Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Woman in Her Thirties Does Whole 30*

*if she wants to. You are beautiful exactly the way you are. Don't change.

This spring has been a season of indulgence.

I saw Hamilton:


Visited K:

And visited M in Austin:


Don't get me wrong. 2017 has been a year of getting to some important work, if you catch my drift. But I figured if I'm working hard, I'd better play hard. And we've played hard. 

When I visited K in Arizona, she told me she'd done something called Whole 30. Let me be clear about three things:
  • I firmly believe that diets are stupid
  • I have never had any weight or food issues, so I can just go straight to hell
  • Life is too short to do stupid things, like diet
But K told me that her Whole 30 experience was really transformative, and not in a weight loss way, but in all kinds of ways. She said it was like a 'reset', which stuck with me. Because after months of working and playing hard, I did feel like I wanted a reset.* 

*And let's be honest here: K told me about the Whole 30 in a way that implied that she didn't think I was capable of doing it. She basically challenged me to do it. She basically MADE me do it, now that I think about it.

At Safeway, our old hangout. We used to spend $50 for two weeks of processed junk food to sustain us through college. This time, as women in our thirties, we spent $50 on like four things and that was normal. 

So I was already leaning toward doing it, and then I read an article about how someone who'd done the Whole 30 plan had seen a huge difference with joint pain. Because I'm an eighty-year-old woman trapped in a thirty-eight-year-old's body, this resonated with me. Give up stuff and not feel like the tin man all the time? I'll try it. 

I jumped in, which is to say I bought two books with recipes and pointers for how to do it. I started a couple days before the books arrived at my house, which was a good thing, because honestly if I'd thumbed through the books before starting, I probably would have said no way. But once I had the books, I was committed. A woman in her thirties means what she says and says what she means. 

Tomorrow is my last day. Thirty whole days with no sugar, dairy, grains, or alcohol. Here's the good, the bad, and the ugly, at least for me:

The Good:
  • I do not have a scale, so I don't know where I was before or after, from a numbers perspective. But there is no doubt my pants fit better, which is not shocking. Cut out the crap from what you eat and that just kind of happens. (I'm also not going to be gracing the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition, either.)
  • I learned a lot about myself. A LOT. I never thought I was a stress eater-- turns out I totally am. I never realized how much sleep impacts your ability to make good decisions about food. I never realized how much sugar was in all the stuff we eat on a daily basis-- it's shocking. Learning is cool, folks!
  • I realized that I was caffeinating with sugar in the afternoons. Taking that away made me much more even keel all afternoon-- no bursts of wild energy, no lows of wishing for sleep. Just constant normalness. That was nice. 
  • I ate way more vegetables, which was better for me in lots of ways that you don't want to hear about. 
  • Starting from day 3 or 4, I got constant compliments about my skin. Everyone said I looked tan. I don't know what or how or why that is, but apparently it's the 'no crap in my system' glow. 
The Bad:
  • The people who knew I was doing this kept asking me what I missed most. The answer was gum. The thing with Whole 30 is that you're not supposed to substitute any of your sugar with fake sugar. No two-ingredient pancakes (NO PANCAKES, PERIOD). No sneaking around the rules. I love gum and chew it daily. I hated not having it, and probably so did anyone talking closely to me after my morning coffee. 
  • Whole 30 is very meat-heavy, which I didn't like. I would ideally like to eat LESS meat, not more. 
  • It was expensive. Whole Foods took a lot of my money this month. Not cool. 
  • I didn't see any results with my joints, which was a bummer. Still creaky and achy. So apparently it's not all those inflammatory foods I was eating... it's just me. Sad face. 
The Ugly:
  • I was annoying. I already am annoying enough with food, with the whole no cows-no pigs thing. I made the decision to cheat on Easter-- my MIL was cooking dinner, and I didn't want to say, 'Sorry, but you know how you offered to cook us a wonderful meal? You can't use dairy, wheat, grains, sugar, or anything else you love in it. Sorry!' That is just lame, lame, lame. I hate thinking about food, and wondering what my next meal will be. Doing Whole 30 makes you do that, which I can see would be really valuable for some people, but not so much for me.
  • I'm all about sustainability, and this isn't sustainable for me. I don't have a problem with food, so after about three weeks I started to get annoyed that I'd just created a problem by doing this thing when there wasn't one. Bread is delicious and should be eaten in moderation.  So is chocolate. Eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly, things I already do, are enough. 
I'm glad I did it though, because the most important thing it taught me was about my kids. I can't tell you how many times they offered me food this month, and I said no. 'Momma, try this cake!' No. 'Mommy, you will looooooove my string cheese!' No. They love connecting with me through food, and I love connecting with them through food. So, no more saying no to them.*

*Unless they offer me something totally gross, like sweet potatoes. 

It is really important to me that my kids don't see me dieting. Eating well, yes, and I learned a lot of tricks over the last 30 days to eat healthier which I will definitely keep up. But as far as the books and the groups go, Whole 30 is no more. No amount of compliments about my skin is worth having my daughter feel like when she's normal, she's still not enough. 

And with that, I gotta go. There's a Whole Woman-in-her-thirties-margarita out there with my name on it on Friday morning. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

A Woman in Her Thirties on the Other Side

(*cross-posted on www.teachablelit.com

When I was pregnant with Anna and still teaching, a colleague told me that after I became a mother I would become a different teacher. That I would be more empathetic; that I would understand more all the ways my job mattered (and didn't matter). I never got a chance to fully understand if he was right, since my teaching jobs now are very different than every day in a public school. But now that I'm on the other side of the coin, with a child now almost finished with Kindergarten, I get what he was saying. Here are a few things I've learned about school, now that I'm a parent:



1. My words really, really matter

Anna loves school. Loves. Aaron loves school so much that he cries most Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings because he can't go to school. I credit great schools and teachers for that, but I got to thinking the other day about how many times I dealt with kids who had huge chips on their shoulders about school. Teachers were always out to get them. The system was always 'stupid' or rigged. In my years teaching, I always blamed that way of thinking on being a jaded teenager. It never occurred to me that those were sentiments they were probably hearing at home, too. So even though I'm totally in support of asking questions about methodology and rationale, at home it's really important that my kids hear that I think their teachers are worth listening to and learning from.

2. Teachers don't get paid enough

I mean, who doesn't know that? But I know it so much more now, now that I'm part of supporting a family and trying to figure out budgets and college and savings plans. So many teachers are parents, too. We can't possibly think it's okay to keep them juuuuust above the poverty line, when their jobs are so important. We can't possibly put the demands we do on teachers and not compensate them for it. And yet we do.

3. It's a little, teeny tiny bit okay to miss school sometimes

I was a strict teacher in several ways, and one of those ways was with attendance. If school is in session, you go. Unless you're sick, someone is dead, or some other major calamity is going on, you get to school. I had very little patience for kids who were constantly off to long weekends to hunt or play a sport, and I had ZERO patience for the parents who sent me emails from the car telling me their kid was missing the next couple days to hang with grandma so could I please send some work.

I'm getting angry just thinking about it.

But now, on the other side, I am more understanding of this. Don't get me wrong- Disney is not an excuse to miss a week of school. And no, your family trip up north isn't equal to the learning you get in your classroom environment.  But family time is so scarce for some families (mine included), and sometimes there are some things that can be carefully calculated to be an okay-ish reason to skip school.



As long as you tell the teacher FAR in advance.

And don't email from the car.

And don't act surprised when your kid comes back to school and is behind- that is what happens when you miss school.


4. Why didn't I ask for help??

I often tell the story of the time I was photocopying the play Antigone for my sophomores because I didn't have enough copies for my class. Not only is that illegal, but it went against everything I stood for as a writer and reader. But what was I supposed to do? I needed the books and didn't have them.

It never occurred to me to send out an SOS call. I could have asked the PTO, I could have emailed the parents in my class, I could have put out a desperate plea on Facebook. I don't think it was pride that kept me from those things-- it was this weird sense that I was on my own island and that no one was supporting me.

But now, on the other side, I would welcome an email like that from my child's teacher. In fact, I just sent an email asking her if there's anything I can re-stock for her room for next year as an end-of-year gift. The parent community is there to help, and I should have asked for it when I needed it.


5. And speaking of community...

We are in this together. Principals often say things like that, how 'we are a community' and 'we are a team', but I can't say I ever truly felt that when I was teaching. I often felt like I was just trying to keep my head above water as the waves of work and expectation crashed over me. But we are a community, and those aren't just words to appease parents and board members. We are all working toward the same objective of lifelong learners. It would be awesome and transformative if we acted like it.