I’ll Be Here All Night

This sequence will only make sense if you know how to pronounce my son’s name. Anand is pronounced “on’ und”. Got it? Okay.

***

Anand: When I’m sleeping, you should call me “Off-und.”

Me: You know, you sleep a lot. You sleep every night. So I guess that means you’re ‘Often Off-und.”

Anand: [silence]

Me: Aw, c’mon. That was pretty good, you have to admit.

Anand: Fair enough. Good job, mommy.

Thank you, thank you. I’ll be here all night.

I Miss Chewing

Food that doesn’t require chewing that I have consumed today, a list:

• coffee with whole milk and sugar
• uppuma with the last of Roshani‘s shrimp curry sauce (no actual shrimp)
• a strawberry popsicle
• tea with whole milk and sugar
• a soft caramel
• soft white bread (not the edges), soaked in salmon curry sauce (no actual salmon), with hard-boiled duck egg yolk (not the whites)
• chocolate pudding (or more accurately, a little French pot de creme from Whole Foods which was quite delicious)

• a bag of puffy Cheetos, which I walked four blocks to get from the gas station convenience store because I was craving something salty

Still to come if I get hungry before bed:

• cream of mushroom soup
• more tea (decaf)

• maybe another popsicle

I miss chewing.

Aryabhata Likes the New Rug

Aryabhata seems to like the new basement rug. He’s actually just yawning here, but it looks like he’s fiercely warning you off his rug. 🙂

I’m thinking about scale in pattern design. I want to use the dragon from yesterday’s drawing session to create a pattern something like this one. On the one hand, it bothers me a little that the elements here are so out of scale — flowers as tall as trees, different animals all the same size that wouldn’t be in real life.

On the other hand, it does make for a pleasing composition, so is it really important that it’s not that true to life? (I mean, I’m working with a dragon, so ‘true to life’ is only semi-useful as a concept anyway….)

Faceplant Update:

It’s really just the one tooth at this point — my hands are all better, my knee is a little sore, but not really noticeable.

The tooth is a little better after a night of sleep and not being bothered by my poking at it; shifted somewhat back into place, not all the way yet. Tender if I apply pressure at all, but less wiggly than last night.

The research I looked at suggested avoiding biting with it for three days, so I’ll try to stick to soft foods, although I think now it may be enough into position that I can chew a bit with back teeth without applying pressure to it (impossible yesterday). Maybe I can manage some soft uppuma and egg curry for breakfast; we’ll see.

Quick College Teaching Update Re: Format

The first week of the semester, I did one class in-person and one class by Zoom. I did that primarily to confirm that all the students knew how to handle Zoom and remote in case COVID cases spiked locally and we had to pivot to full remote; I think that’s a good idea for anyone teaching in-person, if your institution gives you the flexibility to do so.

I then went back to in-person for following weeks. It’s clearly working better for my fiction writing class; the process and discussion is much more generative than it was remote, and we’re able to do a better job of building community and cohesion as a workshop.

But for my other class, a 400/500-level lit. class, the remote class went really well — so well that I ended up sending them a poll, asking if they’d like one class / week to be remote. I gave them five options: strong no, weak no, no preference, weak yes, strong yes.

It was an anonymous poll (free through Survey Monkey), and the results came back with one weak no, one no preference, and the rest as weak or strong (mostly strong, including one in ALL CAPS WITH EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!) yes to remote. If there had been even one strong NO, I think I wouldn’t have switched, but there wasn’t.

So we switched to that this week — Monday we’re in-person, Wednesday remote on Zoom. Just taught class, and it went great.

I think this is probably only working so well because half the class are grad students, and the rest are upperclassmen, and the class is at 9:30, so the first of the day for many. Only one or two of them might have to do it on campus, which matters — for my fiction workshop, we’d have at least five students who’d need to do it from campus, which creates technological challenges if they’re all zooming in from our regular classroom. So I’m not saying this is going to work for everyone’s classes.

But for us, I think having half the classes remote in the upper-level lit. class is a clear improvement. It lowers COVID risk, most importantly. Remote also saves most of us commuting time (not me, because I’m still going in for my other class, but still).

In terms of pedagogy, remote gives the quieter students who get nervous about speaking up in class more avenues for participation, such as through the Zoom chat function. Breakout rooms work just as well as small groups in the classroom setting. For those who find in-person exhausting, half-remote gives them a break (while we still have some in-person for those students who find it energizing).

I don’t know what the future of teaching is going to look like, but I’m hoping that one consequence of the pandemic will be a lot more flexibility in teaching modalities, and a lot more teachers experienced in how to do online learning effectively. Among other things, it means that when I travel for conferences, instead of trying to get colleagues to cover my classes, I can simply teach them remotely. That’s going to be better for my students overall.

When the weather is terrible (and the roads are dangerous with ice), we can smoothly switch to remote for a few days rather than asking students and teachers to risk their lives to come to class. When I’m horribly sick, I can still cancel class, but if I’m just a little under the weather and sniffly (as I often am for a few days in winter), I can teach safely from home, conserving my energy and not risking spreading disease, rather than trying to power through in the classroom.

I’m honestly excited about what teaching will look like, once we’re past the crisis of the pandemic. It’s going to take flexibility on the part of administrators (and teachers, and students), but I think the rewards could be immeasurable.

Photo: me teaching from home this morning — no masks, which also means I get to see my students’ faces (if they’re feeling up to having screens on), and they get to see mine.

Ice Cream and Cheetos

I can’t chew anything right now (loose tooth from a fall), so I’m on a semi-liquid diet. By which I mean, dinner was strawberry ice cream and Cheetos. No chewing required!

And for all of you inclined to parent me, please do not fret, we also have plenty of hearty and nourishing soup and yogurt on hand, and Kevin will make me as many smoothies as I want. But right now, I am feeling sorry for myself and indulgent — hence, ice cream and Cheetos.

Sleepy Little Leaf Dragon

I took a break from the Spoonflower fabric design challenges for a few months, but since I was deliberately taking it easy today after my fall, I decided to spend some time working on one for a bit (while watching Brokenwood).

I wasn’t able to finish the fabric design in time to enter it for the contest — it was due at 3 p.m. CST, so clearly I didn’t make that. But I’m happy with this sleepy little leaf dragon.

She is sleepy, but also ready to eat you. 🙂

Will probably go on and try making a pattern out of it — first in the challenge limited palette colors, and then trying it in other colors. I’m thinking a cave, maybe, and some trees? Hm.

Quick Little Happy Note

I was so sad that I never got around to planting my dahlia tubers this past spring, and I was really worried that if I just kept them in their boxes and bags for a whole year, they would dry out and be really sad next spring.

So I thought, what the heck, I’ll try starting them under grow lights, and let them go for a while there this autumn, and then I’ll cut them back in November (when they’d normally be blackened by frost), and then clean and store them per usual, then start them again in the same pots next March, hopefully with a little extra plumpness to the tubers from a few months of growing, to be potted out in the garden at the end of May.

I think my theory is sound, because after just a week, look how lovely and cheery the green shoots are! Which is actually making me wonder if it’s a terrible idea to just keep them alive all winter indoors, skipping the cutting back phase. I could move them into lower light in November, so they slow down growth, but treat them as house plants, essentially.

Do they need a dormant phase? In the south warmer zones, do dahlias just go year round? What about gladioli?

I suspect I need some advice from actual dahlia growers, the people who propagate for the nursery trade. Not sure how to find them!

The Universe Is Telling Me to Rest

Sigh. After yesterday’s really long work day (7 a.m. – 8 p.m.), I was tired and sort of out of it this morning — got the kids off to school, knew I was tired, but it’s been so hot, the garden is desperate for water, so I motivated to go outside and at least get the sprinklers going — which was a mistake.

I missed a step going down the porch stairs and face-planted hard onto my concrete path. Loose front teeth, fat lip, scraped up knees and hands. Was really light-headed coming back into the house, so took some Advil and taking it easy on the couch the rest of the day.

Hoping the teeth settle in and I don’t need dentistry. Anand did this to me once when he was a baby (slammed his very hard skull into my face), and I researched and teeth often just settle back in as the gum heals. They did that time, so fingers crossed.

Guess the universe is telling me to rest today. I kind of knew I needed to. Should have listened. Can’t really chew yet, so I guess I get to have a strawberry smoothie for lunch…

Lexapro

Okay, y’all, so I’m going to talk about Lexapro, but I’m also going to talk about sex drive, so this may be too much information for some of you (such as say, my dad, or my aunties and uncles, or my students) — so I will kindly start with the non-sex parts, and will put a little space before the sex parts, so you can stop reading if you’d prefer. 🙂 Ready? Onwards.

So, I started Lexapro a little over a month ago, 10 mg daily, to hopefully help with mild anxiety. I should emphasize that I don’t think I *needed* to take it, per se — I was just stressed and tense, with my neck and shoulder and upper back muscles really tight by the end of the day. Kevin wondered whether the ADD meds were causing that, but I don’t think so, because they wear off around 5 p.m. (8 hr timed release), and I was still really tense when I was going to bed. And I think I was feeling this way before I started the ADD meds a few years ago.

To recap, I started taking Lexapro in the morning with my other meds (I take Tamoxifen to keep the cancer from coming back, Synthroid supplemental thyroid hormone for my thyroid disase, and Vyvanse for ADD). Lexapro made me crashingly exhausted, so within a few days, I moved to taking it at bedtime, which was better.

It takes your body a while to adapt to Lexapro, so I tried to be patient with it. It immediately and effectively got rid of the tension, so that was good — my muscles stopped knotting up, and I stopped asking Kevin to massage my back every night so I could go to sleep. Good, yes?

However. It made me feel muffled — the best way I can think to describe Lexapro’s effects is that it was like having a thick blanket wrapped around me all the time. In some ways, maybe that made me a little easier to live with, because very little bothered me. I could listen to kids or friends being annoying (as sometimes everyone is, not picking anyone out in particular), without actually getting annoyed, which was nice. I became a more patient person.

But I also just didn’t care as much about getting things done — I completely failed to motivate to exercise, for example, for that entire month, and I’d been used to exercising daily. And while I was able to get my regular work done, I had a really hard time doing anything beyond the minimum necessary. Which is maybe good, in some ways, because I generally try to do too much and I pretty clearly should’ve been resting more previously.

Slowing down a bit was good. But it felt like too much. I was also just tired all the time — bludgeoned with it at the beginning at the month, but still there at the end. Lethargic all day long.

By the end of the month, my body had adapted somewhat, and instead of feeling like a heavy blanket wrapped around me, it felt more like a light one. But that really was still more than I wanted. I asked my doc when we spoke on Friday about cutting the dose in half for the next month, and she agreed that was worth trying. So starting on Saturday, I’ve been using the little pill cutter to cut my dose in half, taking 5 mg at night.

(She also emphasized that we could try different meds that had a similar action to Lexapro to see if they suited me better, or even different meds that functioned very differently — I wanted to try the half-dose, so we’ll hold those options for the future.)

I felt the effects pretty much immediately (I don’t know if that’s common, or if some of this is placebo effect; it feels like changes to this med hit me very clearly and directly). I felt more like myself this weekend, more energetic. Still feeling the Lexapro a bit, but more like a cozy light cardigan than a muffling blanket. The tension did come back somewhat in my shoulders, which wasn’t fun, but not being tired all the time is, I think, a worthwhile tradeoff, if that ends up being the necessary tradeoff. I could live with this.

I’m going to stick with this half-dose for a month, then re-evaluate. So we could stop right there, but I do want to talk about the sex part, so here’s the promised space break:

So, I’d been warned that Lexapro might affect sex drive. It doesn’t for everyone, to be clear. I know people who take it, and they don’t have any sexual issues as a result.

For me, initially, I didn’t think it was affecting sex drive at all. I had sex in the first week after I started it, and it was fun and fine per usual, so if anyone had asked me then, I would’ve said it wasn’t having any effect.

I realized as the month went on, though, that that wasn’t actually the case. I’d say for the entire month I was on it, I didn’t initiate sex at all, and had no interest in sex. Sex didn’t sound particularly fun — I was more interested in watching a murder mystery, having some ice cream, etc. I think I had sex maybe once or twice in that month at most? For me, 2-3 times / week is more typical these days, as a point of reference. And this wasn’t about partner sex; I also had no interest in solo sex, which is also atypical for me.

When I mentioned this to my doctor, she got a little embarrassed, which was honestly sort of cute, but she powered through to ask me relevant questions. She first asked if I was having trouble with orgasms (no) or with wanting to have sex (yes).

Once we’d clarified where the issue lay, she then had two things to offer:

a) if I typically had ‘relations,’ as she put it, before bed, have ‘relations’ first, and then take the Lexapro afterwards

b) think of it like a train — ‘you might not feel like getting on the train, but once you’re on it, you might still find yourself really enjoying the ride’

I am still amused by her ‘relations’ and train metaphor. But I think she’s basically right about the latter — once I was on the train, I did enjoy the ride.

That’s a tricky thing, though — in the context of the almost-30-year relationship I have with Kevin, we’ve been through lowered sex drive due to pregnancy / small child exhaustion, plus chemo and post-surgery/radiation/cancer body dysphoria, etc., and we’ve figured out how to talk about that and be okay with sometimes long stretches without much sex, without taking it personally as a rejection.

We are long past needing to worry about consent issues between us. If Kev’s feeling like sex and I’m not particularly into it, but I know I’ll enjoy it fine once I’m ‘on the train,’ as it were, we’re both fine with starting that way. I can even keep watching my murder mystery for a while, if I want. (Too much information? Sorry, I warned you….)

Those dynamics are trickier to manage without that kind of solid relationship history, though. And it all makes me feel like our society is really TERRIBLE at talking about sex drive — what it is, why it might go away, how to manage it.

We’re particularly bad at the gendered aspects of it. Our society is terrible at talking about how that might play out in a heterosexual marriage, especially if both people are actually committed to joint pleasure and not inclined to subscribe to the ‘close your eyes and think of England’ plan for the wife…

So, anyway. I’m not sure I have any conclusions here. I can tell you that I noticed a clear uptick in interest on my part with the drop to 5 mg dosage, which is very nice to feel. I don’t like not having much (or any) sex drive; it doesn’t feel like me. (Says the woman who spent her 20s writing erotica. The hormones were raging back then…)

I wonder if people handled this better when we all lived in small communities and had trusted village religious leaders to talk to about how to sustain a marriage for the long haul. A celibate Catholic priest? Maybe not…

Mostly, I think we need to talk about this all more. How to do this, how to do it better in a long relationship, with all the expected ups and downs (that maybe aren’t expected if no one has ever talked to you honestly about them, and if you’ve been raised on a diet of Hollywood heat).

How to not be embarrassed when talking about sex, how to treat healthy sexual function as a priority in healthcare, and now I’m wondering if sex therapists are even covered by health insurance in America…

Anywhere, there we are. Hopefully this is helpful to some of you. If you have questions, ask. I’m no expert, but I’ll do my best to answer.