Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas "Break" Continued

Last night, my friend Brittany invited me to get pho with her and some of her friends. It was my first time, and it was delicious. I had chicken pho, which I guess isn't "real" pho, but it was really, really good. It was fun to see her and give her her birthday/Christmas presents.

I came home and slept really well although I was worried about my cat. I actually was pretty anxious just to hear them call and tell us, "OK, we relieved his constipation. He's eaten something. He's doing better. Come pick him up."

So this morning I texted my friend to make sure we were still on for lunch. She asked if we could switch to breakfast. That was OK with me. We had a great time talking at Peppertree Cafe. It is so fun talking with and feeling comfortable with people you haven't really talked to in a couple of years, especially when you live so far apart and have such different lives. I still connect with her and feel so much love and connection there. It's nice to be reminded of it, and those types of conversations always energize me.

I came home super happy about my breakfast. I was ready to have a good workout.

But my mom broke the news that the vet had called. The cat had feline leukemia and a failing liver. They had tried to medicate him, but he had thrown up even more.

We all knew what that meant pretty immediately. One at a time we cried in the backyard.

We waited for Therese, Jake's on again off again girlfriend, to come with us because she has been close with our cat the past five years. All of us except Jason headed to the vet.

The doctor brought him out of the cage and set him on the table. He was really confused seeing all of us. It was a lot of commotion for him. He was still low energy. Dogs were barking the next room over, staying in the cages in the back. I finally had them shut that door, like this moment wasn't chaotic enough without the noise.

He gave him an initial shot which basically paralyzed him. They called it "relaxing," but it forced him to lie down and become immobile. That was awful to watch. We all were sobbing. Jared had the hardest time. That cat has been around for 14 of Jared's 17 years. It was painful touching his beautiful, long tail and feeling no response.

The doctor came back in and basically seemed to be rushing us through everything. He put a band around our cat's paw and administered the shot. He was gone within a few seconds.

We stayed around another couple of minutes saying our goodbyes to our amazing cat. We filed out, dad, then Jared, then mom, and me. Jake and Therese stayed behind, much to the doctor's frustration. He wanted us and them out.

As we walked to the car I expressed to mom how very sad I was that he had spent his last night in a cage in an unfamiliar, noisy place with dogs. My mom reminded me how hungry and dehydrated he was, and explained that he would've died at home from dehydration if we hadn't taken him to the vet to get him an IV. We wouldn't have been able to say goodbye.

I don't like that I sat and watched him starve for three days. It was very upsetting and stressful. I was on watch every hour, making sure he hadn't moved, making sure he was still alive. Not fun.

After getting home, I ran two miles and did another 10 minute workout. I found a quarter on my run. I don't know if that means anything. I do know that I had to run after what happened. I missed my cat, and the morning had been completely overwhelming.

As I waited for Kristen to arrive, I went through all my old photos looking for pictures and videos of our kitty. It's been fun to look through them and see him when he was younger. I now have them all in one folder, so they're easy to find.

My friend Kristen asked if she could come from Thousand Oaks to hang out with me. I could certainly use the company on this awful day, so she arrived around 2:30.

She brought me some beautiful flowers. So sweet and thoughtful, as usual.

We hung out, ran some errands--Payless, Target, and Stater Bros. Then we went to dinner at Legends, and came home and talked some more.

It's been a pretty rough day, and I miss my cat. We're all struggling with the loss.

We feel your absence, Shibby Kitty. We love you.

Our cat's famous "trick." It's how he asked for food. 

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Christmas "Break"

It was only two hours of being home before mom and I couldn't stand it. It was overwhelming. It was pungent. It was sickening.

It was the couch.

The boys had been living with the couch for several months while my mom was away. She insisted she could clean it with Nature's Miracle treatment. One whiff of that thing would straightaway tell you otherwise.

It had absorbed cat and dog urine repeatedly. It was lain on by dogs.

Every time I walked by it, I started to involuntarily gag. It was that bad.

So mom made her executive decision: the couch had to go.

The adventure began.

As Jake and Jared headed toward the couch to start moving it out, Jake yelled out, "What the hell?" He pointed toward the pillow on the arm of the couch. It was leaning against the wall. There was a brown, stinky pile on top of it. Jared slowly pulled the pillow off to take it outside, trying not to let the droppings fall onto the floor. It didn't work. As Jake started to move the couch, he realized that he had stepped in some.

The smell was unlike anything I could ever describe. Maybe you could take the worst feces smell imaginable, add some sickliness to it, maybe some vomit, and you'd get the idea. Poor Jake got some paper towels and tried to clean up the smeared, stinky mess off the floor. As he was doing so, he had to cover his face with his shirt. When his shirt fell down, he started to gag. Jared came in to start helping to move the couch. Then he had to run outside as he was gagging and trying not to vomit. I was standing there laughing.

Dad came in the house, wondering about the commotion. As he smelled what everyone else was smelling, he started to gag too. He ran outside and leaned over the grass, trying not to vomit.

I cried and coughed from laughter in the hallway as they moved the couch out piece by piece.

This was all in the first few hours of being home. It's always an adventure here.

That same night, as my mom attempted to organize the presents, she opened one without a tag to find out what it was and who it was for. She quickly realized she had done something bad and yelled for someone to come rewrap the present because she "Didn't want to see anything she wasn't supposed to." So basically she learned that night what her gift was from my dad: a KitchenAid.

I went for a run and did a quick arm workout. I wanted Casa del Rey for dinner. So I showered and got ready, and when I was done, my mom and Jared were having an emotional talk outside.

I learned just as we were leaving for dinner that part of the emotional talk was Jared sharing the photo calendar I made my mom FOR HER CHRISTMAS PRESENT! I don't know what the kid was thinking, since I texted him, and I quote, "I shipped mom's photo calendar for Christmas to you. Be sure to get it out of the mail for me." And he responded, "You got it, Nae!"

How he forgot that it wasn't for him or the family, I don't know. But he did. And he showed mom her Christmas present. So now she had nothing to open on Christmas. I was furious, and I verbally assaulted Jared. I apologized later for being so upset about it. Even though I was the one who put all the work into it, and I wanted to see her reaction to it. :( I'm still pretty disappointed.

We went to Casa del Rey and had quite a good time, actually. I helped add some decorations to the tree, and it looks amazing.

On Sunday, I headed to church at my parents' ward at 9 AM, where some original 4th ward members still reside. It was a small Christmas program, and the Relief Society lesson was on Christ's birth. It was great. It gave me lots of ideas for Christmas Eve's activity. The Merkleys came by with a plate of goodies for us that afternoon as I was practicing piano.

I helped mom by adding ribbons and bows to the presents she wrapped. They looked awesome, if I may say so myself. Mom decided she wanted Peppertree for dinner, so Ashleigh came with the boys, my mom, and me. Jason was pretty rambunctious and inappropriate--super surprising, I'm sure. Hopefully we didn't bother too many people in there, but we had some fun.

On Monday, I worked out--just ran two miles and did the last 10 minutes of the 15-minute workout I like to use. I ran some errands--namely to Dollar Tree to get stuff for mom's stocking. I also got myself a donut, and got a few groceries (spinach, cucumber, dressing, bananas, clementines, you know...). Later, Mom, Jake, and I went to the bank, Bed, Bath, and Beyond, PetsMart, and Stater Bros. to get baking supplies. Dad made dinner that night as we were out doing errands--he did a stir fry with chicken, bell peppers, and other yummy veggies, plus brown rice. It was pretty delicious.

That night, I doubled my recipe for oatmeal coconut chocolate chip cookies. It ended up being somewhere around 120 cookies, probably. I made over 90 Chinese chews while the cookies baked. I made a batch of sugar cookie dough. And I made a batch of fudge without any guidance from my mom. That's right. I did all the Christmas baking myself, folks.

On Tuesday, I ran a mile and did workout 1 from Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred.

As I rolled out the sugar cookie dough on Tuesday, mom's visiting teacher dropped by with a loaf of poppyseed bread. Rick Ingram dropped by with a plate of amazing treats. I got the sugar cookies done relatively quickly.

I arranged, wrapped, and labeled around 20 plates, and mom drove me to deliver them to everyone on our list. We tried to calculate a route in advance, and I'm proud to say that with one minor difference, the route I planned matched the one on this website. I am the queen of efficiency. We saved the addresses and the delivery route on my Word document so it'll be easier next year. It was fun seeing everyone. It took about three hours, which is longer than I'm used to, but it was good that everyone was home, and it's always fun saying hi.

As we were out that evening, my dad again made dinner: bleu cheese burgers and fries. They were delicious. I can't say I felt awesome afterward though.

My mom and I made the turkey marinade after dinner. I had to go get lemons from the tree down the street and got ants all over me. I'm not a fan of bugs in general, but I especially dislike ants. I don't know what it is. Don't ask me to explain. So we covered the turkey, and dad injected it. It sat marinating all day on Wednesday in the fridge! Yum.

Tuesday night, my cat got really sick. He threw up all over the entryway. He started acting funny. He was wobbly, meowing at nothing, and had low energy. I moved him onto a towel in the family room. He drank a ton of water. He woke me up twice in the night with more vomit. The first one was around 2 AM, and it had specks of blood tissue in it. I was getting really worried. The second time was around 5 AM, and it was all the water he had drank, plus a bloody color. He got upset if you tried to touch him near his rear end. And his tail was twitching erratically. I was really worried.

The posture of a suffering animal :( 
I'll spare you the vomit pictures I showed the vet.

On Wednesday morning, my dad and I took the cat to the vet. They did an X ray and gave him some medicine, along with a blood test. His X-ray came up clear, showing a bowel movement ready to happen. Satisfied that nothing was seriously wrong, we brought him home.

I ran 5k (3.1 miles) just because I didn't feel like doing any resistance training. I had a lot of neck pain. I made a delicious salad for lunch. Then I had my dad take me to the grocery store so we could buy some things for dinner. I made my family and Kellie some coconut butternut squash soup. It is so good. Everyone added stuff to it, so I guess it was pretty bland for them :( But I like it prepared by the recipe. I think it's subtle and creamy. Oh well.

We cleaned all that up. I chopped up some onions and celery to get that ready for the stuffing the next day. My mom had the yams ready to go. The boys helped get the breakfast casseroles ready.

Then we had a little Christmas Eve talk, where I read a lot of what was in the manual on Sunday in Relief Society. We opened our presents. The boys all got slippers, and I got a new cervical pillow. It hasn't worked for me so far, but that might be different once I get to sleep on a real bed. Also maybe once I feel better in general, it'll work.

The cat spent all of Wednesday after the vet hiding under my brother's bed. He wouldn't eat or drink anything. I was pretty worried.

On Thursday, I got woken up early by Jared coughing, of course. I looked through my stocking. I made some tea with honey as I started to not feel very well on Wednesday night. I started the breakfast casseroles in the oven and got the cinnamon rolls ready. We went and picked up Jason. We ate breakfast and finished watching A Christmas Story.

It was a great Christmas. We opened presents. I peeled potatoes. Jason helped mom stuff the turkey. Jason got it in the oven. Dad and I tried to shove medicine down the cat's throat. We started Remember the Titans, relaxing for a bit, and then I went back in to help mom with the tail end of the gravy and mashed potatoes. I helped her start the zucchini and carrots.

We ate by a little after five PM. It was all delicious, as expected. We had a nice time at the table just talking and stuff.

Dad and I cleaned up dinner. He put food away, and I did all the dishes.

Jason and Kellie put on The Patriot. They left around 10:40. I spent the rest of the night watching and worrying about my cat. I cried thinking about him hurting, and thinking about him dying. He slept with me on the couch last night. I woke up and decided to do a Google search, since I suspected all along that he just needed to go to the bathroom. He hadn't gone at all, even after the X-ray. He had a majority of the symptoms listed on webMD. A loss of appetite. Lethargy. Vomiting.

The vet called dad this morning to tell him the blood results weren't in yet due to the holiday. But we brought him back in, insisting it was a blockage. Watching my cat starve to death hasn't been the best experience of my life. He lost a half a pound, which is a lot when you only weigh 11 lbs to begin with. We left him at the vet this morning, and hopefully he will feel better tomorrow when we come to get him. Also I hope it doesn't cost an arm and a leg, since my dad paid a bunch of money on Wednesday for things that weren't even necessary.

This morning, I tried the step-by-step DVD of my Zumba pack I got for Christmas. It was fun learning the names of things I've already done in class countless times. It was good to get moving after my rather inactive day on Christmas. I also tried 25 minutes of one of the Zumba workouts. I took it easy because I have a killer headache today. Like, one of the worst I've ever had.

I made a deposit at the bank and got myself a Starbucks in an attempt to help my headache. It helped a little bit. But it gets horrible when I walk, when I bend over, and when I swallow. My ears also hurt when I swallow. Besides that, I can breathe, my throat feels OK. Hopefully it will stay out of my chest since my youngest brother (who got us all sick) has bronchitis. I feel like my family gets me sick every Christmas.

I have a few days left here at home. Hopefully I get to see a couple of friends before I head back, which will probably be on Tuesday. We're supposed to get some sibling pictures taken on Sunday since our last ones were done about six and a half years ago. I am hoping we all feel better by then.

A night of good sleep without a painful neck would also be very helpful for me. I guess you could say I'd prefer to sleep in my own bed. Who wouldn't?

It's been a pretty good trip so far, one of the better holidays in the past five years. I've done a lot of work and spent a lot of time in the kitchen with my feet hurting; my mom can't do everything with her bad wrist. It's been pretty tiring, as I did all the Christmas baking, plate making, ribbon/bow wrapping, dinner on the 23rd, and prepping for Christmas dinner with the marinade and chopping. But I'm happy to help. Of course, there's also been a considerable amount of contention and hostility that come with every trip home, but I try to stay positive and love my family for what it is. After all, we are pretty fun. And while we lack a lot of function, and though we may not always like each other, we do love each other.

My Christmas Haul

I mention every year that I don't know why I make a list of everything I received for Christmas. I know that Christmas isn't about the things. I'd still be a happy girl if I got nothing! I really would. Even just Christmas cards or letters would make me happy. So it's not about listing the number of things or how many material items I got. I guess it's a way to account for everything. Maybe to make sure I make full use of it all and to show I'm grateful for all of it.

Also it makes it easy to do thank you cards. :)

From my parents:
A tri-core pillow for my awful sleeping positions
4 sports bras
2 pair of workout bottoms
A Zumba DVD pack  <3 nbsp="" p="">A mezzaluna chopper
A collapsible salad spinner
A stainless steel serving set
A candy mold
21 Day Sugar Detox
Pajamas that say "I know I'm not perfect but I'm so close it's scary"
2 Victoria's Secret bras
Forever 21 socks
Remember the Titans DVD
Cinderella DVD
Black flats
Scrapbook supplies and album (?)

Stocking stuffers:
A silver necklace that says "daughter, my love for you has no end"
A red phone charger
A shell puzzle and glue
A "no" button
Nail polishes
Two magnets
A gloved ice scraper
Fuzzy socks
Candy (kisses, Dove, M&Ms, Candy Cane kisses, Lindor)
A loofah
Torani caramel syrup
A massager thing
A hot chocolate kit
LED book light

From Patrick:
$40 gift card to Target (for curtains, he says)
A new shower head (it's glorious!)
A jump rope
A braided resistance band
Jillian Michaels Yoga Meltdown

From Rachel:
Trader Joe's coconut spray oil
Trader Joe's chocolate covered Jojo's
Trader Joe's dark chocolate cookie butter cups
Trader Joe's coconut pancake mix (YES! so excited)
Ghirardelli 60%
People Magazine featuring Chris Hemsworth (oh so lovely)

From my students:
A cute homemade card from Che'anne
A cute homemade card/letter from Bradley
A reusable cup with candy and cocoa from Ilyssa
A $10 Starbucks gift card from Chasiti
Ghirardelli dark chocolate and mint from Griselda
Dove dark chocolate from Amanda

From Work:
A $15 In-N-Out gift card from Randi
Two scented waxes from Tracy

From PTSA:
Cherry Chapstick (for a "chappy" new year..?)

From Carmen (my childhood nanny):
A sewn patch blanket
Three "easy meals" cooking magazines
A Marie Callendar's pancake mix and pan

From my grandpa Gabe:

From my grandpa Mike:

From my roommate Mariah:
A box of hot chocolate mix packs
A box of apple cider mix packs
Two mugs
Cinnamon sticks
$25 gift card to Starbucks (holy moly!)

Monday, December 1, 2014

You're Not Enough

I saw {this article} going around sometime last week, called "21 Women on the Simple Act of Chivalry that Men Don't Do Enough."

Honestly, I still haven't read it. Don't worry, I will before I finish this post. The thing is, I don't have to read the article in order to make my point.

Does anyone besides me feel like men get criticized a lot? I see memes get passed around about "cute things girls wish you'd do," and all this other garbage. And I see more of them attacking men than I do women. That is, if I disregard all the jokes about how women don't make sense or don't know what they want (cue the "it's not that simple" clip from The Notebook).

I've heard multiple times throughout my life that if you want to encourage good behavior, you have to proportion your positive to negative comments at 7 : 1. I was curious if that was actually the case, so I found {this article} that suggests a 5.6 : 1 ratio. I don't know how you can give .6 of a positive comment, but there that is.

On one hand, I can't fault women for directly suggesting something they want a man to do. I think women could use more directness in general, and men appreciate that kind of straightforward feedback. But when it's overwhelming, like a list of "21 things you're failing at" in so many words, where is somebody even supposed to start?

As a passenger in his car, I've noticed that I frequently order Patrick to signal. I try to be a considerate driver, and I like to give people notice of what I'm doing. So when he doesn't signal (until he's turning, guys), I get frustrated. After ordering him to signal repeatedly, he's actually started doing it! Guess what I switched my comments to recently? "I'm so glad you signaled so early! That tells that guy he can turn sooner! Good job, honey!" It might sound condescending, but it doesn't seem to bother him (or maybe he just hasn't told me because he thinks I'm a monster or something--sorry babe). The point is, I've switched my comments to positive versions now. I probably should have been doing this all along.

The article I noted above says, "Only positive feedback can motivate people to continue doing what they’re doing well, and do it with more vigor, determination, and creativity."

When the bell rings in my class, students are expected to start a journal immediately. So when that bell rings, I instantly start picking out individuals doing what they're supposed to do, and I thank them for that specific behavior. "Oh, I see ______ is starting his journal, thank you! And ______ has her pencil ready to go--nice job!" Suddenly, the kids who are slacking start panicking to get started. And the kids who got praised want to do the same thing next class.

I can attest to the truthfulness of the positive to negative ratio based on my job alone. So ladies, if you see anything on that list of 21 things that your man already does, let him know you appreciate it. It will go a lot further than listing the negatives. It will work in your favor, by the way, because when men want to do something awesome with more vigor, determination, and creativity--you're going to notice!

Forgive my public display of appreciation; you can stop reading here if you don't want to see it.

He's great with babies, too ;)
To my Patrick: I found nine things on that list of 21 that you're great at. I love that you called me regularly when we started talking again. I appreciate you opening doors and offering me your coat even though you think I'm silly for not bringing one with me. You always walk on the outside of the sidewalk--not saying anything about it, but maneuvering so that that's the case. Thanks for coming to my door to get me, and for patiently waiting if I am not ready. You're a great tipper, and I love that you have cash on you for tipping and just general spending. I love that I never have to pay for our dates, and that you never make me feel bad for ordering a soda. I appreciate that you respect our relationship and our privacy. You are thoughtful and are so good to me, and I'm publicly thanking you so you keep being wonderful. You often joke that you're a terrible boyfriend. It is entirely the opposite. I am lucky to have you. Thank you for setting the bar so high.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Where is Home?

At the end of class today, after reading a few more chapters of our current book, I asked the students how the setting has affected the main character.

A lot of them really seemed to struggle with this idea. I feel like it’s pretty stinking clear. It’s also very clear that I have my work cut out for me. But that’s a topic for another day.

What makes the answer to this question clearer is thinking about how the various settings of my life have influenced me.

I have always considered myself a California girl. I was born and raised in the sunshine. Heat was a part of life. I love fresh California fruit, and just about nothing beats a good (and cheap) avocado. I crave the ocean and feel anxiety when I think about how far away it is. I love the massive amount of diversity in my home state. Being in a place where every person was so different from the next helped me to learn a lot about the importance of variety, especially in learning love and compassion. I loved walking outside to go from class to class. Short shorts, spaghetti straps, and flip flops were a normal part of my wardrobe.

It feels weird to be in a transition time where “home” feels a lot less like home than it ever has. I mean, consider that I have spent my entire adult life in Utah! Nine years. That is a long time. They’ve been formative years—vital to my growth and identity.

I think often about how some of my students have never even left Kearns. They’ve never been downtown. They’ve never hiked the mountains that are 25 minutes way. They’ve never seen the beautiful red rocks of southern Utah.

And I think about how that was very much like me up until age 18. When you’re in school, you don’t really have any reason to go anywhere outside of your small area. There isn’t much beyond your tiny radius. Sure, I had gone places. I’ve been to San Francisco. I’ve been to many different beaches. I’ve gone to every amusement park within an hour. I’ve been to Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear. I’ve driven to San Diego a couple of times. I’ve been all over southern California. But not really as an adult.

And it’s weird that that makes such a huge difference.

My friends who have spent their adult life at home in Glendora or Covina or Azusa have spent a lot of time living their adult life really getting to know LA. They talk to me about certain places or freeways like I should know where that is. But in all honesty, I don’t.

I know Utah County and Salt Lake County much better than I know my home county! It’s strange. I feel almost a kind of guilt about it. But how many reasons do you have to leave town and do fun things with friends on the weekend when you’re in high school? And as a homebody, I didn’t exactly look for reasons to explore, either.

Nine years later, here I am, living about 15 minutes from downtown Salt Lake City. I know Salt Lake much better and navigate it much more comfortably than I ever knew LA. In a sense I feel like I’ve completely lost touch with where I’m from and have started to plant my roots in Utah. In another sense, I feel like my roots never were in California, as my entire adult life has been spent up here.

The resistance I felt about leaving home was fierce. You’ve never met a more committed California girl. Really? Utah? What the heck is there to do? Everybody’s Mormon; that’s weird. What about the beach? SNOW?! No In-N-Out? I couldn’t wait to come home every single break I had from school and work.

Now, I’m not really looking for reasons to go back to California. Make no mistake, I feel at home when I roll down the windows as I head west on the 210 at sunset. I let out a sigh of relief and relaxation when I set down my towel on the shores of Huntington Beach. I jump with joy (literally) when I see the produce section at Stater Bros in San Dimas—REAL, RIPE, DELICIOUS, LOCAL PRODUCE!

The dilemma is that I also feel like an outsider. I’m between two places. I was born and grown in one state and turned into a woman in another.

Can somebody have two homes? That California girl I mentioned—the one who loves heat, diversity, the ocean, avocados, and outdoor schools—she’s not gone. She still loves all those things. (Not to mention, In-N-Out is in Utah now, in walking distance of my apartment.)

But there’s this new part of me. This part of me loves the change of seasons (even though sometimes it’s only two weeks long) and the cooler weather. I love the colors of the leaves—the red and orange and yellow hues that are magnificent and just not available in Los Angeles. I love Café Rio and all of the locally owned restaurants—not just the big chains of Glendora. The plethora of dessert restaurants is a major plus (try three different cupcake places within five minutes). I’ve learned to drive in the snow, but still struggle terribly with the six months of gloominess and cold. I have friends here, a job, a life. I know my way around here, and all the cool things to see. I miss bonfires at the beach, but I like them up in the canyon too! I love not worrying about leaving my purse in the car sometimes. I am registered to vote here. I know the best music venues in the area, and the price of gas and groceries is actually quite doable. I like having more trust in the financial decisions of my state. I appreciate knowing that if I had a car problem, someone would probably pull over to help me.

Will I ever love the snow? Or the Utah drivers (or worse, the Wyoming and Idaho drivers in Utah)? Will I ever prefer boots to a pair of flats or flip-flops? Will I ever prefer a pool to the ocean? Or Lagoon to Six Flags or Disneyland? Or Seven Peaks to Raging Waters? Will Utahns ever catch onto donut shops? Uh, no. No, guys. No, no, and more no. It's been nine years already. Some things are just not going to happen. 

But there are things to love about the place I live. There are things to love about the place I’m from. I’m having a hard time making the transition from feeling like one is home, to identifying more with the other. Ultimately, I probably don’t have to reconcile this. I don’t need to just pick one. Both places have been my home for different, significant parts of my life. They are both a part of who I am and who I will become.

My license plate frame on my car says, “California love.” But that frame goes around a Utah license plate. I’ll claim both, and feel no shame in calling both of them my home. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Workout Wednesday: Real Talk--Gross Health Food

I have a bone to pick with the health world—healthy bloggers and Instagrammers and other people with a large following due to their healthy missions.

I’m afraid that the people who have made a habit of eating healthily have also lost their ability to taste food accurately. Don’t get me wrong, I love healthy eating. Vegetables are my favorite, and I usually don’t even need any kind of dipping sauce or seasonings to enjoy them.

The problem, I think, is mostly in relation to dessert. If you know me, you know I love cake, cookies, brownies, ice cream, shakes, and sweets in general.

You also probably know my favorite cookies are oatmeal coconut chocolate chip cookies. They’re made with (shh, don’t judge me) butter flavored shortening, brown and white sugar, flour, and all those things that make junk food junky. I love them. They’re delicious and flaky and fatty and so good.

It seems only natural that it would be difficult to find healthy alternatives that taste “just as good.” I think it goes without saying that if I were to substitute the white flour with oat flour, coconut flour, or almond flour, the consistency of the cookie would change entirely. It would be denser and not hold together very well. Replacing butter or shortening with coconut oil isn’t always so bad, but it’s just not doable in this recipe, or most of them, for that matter. It’s not.

Time and time again, I try to make “clean” recipes to no avail. Some I can read and just tell are disgusting, so I don’t even need to try them. Take, for example, all of these “healthy ice cream” recipes that consist of blending a frozen banana. Um, are you kidding? I don’t want BANANA flavored ice cream. That is nasty. I don’t care what any health nut says, when you use bananas to make something, that taste basically takes over the entire thing. I even ventured once to try Halo Top ice cream, which has these amazing macro counts to make ice cream a little less guilty. It was gross. The texture was gross (unless you’re into eating chalk, then give it a try). The taste was gross. Did I mention that the “healthy” ice cream was gross? Give me the Haagen Dazs at once.

In all honesty, I’ve made very few “clean” dessert recipes that were actually delicious (exception: peanut butter cookies by @jazzythings with almond flour and a ton of peanut butter—so good, even Patrick thought so). I’ve made baked (coconut!) oatmeal for breakfast and been super excited only to be let down by it. I’ve made flourless, oil-free cookies. I’ve done things egg-free. I’ve switched sugar to stevia and sugar to honey and sugar to coconut sugar. I’ve even seen people make “protein cookie dough,” and things. No. Just no. It is not the same as butter and sugar. It’s just not. Yesterday I made some baked pumpkin donuts. Nope. I’m telling you guys, for real, I’ve given many recipes a fair shot, and I will continue in search of one that is as yummy as it claims to be. 

In conclusion, I submit that after eating clean for a long enough time, all these health folks can no longer be the judge of any of these things that are supposedly “just as good as the real thing.” They need a normal junk food eater to be the judge of that. I volunteer as tribute. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Going Gray?

I always thought that when we started to "go gray," it was a process. I pictured my mom's roots before she would go and dye them. It was pretty evenly spread across her scalp.

I thought that's how it would happen for me.

But no.

I would tell you to look closely, but you honestly don't have to. It's not even subtle, folks. There it is. My massive amount of white hair in all of its glory.

Sometimes I sit in church and pull them out one at a time. I've been scolded by my mother for that since it destroys the follicle. 

Even without pulling out the hair, I don't see this situation getting any better. In fact, it's only gotten worse in the past several years. I imagine stress accelerates it. It must not help to stress about having white hair, huh? 

I think I must also be genetically gifted. Who else gets a lovely layer of completely white strands under their dark brown hair? The contrast is so discreet, huh?

The one thing that provides some measure of comfort in this process is that Patrick has a thing for white and gray hair. This must be a sign. I'm not getting any younger, after all. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

A Teaching Victory

She got a D-.

Now, if I had gotten a D- in school, I would have been mortified. But for this girl, I think it could have been the Congressional Medal of Honor, as Taylor Mali so eloquently phrased it.

My student (we’ll call her Melissa, since I don’t have anyone with that name this year), has struggled since day one of the term. I’m not exaggerating. If I modeled an example and asked the students to copy it down, she couldn’t. If I explained repeatedly what I expected, she couldn’t do it. I handed work back to her to redo, and it never came back. I asked her what I could do to help her, and she didn’t know.

Almost every assignment I gave in class would come back to me incomplete. To add onto that, it would come back with scribbles and pencil shading all along the margins. It was like a tick. Sometimes she would do it on the desk and not even know it.

She has a low Lexile (reading comprehension) score--around fourth grade level.

Melissa had shown frustration and a lack of motivation to work on assignments, on the rare occasion she did come to class. I tried to help her, and when I came back around to her, she hadn't done anything.

She struggles with pretty basic hygiene. With the dirt under her nails and the greasy hair, plus the smell of smoke from home, it is apparent. Not that people in smoking homes aren’t hygienic—just saying she may not get a lot of encouragement for cleanliness there. 

And apparently she’s having a lot of issues at home, so that’s why she’s been absent so much.

A week before the term ended (on a day she was finally at school), I called her in to talk to her and ask if she wanted to try to get a passing grade. I told her it would take a lot of work, and that I couldn’t do it for her. She said she wanted to, but given her track record, I just wasn’t sure that would happen. I didn’t have a lot of faith in her, I guess you could say.

After a couple more absences the following week, I was just about ready to give up on her. I feel guilty for feeling that way.

Because on Thursday, the last day of the term, she walked into my room for remediation time. I hadn’t sent for her (I gave up, remember?). She came on her own. And she sat down, and I walked Melissa through the essay process. She hadn’t even finished a rough draft--due almost three weeks prior. She wasn’t going to get it typed like I had expected. But I would be damned if she wouldn’t make it through that essay—I’d even grade that as her final!

I told her in each step what I wanted her to do. “OK, I need you to give me a sentence about when this happens. Then write your quote.” After she’d done that, I’d say, “Alright, next you need to explain how this quote proves your point about bullying.” I’d walk away and come back a couple minutes later. She’d have almost a half a page of explanation written down! Who was this girl? And where had she been in the first ten weeks of school? To say I was surprised would be an understatement. I let her know I was proud and impressed that she did so well. I’m not saying she dotted her i’s or punctuated very well, and I’m not saying she didn’t write “cuz” about 11 times, even after I told her not to. But she was writing! She was writing! And that is cause for celebration, my friends.

In that half hour of remediation, she did more work for me than she had done all term. She finished that essay. I graded it. Then in class later that day, I had her redo some of her work that she had scored low on. I regraded that.

Melissa had gone from a 42% F to a 62% D-.

When I saw her grade change in front of me, nobody was in my classroom. A huge smile stretched across my face. I felt my face get hot and red with utter joy. There is no other way to phrase it. I was giddy and screeched in a really high voice. I called my mom because I had told her about this student days before, and how I probably couldn’t help her to pass.

But here she was! Passing!

After grading her things, and after I finished squealing with excitement and bouncing in my chair (it’s an ergonomic Gaiam chair), I went and found her in her next class. I informed her that she was no longer failing, that she had a D-, and that I was proud of her! I told her she could definitely do better next term, but that this was a big deal, and I was proud! I must have said it three times.

And in case I needed any more "awesome" to add to this whole experience, when I regraded her journal entries, she wrote that she "actually enjoyed writing the essay!" Let's talk about my full heart! 

This is just one student. I don’t know if she’ll remember me in a few years. I don’t know where she’ll end up. But to see that she is capable when she has willing, one-on-one help is just what I needed to see.

And it was a good reminder that we as teachers can still expect great things, even from those who struggle the most. I will continue to do just that. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Workout Wednesday: Rest Days

For today’s Workout Wednesday post, I thought I’d write about rest days.

I generally think this is something you have to figure out for yourself. I’ll tell you what I’ve found and what my general rules are for rest days. This is what works for me and may not work for you.

Typically, I reserve rest days for especially busy days. For example, on Tuesdays, I will often to go “donate” plasma (for monies, of course). After that I head home and either cook or wait for Patrick so we can go out. We eat, and we head to institute at 7. We’re there till 8:30. Tuesdays are just busy. So sometimes I skip Tuesdays for working out. I may do the same on Thursdays if I donate a second day. I may also skip a workout when I get invited to do other plans that won’t enable me to exercise and shower and get ready before the activity starts—Friday nights, for example.

I might take rest days on the days I know I just need a break from everything. Some evenings I just want to eat and sit on my couch and watch a movie with my boyfriend. It’s the days where the very thought of doing anything just makes me want to cry. These days don’t happen very often. In fact, they’re very rare. I’m more likely to WANT to exercise after a rough day because it makes me feel better. But occasionally, I take mental and emotional health days on my couch.

I don’t typically take rest days due to soreness. Why, you ask? You’ve probably read all kinds of information about how your body “has to have days to recover.” I think this applies if you lift heavily or run long distances. Since that is usually not the case for me, I can’t justify taking a rest day. I find that when I exercise (usually some kind of cardio), I actually decrease my soreness by mobilizing my stiff muscles. I feel better when I exercise sore than if I were to take rest days. In other words, exercise usually helps me more than resting would.

Let me clarify that I DO take rest days if my body absolutely cannot handle any more. For example, after I ran my half-marathon in 2013, I basically didn’t do anything for a couple of weeks after that. My knees were shot from the downhill portion, and my body just needed a break. So I took one. If you are in PAIN, you’re injured, or your body just cannot do any more, then take a rest day! Listen to your body.

The ideal version of me would do low-impact things like stretching, yoga, or foam rolling on my rest days. Walking is something I also try to do on my rest days. I think that’s a great way to relieve stiffness, and improve mobility. Unfortunately, I rarely do those things.

I’ve noticed one of the benefits of rest days is the amount of energy I have the next day. It is kind of interesting. I sometimes can run longer and faster after a rest day. It’s like my body is renewed and is showing me appreciation for that rest day. Granted, this isn’t always the case, but it definitely has happened for me, and it strengthened my confidence in rest days.

Overall, figure out what works for you. Listen to your body, because it will always tell you what it needs.

How often do YOU take rest days? Do they help you personally?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Baking Up a Storm

I've spent quite a bit of time in the kitchen this weekend. I sometimes forget how much I enjoy making things and trying new recipes.

First, I wanted to make some pumpkin granola with what was left of a can I opened. I found this recipe and kind of botched it. I'm pretty sad because it smelled so dang good, then burned pretty quickly.

I think what got me was the 23-33 minutes. That's a big span of time there. So I went for the middle and did like 27 or 28 minutes. I did stir in between. But that was too long, and then I noticed at step 5 of the recipe, she said 25 minutes. So that would've been good to read beforehand.

Anyway, it's not totally burned. The pecans are kind of burned probably because I broke them up. Forgive me, but I didn't want enormous pecan chunks. So they burned. I also used almonds instead of pepitas because... pepitas? I still plan on eating this stuff. Probably with some milk, and I'll try it on the yogurt I bought.

Recently, I bought a can of Blue Diamond almonds in the Toasted Coconut flavor. Because coconut. Everything coconut!

It made me get an idea that I wanted to try to make my own coconut almonds. So I tried that out last night while I watched The Raven. Keyword: tried. And it didn't come out how I had planned. I used this as my base recipe because I've used it so many times.

The issue is that I used a full egg white on only one cup of almonds because that's all I had. I just think there was too much liquid. I'd have used less if I had a carton of egg whites like I usually do, but I didn't have any! I added a bit of coconut flavoring (like extract) to the egg white mixture.

I adjusted (decreased) the sugar amount, and I used coconut sugar instead of white sugar.  And I ground some coconut flakes in my Magic Bullet to coat the almonds. So they were covered in coconut and coconut sugar. I thought I had the right idea.

While the Blue Diamond almonds are lovely and cute and powdery white, mine are brown and chunky and visually unappealing. They weren't what I was expecting, but they are still dang good. Besides, it was worth a try.

I also had one single over-ripe banana to use, and thankfully @jazzythings on Instagram posted a recipe which called for precisely that! I love when that happens. So I made her banana walnut blueberry muffins this morning.

They're OK. But as with any clean recipe, it just never tastes like the unhealthy version. It calls for almond flour, banana, baking powder, eggs, coconut oil, vanilla, almond milk, blueberries, and walnuts. So they were really easy to make. The problem is always that almond flour makes such DENSE treats. They're heavy. I had three, which was way too many. I'm horribly full. Like, super stuffed. I'll be able to finish these in a couple of days, but they're not as awesome as I was hoping. I even added honey and cinnamon that she said she forgot to put in the recipe.

Another thing I made this morning while watching Frozen was this pumpkin cake I like to make every year. I found it on a box of spice cake once. It's super easy, and delicious. I made it last week for a ward mingle, but I made it again today so I could actually have some. And my mom and grandma are coming to dinner tonight, so dessert!

I should probably try to do some lesson plans now before stake conference at 1. Also, our water is out. And my boyfriend's power is out. So I basically have no way to smell good or look good for church. #Jesusdoesn'tcare

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Fall Break in Review

On Thursday morning we had a really late start. We decided to head to the Park Café in Salt Lake for a very late breakfast. I had my usual biscuits and gravy with eggs over medium and sausage. Patrick got the Michigan hash—his fave.

I noticed two tables down from me was none other than the owner/operator of one of my favorite Instagram accounts--@dallassrae. She’s so dang cute in person. I said nothing for two reasons: 1. She was at breakfast, and I didn’t want to bug her. 2. I was scared. But mostly reason number two. I mean look at this girl.

After that, we walked over to Liberty Park toward the Tracy Aviary. I had free admission there with my Connect pass. We really enjoyed our time. Patrick loved feeding the ducks, swans, and pigeons using the quarter operated food dispenser. He even ended up holding a pigeon on his hand. They weren’t afraid at all. Them were some bold pigeons, I tell ya!

After the Aviary, we went to Jordan Commons and saw The Judge. It was long, but we both really enjoyed it. And can I say how much more I enjoy Megaplex popcorn than Cinemark popcorn? There, I said it. Their butter is better, and they don’t use as much salt. I think I’m sensitive to salt, like my dad. Sad story.

For dinner we got Noodles and Co. I believe we spent the rest of the evening watching Gold Rush reruns.

On Friday, I ran 3.1 miles in the morning. We went and got donuts and Starbucks, bought movie tickets for a Fury showing later that night, and headed up to the University of Utah for the Natural History Museum of Utah. I used my Connect pass to get in for free. Patrick had to pay. We started at the top floor and made our way down. The photography of Utah landscapes on the top floor was so, so impressive. Some were so beautiful. 

Also on the top floor was a cultural display about American Indians in Utah. That kind of stuff and the history of what was done to them always makes me very sad. Seeing all of the moccasins and tools and baby carriers was awesome, though.

We went outside to the rooftop, but the air quality was bad, so my picture isn't super impressive.

On the next floor down, we saw a bunch of biological stuff. There were taxidermied animals (cougar, wolf, etc), and the displays were really cool and interactive. There was also a huge sea turtle shell and a Galapagos turtle shell.

There was a display on Utah’s historically changing landscapes and things. I especially liked the floor with all the ancient Native stuff from 1000 or more years ago. Seeing their tools, jewelry, bowls, shoes, weapons, and all that was awesome.

I loved seeing the big dinosaur fossils and learning about the theories of what caused the deaths of 70 dinosaurs at the Cleveland-Lloyd Quarry in Utah. Dinosaurs and mammoths and saber toothed tigers and huge sloths seriously amaze me. I stand in awe at the creatures that have ruled this planet.

I’m just so glad we were able to go. I really enjoy stuff like that. 

After the museum, we went to use my deal at Mulan Chinese restaurant in Sandy. Therefore, my meal was free (only paid $1 previously). You guys like all my free activities? I impress myself. Too bad Patrick doesn’t appreciate it as much. Patrick loved Mulan’s orange chicken, rice, and egg roll. My lo mein wasn’t too bad either. It seemed like really high quality food for just a fast food place.

We hung out for a couple of hours at my apartment. Then Rachel picked us up to go see Fury. I won’t say too much on it. I liked the movie, but it wasn’t something I needed to see. It was obviously terribly violent, and full of really bad language. I don’t know that I needed to be any more disturbed by war than I already am.

After that I needed some ice cream to feel better about humanity, so we went to Farr’s and made fun of Corey Feldman and Marky Mark for a while.

Saturday morning, I went to Zumba. I ran lots of errands (had to pick up some amazing booties on sale at Payless), some Stevia at Whole Foods, some Cetaphil lotion because my face is dying, and a free workout shirt at Gordman’s. Then I picked up my fall decorations out of my storage unit. I also did four loads of laundry that day.

Then I went over to Patrick’s place, and we went to get some lunch at Firehouse Subs. We spent most of the day just hanging out on his couch. We watched Cool Runnings and talked. I rolled and baked the last of the sugar cookie dough. I also read through the lesson I had to give in Relief Society. I went home around 10.

This morning I prepared my lesson for church and also my lessons for work. I spent a considerable amount of time making a final test for my students on affixes and commonly confused words. I got ready for church. Church was good—all three talks were going to be on the SAME conference talk (Elder Klebingat’s). I thought that was funny. The last speaker picked a different talk at the last second (Elder Holland’s). I only got to sit in the last few minutes of Sunday School, but Danya bore a powerful testimony of Christ.

My Relief Society lesson went pretty well. Everyone had some impressive insights and experiences to share. I always enjoy teaching.

Patrick made us a delicious dinner of potatoes, zucchini, and tequila lime chicken. A German chocolate cake is waiting to be frosted while we watch the latest episode of the Walking Dead. All in all, it was a good fall break, due in large part to the great company I had. I got some much needed sleep, and did lots of fun things.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Goings On

I do a terrible job of remembering the things I want to write about. Then when I make time to sit and write, I got nothin'. Seriously. Nothin.

I guess I'll just use the backup which is pictures from my phone to tell of some things that have happened in the past couple of months.

In August... 

We went to Bear Lake. I took no pictures except this one at a local restaurant because I love vintage stoves. And I hate camping.

I learned how to fold a fitted sheet.

There were two snails on my apartment walkway.

Patrick and I went to Wicked.

I went to Swiss Days with my mom, grandma, aunt April, Zoey, and Tyce. I had a beautiful 3 mile run.

And I found a darling local coffee shop where I enjoyed my latte.

I just think Midway is the cutest.

I also hit 100,000 miles on my 6 year old car :(

In September...

We went to Marlene's baby shower open house.

I bought books with coupons.

I bought some shoes, and Patrick bought me some shoes.

My mom bought me a new exercise shirt.

Some girls commented on my arms on Instagram and made my day.

I burned myself with a curling iron.

I decorated my classroom.

I went to the Women's Expo at UVU with my mom and aunts. We ate at the food trucks. I had the Monte Cristo from Cravings Bistro.

Patrick and I shopped at Graywhale, and I reminisced.

I cooked kielbasa and other yummy things.

So far in October...

I started wearing scarves.

I see the moon over the mountains regularly.

I went to Patrick's family's Sunday lunch between General Conference sessions. Taco soup for the win.

Patrick snuggles his twin nephew.

And that's all. My next blogs will be about my silk peel treatment at American Laser Skin Care, and also the story of Patrick's many nicknames: Pether Becky Putnik.

See you soon!