Food and Feelings

You and food have a relationship.

Food and I have a relationship. One of the things I love and hate about the whole30 is that it purports to change your “relationship” with food. Only in the midst of my 2nd? 3rd? round do I finally realize exactly what kind of relationship they mean.

Food is the most significant other we have. It’s in our life daily. We depend on it for sustenance. It makes us feel happy, sad, frustrated, tired. It’s also an activity that connects us to other people. It’s how we celebrate and socialize. I didn’t realize how impactful it was until I started intentionally thinking about that impact.

But guys, changing that relationship is hard.

I had a meltdown at the doctor’s office this week, because she started telling me about more stuff I can try to help me digest things. Subconsciously, I wanted her to say, “you’re healed, go forth and eat all the things.”

Of course that wasn’t the reality. Guts are hard to heal, and it takes a lot of time and patience and healthy, clean choices. I’ve been pretty positive and gung-ho and energetic about my new lifestyle for the past 55 days…but suddenly, in the past couple of weeks, I can’t help thinking about what I’m missing.

The Domino’s ads on my Insta feed make me drool. The pastries at coffee shops call out to me: “eat us…” My housemate made pesto tortellini the other night and I spent a good three minutes staring at the pot, smelling the cheese, and thinking to myself: “would just one really hurt?”

Probably not, is the answer, which makes it harder to resist. But then again, maybe it kind of would.

The tough thing about chronic inflammation in the body, especially related to food, is that it is low-grade, and seems “normal.” I didn’t know I was always tired and foggy, or how much my allergies, reactive airways and eczema affected me – until all these things cleared up. I didn’t know how bad off I was until I gradually got better. And, once you have one tortellini, it’s easy to have more, thinking there’s no problem – until you gradually get worse again.

Hence, the strict process of “reintroduction,” which I am now entering. I made a list of foods I really want to eat again. Thai food, gluten-free grains, and maybe some goat milk yogurt and granola (with paleo sweeteners) all made the list.

Post-meltdown, my doc gave me a great reminder – whatever you do, the most important thing is to listen to your body. If I’m craving dietary variety, it’s a sign that it’s time to start adding things in. But, in order to keep and bolster my new relationship with food, I need to be very intentional about how that happens. The goal is to eat those things I miss one at a time, leaving a couple of days of Whole30 between each new thing so that I can tell if it impacts my system, and how.

After my meltdown, I realized another thing that’s been getting me down: because I am still in the thick of it, I haven’t taken enough moments to celebrate the lifestyle changes I’ve made successfully so far.

One reason for this goes back to my relationship with food as celebration. We have cake at birthdays, dinner on Valentine’s Day, feasts on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and wine and cupcakes and happy hour snacks when it’s Friday.

How do I celebrate without treats? How do I treat myself without sweets? That’s what I have to figure out.

But first – a Pressed Juicery Freeze, because old habits die hard.

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Vanilla bean, dates, coconut milk – topped with strawberries, cacao, and coconut

 

Food and Feelings

Going Places

I use my favorite travel photos as my desktop backgrounds. I’ve told my computer to rotate through a folder of photos, all my best ones, changing every time it wakes from sleep. I love this way of remembering where I’ve been. Every time I open my laptop, a new place pops up and I’m flooded with memories of standing right there, looking at that, capturing the moment.

I wish I could capture the feeling. Sometimes it washes over me in a wave of nostalgic tears, and I sense so acutely that part of me is missing.

What part, you ask? There’s a lot of writing out there talking about how traveling changes your life, that it’s life-changing, that it impacts everything you think and believe in, thereby changing your life through all the life-changing experiences. Sense a pattern?

I kind of believe that, but I think it changes lives not in the generic just take off and land somewhere and you’re insta-changed sense, but in the sense of it really makes you think about yourself, where you came from, and where you’re going. And it makes you think about the now.

Maybe it’s a photo. Maybe it’s a song, or a smell. Sometimes I get any kind of sensory stimulus and it’s suddenly specific and transporting me back. I’m back on the streets of Valenciennes, strutting over the cobblestones with my school bag bouncing on my hip, in my no-nonsense black boots, watching out for ubiquitous dog crap (no matter how lucky it is to step in it). Other times I’m sitting in the Jardin de Luxembourg, under the Paris sunshine with my best friends, market cheese, and a bottle of wine per person. I’m alone in the deserted streets of Somain, walking to school before the sunrise. I’m in the metro, bathed in eau de mĂ©tro – a mix of beer and pee, maybe some mold or garbage, occasionally punctuated by the wafting warm smell of a fresh batch of croissants from the metro cafĂ©s. I’m on a train heading somewhere I’ve never been, journaling about last weekend’s parties, my experiences with French people, my struggles with the language and with homesickness.

I was solo, all over the world. I made new friends and saw lots of things, and it was the first time I’d ever felt the true weight of my decisions. Each direction I took determined the likelihood of finding my way through a foreign land. Each social occasion determined whether or not I’d have genuine companions in my expatriation. Mulling over, making, and accepting my decisions was the most empowering thing I’ve ever done. I learned my own agency: I can do whatever I want, I make my own life, and I accept the consequences of what I make. At the end of the day, the only thing that mattered was feeling comfortable in my boots and confident enough to explore again tomorrow.

Being back home is like, suddenly there are more people to take into account, and way more past and future things to think about. Old friends, S.O.’s, family members, a serious 8-4 job, the next job, the life direction. There are a lot more expectations about where I’ll devote my attention, a lot more things distracting me from what I’m doing now.

Those brief moments of nostalgia are breaths of fresh air in the muggy swamp of my routine.

Then again, so is the view of Mt. Rainier at sunrise on clear days, as I drive over Lake Washington. So are margarita nights with Mom, Indian food with Dad, sushi dates with my boyfriend and house parties with friends. So is the occasional trip out of town to see more of the great Pacific Northwest, and so are the funny stories from my days spent with kindergarteners.

Being on my own in a foreign place, concentrating on the now, the great things, the adventures of every day – it taught me how to bring that mentality everywhere. When I get those waves of nostalgia, it reminds me of the gifts of the present, of where I am. And even though I’m not alone, I’m not struggling with language, or traveling, or whatever else…I’ve still got the gifts of those experiences: many tools for feeling comfortable in my boots, and confident enough to explore again tomorrow.

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Going Places

Playing Teacher

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There’s what “playing teacher” used to look like.

I guess now I’ve been a real “teacher” for two years: first of French high schoolers, then of some rambunctious bilingual kindergarteners. Although those experiences were entirely different, one thing remained the same: I feel like a teacher who still thinks she’s a student.

This week, my head teacher left for a teacher training in California, and I was the head teacher for three days. I was nervous about it, having never been responsible for the learning of a class of kindergarteners. I shouldn’t have been; everything was prepared for me, and the only real work of a teacher I had to do was being present, engaged, and organized enough to lead the class through the days and hope they learned something.

Turns out, being present, engaged, and organized takes a lot out of me. It’s hard to describe teacher fatigue. I’ve tried in other posts, but the only real way to empathize is to be there. The little expectant faces, the way they all scream “ANNE! ANNE! ANNE!” at me until I acknowledge them, even if I’m talking to someone else…the way they bring me cookies and watch me until I eat them, the way they glow when I praise their work, the joy I feel when I see them mastering something new, and the patience it takes to explain something five times and five different ways, all while being pulled and tugged and poked and otherwise distracted…it really is a job in its own category.

In high school it was obviously not the same — they stayed at their desks, they didn’t yell out in class…they didn’t talk much at all. Responding in English class was probably social suicide. But there were similar moments of inspiration and learning — when I decided to teach them about country music and they all started singing along, for example… when I taught them philosophy and I saw the scrunchy puzzled face turn into a comprehending smile.

Regardless of the context, I still feel like I’m playing teacher. I’m too young, I’m too inexperienced, I haven’t encountered enough situations to know how to handle them all, I don’t have enough education, I don’t have any natural authority: all of these are things I’ve thought to myself in the past two years, over and over again.

I realized, this week, that teaching isn’t really about any of those things. It helps to have experience, which comes with age and encountering situations, and it helps to have education and natural authority. But most of being a teacher is about being present, engaged, and organized enough to  lead a class through a day, or a period, and hope that they’ve learned something.

I just found this perfect quote:

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I want to become an educator, and the only way to learn how is by playing at it. Sometimes, I’ll get things right.

Playing Teacher

On Kindergarten

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How I feel at school is analogous to how I feel in life. I’m a barely-adult. Sometimes I feel like I’m underemployed; my immense skills and talents gained from world traveling and an education from a prestigious university are wasting away, unused [in a fit of eyeroll-worthy pretention].

Other times, I end up sobbing in Mommy’s backyard, locked out and overflowing with self-pity, and life is just so hard. Those are the moments I want to be a kindergartener, not teach them.

I’d die to have someone pick the seeds out of my orange slices. I want someone else to receive an e-mail saying I need to bring a potato and a leek to school tomorrow, to put those vegetables in my backpack without letting me know I had that responsibility. I’d love to ask an all-knowing all-powerful adult to validate my drama, and to make my friends apologize for hurting my feelings. I’d happily burst into tears and jump into some strong person’s arms when I’m tired, or frustrated, or I just can’t go on.

I want it to be okay that I’m young, and I’m learning, but I can’t do what the older kids can do yet. I want someone wise to remind me of that undeniable truth: that we are always learning and never perfect, and if you’re perfect what’s there to learn?   

But something happens when you’re in the repeat-childhood that is your 20s — you get to be “independent.” I became my own wise adult. Not only that, but I get to be the wise adult for my little almost-students, who are totally dependent. I have a wise adult voice, a wise adult air of confidence. My wise adult self makes sure they wash their hands with soap and teaches them it’s L M N O P and not ello-meno-pee so maybe they can read someday. 

But inside I know the truth: I am not a wise adult. Sometimes I can’t remember to bring my own potato and leek, and I can’t find the words to validate my own drama or make my friends apologize to me for hurting my feelings. All that feels like my fault and my shortcoming, because now it’s my responsibility.

Maybe the illusion that barely-adulthood is shattering is that wise adults “know what they’re doing.” Maybe they’re all just doing what they can, and that’s either enough…or not, sometimes. 

Or the true illusion is independence. Maybe I am only slogging through “becoming wise” because I know there are people behind me who would tie my shoes and help me zip my coat, if my fingers were numb or I didn’t know how.

Maybe we’re all still kindergarteners, inside, and we still need each other. 

On Kindergarten

Two Three

That title was mostly to show off my counting skills. Since I have been teaching so much counting, I have become a counting master. (OK, maybe I knew that well enough before…)

But the other meaning of it is…it’s almost my 23rd birthday! I’ll be finishing my 23rd journey around the sun, and starting my 24th.

My 23rd journey was a big one. It began in Valenciennes, France. In this year, I have not only journeyed around the sun, but I also journeyed to: Poland, Belgium, Greece, England, Spain, the Netherlands, and new places in both France and the U.S.A. I am so fortunate to have seen all of those places before my 23rd birthday. I’m kicking off my 24th sun journey with a trip to New York City, New Haven, and Boston, which should also be cool.

I always like a bit of reflection (but on birthdays especially). Here’s some.

Ironically, what I’ve learned in all this moving around is the importance of roots. A person is an accumulation of experiences, from when they see the first light of day (screaming and covered in mucus, which I’m glad I don’t remember) to the present (because we aren’t yet able to travel through time). Out of my total years lived (not that many — 22 and 358 days), 3.5 of them were spent at college and 1 of them was spent in France. The other 18.5 of them were spent at home. While I do think my travel and college years transformed me in major ways, there was a lot of me that had already been put into place before I pushed myself out of the nest.

While I was abroad, I was suddenly struck by the realization that my family members are important in ways that nobody else in my life is important. Ditto my closest friends. For both these groups, investing time and energy into them is a privilege, and I missed being able to when I was far away. Lesson #1 of my 23rd sun journey: just because they’re roots doesn’t mean they don’t need cultivation.

I love the people I come from, but I also love the place. Seattle is just the best. Every morning, I take 99 through downtown, and I get to see the sunrise over Mt. Rainier with all of the piers and ferries in the foreground. I always want to take a picture, but opt for safer driving…I missed the water and the mountains. And the coffee.

We watched this video about education during our pre-school year meetings, and the speaker (Jaime Casap, educational specialist at Google) advised trashing the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” Instead, he advocated replacing that with: “What problem do you want to solve?”

This question made me think differently about “the future.” My generation is in the throes of figuring out a path in life, and it’s a stressful process. This question eliminated some of the stress for me. Even if I can’t pick one particular problem that I want to solve, I know it will be in the realm of education and language and language education. It will be something about breaking down cultural barriers that block mutual understanding when people of different backgrounds try to communicate.

And right now, I am developing super problem-solving techniques. Just earlier today, I was running around trying to solve the problem of having vomit in the middle of the school hallway as classes walked through to recess. It’s all training ;).

My lesson #2 of my 23rd year: life is a process, let it unfold. “Letting it unfold” captures the zen I feel about how I’m doing at finding my path. The way is revealing itself to me, step by step, and I’m in a good position to identify when something is or is not the way. I am less worried about how things will work out, and instead I am letting them work out however they may. I think I even reflect less than I used to. But that’s okay, because I know that I will when I need to again.

Roots and ground, that’s all I need to stand tall and weather whatever comes my way, in sun journey # 24 🙂

Two Three

Working it Out

“If a doctor, lawyer, or dentist had 40 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn’t want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor, lawyer, or dentist, without assistance, had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher’s job.” – Donald D. Quinn

I’ve only taught my “patients” for 12 days, and I already feel the truth of this quote. Teachers have always been superheroes for me, given my mom’s legacy, and they are perhaps even more so now. I would be honored to become one of them.

For now, thank goodness I’m only an assistant. I get to do some fun low-key English and French teaching, hang out with the children all day, butter and jam some baguettes, and clean/organize/wrangle. If I added planning, preparing materials, communicating with parents, and meetings on top of that…I’d be my mother! And I am definitively not ready for that yet.

The best way to learn is to do, though! And I have been doing all I can find to do.

Anyway, the added complication of the classroom is also one of my favorite things about it: diversity! We had parent info night last night: out of nineteen children, there were parents from at least 8 different countries, who speak ~7 different languages. And that was only one of the 7 classrooms at our level! It felt like I was abroad again, in that expat group I love so well, except these parents ex-patted to the U.S.A.

Basically, I want their lives.

But, envy aside, I was inspired. I was standing at the front of the room helping explain some of the rhythms of the classroom to the parents and I realized how much I already care about their kids. There’s a whole lot of teamwork going into their upbringing: parents, teachers, and teaching assistants. And I am soo happy to be on their team.

And it also made me think about my own future, and how I think my destiny is to leave the country again. Grad school 2017, here I come!

Working it Out

In the Big City | In the Big World

I moved. I’m currently writing this from a basement room, now mine, in a house in Wallingford — one of Seattle’s coolest neighborhoods. In my biased opinion, that is. I’ve gotten to know most of the Seattle neighborhoods pretty well, both from summer adventures to visit friends and from recent explorations of my new home. I definitely can’t find my way between them without my trusty Google Maps app, but I’m getting there! Here’s my new nest, for the next year or so:

IMG_5058I have a new job, as a Kindergarten assistant in a dual-language school. I swear I’m more immersed in French there than I was in France. The school day is all in French except for an hour or two of English, and my whole team of teachers has French as their first language. I think I found my perfect next-step job. It’s keeping my language skills up (lots of new vocab…). It’s also really overwhelming me, in a good way, as I learn how to wrangle 5 year olds in a foreign language for 8 hours at a time — Not. Easy.

I come home sweaty and exhausted, with paint all over my fingers. It’s only been three days! But it is incredibly rewarding. The cute outweighs the mess. And part of my job is making a door look like a minion.

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The end of summer was really sudden, and it really feels over. For me, the end of summer has always been marked by the start of school, and this year it was no different! Une bonne rentrée, indeed.

My sister left for Italy. It’s her turn to travel the world, and I could not be more excited for her. I keep trying to convince her to start a photo blog, but I have to be content with her instagram photo updates, for now…Seeing her off filled me with nostalgia. I vividly remember my plane flight toward Paris, now almost three years ago, and how the subsequent semester changed my life. I hope it will do the same for her. Ciao, Clairenstein!

I get the question a lot: Do I miss France? Yes and no. I miss all the people I was close with, both the teachers and students of the lycĂ©e/collège in Somain and my fellow English teachers in Val. That international expat community, which insta-forms when you spend time in another country, is unlike any community I’ve encountered at home. There’s an unmatchable open spirit and joie de vivre. The world seems so big.

But losing the community, for now, doesn’t mean I have to lose the spirit of it.

Now, I’m coming full circle. I am training li’l tots to be in the Big World — to range leurs affaires (clean up after themselves) and to be sage (to be wise, in all the ways). To be cognitively and linguistically flexible, to be helpful, patient, kind, and empathetic, are, to me, the requirements of the diverse community we live in. It has returned me to my child roots. I cling to a consistent routine, I clean up after myself, and after two days of school all I needed was a hug from mama. While being in a new position has shaken my confidence, I think I do fit here. I love playing a minimal, but important, part in the development of little global citizens, and it’s exciting to help them learn and grow.

But for real, the children…they are adorable! (ah-door-ableuh)

In the Big City | In the Big World