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Fear of Falling

I’ve never been so scared in my life. I’ve started an MFA program in creative writing, which has been my dream for about 10 years. I couldn’t believe I got in, and now I’m scared to death about what that means. I am occasionally gripped with the same kind of terror I experience at the top of a tall building. The view is beautiful and exciting, but it makes me feel shakey and pukey. Will I have the time to do it justice? Is it a bad idea for my family, with so much time dedicated to school over the next two years? The other students I’ve seen in the handbook are much more experienced than I am, or at least better at writing bios. I don’t know if I can do this, but I have to. For one, I just took out a loan so I can. For two, if I don’t , I’ll never know, and fear of not knowing is worse than the fear of doing.

Here is the Jessie Spano Caffeine Pill Freakout, which is basically how I feel all the time. (Not the drugs part obv)

 

 

Quality of Life

A few months ago I posted about some health issues that caused me to make a major shift in my diet. If you don’t feel like reading the post, the short version is, due to chronic digestive health issues I started an extremely limited diet. I basically was restricted to meat, veggies, fruits, nuts, yogurt I made myself, and a couple of hard cheeses. No grains at all. None. Don’t even ask , “could you eat?” the answer is no. I stayed hardcore on this diet for 9 months. 9. I  lost 30 lbs. and I started to go slowly insane.

If you look up the diet I was on, Specific Carbohydrate Diet, you will read over and over, “Demands extreme, fanatical adherence” . You make ALL food yourself, you do not eat out. You do not eat any – this includes condiments – packaged food.  Early on I joined a FB group for people on this diet. It was supposed to be a place to be supportive and share tips, foods etc.  Occasionally people would share prepared foods that were ‘legal’ on the diet. I took the time to e-mail Raye’s of Maine Mustard to see if their yellow mustard was compliant. That simply means contains no additives other than what’s on the label etc etc. They very nicely emailed me back and assured me that their foods contain only what is on the label and only pure spices, which have no additives. I shared this with the group and was immediately shot down because 1. The company didn’t supply the answer to me through the mail on their letterhead and 2. Because companies cannot be trusted to change their formula at anytime. I ended up leaving the group.

The level of attention I paid to my food, and then to any possible reactions my body might have from any food at anytime started to lead to what I think is an extremely disordered way of thinking. Was my headache from my toddler screaming in my ear or had I been contaminated by a rogue gluten molecule? I had to stock my pantry with foods I could eat that were pretty expensive and got snappish with my kids when they ate my snacks. I had to plan out every meal, and it was even worse when we wanted to go on any sort of outing. I started adding in illegals pretty early on, and by illegals I just mean foods that may not be OK, for example getting a 5 Guys burger on lettuce.

A culmination of events this past December put me in a deep funk, and I realized that even though this diet had helped me, it was in no way sustainable for me if I wanted to be a happy person. That’s the simplest way to put it. What happened was this, I started a new job, and was invited to a catered Christmas party. After agonizing for days about what to do, I simply said I couldn’t go. I work for a really great place and they would have been more than accommodating, but I just couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t send them an email of diet restrictions that was more strict than the one Gwenyth Paltrow is currently being ripped apart for adhering to. Already invites to go out to eat with friends or to their houses had dried up. I didn’t feel like inviting anyone over because it ended up with me making a million different versions of food, much of what I couldn’t eat. Every single phone call I had in relation to getting together with people included, “So, what can you eat?” and resulted in me bringing my own food. My daughter has a keen interest in cooking and baking, and I wasn’t able to try anything she cooked. My family wants to travel, and I couldn’t see myself taking my yogurt maker with me to California, or reading out a list of what I was allowed to eat and making a huge scene everywhere we went. I had enough, I couldn’t take it anymore and tossed the whole diet out the window.

Will I gain weight? Yup, already have. Will I end up with another Colitis flare up? Who knows. You know what else causes Colitis, besides the classic “no one has any idea”? Stress. And this diet was adding so much stress to my life, I think that it is definitely possible that the pros and cons were about 50/50. If I end up sacrificing my social life, quality time with my family, and travel, paired with an unholy obsession with food as well as analyzing every twinge, pang and sniffle, for healthier guts and prescription medication free life, is that an even trade? I don’t know. I’ve thought about it a lot. Right now, I’m eating what I want. Trying not to go too wild with pasta, and continuing to eat healthy amounts of yogurt and other foods that aid gut health. Will I end up back at the doctors? I don’t know. I might have anyway. Right now, I have decided that it’s a quality of life decision, and mine was suffering just as much with the diet as it was with the drugs.

I do not disparage anyone who undertakes this massive change of life for their health. Many people do it and find great success. They are stronger people than I, and I applaud them. But for me, right now, it’s just not in the cards.

New Year Surge

Honestly, I think we need to start each month with resolutions, reevaluating our goals and resetting. Like so many, I do so well for the first few weeks of January. Looking back, because I do love metrics, I’ve noticed I make the most blog posts in January, work out the most, knit more. Some of this MIGHT be due to the fact it’s winter in Maine, but I’m pretty sure that has nothing to do with it. I’m pretty sure that it has more to do with simply being conscious of my goals. So yeah, more keeping to the goals this year. I’m thinking a monthly check-in at least. I will even put it on my calendar. That means it’s for real.

I am having a hard time settling down. I have a pile of unread magazines dating back about 3 months. I have a queue of unwatched TV shows a mile long. I have a yoga mat that I haven’t been on in so long, when I unrolled it yesterday a matchbox car flew out of it. Apparently it’s been repurposed as a garage. I know, poor me. In the bigger scheme of things, not being able to enjoy entertaining and relaxing things is a pretty bourgeois problem.

I know, right?


But stick with me for just a minute. Since November, we bought a new house and moved, found a renter and cleaned out our old house (where we lived for 15 years) I started a new job – AND I finished my last class, a capstone in the Humanities and got my degree. That’s a lot of things for a lady to pile on in one month. Not to mention the holidays, which I hosted here in my new home, yes both Thanksgiving and Christmas, because I’m an insane control freak, because I love hosting and my new home is perfect for parties. But now, now I can’t calm my ass down. We are moved. The holidays are over. The degree is done. Whenever I sit down to relax, I feel like I should be doing something else. Example: Yesterday when I fired up the first day of Yoga Camp via Yoga With Adrienne (you should do it, she’s the best) I hopped up during the first minute – which was sitting on the mat and centering – so I could turn on the oven and preheat it for dinner. I can’t even sit still for a minute. I suppose it will get easier. I suppose of been on both fight AND flight for two months.

Anyhow, that’s where I’m at today. I’m healthy and happy and apparently fidgety. Oh, in other news, I noticed on my website metrics that someone found this site by googling ‘gross girls in yoga pants’, so there’s that.

It’s Hard To Be That Guy.

I’ve been sick. As many of you know I have Ulcerative Colitis, and it’s been in remission for many years. In February, I started getting a pain in my side that wouldn’t go away, and went to my doctor looking for answers. Instead of seeing my regular doctor I saw one newer to the practice, who although I have a history of UC insisted that wasn’t the problem. Long story short, after ending up in the ER at Midcoast hooked to a morphine IV, having 6 blood tests and a CT scan ( right before I had the radioactive dye shot into my vein the tech said to me, “This might make you feel like you peed your pants, which is totally normal. Oh, also, this kills about 1 in 100,000 people instantly.) That was pretty awesome. Obviously I didn’t die. Guess what, they diagnosed me with UC, which I ALREADY KNEW I HAD. Then the ER doc puts me on a course of extremely rugged antibiotics, even though I protested pretty loudly about it. I had to take Cipro and Flagyl, together. Cipro, in case you didn’t know, is what they give people for Anthrax poisoning. Oh also, side effect of Cipro – it can cause sudden rupturing of tendons and is known as a ‘black box’ prescription. After about 4 days on those, I had crippling anxiety (another known side effect) as well as terrible diarrhea. When I finally called my regular doctor, she was so mad about all that had happened and immediately told me to stop taking the antibiotics and prescribed for me the very low-side effect meds that I’ve taken in the past for this disease. They worked, but this time, I did get a side effect from them, tinnitus, which has not resolved yet. And it’s been 3 months. Why am I telling you all of this? To get to this part; so I can stop this disease and the unending train of drugs and doctors, I am now on a very strict diet.

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet was developed specifically for people with IBD, Chron’s Disease, UC, and interestingly, Autism. On this diet I can eat; meat, eggs, veggies, fruit, nuts, honey, and certain kinds of dairy. That’s it. No grains. No sugar. No additives. I make nearly everything myself. I quit drinking coffee. In fact I don’t have caffeine at all anymore. It’s incredibly challenging, and there are very few doctors that will tell you to go on a diet to fix your gut problems, even though there are thousands of people who have successfully gotten off medication and back to a normal life after eating this way. What’s hard is all the food and diet hate. I can feel people rolling their eyes at me when I explain that I don’t eat all this stuff. They assume I’m ‘Paleo’ and it’s just some part of a dieting fad. It’s not. After being on this diet for 4 weeks, I was able to stop making my medication entirely. It’s been almost 3 months now, and I am 95% symptom free. You have to understand. This is a disease that most doctors will tell you, you will NEVER get over. You will NEVER be symptom free, you will ALWAYS be on drugs for it. Drugs ranging from mild to drugs that they use for chemotherapy.

It’s hard to be that guy. It’s hard to ask every single time when you are getting ready to eat what’s in it. It’s hard to tell your family and friends your limited diet, it makes me feel like an asshole. It really does. No I’m sorry, I can’t have that. Or that. Or that. Does this have grain in it? Nope can’t have that either. Want to meet for a coffee? Nope. I’m sure it will get easier, and I will get a tougher skin. I’m sure my not caring attitude will kick in, why should I care what anyone else thinks about what I’m eating? I shouldn’t, but it’s hard not to. So, what I ask is, next time you hear someone asking what’s in something, or refusing food because it has ingredients they don’t eat, reserve your judgement. You have no idea what their deal is.

What’s Up With All the Instagramming?

Interesting and beautiful things are everywhere.

Interesting and beautiful things are everywhere.

I knooow that’s what you guys are asking yourselves. Well, those of you that ‘follow’ me social media-wise. I’ve had Instagram for awhile, but I didn’t really start using it until a few weeks ago. Now I’m trying to add one post per day. Is it as simple as me just wanting to participate in something fun? No. Nothing is ever that simple.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately, more than usual even. Trying to get some new perspectives, change old habits, pay attention to how different things make me feel. ln much the same way that I notice eating certain foods make me feel sick, consuming various types of information and media were also starting to make me feel gross. Now, this isn’t going to be one of those long, ranty posts about how much Facebook sucks, but I will say, that I started noticing that it wasn’t making me feel very good. I’m not going to lie. I friggin’ love Facebook. However, I found myself getting super annoyed and cranky with people that honestly, if Facebook wasn’t around, I would have no contact with whatsoever. I found myself getting wrapped up in the enormous long-winded oversharing dramas swirling around. Spending time wondering, “Gee, I wonder how so and so is doing with her whatserwhosit”. Is that necessarily bad? I don’t know. I’m what’s known as a ‘super-empath’, I know it sounds very new-agey, but whatevs. It’s what I am. Basically, I it’s a really nice way of saying I very easily get wrapped up in other people’s shit on an emotional level.  So, I started to back way off on Facebook. I deleted it from my phone. I did what dieters do when they try to get ahold of eating habits and check-in with myself when I found myself logging on to the blue beast, asking myself “Why?” Why are you checking in? This is what I discovered, most of the time when I was checking in, which honestly was frighteningly frequent, I was either:

  • Bored
  • Lonely
  • Procrastinating

Does FB really help me with any of those things? Sure it kills time, but it’s certainly not helping me achieve any of my goals, and aiding in procrastination isn’t great either. It does help with loneliness, but so does a text of a phone call. Anyhow, I’ve backed way off. Yes, I’m still on FB probably once a day. Sometimes not. I feel a lot better. Does this mean I’ve given up social media? Oh, God no. Which brings me to…

Instagram. (BTW, yes my account auto-posts to my FB and Twitter unless I unselect it. I can’t decide if this is obnoxious or not.) As opposed to FB, Instagram is making me feel pretty good. For one, I’m using it as a tool to find beauty in my everyday life. Well, beauty and humor, but I think those go together. I subscribe to other members that have similar ideas, but also that post amazing photos. So, instead of checking in on political rants or people’s divorces, what I’m seeing are incredible photos of MOMA, sunsets in Hawaii, knitwear, meals people are proud of. It’s a really different vibe, and it makes me feel better about the world around me, and what I’m putting out there. Pretty deep for a photo app, eh? Also, I have GOT to  become a better photographer. No, it’s required. I have new clients, and some that are in the wings, and in the world we live in today, if you are a writer, you better be able to take some decent photos. Publishable photos. I’m trying, you guys. I think I’m getting a little better every day.

Twitter, I love you. You’re a different post altogether.

If you want to see my photos, there’s a button over there —> to follow me on Instagram. You know, if you want to, or whatever.

Put Your Seatbelts On.

I got a text from a friend this morning telling me measles has been confirmed in her town. She’s pregnant with her first and she’s scared. And I’m scared for her. She lives out of state, but I’m scared for me too. For this very reason, I’ve been trying to stay off FB, and limit what I see on Twitter. As the entirely preventable measles outbreak makes it’s way East, I’m afraid. I’m anxious. I live in one of the most undervaccinated counties in the country. This keeps me awake at night.

I’ve been plagued by panic attacks for most of my adult life. I’m only just now learning how to deal with them. When one becomes a parent, the worry about oneself transfers over onto worry about their children. What then, should I do, living in this unvaccinated territory with measles looming.? I already skip the playgroups at local libraries because I’m scared. Is that right? Is that fair to my kid? Not really. But last year whooping cough was rampant in our community, and I wasn’t going to take the risk. Yes, my kids have their shots, but nothing is 100% effective, we need herd immunity to protect everyone. I’m not far off from holing up for the winter and ordering our groceries from Amazon.

The only thing that’s given me any solace lately is my new theory. I call it the ‘seat belt theory’. I drive the kids all over the place without fear. Back and forth every day to school, ballet, violin, the store. As we all know, driving in cars is a very dangerous activity, but I don’t stay up every night worrying about the drunk driver or the texting teen. I put my kids in the car, buckle them up, and trust we’re going to be fine. I have to look at these diseases the same way. I’ve done all I can. They’ve had their vaccines. They’ve got their seat belts on. It’s the best I can do.

Thoughts on an On-line Education

Bahaha! Look at this olde school setup. It is not unlike the USM computer lab.

I just got off the phone with USM tech support about a video issue with one of my classes. It’s a simple, 1 credit class. OK, it’s yoga. Yes, I’m paying to take a one-credit college-level yoga class. Don’t judge. Anyhow, the sound on the video sounds like Greedo:

Now, I’m not a tech-idiot. Here’s what I’ve done to fix the situation: Restarted, checked all software for updates, used 3 different browsers, tried to view it on my phone and iPad. Nothing. It doesn’t work. E-mailed the professor. Apparently I’m the only person with this problem.  * Update* Apparently ALL Mac users are having the same issue. Why? Because the professor created the video THREE YEARS AGO.* E-mailed and finally called tech support. You know what the end diagnosis is? My software and computer are TOO new and TOO updated. Fuck me. I mean come on. They told me to find a windows computer and use that. I do not have a windows computer, nor do I want one. I would be less stabby (maybe) if this didn’t happen every semester. Not this problem exactly, but this is now my 6th or 7th online class, my 3rd and final semester with this method of education and I can tell you, the first week is always spent messing around with problems like this. This is a long segue into my critique of online education.

I was so happy to learn that USM was offering a Liberal Arts major online. When I signed up I only had 36 credits left. I’ve been wanting to finish school for awhile, but I have 2 kids and limited time. I wasn’t interested in finishing up at one of the ‘churn and burn’ online schools either. USM seemed like the perfect solution since I’d done nearly all of my classes there anyway. So far my experience has been…OK, but there are some major issues both with tech and with teachers.

NO ONE USES THE SAME TECH

Every one of my classes has required different tech. They also use the ‘Blackboard Gateway’ but from there teachers go bananas. When you fill out the survey to see if online ed is right for you they ask if you are ‘comfortable using a computer on the internet and visiting various websites’ or something like that. Of course you are! What you should know is, you will have to use at least 2 sometimes 3 or more programs for each class. I’ve had teachers require that we watch lectures via Youtube, Quicktime, and worst of all try to run a Power Point presentation and sound via Itunes simultaneously. That was for one class. You may also be required to use VoiceThread, which actually isn’t that annoying, but another new software that you will have to register for and learn how to use. This semester I’m taking a music class that requires your sign up for and pay $85 for an online text-book/course materials. Well, it’s music, that makes sense right? Oh, guess what, you also need Spotify to listen to the music.  I beg you, USM. Please, please, start making your professors use the same tech. Personally, I would suggest having them use: Youtube for video lectures, and VoiceThread for presentations etc. These two seem to work phenomenally well for everyone.  I understand that Online courses will require different materials, videos etc.  That’s great! But let’s try to condense some of this shit. I never know going into a class what software I’m going to need. It’s stressful and detracts from my education.

SOME TEACHERS SUCK

I am very, very fortunate that most of my professors get it when it comes to online ed. They run it like a regular class as much as they can. That means they give a lecture. Sometimes they even give a real-time lecture and students can ask questions and interact in a sort of regular class discussion format. It works very well, and I like it. I have had a couple of professors that I feel have made my classes completely boring and a total waste of money. This is what they did: assigned reading from a text. Assigned a homework from that text. They did not do any online lectures or offer supplemental materials. It actually really pissed me off. It seemed like they were just saying, “Oh this is awesome, I’ll just make a syllabus once and chuck out the assignments. Easy Peasey” In fact one professor couldn’t even be bothered to make sure that she changed the dates on the assignments from the previous semester to the most recent one. Unfortunately since USM has decided to fire all their professors, I’ve noticed that the good ones I’ve had are being replaced by the half-assed ones. Not cool. A good on-line teacher needs to be engaged as much as a real-time teacher. She needs to give lectures. She needs to at least pretend she’s excited about the materials and the students. That makes a good teacher in general.

ONLINE CLASS MEANS ONLINE

OK, this only happened once and it still pisses me off. Last semester I had an online class that required I travel to an onsite location to take an online, proctored, open book exam. That’s right. I could have taken the test at home easily. In fact, the test was administered THROUGH Blackboard. I had to drive to Portland and sit in the computer lab so that I could show the professor my ID and prove that I’m not cheating on this stupid test. It really, really makes me mad. I’m taking an online class because 1. I hate going places. 2. It’s a pain for me to do so. Why did they feel the need to make us drive there? Basically because they think all students are cheaters, I guess. If you don’t trust a group of grown adults to take the test online in an online class, then don’t offer an online class. And don’t be surprised that people are angry when you make them take time out to drive 50 miles to take a test that they could have taken at home.

WORKSHOPS DON’T WORK

I am currently taking an online creative writing class. For a long time I believed that online writing workshops would be great. They aren’t. Sure, people post their work and other people comment on it, but it’s just not the same as real-time workshops. This summer I was able to attend Stonecoast Writers’ Conference, and have some real life workshopping. It was incredibly valuable. The biggest difference is that the online discussion is too nice. Everyone points out what works but no-one has the courage to say what doesn’t. Yes, I’m saying, and I know how weird this is: on-line workshop students are too nice. I also think there is something that happens when a group of people get together in a same room and discuss their writing in person. You have to trust each other not to be jerks, and you’re sitting in the same space as the person you’re critiquing, so you want to give them good, constructive advice. Now, that said, I think it MIGHT be possible for workshops to work if they were done online in real-time conference call style format. I can’t say for sure, because I haven’t participated in a class like that, but I think it might be an OK medium.

GENERAL ADVICE

Some final thoughts:

  • Do not assume that online classes are going to be easier.
  • Get a good printer
  • Get some good PDF reading software. I like Evernote. I like Evernote for a lot of things actually.
  • Make a schedule for all your work. I put it all in Google Tasks.
  • Software that saves to .docx. If you have Word, no problem. If you use Pages or Google Docs it’s kind of a pain but can be done. Just make sure you learn how to do it before your papers are due.
  • Be patient. A lot of your professors are thrown into this and are just learning how to use the tech too.

ASK ME ANYTHING

Got questions about online classes, NOT tech support 🙂 Drop me a comment.

PS. Han shoots first.