I truly cannot even believe I finally get to post about how I lost the weight. If you are one of the old faithfuls that’s been hanging out with my blog (or me) for a while, you know this has been a topic on my mind for a long, long, long, long time.
In fact, being fat was the central preoccupation of my life for as long as I can remember. And I mean that literally. In my very earliest memories I knew I was fat and I knew I didn’t want to be. If pressed, I would have also admitted to it being a personal failing on my part. You know, had you asked me, when I was six years old. It wasn’t. But, I didn’t understand that until many years later.
Fast forward through all of the shame and feelings of failure and by some miracle, (and by miracle I mean me churning on the subject of diet and exercise for about 40 years), I was able to crack the code. I was able to lose my excess body fat.
My first instinct once I accomplished this life long feat was to stand on the street corner with a bullhorn wearing a sandwich board and telling people how I did it so they could do it too. I was personally prepared to save all the fat people. Everyone! Come! I have all the answers! I felt like Neo in the Matrix. All of a sudden everything was so clear and so obvious and WHY WON’T ANYONE LISTEN?!
Turns out, what I did to lose weight is a really hard sell. People hear what I did and say exactly what I said when I first heard each strategy: HELL NO.
Here’s the thing, while the bulk of my weight came off over a 6-month period, it took a whole lot of convincing to get me to do the three things I believe were fundamental to my personal success. When I say convincing, please know that I was like a toddler rolling around on the floor kicking and screaming with each of the three strategies. I wanted desperately for there to be another way. There wasn’t. Not for me.
As in, I even took up running. Surely I could eat what I wanted if I became a runner. That’s a big fat nope, y’all. I lost a grand total of ZERO pounds the year I trained for my first half marathon… same for the year I trained for my second one. It just didn’t work. You can’t outrun a bad diet. Believe me, I’ve tried.
So what did I do? Here are the three things I did, in the order I did them:
Strategy Number One: I gave up refined carbs. For me this meant I stopped eating all grains (bread, pasta, rice, crackers) and sugar (cookies, candies, cakes, ICE CREAM). I have watched people have a visceral reaction to this suggestion. Like, they get mad at me for even mentioning it. Look, I don’t care what you eat, friend. You’re a grown person. You can eat what you want. It’s what I did and still do. (Well, full disclosure, I still eat dark chocolate.)
Low carb was the first thing I ever did that I had any success with on my weight loss journey. The first time I tried to go low carb was in 1999 after reading a book called Protein Power. Nowadays people know what low carb is, back when I first ate that way, it was considered lunacy. Over the years it was always what I tried (and failed) to go back to when I was desperate for change. I just couldn’t get it to stick.
Strategy Number Two: I started fasting. People also have a strong reaction to this one. “You mean you starved yourself?” Yeah, no. I consistently and intermittently paused my eating so that my body would use my stored body fat for fuel as opposed to what was going into my mouth.
Convincing myself to fast was a tall order. My biggest issue with every diet I ever went on was constantly feeling hungry — which I hated. I was someone who notoriously got hangry when asked to take a late lunch as a nurse. It took two years after I learned about fasting for weight loss before I was willing to try it. Like, once. It felt like an impossible ask.
What finally convinced me was reading a book called Life in the Fasting Lane. I decided to give fasting a try after one of the authors described hunger as a liar. It clicked for me. I was drowning in body fat (like, literally, it was choking me in my sleep). So why on earth was my body constantly telling me to eat more? Use what we've got, man!
I had immediate success with fasting. It got me to Onederland and I felt like I finally had the magic bullet for weight loss. Then it stopped working after I had been doing it for about a year. The weight started to come back which was completely unacceptable. Since it was so successful in the beginning, I felt like I was on to something but maybe I was doing it wrong. (I was.)
Strategy Number Three: I hired a coach and joined a support group. I don’t know what it says about me that I was so reluctant to get help, but this was a last resort on my part. As in, I would rather walk on hot coals (or run half marathons) than “admit defeat” and get help. Dumb. Winners have coaches, y’all. Every famous athlete you’ve ever heard of has(d) a coach. Getting help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of commitment to succeed.
Of these three strategies I did to lose the weight, I can say without equivocation that it was getting help that made the difference. I had known and believed in low carb for 23 years. I had known and believed in fasting for 4 years. Knowing was not enough. I needed help with the doing.
Eating low carb and fasting with any consistency is hard. Like, really hard. Not impossible, obviously, but it is really easy to talk yourself out of either or both, especially since the whole world thinks you're crazy for doing either (more so if you’re doing both).
I joined the Fasting Method community on April 30, 2022. By Halloween, six months later, I had gone from obese to a normal weight. I went to support group meetings six days a week. I met with my coach once a week. I went all in. It was not possible for me to have been more committed. And it worked.
I have circled the sun at a normal weight for the first time in my entire life. I’m 47. And I was born round.
If you are reading this whilst struggling with your weight and you are ready to make a change but you don’t how to make it work, my very best advice is to get help. Full stop. I say this not only because it is my lived experience, but also because it’s what the academic evidence indicates works. Really. Go look. Or just trust me, I’m a doctor nurse now and I’ve been reading articles about obesity treatment for years. (Knowing isn't doing, folks.)
There are many paths to weight loss, none of them are easy, all of them will fail if you quit. Having support increases your odds exponentially that you will stay in the game and therefore find your way to a healthier lifestyle that you can stick with.
Obviously the Fasting Method and my coach are the team I give credit to for my success and I highly recommend that path. But if fasting is something you can’t wrap your brain around, it is not the only way. Maybe there is a weight management group in your community that offers intensive (meaning: frequent) counseling. WW is an evidence based program with support. You could hire an independent health coach. Or, you could create an accountability group with your own people. It’s just like Girl Scouts, y’all, you need a buddy!
The key to my weight loss success wasn’t magic, much as I wished for it for as long as I can remember. It was tenacity, a successful strategy, and for the love of all that is holy please HEAR ME: Support. Go get you some!
It’s craft season. Again. For other makers, craft season isn’t just the fall holidays. Many Etsy sellers and craft show veterans keep working all year round whether their micro-business is their main gig or not. That’s their jam and, you know, respect. That’s not how I do it. I do one show. That’s it. Some years I sell online, the thought of which makes me want to roll around on the floor, whining and kicking like a toddler; most years I sell to friends and family in person after my one show. I gift what I don’t sell, which usually isn’t much, and I start each year fresh. It’s one of my rhythms. It’s what I do.
Every year about this time, as if I have no concept of how a calendar works, there I am again, running around in circles, screaming and waving my hands in the air, wondering how on earth I’m going to pull off a craft show in the time I have left. You’d think I’d learn by now to manage my time better, or at least recognize that I always throw the most in September and October once the kids are back in school. You’d think.
It’s like being surprised every year how Daylight Saving Time works. “Can you believe how dark it is so early? Isn’t that crazy?” No. It’s not. It’s the same every year. What is wrong with you?
Even so. Even with that underlying stress that I’m not going to make it, WHY DIDN’T I START SOONER? I’M NEVER GOING TO MAKE IT! I know I’m going to make it. I know this, because I’ve made it every other year. Proof of my ability to do one simple, local craft show is in my personal history multiple times. Calm down.
I was thinking about this as I went for a run this morning. This past weekend was the one year anniversary of my finishing a half marathon. As I ran, I wondered whether I would be running any more races. I kept coming back to, well, you know you can, because you did. Yes, I’m obese, yes, I run slower than most people walk, but, I finished a f*@king half marathon, you guys. I even have the 13.1 sticker on the back of my car to prove it.
I am not the greatest potter or writer or nurse. I can’t run fast. But, I’ve made pottery on and off for two decades. I have written this blog for almost eight years. I have a couple of degrees and I am licensed by the state of Pennsylvania to take care of people, professionally. I no longer have to wonder if I can do it. I know I can do it. I’ve done it. Now it’s just a matter of doing it some more, of keeping at it even when I don’t feel like it, which, really, has always been the true hurdle.
The problem is, it all seems so big sometimes. Making a table full of thrown, trimmed, glazed, twice-fired pottery feels daunting. Running a marathon feels daunting. Earning a Master’s degree feels daunting. Surviving cancer feels daunting. But, you don’t do it all at once. There is a beautiful book on writing by Anne Lamott called Bird by Bird where she tells this story that I’ve started to consciously turn to when it all feels like too much:
Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”
Right? What kind of a sadistic teacher assigns a report on birds to a ten year old?
That aside, bird by bird is the secret to all of it. It is how anybody accomplishes anything. I can’t make a table full of finished pottery all at once. Even if I could, it wouldn’t be much fun because there would have to be machines involved and it would no longer be the craft that has become a part of my idea of who I am. I make pottery one piece at a time. Mug by mug. Plate by plate. Bowl by bowl.
When I started running, my first goal was to jog for 60 seconds. I used a couch to 5k app and after five minutes of walking, I jogged for one minute. That was it. I built on that one minute until I ran 13.1 miles at one (long) go. If I ever run another half, or decide to run a full marathon, it will still have started with that one minute. Some minutes really matter. I’ve written about that before.
Of course, self-imposed complications aren’t the only things I need to take on one moment at a time. There have been rough patches where I was sick or someone else was; or even rougher patches where grief was so consuming that I was positive I wasn’t going to make it through to the other side. But, I did. I’m still here.
Sometimes I took it one day at a time, sometimes I took it one hour at a time, and sometimes I knew if I could just get up, even if I couldn’t stop crying, if I could just get up and do something, anything, that would show me that I had it in me to keep going. After a while I knew I could do it only because I did it.
I try to remember this when I see pictures on social media of everyone’s highlight reels. One smiling shot is not the whole story. All of the suffering has been cropped out. When I see a before and after picture where somebody lost 60 pounds in the blink of an eye, I’m tempted to wonder why it was so easy for them. But I know better. I know what that picture doesn’t show are the weekly Weight Watcher meetings, the hateful, endless salads, the trips to the gym when she really didn’t want to go, and keeping track of all of those godforsaken points.
Pictures of smiling couples don’t show the ridiculous fights over how to properly load a dishwasher or why can’t you put down that phone? Pictures of smiling children holding trophies or ribbons don’t show the hours of practices and driving to meets. You can’t see from the picture of the graduate with his mortar board and diploma whether he ever got a detention for playing Tetris in history class, or whether the smiling mother next to him ever questioned the millions of decisions she had to make as his parent.
Life can be so unbelievably overwhelming sometimes. Not only are we trudging away through all of our obligations, but bad things happen that we don’t expect. We don’t have to get through any of this all at once. We break it into little pieces. Weeks. Days. Hours. Breaths. Heartbeats. We get through the hard parts and try to remember to stop and smile and capture the good parts and share them with our people.
A month from now, on November 18th, I’ll be standing behind my table which will be covered by pottery that represents hours of work. Throughout the course of the day I will hear one of two comments by almost everyone who stops to talk to me. Either, “have you and your husband ever recreated that scene from Ghost?” Hahahahahaha… Seriously. Multiple times. Every year. Uh, no. You don’t touch someone while they are throwing pottery. It throws them off center. My husband knows this and respects this.
Or, they’ll say something along the lines of, “I always wanted to do that.” Of course, they could do it. Anyone can. The nature of a craft is that it is something anyone can learn how to do. But that’s not really what they mean.
They don’t want to start from day one, where you slap a blob of clay in the middle of a spinning circle and it is a complete freaking mystery how to get something that so obviously wants to lay flat to stand up. They don’t want to spend hours upon hours learning how to make mugs out of mud. They don't want the hard parts. They want to just know how to do it. Like magic.
But, that’s not how it works. In order to do almost anything interesting or difficult, you’ve got to put the time in. You’ve got to sit and practice and keep at it. And keep at it some more, bowl by bowl.
Long ago, in a living room far away, I had a late night conversation that set in motion a plan to be in school for FIVE MORE YEARS. By long ago, I mean three years. Which, math fans, means I have two left. Right now I’m between semesters, looking down the barrel of summer break with the uneasy feeling that there is something else I should be doing. I should be studying. I should be researching. I should be schooling! I should not have this feeling of being academically obligation-less.
Well, mostly obligation-less. The soul crushing nature of a program where you have to take boards at the end means you could always be studying. For me, it will be the Family Nurse Practitioner certification exam. That test is ever-present. That test is the kind that sneaks up on you when you think to yourself, I’m free, I have nothing to do, and whispers, “you still have me” in a menacing, sadistic voice, like a serial killer who is toying with you before he makes his final move and throws you in the back of his van on your way out of Wawa.
That might be a little dramatic. But, there is something about that unfinished feeling that comes with being in school. It hovers over you while you watch t.v., or sleep in, or, heaven forbid, read fiction. (Scandalous.)
Even with that sneaky bastard nipping at me, I still have a mostly unencumbered feeling that begs encumbering. There is a big hole in my brain where schoolwork had been hunched that is pulling for more obligations like a vacuum. Fortunately, I have the fall pottery season to shove in there. Before I was even out of the parking lot from taking my last final, I thought, gosh, November is getting close and I have nothing made.
Still. Call me midlife crisis-y, but, I constantly feel like I’m running out of time to get life done. That is what sent me down this school rabbit-hole to begin with. Being an RN didn’t feel like I was finished. Since nursing was something I fell into without much forethought (don’t judge me, I had a baby, my brain was barely functioning) it didn’t feel like I was finished cultivating a career. So, here I am, back in school, and in the midst of being a graduate student it has finally dawned on me that one does not finish a career. You freaking work. You try to do your best. You aren’t finished until you stop working. And, even then, you aren’t finished living. There’s still stuff to do.
Which makes me wonder, when/if I finish my degree, will that make me feel finished? I’m guessing it won’t. I don’t think finished is something my brain is capable of understanding. (I can't speak for anyone else's brains, but I know my mother felt this way too. Does everyone?) As long as my neurons are firing, there is something else to get done. Always. It’s like never being done with laundry as long as there are still family members out in the world wearing clothes. The laundry isn’t finished. The laundry will NEVER be finished.
If that is the case, did I really need to go back to school? If I was never going to feel finished anyway, wouldn’t it have been easier to stop where I was? I really like being a PACU nurse. Being around people when they wake up from anesthesia is like being there when people are getting off a roller coaster. Their hair is a mess, they’re disoriented, and there you are, calm and stabilizing, helping them reclaim their bearings so they can go back out into the world. Yes, sometimes they puke, but mostly, they’re just looking for someone to be there so they can say, “can you believe that just happened to me?”
I guess the part of me that decided to become a nurse practitioner is the part that wants to be there before the roller coaster ride. When patients come to me now, all the decisions have been made and the intervention is done. I’m a receiver tasked to catch them so they land softly and can get back on their feet. The bossy, opinionated part of me wants to get to people well before they are rolled into my bay. My goal as an NP is to help people find the motivation to make healthier choices so that some of them can avoid the hospital entirely, let alone the recovery room.
Maybe my unfinished feeling is the part that wants to walk along the beach throwing starfishes back out to sea, counseling each one to go forth, eat healthy, exercise, get enough sleep, and manage their stress as I send them on their way. 'Cause isn’t that what we’re all looking for? Someone to rip us off the hot beach and throw us into the cold, unforgiving ocean?
Yeah, no. We don’t want to live healthy lives. Living healthy is effortful and un-delicious. It is not until we find ourselves sick that we wish we could go back and make different choices. I know this. I live this.
Can I get people to choose a different path? I don’t know! Maybe somebody! And since there are 7 billion people on the planet that all need to make healthy choices, it is not possible to ever be finished promoting healthy living. Health promotion is like laundry.
So, I haven’t finished learning, or my career, or my personal mission, and I never will. I won’t be done until I’m Done.
Even so, summer break is here. There will be sunshine, bored kids, fast vacations, pottery, easy reads, air conditioned runs, Harry Potter movie marathons, walks in my forest, and, of course, work. But, I won’t be writing any papers in APA format. I’m getting some school-free relaxing in. I'm guessing the twitchy no tests feeling will be replaced with the twitchy these-kids-are-making-me-crazy feeling soon enough.
And to all the students graduating this season: Congratulations! You might feel the same emptiness where schoolwork used to be too, but my advice is to think carefully before you choose to fill it with more school. Take some time. Dig into work. Dig into a creative outlet. Dig into the unscripted, undefined life that you get to design for yourself. The real test is the one where we choose to follow our dreams and values or not. That's the only vital one you have left to pass.
Well, that and knowing when to avoid creepy vans at Wawa. Constant vigilance, you guys!
“That’s it”, she said, for the 30th year in a row, “this year is the year I’m going to stop being a fat person.”
But, does she really believe it? She said the same thing last year...
Hell yes! She has believed it every year because she's stupidly optimistic. But why on earth would this year be any different? You know what, nobody likes a downer. Besides, fresh starts are awesome, aren’t they?
It’s arbitrary, of course, when we turn the calendar to start a new year. It’s not even at a good time. Honestly, who wants their fresh start to be right after the beginning of winter? Who would really choose that? Starting an exercise program when it hurts your skin to go outside? Starting to eat healthier when there are no vegetables growing? What a terrible idea. Thanks a lot, Pope Gregory XIII.
But, maybe it’s for the best. Winter is when people would probably most naturally not be eating well or exercising because of how much harder it is than in ALL THE OTHER SEASONS BECAUSE WINTER IS TERRIBLE. So, having an extra incentive to kick it in rather than hibernate is not all bad, I guess.
But why am I so much more able to eat vegetables in January than in any other month? Why is it so much easier to start than to keep going? Well, because it is. Starting is delicious and new and exciting and fresh and our little novelty-craving brains just love it. Where’s the fun in maintaining momentum? Where’s the spark? As someone who has been married going on 18 years, I’m here to tell you, fresh and new are not sustainable. There has to be something else to keep you going.
Truth be told, vegetables in January are so easy because it’s been so long since I’ve had any. That is the sad reality. Vegetables and lean proteins feel new again! But, every day? Forever? Well, it wears on you. There needs to be something beyond novelty driving the Let’s Go! train. Otherwise, mmm, Let’s Not... will takeover.
So, what's the secret? When the novelty is gone and all that’s left is the drudgery of day to day, how do you choke down another salad? Hell if I know, but, I’ll tell you what I’m going to try this year that is different. Maybe this will be the thing. You ready? You ready for my big epiphany-like breakthrough? Here goes: I’m going to keep doing it even when I don’t want to anymore.
Shew. I know that’s a lot to process, so, feel free to stop reading this post and go have a celery stick or something.
For those of you still here, how, you may ask, obese person who has never successfully kept weight off, do you plan to achieve such a mind-blowing victory? Well, I’m glad you asked. I have a three pronged plan:
Avoid hunger. Hunger leads to terrible decisions like Chinese food and cold french fries.
Almonds. Skinny people are always counting almonds, you guys. I think they know something. So, I’m going to carry almonds around with me to ward off fatness. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to eat them or not, so, I’ll have to get back to you on that. Because maybe I’m supposed to form them into an actual shield of some sort. I mean, I’ve never seen a shield made of almonds wielded by a skinny person, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. OR, maybe they really just keep counting them. The skinny person you know may have been counting the same almonds for the past 12 years.
Have a plan when steps 1 & 2 inevitably fail. Because, you guys, hunger and not having any almonds will happen. They just will. Life does sneaky things. One day I’ll find myself at a restaurant, I will have missed a meal and I will have forgotten my almonds. The grilled chicken breast and broccoli is not the choice I’m going to make. It’s just not happening. First of all, I don’t eat broccoli. Second of all, I love things with gravy. Gravy makes everything better. If I’m hungry and almondless, I’m ordering something with gravy.
BUT THEN, and here’s the real crux of it all, I’m not going to hop on the Let’s Not... train and bagel and ice cream and pizza it up until it’s January again.
Once I come down off the gravy high, I’m going to take a walk with my almonds, regroup, and go back to eating healthy even if I don’t want to anymore.
There you go. That’s it. That’s how this year will be different. Or it won’t be. But even if I only manage to eat healthy 1/12th of every year, there’s hope. Waking up some January 1st without the will to at least try to be healthier scares me a hell of a lot more than being a fat person.
So here’s to you, fellow Fresh Starters. May our vegetables be crispy, our chicken breasts be savory, our feet be move-y, and may we never find ourselves without almonds.
I do not handle confrontation well. My mother taught me, just as her mother taught her, don't make waves. Avoid talking about politics and religion. Keep your mouth shut and get along.
I’ve done my best.
I’ve stood by my belief that the relationships I have with my friends and family are more important than our differing political views. I believed that what happens in our day to day lives is more real than the abstractions in Washington D.C. and on Wall Street. My biggest wish was for my Facebook friends to keep political engagement light so that we could enjoy peace.
That didn’t happen.
Instead, I slowly watched my feed get enveloped by the political machine. I saw blatant propaganda being shared as though it were news. And even though I didn’t post my own beliefs or engage in comment wars, I didn’t feel any more connected to the people in my life; I felt less so. Additionally, as friends and family members posted hostile things that questioned the intelligence of “Libtards” or people whose views tilted left, I felt personally insulted.
I literally (not figuratively) felt the urge to challenge some of these people to an IQ test. I’m not even kidding right now, you guys. I had this vivid image of myself sitting across the table from someone whilst angrily filling out scantron bubbles thinking, “call me stupid again, mother f*@ker!”
This is not healthy.
So I would like to take the opportunity to tell any of the Republicans in my life (and there are many) who took the low road and insulted me for my political beliefs, perhaps without knowing it: I am not a stupid person. If you would like to have an IQ battle with me, I’ve got my sharpened #2 pencils ready. Bring it.
I don’t think the problem is that people who know me think I am stupid, though. I think the problem is more likely you make assumptions about all Democrats and don’t understand what being a Democrat means to me. Thus, this post. I’m done being quietly misunderstood. If you read this and still think I’m an idiot, then at least you’ll have made an informed decision.
Here are 10 of the reasons I choose to be a Democrat:
1. I believe in the equality of all human beings. People should not be treated differently based on how they look, on whether they are boys or girls, on what religion they choose (or don’t choose) to practice, on how much money they have in the bank, or on who they love. Freedom and equality are the founding principles of this country. They are what make me most proud to be an American.
2. I believe we have a duty to not trash our environment. Climate change aside, there are real consequences to poisoning the earth, air, and water that we depend on to survive. Cancer is one of those consequences. As a childhood cancer survivor, this is not a small issue for me. The idea that my children could do their very best to live a healthy lifestyle and still get sick because the air they breathe or the water they drink has been poisoned is beyond depressing. We owe our planet and the people who will come after us basic stewardship.
3. I believe some people could really use our help, especially the elderly, the disabled, and children. Judging from the misinformation I’ve seen fly by on my feed, there is a lot to be learned about entitlement programs. To be clear, I find the practice of able-bodied people choosing not to work and instead soaking off the labor of others to be a shameful way to live. However, the bulk of money spent on entitlement programs is spent to help the elderly. For example, Medicare is an entitlement program.
Did you know that Medicare is universal healthcare? I know a lot of people don’t think about it that way, but that’s exactly what it is. Only, for the most part, you have to be 65 or disabled to be covered. Medicare is an expensive proposition because it covers people at the time in their lives when they most need healthcare. Without coverage, paying for things like knee replacements and heart surgeries would be cost prohibitive for our seniors. Their choices would be to keep working until they died, pay premiums that would be outrageous because of their age bracket, liquidate all of their assets including the house they spent their entire lives paying for, or live with the pain/die earlier. That doesn’t seem very nice.
Did you know that the bulk of Medicaid, another entitlement program, is also spent on the elderly? Nursing homes are mad expensive. Without the government stepping in to house seniors whose families are unable to care for them on their own, what is their other option? Alzheimer patients left at home to wander off, forget to eat, or burn the house down? Bedridden people left alone all day while their loved ones go to work? I mean, honestly, what’s the plan for these people if we don’t help them as a society? Will you have enough money in the bank at the end of your career to pay for someone to take care of you full time if you can no longer take care of yourself? What about if something happened to you right now and you could no longer work?
4. I believe that healthcare is a basic human right. The idea that if a child breaks her arm after falling off the monkey bars that we wouldn’t fix it if her parents couldn’t afford to pay a surgeon or that an elderly man with diabetes who can’t afford insulin or glucose testing supplies should be left to die is just not okay. We live in a civilized society with the resources to care for these people without putting their lives in financial ruin. What does that say about us if we do nothing for them?
5. I believe the minimum wage should be a livable wage. The argument that a cashier does not deserve to make enough money to support herself and her children, even if she works full time, because she didn’t get a good enough education to get a better job is a disgraceful argument. Not everyone is lucky enough to have the means or the intellectual capacity to get through college or other specialized training programs. Plus, if these people aren’t paid a livable wage, can you guess where they turn for help if they can’t afford food or healthcare? Public assistance. The taxpayers are expected to help support the employees of large corporations. Because of this, corporations are able to pay millions of dollars to top leadership while not paying those at the bottom enough to pay their rent. This isn’t fair to anyone: not the employee, not the taxpayer that is expected to pick up the slack.
6. I believe a mostly male government has no business trying to dictate what a woman does with her own body.
7. I believe in the 1st Amendment and freedom of the press. I depend on people uncovering the truth and keeping people in power accountable for their actions.
8. I believe in the 2nd Amendment. People have the right to have weapons with which to hunt and to protect their people and property. In fact, as a person who grew up watching the movie Red Dawn, I’m depending on our military, our retired military, and our armed citizens to protect us if we ever get invaded by the Russians or any other power hungry regime. However, I think people convicted of violent crimes or who have serious mental health diagnoses that indicate they are mentally unstable should not be able to buy a machine gun on a whim, no questions asked.
9. I believe we should have a strong military to protect us and the people around the world who have no one to stand up for them. However, I don’t believe that our military should be wielded for personal gain and the use of extreme force should be taken very seriously.
10. I believe in access to quality education. Without the ability to comprehend the world around us as a result of historical reflection or an understanding of what constitutes scientific discovery, people are less able to make informed decisions. They don’t develop the ability to review each new piece of information with a skeptical eye, nor do they recognize their role in the larger context of civilization.
To be honest, if I had more faith in humanity, I’d be a libertarian. We should not have to depend on an incredibly fallible government to tell us how to live. We shouldn’t need all these rules and regulations telling us how to be decent. Unfortunately, history has proven repeatedly that human beings, when left to their own devices, don’t always make the right choices.
Corporations have poisoned water supplies, they’ve let people die from faulty products because the cost of recalls are higher than the cost of lawsuits, they’ve sold us medications that they knew caused more harm than good, they’ve discriminated against people based on gender, age, ethnicity, disability, and sexual orientation. Time and again people have proven that without rules, they will screw their fellow man for money. Pure capitalism, with no regulations, paves the way for snake oil salesmen on a global scale. Wall street left unchecked leads to depressions and recessions. Greed and a desire for power can cause people to make incredibly bad choices.
Call me a bleeding heart liberal all you want. I’m a nurse and a mother. I care about people. I care about the world we share. I don’t believe money or the pursuit of it should be the driving force in all of the decisions we make. If that makes me stupid in your opinion, well, you’re entitled to it. But, I bet I could still kick your ass in a game of Words With Friends.
Okay teachers, I’m crawling across the mat with every last bit of effort trying to reach you so I can tag out. I just can’t anymore. You’ve got to take them back.
I know what I said in May, all right. So don’t be that guy. You know, the one who crouches over the poor bastard who broke his leg in a skiing accident, who’s suffering from hypothermia, and says, “I thought you loved winter?” We all hate that guy.
I do love summer. I love how alive and bright it is. I love that I could go outside naked if there weren’t laws against that and I didn’t have such deep-seated body issues. I love how I can feel warm to my core without having to hide in the bathtub for hours, cursing the Earth for tilting away from the Sun. I love that there is nothing looming over me or my kids. There are no tests to study for or projects to work on or books that have to get read. It is okay to simply exist for a while.
You know, in theory. In reality, honestly, it’s mostly freaking noisy.
I tried to have a plan this summer to keep the wretched creatures, I mean, darling angels engaged. I wanted a structure on which to hang lasting summer memories. For each of the twelve weeks of summer, I chose a book for us to read (or one we’ve already read) and came up with ideas for crafts, foods, photo booth props, and a field trip. It was all very exciting.
Our first book was Awkward, a graphic novel by Svetlana Chmakova about art versus science and how they can come together to form a gestalt. Our craft was drawing comic strips. Our food was a barbecue because one was mentioned in the story. Our photo booth props were large black square outlines meant to look like the outline of a comic.
Our field trip was to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, a science museum that happened to be hosting The Science Behind Pixar exhibit, which was about how science is an integral part of the art of computer animation. I mean, hello. You guys, I NAILED week one.
Week two was Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll. And that’s where it turned to shit. Yes, I said week two. First of all, though, if you haven’t actually read Alice in Wonderland, and have only watched the movies, or read it when you were a kid, I’m telling you, revisit that book. There is a reason people keep going back to that story. As visually compelling as it is, the words are even more captivating.
The week started off well. We did a picnic at my local thinking spot while I read the story to my kids. Even my youngest recognized that it was a treasurable moment. The weather was perfect, the view was sweeping, the story was interesting and funny, and we got to eat cookies.
The next time I went to read to them, though, in our house, while folding laundry, they just weren’t into it. If I had to pinpoint an explanation as to why we all gave up on Camp Shuker it would be because it felt like more school work and we all really needed a break.
Even fun things take effort and we just wanted to lay around and drool for a while.
So we did.
Then Pokémon Go happened. My youngest, Charlie, has been obsessed with Pokémon for years. And he’s only seven. That an app came out that would allow him to catch Pokémon after dreaming of doing just that for as long as he could remember is proof to me that magic exists. So out in the world we went. And went and went and went.
That’s when I had the brilliant idea to backdoor Camp Shuker. I picked a book based on what we were doing, rather than the other way around. I even got the audiobook so I wouldn’t have to do any work.
The book was Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, read by Wil Wheaton. It is about a guy trying to win an immersive, virtual reality video game. He spends all his time playing the game only to realize that real life is where the living happens. That’s right, I kind of Inceptioned their asses. I mean, it didn’t work. They’re all currently glued to their electronics as I write this. But, still. They got the message. Probably.
We’re ready to get back to work is what I’m saying. We had a break. We lived it up as sloths. Now when we cruise by the school supply section at Target I’m not the only one who lingers. Last time, Charlie asked for a flash drive. “What do you need a flash drive for?” I asked. *sigh* “My data,” he said.
Teachers, I implore you. My seven year old has some data. I need you to help him with that. I'm done.
I can not believe I’m going to say this, but, I’m ready for the school year to end. I know. I’m worried I was abducted by aliens and replaced with a cyborg, too.
As someone who believes snow days are a personal affront to my sanity; as someone who responds to people who choose to homeschool their children with, “dear God, why would you do that to yourself?”; as someone who has considered instituting a ritual wherein I meet the first day of school bus wearing nothing but body paint and a smile while dousing my head with champagne and pounding on freedom drums; I, Heather Shuker, am looking forward to the last day of school.
It’s not that I’m looking forward to the long days of summer, mind you. Much as I love me some warm weather and sunshine, when my children are home with me all day for weeks on end there is an ongoing and brutal electronics war that I invariably lose. This mostly consists of my own internal battle between trying to be a good parent and wanting some freaking peace.
It goes something like this:
ME: Sweet, precious, small people, because I want your brains to be nourished with the fruit of the natural world, please, spend your days outside soaking in the glories of nature.
MY KIDS: It’s hot.
ME: Darlings, I understand the weather can be uncomfortable, therefore, how about you improve your minds with thought provoking literature that transcends time.
MY KIDS: How long do I have to read before I can go on electronics?
ME: Dear ones, build your unity, interpersonal connectedness, and problem solving skills by playing board games or Legos with each other.
MY KIDS: Will you play with us?
ME: Hell no.
Then, in an attempt to boldly follow the endless articles touting the importance of limiting screen time, I just take the electronics away and deal with the consequences....
After several days of whining, fighting, complaining, complete destruction of my house, nagging, and unquenchable hungers, I relent. Much like throwing steaks toward a pack of hungry wolves in an effort to keep them from annihilating you, I throw their electronics at them and run for cover.
Now, I ask you, who has the Herculean strength to consistently choose “enrichment activities” over electronics all freaking summer? Well, good for those people. I’ve only got a few good fights in me a week. The rest of the time I just throw the guilt onto the pile of all of the other things that make me an imperfect parent. (It's not a small pile.)
Why am I looking forward to the end of the school year, then, you ask? Well, for those of us who have less than perfect children (*gasp*! Am I allowed to admit that?) the school year can be a gruesomely long game of "oh god, what did he do now?" every time a teacher e-mails, calls, or sends home a note.
Which isn’t to say I don’t love me some teachers. If any of you blessed angels are reading this, thank you one billion times for having the patience to teach my children and all of those other knucklehead children I see out in the world. (Not your children, dear reader, yours are perfect.) I am forever in your debt for teaching my kids to read and write and do math things.
I know it’s not easy. I once tried to spend the summer improving my kids’ handwriting. I got the special paper. I looked up all these inspirational quotes for them to practice writing. I printed out letter forming guides. I even sat with them to work on my own handwriting.
Well, you would think I was asking them to write their names in blood, Umbridge-style. There was wailing. There was crying in the streets. There was mass hysteria. Every single time I tried it, I ended up sending someone to his or her room and pencils were thrown by at least one of us. So, yeah, 180 days of trying to shove knowledge into these animals? Y’all deserve metals.
But, I need a break. A break from homework, a break from catching the school bus, a break from lunch packing debris all over my kitchen every morning, a break from the relentless schedule of who needs to be where when, a break from worrying about grades, a break from the downpour of papers, and, most of all, a break from, "do you know what your kid did?". No, but I can't wait for you to tell me.
Just, everybody, SHH. Pause. Regroup. And, come fall, we can do it again with a clean slate and a fresh bottle of champagne.
I like to throw things.