Sunday, September 28, 2014

Breakfast of champions: Gluten-free on the go

Sugar-free skinny vanilla latte and a bagel with cream cheese. It's quick and delicious. Unfortunately, it's also expensive. And full of gluten, lactose, and sugar. And devoid of almost any nutritional value. So I guess I should be grateful that discovering my allergy forced me to overhaul my morning routine. 

When I first went gluten-free, I relied almost entirely on packaged breakfast bars with "gluten-free" on their labels. There are several decent brands, and I'd be happy to give some suggestions if anyone wants that, but eventually I grew tired of them, and I began to wonder if there was a more nutritional and cost-effective way to begin my morning. Since I also need to avoid dairy, and since I usually wake up around 5AM, I originally struggled to find something quick and easy to start my day. But I finally have a method that works for me and I wanted to share in case it helps anyone else. 

Every few weeks, I buy several of these foods, and prepare them on the weekend so they're ready to grab-and-go each morning. Truth be told, I usually start with one breakfast bag or almond milk container while driving to work and I finish off a second choice during a break around 9AM. I also usually stick with the same single item or combo for the whole week, but I included them all in the picture for easy reference. 

I usually drink almond milk, not soy, but I didn't want to go back to the store to exchange today's accidental purchase, so I'll be drinking soy this week. You can also find individual packages of almond milk and coconut milk in most grocery stores. When considering alternatives, it would also be easy to make this more environmentally friendly by using small Tupperware containers; I just don't have any in that size. But I do reuse some of the bags from time to time! 

Here's my preferred menu for your consideration. It's important to include a variety of proteins, fruits/veggies, and carbs, so look for the balance that's best for you! 
Snap peas
Raw almonds, or smoked almonds
Almonds with honey and sesame seeds
Honey roasted peanuts, or plain peanuts
Sunflower seeds
Cinnamon Chex cereal
Chex granola
Hard boiled eggs
Turkey bacon 
Soy milk, almond milk, or coconut milk
And don't forget to start your day with water! 

If you have a quick trick for starting your day off right, I hope you'll share! 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

It's a dance thing...You wouldn't understand ;)

Last spring, a fellow coach asked me to help her with a special goal. After several decades of seeing the growth and success of the Moses Lake Dance/Drill program, she wanted to hear it named to the WSDDCA hall of fame. I eagerly wrote the following letter, and last week, the announcement finally came! Now I can officially offer my congratulations and my gratitude to Molahiettes, coaches, and supporters from throughout the years!


     At the banquet following my first year on the Molahiettes, Coach Skinner applauded our captain’s dedication by saying, “Drill team is her life.” A nearby mom scoffed.  How could a person be so consumed by drill team that they allowed it to define them?  But after three years as a Moses Lake dancer, I learned that it’s not about being defined by drill or dance; it’s about being so passionate and dedicated that you exude the ideals of your team and you inspire others to do the same.  
     Long before the state and national trophies, back in the days of the sparkly competition leotards, the dancers and leaders from Moses Lake established a foundation of vision, dedication, and teamwork.  When I joined the Molahiettes at the end of my freshman year, I couldn’t even imagine the technique, skills, and confidence I would one day be able to demonstrate… but the leaders of our team envisioned those things in me, and in the dozens of dancers who would become my family over the next three years.  As a freshman with little dance experience, I learned to trust my team leaders and to study dance as a pursuit of details.  I learned that with enough focus, perseverance, and “Positive Mental Attitude,” individuals with wildly different skills and styles can come together to look—and feel—like a unified team. I realized that group visuals like the ripples, lifts, fans, rowboats, fallbacks, and kick lines set dance/drill apart from other forms of dance, and that those group visuals are the most exciting reward of a cohesive team like ours. By my senior year, the team was raising the bar in creativity of choreography and leading the state in competition scores.
       In recent years, the team has received national attention for their amazing performances, but I am grateful to know the history that has led to this recognition: They are achieving the legacy that past generations had envisioned, and that is due in part to years of dedicated dancers, parents, administrators, community supporters, and coaches like Theresa Skinner, Michele Kittrell, Lori Baker, Peggy Earl, and others along the way.  Moses Lake dancers don’t just work hard so they can win trophies; they win trophies because they work so hard, and that’s all because they love dancing and they love their team. 
      Because of the love I developed for dance in high school, I dedicated myself to studying dance in college, and as soon as a coaching position opened at the Spokane high school where I now teach, I signed on.  I quickly realized that I had experienced a rare kind of dedication in Moses Lake, and for the last ten years, I have worked to inspire my dancers with the same type of passion and commitment that I learned as a Molahiette.  Many MLHS alumni have also become dance teachers, choreographers, and performers, and our dance students are continuing the tradition of excellence that we are able to teach them because of our time on the Moses Lake team.
      Because our graduates still maintain their pride in teamwork and tradition, I have enjoyed the warm welcome that the recent dancers still give us as alumni, and I’ve been blessed with support from their current coaches and former teammates who want to help my Spokane team as well.  Seeing that we still support each other, even as competitors, all these years later has been a wonderful confirmation of the sportsmanship that I learned as a Moses Lake dancer. In the last few decades, hundreds of dancers have graduated from Moses Lake, still chanting our team song, “But we’re more than just a drill team, it gives us spirit too. We dance all day with PMA and that is what we do! M.O.L.A.H.I.E.T.T.E.S!”  
      In the last eighteen years, my life has become more enriched than I had ever imagined it could be. My dance skills, my confidence, my friends, my teaching and coaching ability, my passion for inspiring others. And it’s all because of those first three years when the Moses Lake Drill Team was my life. 

      I humbly and happily submit the Moses Lake Dance/Drill program for the WSDDCA Hall of Fame. 
 ~Miranda Leigh Hein (Dorris)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Untitled (so far)

I recently attended a workshop where we were asked to write a poem focusing on our choice of imagery and poetic structure. I decided to include only sensory words: no articles, prepositions, conjunctions, or even emotional or intellectual descriptors. Just what can be imagined through a few of the five senses. 

I'm not 100% settled on everything in this piece yet, but it was interesting to try writing a poem under a time constraint and with such specific expectations. And I'm curious to see if my image is understandable to anyone other than me. 

Skies, horizons, distance downward. 
             Jumping. Pushing. Rushing. 
Empty, open, spacious, vacant. 
              Winds. Gusts. Gravity. 
Jagged, hard, hot, sharp. 
              Rocks. Edges. Ledges. 
Rope, restraint, harness, anchor?
              Whip. Rip. Reverse. 
Forceful fleeing, flailing, falling. 
              Bounce. Shrink. Stop. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Once upon a time

You said to ask. If I needed anything in my future, all I'd have to do is ask. But what I need is for this to be gone, or to have never existed...So the memories can be gone, disappear like they never even were. 

The memories of where we sat. And where we talked. And how you looked. And what I wore. And what you said. And what we swore. And what I feared. And what you hid. Or what I feared you hid. 

All those memories make the feelings too strong. Too current. Too real. But you can't "fix" that while those memories are still here. And neither can I. So I just get angry. Or sad. Or confused. And it intensifies how much I hate you. And how much I hate everything we lost. Because I'm sure that you already forgot the memories, or never had them in the first place. And it was really just me, by myself, all along. 

But what can either of us do to fix that now? Nothing...And what's left to work for or hope for...Nothing...And what could I possibly ask you to help with...

Nothing...And that's why there's no such thing as a good goodbye. But really, it was nice of you to offer... 

Another audience, another story:

Can't really say that "you're the one" without recalling those before. 
And "The one who picked me up" means you've seen me on the floor. 
I'm sorry I can't give you the cleanest start that you deserve. 
And there's no reason why you'd love me, when you've seen me at my worst.

But you always stopped my tears without questioning the cause. 
You even healed my hurt without doubting what I'd lost. 
Only you could calm my nerves without tiring of the wait. 
Only you could bring me peace without placing any blame. 

Can't really say "I'm ready now" without implying not before. 
But you've loved me at my worst and I owe you so much more. 
If you've loved me broken as I'd been, undeserving as I was,
Then I'll take the leap and trust that soon I'll feel a part of "us."

Thursday, June 5, 2014

What my students taught me

The trouble with calling us "teachers" is that it implies our purpose is to teach. 
Not necessarily to inspire learning. 

The trouble with calling them "students" is that it implies their purpose is to study. 
Not necessarily to be inspired with learning. 

But teachers can't teach what we don't know. 
And in this life, no one can know everything.
Or anything really. 
At least, not anything worth knowing. 
We can preach and we can assess but that's not truly teaching. 

And students won't study what they don't care about. 
And in this society, no one cares about everything. 
Or anything really. 
At least, not anything we "teach" in school. 
They can memorize and they can test but that's not the same as learning. 

So what if the teachers stopped trying to teach? 
Because there's more to life than what any one person can learn, so there's more to knowing than what any one person teach. 
And that's the scary thing about teaching. 

And what if students stopped trying to study? 
Because there's so much in life that any one person can learn, and there's so much knowing that they might discover if we let them. 
And that's the exciting thing about learning. 

But if teachers are so busy teaching, and students are so busy studying, there's not much time left for learning. Or living. Or loving either one. 

What if we just tried learning together? Exploring the world, enjoying the world, enriching the world around us. 

What if there were no teachers and no students? 

What if we were all just learners?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Problem with being a People Pleaser

What's the problem with being a people pleaser? Actually, it seems there are plenty of problems--plural--with trying to please everyone, but for some reason this is one habit I just can't let go of. The logical part of me knows that I don't have to hang so much of my own happiness on the satisfaction of others, so why can't I just convince myself that it's ok to stop trying for some people?

I feel like I've made a bit of a break through this week, but truth be told, I'm trying to talk myself into this theory even as I write. So if you would like to share any words of wisdom on the topic, I would really appreciate it. 

The cruelest irony that I've discovered recently is that the people who are the least likely to ever be pleased by anyone seem to be the very same people that I most want to appease. Set in their ways and eternally pessimistic, they just drain the life right out of those around them. Why in the world do I keep trying to please that type of person?!? I don't mean to! Sometimes I swear they're drawn to me, maybe in some twisted sort  of game they play, or maybe in some desperate attempt to interact with someone who won't give up on them. Other times, I think it's my own subconscious at fault. It's as if I'm attempting to change the system by changing that one person who needs it the most. Or as if that person's approval would be the ultimate evidence of my worth. Whatever the reason, I keep finding myself in conversations, collaborations, and partnerships with these people, and I need an escape! 

I'm finally admitting to myself that I just can't keep trying to make some of these people happy, but how do you just stop trying, and what do you focus on instead? Any advice from fellow--or former--people pleasers out there?

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

"Date A Girl Who Dances"

There's something magical about knowing that other dancers, other artists, truly understand you. Especially when it seems like most of this world just can't, or won't, see what makes you tick. 

I found that elusive empathy in an article called "Date a Girl Who Dances." But it's about much more than dating dancers; it's about learning to see people for who they really are, and understanding how to be a meaningful part of their meaning-filled life. In my life, I've found that people are often intrigued by that intangible inspiration that seems to follow, or maybe lead, artistic people. But few people really dive deeply enough to become a permanent part of it.  

If you know someone who shows every feeling through their movements, or who draws every idea in the air or on paper as they speak, or who thinks and asks and responds to the little details that you'd never noticed before, then this article will help you understand why they think and feel so much. It will show you how to dance together in ways that transcend physical movement. And if you're that someone who moves or draws or sings and feels deeply and viscerally for everything in your world, then this article might just bring you to tears like it did to me...and it will certainly inspire you to dance.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Case in point

At 3 AM, a poem came to me and I posted it here with a comment about the unpredictability of writing. In the next 15 minutes, another came to me, but when I went to transfer it from my phone's notebook to this post, I hit a wrong button and lost five lines.

As if to illustrate the point of my 3 AM poem, my 4AM brain decided to forget those five lines entirely. I stayed awake until about 4:15 trying to re-create them, then I finally fell back to sleep. I've worked on it again for about a half-hour now and still can't figure out anything that felt as good as the original. I decided I should post it before I lose anything else! But maybe I'll come back and change it later. It's kind of funny to see that a single poem ended up showing how effortless and laborious the writing process can be.
I was strong enough to build you up,
To save you from what you might become. 
But when I fell and needed you,
You weren't strong enough to catch me. 

I lamented my shortcomings then 
To fall so far below your arms. 
But then I saw: unable, unwilling,
You had shortcomings of your own. 

I see it now as fair injustice,
To have changed myself, to help change you.
But to lose myself, and you, along the way;
You let me lose so you could win. 

I thought I needed you to save me,
To show I was worth saving too. 
But now I know not to trust in those,
In you, who needed me to lead in the first place.  


A different poem started creeping up in me a few days ago but it can't seem to get out yet. I was lying in bed just now, thinking about it, when my mind started thinking about my somewhat unpredictable writing process. This new metacognitive poem was the result of that tangent. At 3AM. My brain has a mind of its own. This is what it had to say. 

Sometimes they just flow out of me, like they've been ready all along. 

Other times they wander and rush through my head for days,
Like they're trying to find each other 
In the chaos of emotions 
They've beat down, befriended, or become along the way. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

But first, let me take a #selfie

You might have a selfie addiction if:

1) Your solo pics outnumber the pics of all your friends, family, and the rest of the natural world...combined. 
2) You can snap a self portrait in a single shot but you need twelve tries to take a picture of a person or object in front of you. 
3) You've crafted such an exquisite collection of online self-images that people don't recognize you when you meet again in person. 
4) You choose your clothes or jewelry based on how they'll make your cleavage look in your pictures that night. 
5) You've run out of reasons to take "legitimate" selfies (I.e. Just chopped off three inches of hair, just got a massive sunburn, just wanted a creeper pic with the celebrity you're stalking), and you've resorted to posting each selfie with a favorite song lyric or motivational quote just to give the illusion of purpose. 

Now, about this #Selfie song. Any chance it will help these addicts take a more realistic look in the mirror? Will they see it as satirizing or glamorizing their Saturday nights? Will it annoy them enough that they'll decide to go get help?  

And the next logical question, can anyone recommend a reliable rehab center for selfie sufferers???

Let me take another selfie: Take 2

On a more serious note, it looks like some professional organizations are starting to discuss this self-documenting lifestyle. National Geographic recently reported that 73 million selfies have been posted on Instagram since 2011. And numerous other reports are investigating the long term results of these heightened habits of narcissism.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A picture with a thousand (or more) words

Education reform is not a current trend. It is a never-ending cycle. Once one type of reform takes hold, a new one comes creeping up behind it. So when I ran across this article from 1990-something, I wasn't surprised by what it said. I was, however, surprised by what *I* said. Apparently, I had already begun developing my educational philosophy by the age of 13 or 14. Looking back at it, I kind of feel bad for the teacher who had to read these pretentious middle school musings. Then again, maybe she was reading it and laughing during her spring break--just like I am today.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Voice memos and pic mute videos

Full disclosure: most of the letters, emails, lesson plans, and blog posts I've written recently have not actually been "written" in the traditional sense. Since working on electronic devices has been causing more eye pain and headaches lately, I've put down the keypad and picked up the microphone. I have been using talk/text, voice memos, and my new best frienemy, Siri, for almost everything.

Likewise, I've taken to listening to most of my entertainment. Sometimes I listen to the usual audio entertainment (Pandora, iTunes, radio, etc.), but other times, I want something more engaging. Two of my new favorite activities include listening to books on YouTube and listening to my favorite Netflix TV shows. Since my laptop might otherwise lure me into TV viewing temptation, I've started using the "pic mute" function. (I.e., I turn my screen to black so that I don't accidentally start watching.)

Ironically, that means I really have no idea what the videos look like for the songs I'm about to share.  But I've been listening to these songs a lot lately and I wanted to collect them all in one place--partly for my own reference, and partly because I thought it might be nice to share some encouraging music in case anyone out there is looking for encouragement. So if you decide to listen to these songs, and you really want to ecperience them the way I do, be sure to hit pic mute. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

104. 106. 110. 114. 114. 129. 144.

Recently, a challenging situation with a student reminded me of a piece that I wrote two years ago but never posted. 

 Just as students are often surprised to discover that teachers have real lives and real emotions outside of their classroom, adults should remember that students also have real lives and real challenges outside of the classroom. During a recent altercation, this understanding allowed me to remain calm and focused.  

I often find myself wondering what challenges outside of class are making these students so angry by 8AM. I wish students like this could understand that many teachers are actually attempting to help them and teach them, not just to punish them. I also wish that our society as a whole could understand how the obstacles these children face on a daily basis also impact our effectiveness in the classroom. And that thought brings me back to the piece I wrote two years ago.

------------ From January 2012------------

104. 106. 110. 114. 114. 129. 144.
Is this my winning lotto number? No...
My gym locker combination? Nope...
Another mysterious number from the Lost series sequel? Not even close...

These numbers show how many classes have been missed by seven sophomores at the school where I teach. Over 100 missed classes, and it's only January. 

And I didn't even record the numbers from 9th, 11th, or 12th graders with 100+ absences. Or the numbers from students with 50-100 absences. I can't even believe how many students have over 50 absences by January... 

Our staff is working hard to keep all these kids in school: teachers talk with them, joke with them, encourage or discipline as needed, call home, e-mail home, talk to their counselors, and meet with administrators. And our counselors and administrators are doing all they can, but sometimes it seems like these attempts are futile. 

Only one of these sophomores with 100+ absences is on my roster, and we work well together when he is in class, but life's other priorities are too demanding, and some are too tempting, for him to stay in school. 

It's disheartening when we work so hard to help these kids, and we still can't make a difference. And adding salt to the wound is the way our schools, and even individual teachers, are often judged as having failed these students. The possibility of paying teachers based on student success seems wildly inappropriate as I look at this list of absences. 

If my student fails the state HSPE test in March, how can it be fair to say that he failed because I didn't teach him as well as I should have--in the 10 days he came to class? And if he has had such attendance problems since middle school, how can it be fair to say it's my fault for not making him WANT to attend my class? Standardized test scores won't show you all the efforts I've made to help him succeed this year, and they won't show you how variables like absences, drugs, or traumas at home impact his scores. Our students cannot be simply summed up by a test score, and my teaching skills shouldn't be either. 

Teachers, like all people, are bound to make mistakes so I'm not suggesting that we be excused every time an individual student performs poorly. However, I wish the American public would dismiss the myth that test scores and absence reports are a supreme indicator of a teacher's performance. If a student isn't in my class, I can't teach him. If his parents can't make him come to class, then chances are that I can't either.  No matter how much I try. 

Yes, I keep trying, and hoping that things will turn around. But at this point, it feels like our chance of success is 1 in 104, 106, 110, 114, 114, 129, 144.