Ruth Anne Simspon and Me

Ruth Anne Simpson is killing me.  She is doing it with a form of kindness so to speak.  You see Ruth Anne Simpson works hard to keep me safe, so hard that she sometimes yells at me.  Yells at me not take on new experiences or classes.  Basically she causes me stress.  And stress is exactly what lupus needs to grow a flare strong and long-lasting.  The flares always create health crisis type reactions which are slowly killing my organs.

When I mentioned this to my specialist he said he would help me. By scheduling a psyche assessment.  So then I had to explain that Ruth Anne Simpson isn’t a real person, well she could be, but I wouldn’t know that.  You see Ruth Anne Simpson is the name and character I have created for that inner voice that prevents me from reaching for some of my dreams.

You know the voice I’m talking about.  The one that tries to talk you out of new opportunities or experiences. Because they are scary and therefore unsafe.  Or perhaps will cause us discomfort, embarrassment and loss of dignity.  You know the one that talks to us about how big and challenging this will be and gets us so worked up we feel physically ill.

So I’m working on making Ruth Anne Simpson realize that I’ve got this.  That I can handle what I’m taking in and that if she wants to keep me safe, really she needs to calm down.  Now that I can hear Ruth Anne’s voice, I thank her for her concern and move into a calm state.  Because lupus with unrelenting stress never leads to anything good.  And I’d rather not have Ru Anne Simpson locked up for attempted murder.

The Great Starvation or How To Lose Weight By Losing Your Mind

“I’m starving” he announced as he threw his bag on the nearest chair.  “I am going to faint from lack of sustenance. I will die from malnourishment because I’m starving” he declared as he strode into the kitchen.

When I failed to acknowledge his state of starvation, he mentioned the horrible hunger pains he had.  He talked about a headache and some other stuff.  I wasn’t really listening because he was hard to hear over my crunchy of an apple.

Now obviously Beloved isn’t really starving.  He does understand what it is to lack  food that is in abundance for that was a constant in his childhood.  He grew up on small bits of food that might amount to snack in my world.  At the worst, he lived on one piece of toast for a whole day.

But Beloved is a man given to his own internal dramas so when he decided he simply needed to drop some weight he rushed into a no sugar, no carb, no gluten type diet.  Basically he moved to eating fruits and veggies and a small amount of protein.

The problem is he isn’t a hug fan of a lot of veggies.  And the ones he likes, he gets bored with easily.  You can same th same, to a slightly lesser degree when it comes to fruit.  So day two of the self-imposed rules of eating lead him to make proclamations of the great starvation of 2016.

I pushed over a bowl of grapes, only to be met with “I’m starving woman.  I need food, solid food” and a scowl to outdo most scowls as he started lifting lids to my pots which were cooking my food. You know the kind with gluten in it and some sugar.  Because well I see that I could strand to lose some pounds, I also see no need to starve myself in the hopes it will vanish overnight.  The only thing that vanishes overnight on these types of diets is your sense of reason and sanity.

Who knows, maybe tomorrow he will declare carbs to be added back to his diet.  If not I may I may move out for a bit.  For my sanity.

Lonely Times or A Fact Of Life

We are defined, it is said, in part by the company we keep.  We are shaped or influenced by the people we have associate with and who we spend time with.  It is impossible, it is said, to not be influenced at least to some degree by others.

Of course it is also said that we are social animals.  We suffer when we function and live in isolation.  Our souls yearn for human contact and touch.  And there are serious health ramifications when we do not get that human contact.  We suffer and can die from lack of human companionship.

And yet in these days and times we have managed to fool ourselves into believing we have human interaction through social media.  There are some people who spend all their time talking to people online while never interacting face-to-face with a human.  Some people assure us they like their lives better this way.  They are safe from judgment and hurt, awkward social nuances and all that, when they interact in a virtual type of an environment.

I enjoy my own time.  My space and time that I carve aside every day for just myself.  Because without my own solitude I’m a less pleasant person.  Without silence and alone time I become quicker to anger.  Because dealing with people all the time requires energy.  Precious energy that I don’t always have, sometimes due to lupus and sometimes due to being an introvert at heart.

But despite taking time for myself, time away from everyone, including Beloved, I would never say that I was lonely.  But I can understand how someone could feel lonely, if they were isolated and not by their own making.  And is isolation that is happening these days seems to be becoming an epidemic that requires human intervention through human contact.

They’re Just Words Aren’t They?

I have been procrastinating about writing this.  Mostly because I don’t think anyone will read it.  Also because, well, it’s sort of common sense.  But I decided today to take a deep breath and do it because maybe, just maybe, it might not be so common.  Or if I’m really lucky, I might learn from others.

You see as much as I have always loved the written word, or the spoken word for that matter, I’ve never considered the full effect or weight of words.  I’ve never really stopped to consider how the words I use may impact others.  And most importantly I’ve failed to consider the words I use when I think about myself or speaker to myself.

I have told students they have failed he assignment, failing myself to recognize that, most people stop listening after the word fail is said.  I have also failed to consider the emotions behind that word and how a person can internalize that one word and attribute it to his/her perception of self.

Now that I’m on the brink of submitting my own assignment, non-academic at that, I understand for the first time that fruitless feeling some people get.  That sense of overwhelming doubt and fear.  Fear that it won’t be good enough.  Fear of being a failure.  When the reality is I may fail at the assignment, but that does not equate to me being a failure.

Perhaps it is because this assignment is for something non-academic that I feel so uncertain about my work.  Perhaps it is because we have been asked to base this on experiences, which is so much harder to do than research and provide the correct answer.

As I was sharing my doubts and insecurities with a fellow professor she laughed.  It wasn’t in a mean way, but I suppose if I wanted to internalize it that way I could have.  She found my reaction so at odds with the person who walks the lecture halls.  She found my self-doubt to be more humanizing than compassion and empathy.  As she put it, “you are always so confident and sure of things, it’s nice to see you struggle as well”.

And this has me thinking about all those different words we have for things such as failed can be turned into not-yet successful; non-positive results and so on.  Sure these “turns of a phrase” may seem soft to some, but depending upon our personal experiences, we may need these words.  Because whether it’s grades on assignments, performance reviews at work, or comments about us, some of us will internalize these words and use them in self talk.

For a brief moment, as I was preparing this assignments, I could feel my own doubt kick into myself talk.  Things such as, “those who can’t do, teach” and “proof right here that academics can’t cut it in the real world” started to crop up in how I talked to myself.  I was able to recognize that these words were seated in fear.  Fear that I wouldn’t be good enough in this type of work.  Fear that the only place I’d ever be comfortable is an academic setting,

At the same time I reminded myself that no matter what the feedback was on the assignment, the real value was in my own learning.  And you can’t really put a price on this type of learning.  It also has me questioning what I may have said to a student that could have been taken in a way other than what I thought I was saying.

So now I’m combing for other ways to let students know when they haven’t been successful with an assignment or an exam.  Not that I have a lot of students who don’t meet the marks required.  But still.  Because you just never know the full impact of your words or what happens to them in that person’s “world”.

Ah Forget It

Have you ever walked into a room to get something or even worse put something away only to discover upon walking into the room you have no clue why you went to the room in the first place? It’s rather embarrassing when you happen to have an object the clearly belongs in the kitchen in your hand when you enter the kitchen only to ask yourself, upon arriving in the kitchen why you went there in the first place and promptly leave. With the object still in your hand?

It’s okay if you don’t want to say you’ve had these moments. I understand completely because I’ve been known to walk into various rooms holding on to things I mean to put back, but instead take the items on various tours of the house. I’ve been known, on one occasion, to walk from the house to outside with a roll of toilet tissue in my hand when I was clearly going to take the item to the washroom. But I went to the washroom, recognized I did not need to “go” so I walked out and then noticed some flowers on the ground outside, so I went outside to pick them up. Taking the roll of toilet tissue on a nice adventure. I guess. We didn’t ask it. We also debated if it should be used for it’s intended purpose or if the trip outside had somehow sullied it.

They (the experts of course) say this is completely normal. This getting distracted in mid-process of doing something. They (the experts of course) claim that our modern lifestyles lead to more occurrences. They (the experts of course) assure us it is nothing to worry about. But where exactly do you draw the line?

Car keys in the refrigerator? Is that where you draw the line? Or is it when you stumble across the car keys in the refrigerator after hunting throughout the entire house looking for them and stopping just short of ripping up the carpet and the walls?

Beloved found his wallet in the freezer yesterday. I guess that gives new emphasis on the cold part of cold hard cash. He spent several hours looking for it, more time panicking over the potential loss. It was discovered as he traced back where all he had been that day and remembered that he had put something in the freezer. There was his wallet. Only now he cannot remember what he put in the freezer. Frankly he is questioning if whatever the item is now has been given a new home. Hopefully one we will find sooner. Before it spoils. Unless the puppy ate it. Then we might find the after effects of that.

I suppose the way the experts look at it, today’s society is always connected to something, always multitasking so these slip ups are bound to happen. But what about when you aren’t that inundated? What about when you aren’t multitasking and still manage to take the toilet tissue outside with you while you pick up fallen blossoms? What then? Is there a reasonable explanation for this?

Beloved has started to question if he has all of his “working faculties” as he puts it. Dementia and Alzheimer’s does not run in his family. At least not that he is aware of. But he is getting to a stage in life where he needs to consider what his happening. So he is debating getting some testing done. Debating because he isn’t so sure he will be able to handle results that aren’t what he wants to hear. So for now he is debating these things. And keeping track of both his and my own mishaps. Just in case…

Breaking It With Cake

Some days you need to break the rules and have cake for breakfast.  Heck be bold and have it for all of your meals for a day if you wish.  Although I recommend if you do that you change it up with different types of cake for each meal.  That way you don’t get bored with one flavor.  That is if you happen to be someone who likes variety.

Today was a break all the rules day.  All of them.  It was eat cake whenever you want, as often as you want.  It was drink way ever you want, when you want it.  It was wear your comfortable clothes and enjoy your cake kind of day.  Basically it was a do whatever you want kind of day.  Because the rules suck.  And there are too many of them.

The best about breaking the rules is when your partner also is in the mood to break the rules.  To be honest Beloved started it this time,  only wasn’t for the whole day.  Just when he came home in the afternoon.  And yes, he was home shortly after one.  I didn’t make it home until after three.

So when the urge hit him, he walked down to the bakery and bought a few slices of cake. A small tart or two.  When I got home he was setting out the cake, frothing milk for lattes and wanting to talk about anything or than work.  Or rules.  Or the government.

So we enjoyed cake.  And tried a tart.  And decided we really needed to walk that off and headed no where in particular.  And yet ended up at the market where Beloved bought pastries for later on.  Because it was one of those days.  The kind where bedtime doesn’t matter.

Come the next few days there will be a horde of vegetables in this house.  And that’s about it.  Because sometimes you need to follow and exceed the rules.  Especially after you’ve broken them.

Locked And Learning

You know that moment when you realize the impossible has happened and not in a good way? You know how you stomach sinks down low, your heart jumps into your throat and you have to tell yourself to breathe? That’s been my day, well part of it anyway. On the plus side I think this counts as the heart stress test so I’m good for a while now.

See the thing is, I locked myself out today. Not out of the house. That wouldn’t be earth shattering or even remotely the reason for a sense of panic. You see I’ve done that before, a couple of times. Once when I was 11 and my key had fallen into a hole in the pocket of my jacket (it was stuck between the lining and the outer shell so mother to the rescue and all was good again). I locked myself out of my place when I was in my early twenties and had decided to use a different purse the evening. I was positive I had moved everything I needed over; car keys, wallet, id and such. I just forgot one tiny little thing. The key to the front door. Not fun, not after midnight because lets face it people are far more reluctant to help you try to get into a locked door after midnight. Then there was the time that I had just stepped outside to get the dog out. The wind caught the inner door and sure enough I was locked out of the of house. Help arrived shortly.

And I’ve locked my keys in the car. Once. Never again because once was more than enough with the way the service technician laughed after he arrived to help me out.

But today my friends I did the unthinkable and locked myself out of my network account. For 24 hours. At work. Where I need to be on the network a lot of the time. IT has this very strange policy about too bad so sad if you cant’ figure out how to log into the network after three tries. No amount of pleading and begging worked this time because we have some new staff in the IT department. New staff, who understand the nature of the work that needs to be done here in this fine institution however rules are rules and there is no unlocking to be done.

So today the lecture was different, more organic. Somehow more interactive and less about adhering to everything that was in my notes. Mostly because my notes were on the network. Yes I know, back up copies are a must. I also know you should have multiple copies of those. But I didn’t so you see I ended up having a more free flowing set of lectures. Some of my students seemed to enjoy it. Some were at a loss because they’ve been taught there must be visuals with everything. Some didn’t’ seem to care either which way. But the conversations were more fluid and so I may just lock myself out again throughout the year.

Only this time it will be planned so there won’t be any panic or what have you. Because next time I will know. But the students don’t need to know. Just like they didn’t know the reason why we had no visuals today. It simply was what it was.

Some of the best things come from those moments where your heart is in your throat and your stomach is somewhere near your feet. Some of the best things can be found in those moments when you simply must think…breathe. Because somewhere in those moments comes a sense of freedom once you realize you cannot alter things. You find a different flow, an organic nature that is more authentic to you. And you go with it. Unless you locked yourself out of the house when it’s well below freezing after midnight. Then you just go. To the nearest place that is warm and can provide help.

Expectations or How Things Have Chnaged

When I was starting out my adventure in post secondary education I was completely aware that this was a pricy adventure. I was paying to learn and explore. Prior to this point in my life school was simply a place I had to go, classes I was required to attend and pass to move forward on the conveyor belt of my education.

And then rather suddenly that all changed as money was exchanged for me attend classes and learn things. Money was paid to these experts, these leaders in their respective fields to share knowledge and ideas with me. The professors were being paid to mark essays, tests and assignments. (Don’t get me wrong I was aware that my school teachers prior to this foray into higher education were paid for these things as well. The difference was that to me, the teachers actually cared if I succeeded or not. To the professors at the university, I was simply another number.) I was paying attention too, because for the first time the grades I received had an impact on me. As in who wants to give out money again to attend the same class when you could have passed it the first time if you attended and did the required work?

I was blessed in that I didn’t pay for my post secondary education. I was fortunate enough to qualify for a full scholarship and managed to carry out my academic career in the same sort of fashion. So the financial strain and hardship weren’t’ exactly items I felt, but I was exceedingly aware of the cost of my courses, tuition and books. I made a point of keeping track all the way through my endeavors of each price tag. Not that you can put a price on an education or knowledge in my opinion. To me those things are priceless.

Here’s the thing, I never once saw my professors as providing me a service. Rather I say myself more or less fortunate to have an opportunity to learn from these people. It is evident that times have changed and perhaps I have truly gotten old now.

Classes have commenced again where I am fortunate enough to lecture. And as is the tradition with of my peers, I spent the first few classes letting my students know what is expected of them and what they can expect from the course. What I hadn’t counted on was a few students challenging back with the fact that I was providing them with a service and they wanted to ensure that I was aware of their expectations of me.

I’ve always expected to show up to class, unless sick or injured. Or dead. I see no point in showing up to lecture if I’m dead. I’m not sure how effective I would be in that case, although there have been days where I’ve wondered if I’m effective anyway when I show up and am fully present. I’ve always expected to be fair when it comes to assignments and grading. I’ve always expected to honor the office hours and appointment hours set forth by my department.

But these are not things that my students are expecting of me. Instead they want to know that I will be available to them on their terms. One expected me to answer her questions via text or other social media platforms. But I can’t meet those expectations because I refuse to connected 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Is it not reasonable to let my students know that if they email me, I will respond to their emails within 24 hours of receiving it?

When did the service agreement of me providing my students knowledge etc. change to being their personal educational elf? Who is being unreasonable here? Have times changed that much or is this a subset of the constantly connected culture some people now life in? Am I expected to entertain my students’ schedule and anticipate each learner’s specific needs when I lecture to over 90 people per session? Does everyone need to pass the class?

For The Love Of A Good Story

When I was a young child, I loved to read. It helped that my parents were avid readers and taught me to love a good story. A book, it was reasoned, was portable entertainment that would take you into a whole other world if you let it. And let it is exactly what I did.

I loved to read, it was as natural to me as breathing, expect breathing is one of those things we do without thinking. At some point I had to learn to read which required thinking, so perhaps in reality reading was more like walking to me. Once I learned the basics, mastered the whole one foot down in front of the other I was off and running, erm reading. I was unstoppable.

Birthday and Christmas requests always, but always, included at least a handful of books. Don’t worry about what “reading level” they are designed for either, I was reading well above my level because my parents also taught me that if you are interested in something, you need to know more about it. My interests tended to run to things that had books written at a higher reading level than my age said I should be reading at. This left me with a choice, I could either read the books that were meant for my reading level based upon my age, or struggle a little and learn more. I opted to struggle and learn more.

Because I took to reading like duckling to water, I am completely at a loss when it comes to my godson. He is reading well below the “normal level” based upon his age and grade. He has been tested for learning disabilities, eyesight issues and what must seem like a million other things. There is, according to the experts who have tested him, no reason why he isn’t reading as he should be other than he is being stubborn.

My girlfriend is at the point of pulling her hair out as she watches his reading skills slip further and further behind those of his classmates. Her husband isn’t puling his hair out over this, mostly because he doesn’t’ have any hair to pull out, but also because everyone knows little boys struggle with reading. Or rather that’s how the saying goes.

It has been suggested that for this school year the child be placed in a remedial class, just so that his esteem won’t be damaged by his low reading skills. It has also been suggested that he be taught the consequences to his lack of reading skills, such as the type of job he can expect to get since he wont’ be graduating high-school.

Given that he is currently in grade three I think this might be a case of assuming you threw the baby out with the bathwater before even checking to see if the baby is in the water in the first place. There is still plenty of time for him to learn how to read, time to cultivate a love of stories. And it isn’t as though the child doesn’t have an imagination because he does.

So in order to help my friend out, I asked my godson what it is about reading that he finds hard to do. I expected it to be something like those tricky silent letters like the B on the end of numb or maybe when two letters put together make a different noise, like the ph in phone sounding like an F. But these do not trouble the boy in the least. What he finds hard to do is that he must sit in a chair to read.

The child doesn’t want to sit in a chair to read. He wants to read in a more comfortable position, but school provides only desks to sit in. And his parents insist he do his homework and reading at the kitchen table, which means sitting in a chair again.

He asked me to climb a tree with him, we didn’t get up too high, and he sat there and read to me. With the only struggle being how to climb the tree while holding the book. Of course school will never see this. School has rules about when, where and how the reading must take place. He must learn to conform to these norms or he will be labeled and left behind. But why does he have to sit in his desk to read? Why can’t he sprawl out on the floor and read given that school is there to teach him. Teach him how to read, don’t worry so much about him having to sit a certain way in his desk I say. Let him have a world of stories and books open up for him first, and then work on the sitting because he does know how to sit and will figure that stuff out as he goes along.

With Open Eyes And Heart

Friends of Beloved recently adopted an eight year old boy.  His biological parents had placed him up for adoption because they couldn’t handle life with him anymore. And they wanted to provide him with a better life than they felt they could give him.  Alan, they learned, was a low functioning autistic child.

Low functioning as in not able to take care of his own basic needs, or life skills.  Low functioning as in they didn’t offer a lot of hope for him.  Non-verbal as in incapable of speech and communication in the normal way. Not silent, not in the least.  He makes noise.  He just doesn’t speak.

Beloved’s friends, we will call them Lucy and Ricky, were told not to adopt Alan.  That Alan would be best served in a hom.  With people like him.  As though he had been written off already.

Lucy and Ricky were undeterred.  Their positive outlook told them they oiled learn from Alan and help him.  If nothing else they could provide him a nice home and hordes of therapy and fun.

In the short time Alan has been with them, he has come out of his shell so to speak.  He seems to enjoy finger painting and their house displays his master prices.  Some of the art work shoes interesting textures and colors.  But it isn’t all rainbows and sunshine, and I would sign Alan up as an artist just yet.

Lucy and Ricky admit it’s a long road ahead of them.  One full of tears and frustration as well as joy and learning.  Beloved asked them, if they knew then what their lives had become now, would they have adopted Alan. Without hesitation they both said yes, because despite the hard work, frustration and fun, they believe everyone is worth a home life with adventures and working to each person’s highest potential.