to do, I got lazy. I sat on my organic food-loving behind. I didn’t make flaxseed muffins.

I decided I to give my customers what they want. Donuts.

Screen Shot 2014-02-15 at 7.58.18 PM“A dozen donuts, please, and a large coffee.” Donut man disappeared to bake each of the 12 donuts I requested. Or perhaps he had to finish growing and grinding the wheat. The man behind me in line began to shift his weight and the woman behind him looked at her watch. Twice. Because the person behind the counter moves just a little bit faster when you look twice.

I felt bad. There are days I’m the one checking the watch twice and the person in front of me, who seems to have a simple order, is ordering 27 different things all specially crafted and custom grown.

I shouldn’t go out for coffee when I’m running late. It’s the universe telling me to be patient. Or drink less coffee. Or leave earlier. Or to stop being a jerk.

But I use it as exercise in meditation and peace. As Donut Man mixed the batter for my last donut, I began to feel guilty. Both about feeding my students crap, and for holding up the great American workforce.

“Sorry to be that idiot ordering eighty-five things when you’re running late for work.” The woman looked up. I explained. “I’m getting my class donuts. I wanted to bake them flaxseed muffins. Healthier.”

She smiled–said how good those muffins would’ve been and kids need more people who care. I didn’t think I cared very much, feeding them processed flour and sugar before six other people had to teach them. I thanked her anyway.

“I remember those years,” she told me. “My daughter’s a teacher now. I remember the only time we knew what was going on with each other was during family dinner. We stopped everything. No phones. We had dinner and asked how each other’s day was. Too many families have to rush, work, and kids pop things in microwave. That’s why they eat poorly.”

I was about to say that they eat poorly because they have teachers who feed them donuts, but now I’m feeling guiltier that I don’t have enough sit down family dinners than I am about the donuts. We used to sit down to dinner together, too, with no phones. Cell phones weren’t invented, and no friends would dare call during The Dinner Hour. But then high school came and everyone went their own way for activities.

By then, microwaves had been invented. And so we, too, popped something in. Had I known how cutting edge we were, both on the microwave front and in destroying the family dinner, I might’ve been proud. Instead, I turned out to be an adult who taught kids it was okay to have donuts for breakfast.

Instead of caving to the guilt, I finished my conversation, thanked Donut Guy for the donuts and coffee thoughtfully prepared, and wished watch lady a great Friday. I was glad for the pleasant conversation. I left with a smile, entered my car with a smile, and entered class–with a smile. And donuts. It was nice connecting in the middle of the pre-work rush.

Sometimes all we need is a connection. A smile that says, “I’m glad you’re here” instead of rushing around in life. It makes a difference. Connecting is the magic that holds the universe together. Sometimes I forget–whether it’s a family dinner, a group of kids grateful for someone who cared enough to pollute them with donuts, or a smile in the coffee line, but it’s the critical glue. Without glue, things fall apart.

[images: cakechooser.com and nurturing-nutrition.com]

Advertisements

Ageless: Lessons from the Horror of Pep Rally

Screen Shot 2014-02-08 at 8.19.27 AM

Pep rally day at school. Screaming teens with faces painted for war, and someone’s got a fog horn I just can’t catch. All day…The type of day teachers dread. Earplugs for everyone.

I think this day keeps me young.

“What are you WEARING, Miss?” My shirt’s not the required yellow. Standing near the Black and Golds, it’s clearly neon green. Students forgive, adults laugh. The kind of laugh you laugh when you meet a truly stupid person and you’re trying to keep it all in. One spits coffee on his shoes and asks If I’m color blind. No. Just stupid. Or perhaps I’m just getting old.

The signs are there. I take pills out of jars and rearrange them so I don’t forget, yet still find myself asking, “Did I take that?” I set an alarm. The alarm interrupts something uninterruptable, I don’t stop what I’m doing. I forget.

“Maybe you should get one of those things that say ‘Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday…” said my husband and next-door teaching neighbor.

“The one in the senior citizen section?” Nope.

There are other signs I may be getting old. When I pull my hair back there are five silver threads. Not exactly a streak. Five individuals standing out in the crowd. An allegory, perhaps.

“Miss, want me to paint your face?” Most  have chosen against doing their work in favor of pep rally prep–facepainting brushes with black, gold, and glitter. What moron actually assigns work three classes before pep rally? Teachers who are getting old, that’s who. I used to put work aside and make peppy signs with them.

“Sure…Paint my class year…” There are a lot of “’17’s” on faces. Fitting in with the crowd keeps me young.

“What’s your class year?”

“’89.” I sing our chant, “We’re so great, we’re so fine, we’re the Class of ’89.”

“I889?” She looks at me. She’s serious. Students do this every year. “Were you alive when…”

“No. 1989.” She paints me a nice 19-89 on two cheeks with black paint and gold glitter. I’m ready to pep.

I hand out earplugs to my colleagues and go downstairs.

One looks at my face. “That was the year I was born.” This starts a conversation where I realize I’m a generation older than my coworkers. Ancient. That much closer to death. I’ve never really felt my age. Time simply passed. Birthdays arrived. I got a new cake.

There are people in life who seem old and people who don’t. I posted a picture on social media. A friend chimed in. “Hey, that was the year I was born.”  Now, she’ll start to discuss things like knitting and quilting with me.

When I go home, I look in the mirror and scrub off the indictment of old. Glitter goes down the drain, I see my face and smile. Ageless. More than just a number. A few decades earned–the type of decades that give me the experience to be less dumb and to make better decisions, not the type of decades where I my reflection grumbles I’ve led a hard life.

I’ve lived well, I’ve done good things, I’ve helped others, eaten freakishly healthy food, and tried to make the universe a better place. I like myself just fine.

Even though I’m old, and for a brief moment confess I watched the pep rally line dance and thought, “Oh my God, what’s gotten into kids these days…”  But I caught myself doing it, clapped, smiled, and gave my students a thumbs up. They’re young and having fun. Best to let them do so, because before they know it, they’ll be a generation older than everyone around them, looking into the mirror, wondering if they are old.

Hopefully, they’ll have lived a good life and be young at heart, too.

 

[image: familyofchristconversations.wordpress.com]

 

Just Sit? That’s Deep. And Impossible.

I’m missing yoga. I’ve been put on the injured reserve list with tons of “no’s.” I’m active. I don’t sit still. Maybe it’s ADHD, maybe it’s the bad athlete syndrome….I’ve got something to prove. “You ran six miles, I’ll run sixteen.” I’ve got a car, distance is entirely unnecessary. But I do it.

I’ve given up the gym for nature. The gym’s too competitive–I’m always peaking at the person in front of me…She’s going 7.1mph, I can do 10. There’s no reason for it. Needless competitiveness tears people down. Exercise should be one of two things, team building, spirit building or both. Always leave exercise smiling.

Nature makes me smile. There’s nothing like running a solid seven miles leaping over horse manure in the street. It’s exhilarating. The feel of the cold going up my nostrils with my favorite play list…nothing like it. I miss it.

Naturally, I’m grumpy at my doctor who said, “No exercise.” What doctor says that? Next he’ll be saying, “I’d like you to start drinking, eat donuts and chips, and, oh, here’s a crack pipe from the pharmaceutical rep. Three times a day should do it.”

It’s not his fault. He’s just the messenger with the sheepskins on his wall. Delivering the letter of the law. No running, no kickboxing, and no….yoga? What kind of person banishes a person from yoga?

“Are you crazy?” my friend said, “I’d KILL to have doctors tell me to sit on a couch and not exercise.” My friends all want his business card. Most people go from “couch to 5K,” I’m going from seven miles to couch. Impossible for me.

So I turned to my yogi friends.

Yogini one, the person who got me into this yoga-loving mess to begin with, listened with compassion to the “letter of the law.” Yes, I’m looking for a loophole and an accomplice here…

She thought. She responded. “Just sit. Sit for an hour each day.” Who wants advice like that? I’m looking for something more like “Ah HA! Your doctor forgot to banish this. You can beat yourself up with THIS yoga, and it’s all perfectly legal.” But instead, she said “Just sit.” Like Gandhi, when his people told him his schedule didn’t allow him an hour to sit, reportedly said “Then I’ll sit for two.”

Yoga Friend Two told me I could stand in a tree pose forever. What?? No fun! They’re all afraid of lawyers, I think. They won’t help me be disobedient. I thought good friends were put on this earth to help us get dirt on our new clothing and get us in trouble.

I decided on “just sit.” Neither the spirit of Gandhi nor Yoga Friend One remembers to factor in The Boy. I meditate when Declan doesn’t find me. Lately I’ve been a little off. He thinks it’s “hide and seek.”

I plopped Declan in front of a good movie. I thought, “I think I’ll sit now. Possibly even meditate.” I shut down my work, taking a mental step toward the other room.

Screen Shot 2013-12-06 at 5.45.09 AM“MOM! I need you!”

“What?”

“Come HERE!” The boy can sniffs out meditation like he finds yoga.

“Look. This is funny.” I laughed. Briefly.

“Watch your show, Mommy has to do…some stuff.” If I said “meditation” he’d destroy it.

“Okay.”

I went. I sat. I accomplished 2.5 minutes of sitting.

“MOMMY! I NEED YOU!”

“No you don’t.”

“I DO! I BROKE IT!”

I run for “I broke it.” I never know what “it” will be. Parts of my desk–the one supporting my computer, were strewn across the floor.

“It was an accident.” Dismantling my desk…an accident? I put it back together.

“Don’t do it again. Now, I need a minute.” Actually, I was hoping for a series of them, strung together. “Watch your show, please.”

I went. I sat. I looked up. There was a fire-breathing dragon in my face.

“Are you doing YOGA?” No, please don’t think I’m doing yoga. You’ll never leave.

“No, I’m planning dinner. I think I’ll make broccoli.” He ran away.

And so this continued I was able to attach twelve glorious minutes together. Twelve minutes of sitting and doing nothing. I never “do nothing.”

I fell asleep. Sitting. In a pretty good posture.

I heard a noise. I looked at the clock. Minute thirteen.

Yoga Friend One suggested I at least try for twenty minutes. That’s a 60% discount off the original full hour. “Have Rusty watch Declan so you can do it.”

If Rusty watched Declan and said “Leave Mommy alone,” Declan would know something was up. Sneaking is the only way.

Settling for ten minutes of sitting and two minutes of sleep I declared victory. The biggest win I’ve had all day.

Time to get up.

And make the vegetables…

Note: Yoga Friend One has an amazing blog. I especially liked her thoughts on “miracles” here.]

[images: http://oplkids.wordpress.com/2011/04/]

Not Dead Yet

Screen Shot 2013-07-30 at 7.36.30 PMI love Monty Python line “Not dead yet,” That’s my favorite line. I feel that way when summer comes and it’s time to make my doctors appointments. I always forget who I’ve seen, when, and who is due to come up in the batting order. This year, I called for all my annual physicals except for my eye doctor–they were out to lunch. Literally. Figuratively, they’re pretty on the ball. The eye ball. Apparently–I can see most of the time.

That’s what always happens–I get cards in the mail and call answering services, get messages, or the “lunch is between…” rejection and never get to schedule all of them. Invariably, I give up on a few, only to forget which ones and whether I tried again this year.

The ones I do go to see figure I’ll never come back again, and schedule eighty follow-up visits so we can become best friends again. Or say, “You should see Dr. Payne about that,” and generate another set of doctor’s appointments.

One doctor squeezed me in August. I said, “I think it’s that time of the year again.”

“We haven’t seen you in three years.” Oops. Then I revert to my old fall-back line from Monty Python, “Not dead yet.” I made the appointment.

Another said, “Looks good,” and scheduled me for next year, two were out to lunch, one stated, “I don’t need to see you, you’re right,” The last one said, “Back in two weeks, and call this one.” This One didn’t take insurance, so This One is crossed off the list. I like to use my insurance. It’s the reason I go to the doctors.

In some ways I feel that going to the doctors is fun. I always wanted to be a doctor until I failed to dissect my tenth grade frog or fetal pig or something to the satisfaction of the other biology teacher. It wasn’t my biology teacher. Mine always said, “Nicely done.” The Other One recognized the clear and present danger to humans should I get into med school. “Good thing you’re not a surgeon. People would die.” He must have been glad when I started to teach, “Can’t kill anyone teaching. And if you can’t cure stupidity, well, soon there’ll be an app for that by then anyway.”

So, I’m starting to feel like I don’t get a summer off, I just get a summer of appointments and co-pays, but as a teacher co-pays are the benefits I enjoy most. When I started teaching, there was no co-pay. It was the thing I loved best. I had just had surgery leaving Corporate America, and there was a co-pay, a co-share, and you had to leave a tip when you saw the doctor. No one ever went to see the doctor as a result.

Teachers could go any time they wanted–no co-pay. You could go just because you were in the neighborhood or the doctor was cute or you wanted to check a hangnail. Getting to use your benefits was almost like giving yourself a raise. When the world stared attacking medical benefits and we had to pay a five then ten-dollar co-pay, I was the first to whip out my wallet and jump for joy, “I got this.” It still seemed free to me. At the dentist, I said, “Are you sure?” In response to a ten-dollar bill for services. When I worked for Corporate America it was a couple hundred and I had to fight the insurance company to get twenty or thirty bucks back.

“Oh, yes, it’s ten dollars for the fluoride toothpaste.” I wanted to give her $15 for her time, but I handed over the $10 and walked away.

Co-pays are higher these days and they add up after a while, especially when you get older. One doctor for aches and pains, one in case you can’t see, another to make sure you haven’t been standing out in the sun too long without your SPF 1000, and still more to make sure you are, in fact, the gender you say you are.

Too many. And I still have one more appointment to make. But at least when I get them to pick up the phone, I’ll be able to say with metaphysical certitude, “Not dead yet,” and enjoy using my benefits one more time.

Writing While Half-Baked

Screen Shot 2013-07-06 at 5.10.45 PMI marched to the garden. In actuality, I wanted to run but Rusty said, “That’s just stupid.” I knew it was. I didn’t say, “Because it’s the intelligent thing to do, I want to go for a run.” I just wanted to run. I like to run. I download some reggae, specifically Third World’s 96 Degrees in the Shade. Ninety-six degrees would feel like air conditioning. I’d knock off a few miles and come back. Since I couldn’t run, I went to plan B. Zen. Garden.

I weeded, picked, and before long, was in the zone. Deep in thought. Focused on the two butterflies that were flitting around the corn and beans. Thinking deeply. Sweating. Seeing colors. Dripping. Pondering. Feeling a peaceful lull. Seeing God.

“Do you know it’s a million degrees out here?” he asked.

“Yeah, but it feels kind of nice.” I drip out the last remaining molecule of water in my body onto a vegetable that shriveled ten degrees ago.

“Thanks,” he said, “I’ve been working hard on global warming,” he said. “You only feel peaceful because you’re pretty close to dead. Go inside. Rehydrate. Stop being a moron.” God echoes when he speaks.

I usually listen to God. His voice kept coming from the cabbage worm. Next, it projected itself into the beanpole. I think he might have been right. Time to go inside.

God might have been instructing me directly, or it’s possible he’s one of the symptoms of heat exhaustion. In either case, who am I to argue? A pleasant god-like delirium that makes me physically feel each thought pausing in my brain. “Woah…” I caught myself thinking. “That’s deep.” In retrospect, it was about as deep as the puddle of heat-induced dehydration allows, but for a moment, time stood still.

Finally, I could ignore it no longer. Unsafe. A/C, you win.

photoToday, I ran.

I had to. I was compelled. I could put it off no more. I ran early. 9AM. I would have run really early, when it was actually safe and cool, but I was busy pondering another deep thought not induced by delirium, and finishing up some writing. So, at 9AM with a heat index of one hundred and two, I stepped out into the furnace.

Water. Check. Workout music. Check. Hat. Check. Run.

Down the road, around the corner. Up past the farm, into the great beyond. To the top of the hill. Baking in the sun. After a few miles, I grew cold. No wind, no shade, smack dab on the top of the hill in front of the farm where the “Fresh Eggs” sign will actually have fresh eggs tomorrow morning–chickens work on Sundays.  And that’s when…God returned. I saw each little leaf on the tree in full detail, though I’m usually blind as a bat. Each flower came into sharp focus with colors that I’ve never imagined. The chickens looked like they had something to say–probably “Look, $%^&*, stop buying so many eggs on Sundays! We’re %#^$^ tired!”

Time, again, stood still. Drip, drip, drip. Sweat. I only ran 4 miles… Breathe, drink, drip. Should I knock out one more mile?  I’m not very good at moderation on a good day. This was not a good day. Recognizing the signs of impending heat exhaustion, and probable death…Life insurance’s paid up and stupidity isn’t an exclusion…I hesitated. Instead of talking to God and the chickens, I went home.

Common sense has never been my strong suit. Ask anyone. They’ll agree. But when I hear the voice of God discussing crock pot recipes with the angels I can make an exception. I don’t want to ruin my reputation and turn all efficient or serious, but once in a while, it’s okay.

The problem is, it’s summer… I’ve been waiting for this time for months, and this year, I’ve really needed the rejuvenation. Come hell or high water, I’m going to get a ton of activity squeezed into this short respite. So, while this week might be the temperature of Dante’s Tenth Circle, and last week we needed an ark, nothing will stop me. Except my own stupidity, I’m afraid.

That’s usually the thing that stops us all, isn’t it?

 

[images: top: CDC.gov, bottom, the farm I ran by before God appeared]

If the Music Won’t Die, Neither Will I

Screen Shot 2013-05-12 at 10.03.34 PMHaven’t run in a while–it seemed like a great day to get back. 80 degrees in Rhode Island. Sun. When I got home from work, the world was happy and everyone doing his thing–the perfect time for sneaking off for a pre-grilling workout. But…the iPod was on red. Deep red. Would ten a minute charge be enough? I need tunes–ten minute charge. Exit stage left.  I needed the run. I needed the music–the same three playlists that I listen to every run… helps my meditation, and helps keep me from running backwards. I always mean to change the playlist but never do. Sort of like half the tasks we all have hanging like fruit waiting to be picked from a tree that just hangs and never gets eaten.

The music lasted–It lasted and lasted till the end of the several mile run. It was like the Maccabees and Hanukkah in iTunes land–the music should have gone a tenth of a mile, but it lasted all five miles.  A miracle even if it wasn’t oil lasting eight days.

I ran and ran and ran–too far for a first day back. I lack moderation. The music played. That made me want to run some more. I did.

The iPod on red. Music played. I ran. The iPod had more in it than I thought.

Sometimes, we have more in us than we think.

I consider this year–a very good year. A year of transformation. New job, new business, new voice. Getting things done. Quite amazing. Every time I thought I had nothing more to give, I survived. I made things happen. I became a better person.  Exhilarating.

I ran and ran and ran and the music never stopped. Each time I thought it would, it continued.

I remembered a lesson from Chinese medicine. I studied for a few years, never achieving mastery, but I learned some life lessons. There was a point on a meridian, not far from the knee, called zu san li. It translates to “three more miles.” When stimulated, it helps invigorate the patient. It was useful in constructing the Great Wall–legend has it that by using this point to treat exhausted workers, foremen could get three more miles of work out of them before they keeled over and died.

Pushing and pushing can be a bad thing–sometimes we go three more miles and burn out.

But it can also be the thing that makes all the difference, taking us exactly where we need to go–through the wall, over the hump, and in the place where we need to be. To the glory.

So, I ran until I knew it was really time to turn around–a few miles too late. I headed back. I waited for the music to cease. It never did. I picked up the pace. I listened more. I sprinted the last half mile.

The music never stopped. It made it to the end.  Sort of how it always seems to work out that way in life.

Food Extremists Who Are Worse Than Me

This is me. Entirely. I never made out with anyone in the produce aisle, but I feel strongly about food. I want to grow and raise what I eat. I want to eat healthy, to avoid packages. I do lots of things that are considered weird. I bake bread–it goes on the counter to rise at night so it’s ready to make in the morning. I make two types of yogurt–Greek yogurt, and filmjolk, both of which can easily be made into cheese, which I then mix with herbs from my own garden and spread on home-made bruschetta. If I could be perfect, in my own mind, I’d produce or trade for the bulk of my food. I have the land to do that now, and it’s going to get ugly–things planted everywhere–a landscaper’s nightmare, but my idea of heaven. My husband has advised me to “Stay the #$%%^ away from the front yard.” So far I have.

“People don’t like militants,” said my new friend with whom I was discussing food. Am I that bad? I don’t eat meat, I don’t like packaging, I try to avoid processed sugar, erring on the side of local honey and local maple syrup. I denounce pre-cut fruits in bags in the store and I think that the person who invented the Lunchable, is a marketing genius but the devil incarnate.

I never eat fast food–I told my son Chuck E. Cheese was the evil mouse. I haven’t taken him yet. There are much better foods to eat. Like the ones I grow myself.

I just ate my first salad from the garden. I made my own mayo for the dressing from eggs I got down the road–kidnapped right from the chicken at my request, the farmer put them  in the carton I brought from home–never even saw a fridge before they were converted into culinary greatness.

Maybe my friend is right. Perhaps I am a bit extreme. But not militant. I don’t spray-paint people’s leather shoes or threaten their eternal salvation if they eat shellfish or drink beer. I’ll even cook you a steak if you’re a carnivore guest, as long as it’s grass-fed beef.

I just think we’ve lost touch with our food and I think it’s time to find it. But I’m feeling a bit paranoid–am I really all that extreme? It’s time to engage in the great American past time of looking at other people to make myself feel better.  After all, I’m just a vegetarian–there are plenty of extremists out there worse than me.

Many  cultures don’t understand vegetarians. When I was in Russia, people would offer me meat. I’d politely decline. They’d say “Oh, just have one.” I said, “I’m a vegetarian, like Tolstoy.” Tolstoy was also a political extremist. That never helped, but it got me out of the beef stroganoff even if I had to starve that night.

Many of my students are Hispanic. Vegetarians are even less common in that space. More than one student or parent has, out of great concern, tried to send me to the doctors. “Vegetarian? You need to see someone about that.”

But am I really all that weird? I researched other diets. There are people out there who are far more particular than me. There are some really extreme foodies out there.

Screen Shot 2013-05-10 at 6.18.03 AMI feed paleos all the time. Their food lists are like mine, if you cross off the meat. A list of restrictions that makes an Iron Chef competition look easy. Then there are celiacs, raw foodists, vegans, and locavores, each with their own lists of prohibitions, rules, and food prep nightmares. Muslims and Jews are easy–even though I technically need a second kitchen and a rabbi to convert me to really cook properly for my Jewish friends, there’s a tacit agreement that vegetarians are understanding enough not to use bacon grease in the home-grown French cut beans, and we’re good with that. It’s the culinary secret handshake. If only solving peace in the Middle East were so easy.

So, I do my best to eat my raw carrots for breakfast unobtrusively, while I greet my next-door colleague who’s busy avoiding wheat, apples, and lactose. We drink home-juiced liquids out of mason jars and shot glasses, and the leaves in my desk aren’t inappropriate for a school setting, they’re just a blend of black and fruit teas, some of which I grew and dried myself.

Am I that far outside the mainstream? Maybe so. We planned a work outing. “You two will not be bringing the food.”

“Your loss.” I thought, as I downed another shot of my friend’s juice–two beets, a banana, pear, and just one sprig of kale–and ate my home-made sauerkraut from a mason jar. It was pretty good. And it was all mine.

[Image: beginwithnutrition.wordpress.com–today this is a link because there are some awesome recipes here!!]