tired

Sometimes I wonder why certain things are so scary.

Not physical scary. Not like needles or mummies, though those are pretty bad. You have a choice with those: you can run or face them and either way it’s over relatively quickly. No, more slug-like parasite dwelling long-term in the back of your mind scary.

For me, it’s one thing in particular: writing research papers. Every time I try to start a big one, it feels like I’m drowning in acid superglue. I really don’t want to admit that it frightens me so I let it go and go and go until it’s right up to the due date and I have no idea what two-way analysis of variance means.

I pull all-nighters. I drown in fiction and stay away from conscious thought. One of my favourite authors said this (avoidance) was typical elf behavior. It comes up in most of the books I read now, from the superhero to the fairy tale (don’t let my Goodreads deceive you… the serious book phase was entirely school-related and I remember almost nothing, but am instead rather happy to report that “good literature” hasn’t spoiled me for modern YA). It’s been a coping mechanism since high school. I even like it. If I can’t find fiction good enough to distract, I’ll make up my own. I’ve had one story going for probably 10 years-constantly reinventing and editing it in my head.

And yet, the end always comes. Even when a paper is so late that I’m sure the teacher won’t let me turn it in. In a stunning bit of unpremeditated wisdom, I thought I had chosen at last a college major wherein I would not have to write research papers and was thus safe. Aha. Ahahahah. Little did I know the price of attending a university that prides itself on research. Even a simple nutrition major who wants to do nothing in the world so much as to get out of school in one piece and start learning how to teach and be part of a community must needs research. And since said nutrition major wished to take a certain number of P.E. hours in her last semester, the only research class open to her was the one the fewest students had taken before-almost no information was available about it. To think she was excited about being in the kitchen once again! This semester, she is to create the perfect bean-meat hamburger patty. This will take something on the order of 8 weeks, and requires her to eat every Thursday at approximately 4 pm the equivalent of one cold hamburger patty, and rate the permutations thereof on a little sheet of paper. Accustomed to at least a little variety (e.g. cookies) in the lab kitchen, she nearly wept at this turn of events. Then the other shoe dropped.

The paper. Whereby she is supposed to become the foremost expert on beans and ground beef and hamburger patties in the known world.

And we are back right where we started, clawing at the superglue. Or closing our eyes and pretending it isn’t there. Well, it’s due (for the third time) in 30 hours.

One of the themes in every single one of those books I’ve devoured is that you don’t run away. Never. And if you do, things invariably get much, much worse. That typical elf behaviour? A child grew up a functional orphan and messed with her own daughter’s head so badly that she was happy to be stolen away as a goblin bride. Superhero? Anorexia, and she didn’t even realize it until it was nearly too late. Fairy tale? Spent a decade with a frog as a best friend, and nearly lost the love of her life.

So this is Goal #84. Nothing else on The List holds the capacity for such sheer terror, or hopefully such a real feeling of accomplishment. It will take until the end of the semester-there are oodles of pieces. See you on the other side, and forgive me if I don’t post as much throughout this process as last month if you please!

f.lux

School has been epically difficult this week, and I haven’t kept up with Goal 61 for the first time so far this year. Which makes today’s article from the Korean Gender Reader even more timely: f.lux is a free program that dims computer lights so it’s easier to go to sleep after a long study session/staring contest with the electronic world. Brilliance! I’m using it tonight and the muted lights are much easier on the eyes than with the normal blue screen. Hope it helps someone else!

83. Spend an afternoon reading outdoors.

I’ve done this before, but it’s a rare day that it’s even possible. We live in a hot, muggy city that nurtures allergies and mosquitos at equal rates but on different days. Miss one, find the other-it’s almost a guarantee. But it’s fun if you can swing it, and I want to be intentional about doing it next time.

Progress: Done! I went to the local library on a Sunday and hung out in the gazebo, dancing barefoot to headphone music from my new iPod and rereading C.S. Lewis. It was so lovely that I went back several times in the next few months. Got through both The Problem of Pain and Mere Christianity. The last time was a bit cold to dance barefoot, but I did it anyway. I even wore the camo skirt with giant hand-embroidered dragon I found at Goodwill and was slightly embarrassed to be seen in, and danced like no one was watching. Took pictures of the flowers. Here are a few of the best:

Book on Bench

Light and Focus

Rain Lily

View

This goal is officially MET!!

Inconvenienced

I had an adventure today.

On a quest to find an ESL class to observe, I went to a certain building mentioned in an email. Come to find out, the classroom didn’t exist. There’s no such thing as 214-I even made a little chant about it and started singing it as I wandered around looking for the right place. There are a lot of buildings on my college campus. Some of them are giants, and some of them are mega-giants. Some of them have tiny nooks and crannies and stairs that go nowhere in particular. I’ve always been a fan of stairs that go nowhere in particular. They’re the thing I remember best about my grandfather’s old house-all those stairs. And the delicate music box unicorn. And the books (oh Nancy Drew how I wanted to meet you!). And the closet full of Barbies. (Yeah, I know, I know, unrealistic expectations and anorexia. But we didn’t have them at home, and they were so pretty…)

*ahem* and now we return you to our regularly scheduled broadcast…

No one knew where to send me-building managers, students at help desks, the library across the square-I had to go all the way off campus to the ESL office to find out what had happened (a 20 minute walk). It was frustrating at first, but then I realized that I must look kinda funny running around with a giant backpack muttering repetitive little ditties to myself and grinning the strained Joker grin with accidental spittle in a corner of my mouth at a rather handsome but disgusted-looking student librarian. And from there I started to enjoy it. So many places that I hadn’t really explored before-a vestibule outside the Ladies’ in that old library used to be a cloakroom, and little spidery legs of halls and a labyrinth of passageways with offices in an old liberal arts building, and then a street mural on the way to the ESL office-and finally, an old man playing a guitar in the alley behind the street mural. He was good. Tired-looking people were gathering over next to him, staring into the distance and petting their dogs. It was a great day for music-clear and bright and not too cold. Really, it was beautiful. At the risk of sounding like an 18th century morality textbook, that was the point at which I remembered this:

“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.”

~GKC, On Running After One’s Hat

In case you were wondering, yes-I did make it to the class. After it was over, but seconds before the last person-the teacher I wanted to talk to-left. Score!

Dieting

One of the most excruciating things we have to do as nutrition majors is also one of my favourites: diet practice.

Who likes being told what to eat? Not I, said the Kate. (Which begs the question, why would the Kate want to be a dietitian?) But diet practice forces the Kate to learn far more about the applications of potential diet advice than the average assignment, so it feels like a break from school (yay!).

We don’t get enough of it, in my opinion-but nutrition majors are taught empathy and a few principles of education along with all the technical details of food and metabolism. One of those empathy assignments is dieting for critical illnesses and writing about our experiences. Last semester was the worst-two consecutive days of low protein and then 3 of low potassium for kidney failure patients. Potassium wasn’t so terrible, but for the protein diet we had to meet or exceed a certain calorie level while never going over a truly minuscule protein limit. That low protein diet made me angry and annoyed and cranky and generally nasty for 3-4 days-before, during, and after. It was horrible trying to plan it, it was horrible to follow, and it made me feel horrible health-wise. In case you were wondering, Swedish Fish do not mix well with Coca-Cola-and that’s basically all you can eat that’s protein-free.

Aside: If you are ever diagnosed with one of the early stages of chronic kidney disease, do everything they tell you ASAP. There’s usually hope that you can stop or slow the progression of the disease if you make a few relatively simple lifestyle changes. Good dietitians can help you figure out a diet you can live with while compromising on your favourite foods-and trust me, what look like little frustrations right now will be much, much better than an extremely low protein diet or dialysis.

This semester is looking better than last year. Our first assignment in this vein is a 5-day diabetic diet, where we have to aim for certain carbohydrate levels at each meal. I was really surprised at how much I had to eat to make those levels. As an example, a woman who’s 5’4″ and fairly active needs about 1800 calories. Half of those calories should come from carbohydrates (sugar and fiber) and since 1 gram of carb = about 4 calories, that comes out to 225 grams. If you think of it in terms of specific foods, that’s

– 15 slices of bread, or

– 5 and a half cokes, or

– 40 Girl Scout Thin Mints, or

– 8 cups of ice cream, or

– 9 bananas, or

– 6 slices of Domino’s pepperoni pizza

I’d always thought a diabetic diet would be really restrictive-and it is. But it’s more about watching when you eat things and staying on top of portion sizes than giving up all tasty food. To get good blood sugar control, sugary foods should be distributed pretty evenly throughout the day-say three meals and a couple snacks. Confession: I’ve resorted to both butterbeer and coke already this week to make my carb quotas.

So. Much. Food.

Have you ever tried a diet before? Why? Did it work?

Murder Mystery Birthday

I have a really amazing best friend.

She wrote an entire murder mystery, complete with character motivations and complex rules, and got 20 people to play it. It went kinda wonky in places, but it still worked well enough. We had fun. For future reference, every murder mystery needs one person who knows what’s going on and isn’t actually in the game (a la Mafia). And butterbeer is a good addition to any party. As long as you don’t quadruple the recipe (I will never, ever be able to finish the giant mass of brown sugar and butter that ended up as leftovers in my fridge).

So that was my weekend. And week. And month. And off the list it goes!

Pork belly and sweet potato cake

Food. Just when I think it couldn’t get any more daring than this, it does.

I’ve been really proud of my little forays into foreign cuisine. Baby octopus arms, kimchi, paneer, Thai curry, “real” ramen, gyros, African peanut soup, homemade salsa… hey, I’d even tried 비빔밥 (bibimbap-steamed vegetables with rice and egg), 만두국 (manduguk-dumpling soup), and 짜장면 (jjajangmyeon-black bean sauce over noodles) in hopes of finding things I could recognize on a Korean menu next year.

Those Korean dishes I did manage to try on my own had turned out to be delicious-so on my birthday, I wanted Korean food. My awesome parents decided to indulge my every wish (months of begging pays off!) and we went to a Korean restaurant with a couple of friends. We decided to go family style so we could all have a chance to try everything. Wealth and riches! Reviews below-and sorry there are no pictures. Maybe when I’m done with Goal #39 pictures will be possible. For now, my webcam tends not to travel to restaurants 😉

– Fried dumplings: This was an appetizer, and it had already disappeared by the time the second half of the family made it to the restaurant. Dumplings are my absolute favourite Asian food ever. So even though this isn’t the most “Korean” offering on the menu, I will be back just for this.

– Pork belly: I’d been waiting for a large group to try this with. The sweet ajumma who has been helping with my Korean pronunciation for months grilled it at the table and cut it to pieces with giant scissors. There were two types of sauce with it, but I never found out what they were called. The sauces were good. The pork belly itself was a lot more chewy than normal American fare, and something on the order of 80% fat. Like inch-thick non-cured bacon without all the salt and chemicals that make it taste good. Probably won’t go with this again unless someone else orders it.

– Kimchi pancake: Kimchi baked with onion and flour and probably some other tasty veggies-delicious. It was a little hard to eat with the chopsticks, but savoury pancakes are such a brilliant idea. Have to learn how to make it now that Mom has taken to buying me kimchi from the grocery store but making faces whenever I open the jar-maybe it’ll be less fragrant in pancake form 🙂

– Kimchi soup: Tofu and kimchi in a flavourful broth, served in a very hot stone bowl. I need to work on my wimp factor. This stuff was spicy-but really good.

– Seafood/Tofu soup: I don’t like seafood, so not being able to tell what was in this was a good thing. Again, too spicy for my wimpy taste buds but otherwise great.

– Banchan: Mmmmmmmmm, pickled radishes! Kimchi! Glazed potatoes! I think all 7 people at the table found something they liked.

– Beef and pork bulgogi: Basically what Americans think of when we think of teriyaki or stir fry. Hogged by the little brothers and pronounced good. As they had been teasing me for months by groaning whenever I brought up the subject of Korean food, this was a pleasant surprise. Must go back and actually try these.

– Sweet potato cake: A beautifully packaged and decorated gift from Korean friend. She got it from Tous le Jours (yes, we do have one in my city and yes, I will definitely be going back). Pastry chefs are amazing. I can’t imagine making edible adornments like the rosettes and crumb dust on this specimen. Cakes (and overly sweet pancakes, cinnamon rolls, donuts, white breads…) have declared war on almost every organ in my body so I usually observe the ceasefire and avoid them, but I ate this and liked it quite a bit before things started to hurt. It was sweeter and yellower than I expected (we grow different varieties of sweet potato-another thing I didn’t know).

So.

Best. Birthday. Lunch. Ever.