Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Lock Down vs. Shelter In Place

We had a "shelter in place" at school today. It was not a drill.

It happened during 2nd period. I'm almost always at school during 2nd period, even though I only teach 3rd and 4th, so when stuff goes down (it always seems to happen in 2nd period), I get to be in on it, too. Yay?

My colleague had a band booster mom in the office working on some stuff, and two of the percussion instructors were there, as well. Lynn was outside on the football field with her band, so all was quiet, aside from occasional chatter among those of us in the music office. When our school's receptionist came over the intercom to announce the shelter in place, it took us all by surprise.

After all, you're never expecting it.

Understandably, the band mom was initially concerned, but she's not the type to freak out. "What is the difference between shelter in place and a lock down?" she asked me. Fortunately, I know the difference and could assure her.

A lock down is serious--this is when the armed intruder is on campus, wreaking havoc. In a lock down situation, we literally lock everything down. Instruction stops, doors are locked, and all students get down on the ground, as far away from doors and windows as possible. Blinds are pulled shut and door windows are covered, if possible. Everyone waits, on the floor, until the all-clear is given. If a student is outside of a classroom, they can be quickly pulled in to safety as the lock down starts.

A shelter in place is far less serious, more of a precaution. In today's case, two burglary suspects were in a nearby neighborhood and law enforcement was working to capture them. Because of the uncertainty about the whereabouts of the suspects, and how armed they may or may not be, law enforcement contacted local schools and urged caution. We never had anyone on campus today who should not be there; however, for forty minutes, we kept all students inside, doors locked, and kept teaching as usual, on the very slim chance that one of the suspects was able to evade police and decide to hide out on a school campus.

Shelter in place can also be used for situations where there's some sort of toxin in the air from a nearby leak--if anything very serious leaked, HazMat would get in there and evacuate everyone. With a shelter in place, there is no serious threat to the school or its inhabitants, only the vague sense of, "Well, it's possible that someone could cause trouble, so let's keep everyone safe inside until the threat has passed."

We were in place for about 40 minutes this morning, when law enforcement captured two suspects and notified the schools that all was well. Our day went on as normal, and there was no disruption to the routine because the shelter in place did not cross over any class periods.

Of course, I mentioned the whole event on Facebook, leading to one friend making the "was it really necessary?" comment. Yes. Yes, it was. Schools are responsible for the safety of the children in their care. To shelter in place when local law enforcement recommends it is not overreacting, it's common sense.

This, of course, led to me making a remark about how easy it can be to get a gun in this country, and almost started a debate (except that I'm just too tired to debate with people who are, you know, my friends) about guns and how easy/hard they are to get. I maintain that it's too easy. I could walk into a WalMart tomorrow and buy one. I have no criminal record. I do have a medical record of being treated for anxiety about seven years ago, but it's likely that no one would blink an eyelash. No one would know that five days ago, I cried uncontrollably over missing a doctor's appointment, and later had one of the assistant principals see me, pause, look again and ask, "Hey, everything okay?" Or how easy it was  to smile and chirp, "I'm fine! Just tired!"--to lie--and have him believe me.

So I could buy a gun on Thursday. And I could snap on Friday. Aren't you glad I loathe guns?

Is it likely? No. I'm not going to buy a gun tomorrow, I'm actually going to talk to my doctor about my recent stress and anxiety, and start the ball rolling towards advocating for my right to mental health care. Not everyone has that luxury.

I could go on for days about why I feel this country needs some tighter control on how guns can be purchased--notice I said "tighter control," not "eliminate guns" or "make them illegal." I know that's impossible, and I know--yes, I heard you the first three thousand times--that for the most part, gun owners are responsible, yada, yada, yada. It doesn't stop terrible accidents, but hey, if you sleep better at night knowing you have a gun locked up tight that you can't get to in time when an armed intruder comes into your home...more power to you. I'll take my chances without the gun.

Recently, the friend of a friend on Facebook challenged me in a thread about school shootings--"We should arm teachers."

I refrained from using all caps and going absolutely batshit on him, but here, I'll lay out my problems with that:

  1. If I had a gun in my classroom, it stands to reason that I would not want students to mess with it.
  2. Students, I know from personal experience, are great at pretending not to hear you. No matter how many times, and how many ways, you say, "Please don't touch the thermostat, it's not going to--what did I just say?! DON'T TOUCH THE THERMOSTAT." Yeah. They're going to touch it.
  3. So, I'd lock up the gun in a safe.
  4. And then, one day, an armed person wreaks havoc on my campus. Hey, the answer to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, right NRA? *wink*
  5. Except that I don't have my gun. It's locked up tight. Right, here's my key, I'll go get my gun. Except...
  6. My first priority is seeing my kids to safety. Right, everyone. Crawl into the uniform closet! I'll just lock you in and then go get my gun. I'll knock three times so you know it's me when I get back.
  7. Oh, wait, what? Jane is having a panic attack? Okay, let me help her. Well, wait, no. I need my gun so I can play Hero Teacher. 
  8. Oh, shoot. I'm supposed to stay with you.
  9. But what about my gun? It's in my office.
Do you see where I'm going with this? 

My responsibility in a school emergency is not to play the hero and take out the bad guys. My responsibility is to act in loco parentis to keep the students in my care safe. Keeping them safe doesn't mean shoving them in a closet and running off to fight in a damned war. My duty to the kids in my classroom is to ensure that they stay calm, that anyone who may panic is helped, and to stay with those kids until it is safe to evacuate them.

So please, World, please stop the incredibly stupid "let's arm teachers!" argument. Also: it won't help school discipline to have guns on campus. Just don't go there.

Anyway, today was fine. We were never in any major danger, and I'm grateful to local law enforcement for advising our admin team. Working together in a community is what keeps us all safe. In the end, it was just a brief shelter in place that barely put a blip on our radar screen...but I never forget, my friends, that someday, it could be the real deal.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

How To Train Your Cat

Millie (age 15), is a pretty good-natured cat. Every so often, when she's not howling at us for attention or farting on us, someone in the house--a parent or myself--will glance at her and say, "She's a good cat." Okay, usually it's me. I'm biased. But Mom and Dad say it, too.

She's the type of cat who doesn't twitch a whisker at new additions--she was more curious than upset when I adopted Harley, for example. She has never had a problem with Mom's cats, Bella and Duchess. While she is very much the Queen, she's a benevolent dictator.

However, she is on the elderly side of the cat lifespan (how I hate to type that!), and teaching her new tricks is no easy feat. Still, for some reason, tonight I decided she ought to be able to ride around on my shoulder like a parrot.

So I perched her up there, her bottom and back feet resting against my shoulder, my hand on her side to balance her. I walked to the bathroom to look in the mirror, and had to giggle. Millie had the most bewildered look on her face, and her front feet braced against one of my breasts. It was obvious she couldn't fathom why her mom was suddenly making her ride around like this. I could almost hear her: "What's so bad about you just carrying me?!"

It only lasted a few minutes; before too long she shifted her weight a bit and went sailing ungracefully down my back, hitting the floor, only to be scooped up again with a loud exclamation of "Oh, honey!! I'm so sorry! Are you okay? Walk for me. You okay?? ...You're okay. Let me cuddle you."

After this little adventure, I decided to let her be. We cuddled on my bed for a few minutes, and there she remains, fast asleep on the soft afghan, dreaming her Millie dreams.

See? I have her so well-trained.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Farting Bears

For a couple of weeks now, I've occasionally heard Dad mention to Mom, "Hey, order my farting bear!!"

I know my family isn't the only family that loves flatulence humor, but we have to rank in the Top 10 for how far we take it. Well, how far Dad takes it. I'm pretty sure there's a Farting Santa somewhere in all the Christmas decorations.

Anyway, when I got home from work today, Mom and Dad were in their recliners. I waltzed into the living room to chat with them, and noticed a teddy bear on the table. "How cute," I said, picking it up. Then I noticed the box embedded in its teddy bear tummy. "Oh, good grief. Is this your farting bear?"

Dad grinned at me as I squeezed the bear's tummy and listened to it emit farting sounds. I don't know exactly why he feels he needs a flatulent teddy bear, but hey, I carry a lucky rubber duck in my purse. Who am I to judge?

All of this back story arrives at a punch line.

A few minutes ago, I wandered out to the living room, and noticed the farting bear sitting cheerfully on the table between Mom and Dad's chairs. Mom had a cat on her lap and a cat on the back of her chair, behind her head, and I grinned as I walked in. "You're surrounded by cats, and farting bears!"

I also happened to point two fingers--one at the bear, one at my father--as I said this.

Mom and I erupted into laughter at this. Dad, trying to watch his favorite evening news show, gave me a serious case of side-eye.

"Go to your room."

And that, my friends, is life in this family.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Speedy Recipe for Runners: Black Bean "Muffins"

I call this recipe "muffins" for lack of a better term. Originally, I came across this/tweaked it/kinda made it up after looking up black bean fritter recipes. I avoid frying for several reasons, but most of all because it's messy, and while olive oil is okay, I use enough of it in other ways that I don't really need to fry my food.

So I modified. And I've come up with something pretty darn tasty, filling, and share-worthy. I've been making these for the last few weeks, always tweaking the recipe here and there, and thought today it might be nice to take some pictures of the process and share it here on the blog.

These bean muffins are super-easy to make. I use them as part of my breakfast on weekdays, and have found that they are great re-heated or eaten cold. Runners are often in a hurry, what with getting a run in before work and heading out the door. I, personally, need a big breakfast to get through my day. Beans have both protein and fiber, and the vegetables in this recipe also help make me feel full. I don't eat just the muffins; I usually pair them with a small piece of quiche and a small bowl of fruit.

The ingredients are easy. I use low-sodium beans, and wash and drain them well to get the slimy stuff off.

After washing the beans, I mash them in a bowl with the goat cheese (you can soften it a bit in the microwave first, or just mash it cold). I don't mash all beans down; it's nice to have a few whole beans in there.

Next, I add the eggs, flour and corn starch, then mix everything up with a wooden spoon. Finally, I add the veggies (for today, I used some shredded zucchini I had on hand. Because it had been frozen for a while, it added a little bit of water to the recipe, which doesn't hurt anything). I used pre-shredded carrots, and chopped up a bit of leek.

I love adding chili powder and ground cumin, which you can add to taste. I fill muffin tins to about three-quarters with the mixture, and bake them for 20 minutes at about 400 degrees. They come out a lot like muffins, especially when I use a metal muffin pan and plenty of cooking spray. For some reason, they crumble more if I use the silicone muffin pan.

So delicious I ate half of one before I could take a picture!

For those counting calories or nutrients, here's the nutrition information, per muffin:

As you can see, they have a decent amount of protein, and are low in fat and calories. Again, I eat these in addition to other foods at breakfast, because on their own, I'd have to eat about five of them to feel satisfied! I find that adding beans to my breakfast in some way gets my day off to a great start nutritionally, and when made on Sunday afternoon, I have enough of these for a week's worth of breakfast, and even a quick snack here and there.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

My Week in Instagram (Week #100)

Wow, I've reached triple digits!

After the most recent post, need I even try describing this week?


My first run in two weeks. It was wonderful.

First batch of homemade cranberry sauce this fall. The berries
are still early, but it was lovely.


My colleague and office-mate, Lynn, rescued a 10-year-old
Pomeranian/Pekingese mix named Furby. She brought her in
on Monday.

Furby is so cute it borders on ridiculous.

Rain? Please? Alas, we didn't get any.


On Tuesday, I framed my race bib and finish photo.

Lynn and Furby, getting some band work done.


Early start on Wednesday means an extra-early trip to the gym.

My outfit was on point.

I love English teachers.

Piano teachers can be witty, too. ; )

I'm finally in Book 5, so I bought 6 and 7.

Wednesday evening--Indian food with Sarah. Delicious.

Stripes and polka dots. THE look this Fall. 


Another on-point outfit.

I love my Steve Madden boots.

And I love this face even more.


Yay. Pink eye.

Student government gave me a Starbucks card for doing
something that was 1) totally fun and that 2) I was flattered
to be asked to do.

Furby Friday in the music office. She really is ridiculous.


The bowtie is a joke with some friends. My cousin Mer said,
"He looks like Bill Nye the Science Guy!"

Technically, this is where *I* sit, but it seemed mean to move

So I watched her little nose and whiskers twitch for a moment
before leaving to pick up some prescription eye drops.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Self Care

The last six weeks or so, it's been building up, so slowly that I could almost convince myself that I was actually okay, that nothing could really be wrong with me.

I have a history of anxiety. It starts small. I worry a little here, worry a little there. When it starts to snowball, sometimes I don't notice at first, or, again, I write it off. "Oh, it's my hormones acting up. I'll be fine in a few days!" Or, "Haha, it's a full moon! That's why I'm so grouchy for no reason."

Then suddenly, it's not small. It's an elephant, stepping on my head and leaving me feeling exhausted, grumpy, and like I can't do anything right--even as I do things right. It starts with "Oh, I hope my boss likes what she sees when she observes me!" and morphs, without any sort of rationality, into, "If I'm not at work at 9:00 everyday, nothing will get done and I will lose my job." This is not true. Contractually, I'm obligated to be at work 15 minutes before my classes start. Choir starts at 11:05 (11:35 on Wednesdays). I'm there most days at 9:00 because I like having prep time to go through my email, make copies, write the agenda on the board, and do some score study and other relevant lesson planning. I enjoy being in my office and hearing the marching band next door. I will not get fired if I skip that pleasure in favor of getting something else done. But that's not always how my brain works.

Last Friday, I had a rather late start, which was then compounded by an oil change appointment for my car. The car was technically ready at the agreed-upon time of 9:00, but they took it over to give it a quick wash before giving it back to me. I waited an additional 15 minutes, which under normal circumstances would have been slightly annoying because hey, you said 9:00 and I've got to stuff to do...but last week, I started getting nervous almost to the point of being hyperactive because I was going to be "way late" for work. It's moments like that where I start to think about talking to the doctor.

When I lived in Antioch, my anxiety was at its absolute worst--I guess it was in 2007 that I called an advice nurse at Kaiser, hardly able to speak, I was crying so hard at the thought of going to work--and heard a kind, calm voice tell me, "You're having a panic attack." That might sound scary to some people, but for me, it was a revelation. Oh, my God, there is a legitimate reason I can't control the crying? And someone can help me? The nurse booked me in to see my doctor that morning. I called in sick. By the end of the day, I had a prescription for a generic form of Xanax.

I took the meds for a couple of years, eventually switching to having a medication I didn't have to take daily, but could take as needed. It worked, but in 2010, I lost my job, and with it, my health coverage. But in that time, I started working out with great regularity. I found that I could keep myself pretty even-keeled through nutrition and regular workouts, with occasional lapses that weren't nearly as bad as anything I experienced in Antioch.

It's pretty obvious, if you regularly read this blog, or are my friend, that I love my current job. The Large Suburban High School is a fantastic place to work, and I feel like I'm finally coming into my own as a teacher. I know there is a lot to learn yet, but I am comfortable and happy there. That said, this is the year I have to prove I'm worth their investment. My boss has given me no reason to think she dislikes what I'm doing in the classroom, but you have to understand that I have a little bit of observation-related PTSD from a couple of more recent bosses I've had. Add to that a life-long tendency to worry and imagine the worst possible outcome (I'm not a pessimist, I simply worry that things will go awry more than I should), and you've got a build-up of stress.

The last six weeks have been the hardest. I had my Come Fly With Me concert to prepare for and pull off, my first half marathon to run, observation lessons to prepare for. Life has been busy and fulfilling, but it's left less time for quiet than I might like. It's led to those moments where I nearly panic at the thought of getting to work at 9:30 instead of 9:00 because I was having my car serviced. I assure you, no one at that school cares if I arrive later than usual because of an oil change, as long as I'm there to teach my classes, and that I teach my classes well. But anxiety isn't rational, is it?

And so it goes. I put "talk to the doctor" on my weekly goal list, but it gets pushed aside in favor of work-related things. Then I wake up on a Friday morning with pink eye (today) and all hell breaks loose.

Having had pink eye before, I knew to immediately call Kaiser and talk to an advice nurse. The nurse got me an appointment at the Kaiser near my school (not my normal facility, because getting from there to school in time would not have worked). Only, I messed up. It wasn't the facility near my school, but the other one, slightly further away. I showed up at the wrong facility 10 minutes before my appointment time, only to find I would miss that time completely. I stood in the lobby, where a very kind receptionist told me how I could get there, shaking my head, with tears rolling down my face. "I'm going to miss my appointment. I've got pink eye," I said, hastily turning around and rushing out of there. I was humiliated. Who stands there in the lobby of a health care center, in tears over a missed appointment?

I got in my car, only to find that I had managed to break the clip-on sunglasses that go with my glasses, leaving me with two options: I could drive with my glasses but no sun protection, or I could wear my non-prescription sunglasses (normally worn with my contact lenses). I can drive somewhat comfortably without my glasses or lenses, so long as I'm not trying to read street signs, so I chose the sunglasses.

But first, I had to sit in my car and cry for a few minutes. I bit down on a finger and shouted at myself to calm down. It didn't help. I just sat there and cried, knowing there was no rational reason for me to cry over anything, but inconsolable nonetheless. Not knowing what else to do, I drove to school and started my day, somewhat messy and disheveled, but determined to do my job, not let my kids down.

My classes went well. I have great kids, and I love teaching them. So I got through the next several hours with minimal stress.

After school, I drove to my local Kaiser, thinking I'd pop into Urgent Care. Urgent Care is listed on the web site, so I figured I might have a bit of a wait, but it would be worth it to get my eye looked at, a prescription for eye drops, and on my way to a relaxing weekend. Only...there's no Urgent Care after all. At any Kaiser facility. I could swear there used to be. I stood in Member Services, tears threatening, and told the nice lady there, "The web site is misleading, then." She looked a little alarmed at my reaction--I suppose it's not every day you tell a reasonable-looking woman that she can try Adult Medicine upstairs and get met with angry tears. Believe me, I was alarmed, too.

For now, it's all's well that ends well. I spoke to a doctor on the phone, and tomorrow morning there's a prescription waiting for me to pick up at the Roseville Kaiser--a 12-15 mile drive for meds, but worth it to oust the pink eye (which is highly contagious). I feel calm now, but looking back at the day I had, I'm realizing it's time to practice a little self care. I'm going to make an appointment to see my doctor as soon as possible. I don't necessarily want meds, just options for dealing with the stress I build up--and it really is all about me in this case. No one is putting crazy expectations on me; I'm doing that to myself just fine.

Maybe the best solution is really just insisting that I take care of myself. I'm starting this weekend, by doing something I've never done in three years singing with Sac Choral: I'm sitting out a concert. I hate it, but I just cannot bear the thought of driving to Sacramento and back in the morning for rehearsal, then again in the evening for a concert. With the pink eye, and my recent tendency to get screaming-mad (literally) when I drive, I know it's in my best interest to stay home tomorrow. It took me a good 15 minutes to get the courage to send an email to my section leader today. The familiar thoughts roll in: I'm letting everyone down. I'm supposed to be there. One corner of my brain plays this broken record over and over, while the logical side thinks, "No one expects you to completely wear yourself out for a group you sing with for fun."

And I must ensure that I make time for running during the week. I've been getting my Sunday runs, but not my weekday runs, and this needs to come back. The simple truth is that spending that time on myself makes me healthier--physically and mentally.

I'm fortunate enough to have some self-awareness, to know that things are starting to boil over and that it's time for me to seek out some help. I'm also fortunate enough to know that half of the "cure" (if you can call it that) is simply forcing myself to take care of myself. A little less of that Do Everything mentality will go a long way.


Pink things I love:
  • Cat noses
  • My Little Pink Blog
  • Strawberry Starburst candies.

Pink things I don't love:
  • Pink stuff that doesn't actually raise money for breast cancer research.
  • Pink workout gear when there is no other color choice, like black.

Pink things I hate, but woke up with this morning:
  • Pink eye.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Morning Person

Even though it's Sunday, I was up early this morning (7:00) to run. Actually, 7:00 is sleeping in for me these days. But it's still early for a lot of people, and most of my friends are not out the door at 7:30 to run a 5K around the neighborhood.

What can I say? Runners are weird.

It had been two weeks since my last run (which, you might recall, was a half marathon), so I was anxious to get out there and do something. At first I thought I'd just walk, but as my legs warmed up, and after a few minutes of gentle stretching, I figured I could run-walk a mile. Just take it slow, etc.

But about half a mile in, I felt really good and thought maybe two miles would do it.

Then I ended up thinking, "Ah, what the hell," and running a little more than a 5K. I was even faster than I've been in a long time, by about a minute. Perhaps the rest did some good.

As I ran, the sun was coming up over the Sacramento Valley, and it was very quiet in the neighborhood. I encountered few cars and even fewer pedestrians, leaving me to enjoy the solitude and the rhythm of getting back out there. I've been working out consistently at the gym, so this first post-half run wasn't too difficult. My legs protested here and there, but I am in good enough shape to bounce back from breaks quickly.

It's funny how I can miss running so much when I take a break. This one was needed--to recover physically from the Urban Cow, yes, but also to give myself a mental break. Running is as much a head game with oneself as it is a physical activity. The last few months have been about increasing mileage and learning how to keep myself hydrated and motivated. It's nice to be back to running just for fitness and fun. Though that might not last long--I'm eyeing the Shamrock'n Half in March, and thinking about joining a training group at Fleet Feet.

But in the mean time, my morning runs are back. I'm determined to get out there during the week again, not just on Sunday. It keeps me grounded, focused, and I love my little date with the quiet world in the mornings.