Thursday, March 28, 2013

Oh Spring! Oh March!

March is both one of my favorite and least favorite months.

I love lots of things about March- the advent of Spring and the last of the winter snows.  I love those last snows a lot because I know they won't last long.  This year the spring snows didn't even stick. Two nights ago, we turned the faucets on to drip for the last time until Fall. 

Spring Break went well too.  My very nice husband accompanied me to the Olympic Peninsula where we visited my sister and her family and explored Port Townsend, Port Angeles and Sequim.  Yes, he finally decided after months of denial that there is indeed, a place called Sequim.  It's pronounced "Skwim", by the way.  One syllable.  Now, if I can just get Grey to stop calling it "Su-kwim", we'd be set. I got to see an old friend from elementary school that I haven't seen since the late 80s, and boy is a cool dude. He teaches history, specializing in the Bronze Age.  It used to be medieval history but I think he switched over a few years back.  He does some great stuff in the classroom. Stuf I'd like to see published.  He and Grey got to talking about comparisons between some biblical king and King Arthur and I just sat and smiled and took it all in.  Maybe next time we will get to meet his wife.

My quarter is going exceedingly well.  We are two days into the Spring quarter. I've got 4 classes on my plate and teach from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. It's gonna be a long ten weeks.  Scratch that, 9.5 weeks.  I'm starting to count down already.  I have 3 preps and two classes I haven't taught before. Yikes!

Other good things about March include the ability to wear open-toed shoes without freezing to death and digging out my Spring wardrobe. And it's an energetic month- the buds come out and crocuses bloom and pale legs get flased all over campus- and my exercise regemine is paying off so no more Winter weight.  Don't get me wrong, it serves a purpose, but now it's time to get moving!

Beware the Ides of March, says the soothsayer to Julius Caesar. Truer words have never been spoken.  March has always been a month of death.  I lost my grandma two years ago. Her birthday was on the 25th.   Her oldest sister - My Aunt Sis-  and my cousin were killed by a drunk driver in the last nineties during the month of March and I lost an ex-boyfriend to suicide that month too. Those were dark days.  It's difficult, at the tail end of winter, to clear thoughts from my mind as I look towards flowers and rain and sunshiny days. I can do it, it just takes time.

Fortunately, the sun IS shining. Little birdies are making more little birdies and I painted my toes a bright shade of purple.  Same color and same bottle that my sweet sister-in-law gave me on my wedding day.  Same sweet sister-in-law who just had a gorgeous baby girl last month.  Everyone is healthy and happy there, by the way.  There is so much hope in the world and so much to look forward to, that the weary blues won't last long. Three more days, I predict. 

Then bloom.

And here's a picture of my grandma. Because she is the best.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Approximate Size of My Favorite Digestive Tract

Back in January, I got what I think was Norovirus. I wrote about it here

For the past however many years (eeps, I think it'e more than 10 years) I have had occasional flare ups of IBS.  IBS Stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It's not that big of a deal. My digestive tract doesn't quite work right all the time.

But after the norovirus extravaganza, things seemed to go from bad to worse.  I had no energy. I would go to bed by 8:30 or 9.  I didn't want to go running; I didn't want to go work out at all. And I was cranky too. 

My nice husband still got up diligently at 6:30 a.m. to make me breakfast four days a week.  Since it's been cold and snowy out, he made oatmeal. The kind of oatmeal that's not quick oats. These take are Irish steel cut oats, and they take about an hour to cook correctly. I'd drag ass down about 7:15, shower and sip coffee until it was ready. 

And most days I'd have these bouts of distress (to put it mildly).  My pants didn't fit anymore. I have weird body issues anyway, so this freaked me out and I didn't want to eat anything.  I felt better when I didn't eat much.  I've avoided milk and soy for a long time.  Milk doesn't taste good and soy makes me absolutely sick. 

Finally, one Thursday after I came home sick and was in bed (at 4 p.m. for cripe's sake) with a heating pad on my stomach, we figured we try some different foods. I'd go off of gluten for awhile.  I made an appointment with my doctor too, in order to check for Celiac disease.  And nuts.  They seem to make me sick too. They always have.

At first I thought Ok, this isn't so bad. At least I can still have coffee and dairy. Within days I started to feel better.  Mostly better. 

My doctor asked if I could be lactose intolerant.  No. No, I cannot be lactose intolerant.  Yes, my sister has to limit her dairy intake or risk migraines. But it would make sense. So I kicked and screamed reluctantly acquiesced and cut out yogurt, ice cream and cheese.  Life was not worth living.  I felt a little depressed.

Here is what I had for lunch the other day:
Yeah, that's carrots, orange, cauliflower and broccoli. And coffee and water. 
Meanwhile, Grey swung into action. We looked at the local health food store to see what was out there.  We also paid over $7 for a loaf of rice bread. Ouch! So we made a list of foods and figured out what we'd like to switch to for breakfast.  While oats aren't a wheat product, for some reason they still make me sick.  We decided on eggs and toast for breakfast.  The next day, he went to some stores around town to scope out what he could find.  There appeared in the cupboard rice cereal (delicious) and sesame crackers (also delicious), sorbet, fresh options, soups and olives and a weekly menu of stuff that I can eat pretty comfortably. 
Nicest. Guy. Ever.
It's been 3 weeks.  I've had to sort of add in meat again.  Maybe twice weekly.  It's not awful. It's just not good.  But I have much, much more energy.
My doctor never called me back. I called for the results of my Celiac test- negative.  The nurse says I'm having a bad flare up.  Bland diet for awhile. Nothing they can do.  She said to call back if it was prolonged or really painful.  I asked how long prolonged is.  And how painful is painful. She doesn't know.  So my doctor doesn't really know what it is.  He's lumping me in with a general diagnosis of IBS because I don't fit into another category.  Diagnosis by elimation no pun intended.
Ah well. This will pass. It just stinks and I'm going to pout for awhile.  But I will get over it.  Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to eat some plain noodles.

Monday, March 11, 2013

End of Quarter/Beginning of Other Things

Well, I've officially landed in finals week once again.  At my college, we go by the rather antiquated quarter system.  It's frustrating that I only have 10 weeks with my students. It's nice in that if I don't like my teaching assignments, it's only ten weeks.  So there is that...

In Other News, Spring Has Sprung
Right now I'm teaching an online English 2 class. English 1 is in the Fall, English 2 is in the winter and a combination of the two is offered in spring since lots of people don't do a lockstep curriculum. I'm also teaching a graduate course called Writing Theory.  Good students- English majors for the most part. We talked about theories behind the practices they have noticed in their own first and second year teaching experiences.  It went remarkably well.  I was able to present timely articles related to their inquiries and interests.  On the last days, they each presented on their own research and will turn in a final research article tomorrow.  I learned something from each of them. 

One thing I noticed is how uncomfortable it has been for me to transition from the role of graduate student to that of The Professor.  I'm a great grad student. Seriously. I can help other students with their research, presentations and homework. I can debate education philosophy and use student examples.  Fortunately and unfortunately, I graduated and can't seem to find a program past Ph.D. that will let me continue doing that. 

What I have a hard time with is that these students see me as some all-knowing (or at least more-knowing) person who is not like themselves.  My identity, like that identities I have asked them to form as teachers, must reflect not only the goals I have for them, but also the expectations they have of me.  That includes being professional and a little distant though warm and approachable about all things theory and classroom.  That also means I don't go drinking beer with them.  My doc professors never did, even if my undergrad professors did. Clear boundaries.  That's pretty important.

Once I got used to that idea, life became pretty easy.  The students show up on time, prepared and ready to discuss theory and apply it to themeslves as writers, students and as teachers. I am pretty enthusiastic about teaching English so many times the class taught itself and I acted merely as a guide. Once I thought I was going to have to break up a grammar fight that threatened to break into a grammar knock-down-drag-out brawl.  Moral of the story: future English teachers rock too.

Next quarter I have special challenges. I get to teach 4 classes (eep!), two of which I created the objectives, curriculum and every single assignment.  I will also be assessing the class and presenting my findings at conferences. There is a lot to this, and I have spent the last six months preparing for the class. Whew!

My other classes are a multi-cultural literature course and an English 2 class.  The literature course is interesting because a) I have never taught it before and b) it meets four days a week. That's going to be a challenge. Four days a week? That's like...40 class meetings. Almost like a 16 week course.  And it's full- 25 students, none of whom are freshmen. 

I have other things in the works...job information and big decisions that require time and thought.  Grey and I will be close to figuring out what our next move(s) is/are within a week.  I'll let you know how it turns out.

In the meantime, I have about a million things to grade and I'm only prolonging the agony by ducking into my blog to spend time outside of my head. 

Friday, March 1, 2013


Today is Eleanor the cat's 17th birthday.

Seventeen years. Wow. I opened a can of yummy canned food and let her have at.

I adopted Eleanor and her litter mate, Henry, in Las Vegas so many years ago. They were 4 months old when I got them in July and so I decided many years later that their birthday would be March 1. 

Fast forward from Las Vegas to Oklahoma where we lived for a long time. Where she had been a shrinking violet, she suddenly was able to sleep uninterrupted on my lap while I wrote papers.  As sweet and loving and silly as Henry was, he never would allow her to have my undivided attention; he was jealous and possessive of me and would sleep under the covers in winter.  At 21 pounds, he kept me warm for many years.  Henry died a few years ago from being fat and lazy (fatty liver disease) and Eleanor seemed to bloom.  She could get attention from me without her mean old brother trying to beat the crap out of her. Now she crawls under the covers in winter just like he used to and purrs and purrs to herself.  But if you call out for Henry, she gets wide-eyed and nervous and looks around for him. 

In her younger years she chased bugs and occasionally snuck out of the house to eat grass.  It always made her throw up.  Later, she would occupy the window, flicking her whiskers and involuntarily meowing slightly at the birds she so wanted to catch and eat.  Her one opportunity to do so was thwarted by those birds, who instead chased her back to the house between my feet, shaking and cowering, where she was safe.  Poor failed huntress.  Those birds never let her forget it either.

She's never caught a mouse.  She doesn't even like spiders.  Or dust.

In fact, if Eleanor were a human she would only be good at drinking, smoking and ordering in restaurants. 

That's fine with me.  She is a wonderful companion for me.  All I ask is that she keep me company from time to time, that she only poop in a small square space (my part of the deal is to keep that clean) and that she live as long as possible to provide continuity in my life. She does her part remarkably well. 

The added bonus is that she has apparently won over my husband, Grey.  He isn't allergic to her.  This is a minor miracle since he is allergic to all cats. Except, I guess, her. Not a sniffle or scratchy face. They're pals, even if they have had to hammer out their own relationship without me. She's the best non-human friend I have ever had. Don't tell Big Dogg I said that.

In January of 2008, she climbed in the car with me for a 4-day odyssey over mountain passes (a four cylinder pulling a trailer? Really?) in a move from Oklahoma to Washington.  We slid off the road a few times and were forced off once by a huge truck.  But we made it.  She's great in hotels. We did the whole thing in reverse eight months later, moving back to Oklahoma so I could pursue my doctorate.  And back to Washington in September. 

When I don't feel well or when I am just out of sorts, she comes to sit quietly nearby or snuggle up.  Before I met Grey, I'd have a fight with some boyfriend and there she would be.  We would sit and write together, or she would bump the book I was reading, or lay on the papers I was trying to grade.  And sometimes she wakes me up in the middle of the night for a drink of water. I don't mind those idiosyncrasies. Grey is remarkably tolerant. In fact, I think he gives her yogurt on a regular basis.  He is also really warm, and she like cuddling up to him in these cold months. I do too.

Eleanor has already exceeded the 12-15 year expected life span of an indoor cat, which she has always been. She takes prednisone and metrocloprimide twice a day, religiously.  OK, I poke it down her throat religiously.  Otherwise, her arthritis and twitchy tummy would have killed her by now.  As it is, she has a healthy coat, the ability to RUN up and down the stairs and a healthy kitty ego that makes her think she is the center of the world. Since we don't have kids, she kind of is the center of my world right now. Yes, my 80-year-old cat is a hoot.

If you asked her, she would probably tell you that she's just getting warmed up and that she will live well into her 30s in people years. All I can say is that I hope she keeps hitting the litter box I am glad.

Happy Birthday to the orneriest cat I know.  <3 p="">