Sunday, October 28, 2018

Using Google Drawings to make virtual altars for Día de Muertos

I've been pondering how to have my students make a virtual altar for a loved one or famous person as a part of my mini-unit on Day of the Dead this week, but I wasn't coming up with any satisfactory solutions. There are a few websites that let you build virtual altars, but you can't customize the objects, so they're pretty generic and not really a reflection of any specific person (but they look pretty cool).

I thought about using a virtual bulletin board like Padlet, but I'd either have to create a bulletin board for each student (105 bulletin boards, which would be tedious and require me to upgrade to the paid plan) or I'd have to have students create individual accounts with Padlet. I'm trying to be judicious in the number of accounts I ask students to create, because if every teacher is asking them to create 5 accounts with various websites or apps, that's a lot of usernames and passwords to remember. So I didn't want to do that.

I thought about just letting them choose their own medium because I was having trouble coming up with something, and then I remembered Google Drawings. If your school uses Google Classroom, this is a particularly great option because you can create a blank document or a template and assign it to your students. Google Classroom allows you the option to make a copy for each student, and then voilà! Each student has their own copy that they can use to create a virtual altar. In our case, it's going to look more like a virtual bulletin board unless my students want to make it look more like an altar, but the basic idea is the same. Here's the model I made for my grandma, who passed away in 2015:

Friday, October 26, 2018

When stomach pain makes you thankful

I started having stomach pain in the fall of 2008, at the beginning of my second year on the tenure track. I remember clearly when it started, because I was attending a linguistics conference in Austin, TX. My stomach hurt the entire time I was there and I thought I was getting the stomach flu, but I never vomited. At first it wasn't too bad, but over the course of a few years it slowly got worse until at some point my stomach hurt pretty much all the time every day. At some point I went to the doctor and she put me on an acid reducer, but it didn't help, and my stomach pain kept getting worse. It finally got to a point where it was unbearable and I asked to have tests done to figure out what was wrong. In the end, it wasn't anything serious; a stomach scope showed that I had a hiatal hernia, which was causing acid reflux, and once they upped the dosage to 40 mg of omeprazole, I could function again. On my doctor's advice, I repeatedly tried to reduce my dosage, but every time I dropped down to 20 mg my stomach pain came back. I switched to a safer med category in 2013-2014 when I was pregnant and breastfeeding, but I still needed to be on it. I finally started tapering down successfully in 2015, and eventually was able to stop taking it altogether without having stomach pain. In retrospect it's clear that stress from being on the tenure track was responsible for the stomach acid, and as I started to recover from being in a job I hated, my stomach started recovering. Surprisingly, a year of being unemployed was apparently less stressful to my stomach than being on the tenure track, and I did not have to go back on the acid reducer in 2016. 

So this past week I was having the same kind of stomach pain intermittently during the day on Tuesday, and it kept getting worse through the evening. I had just been celebrating that although my job is demanding, I enjoy it and feel like it's a better match for my interests, so I haven't been experiencing all of the adverse health problems resulting from stress that I experienced while I was on the tenure track. When my stomach pain hit on Tuesday, I didn't think anything of it at first, but as it kept getting worse, I remembered when my stomach pain started 10 years ago, and I started thinking about what I would do next. I love my job, but one thing I've learned over the last decade is that if my body is telling me that my job is too stressful, I need to listen and make some changes. I took Tums before I went to bed and hoped that my stomach would feel better the next day, but I woke up at 2 and my stomach still hurt, so I took more Tums and went back to bed. At 3, I woke up again and finally realized that the stomach pain was the stomach flu, which is why the Tums before bedtime didn't help. (It also explains why I was tired enough to go bed at 9:00, which should have been my first clue that I was getting sick, not having indigestion.) I hate having the stomach flu because I hate vomiting, and now that I'm middle aged, I hate it more because my abs are sore the next day from vomiting and my back hurts from lying in bed all day. But this week I was relieved and grateful that it was only the stomach flu and not the beginning of another bout with stomach acid, and was happy to realize that I would be back to normal in about 48 hours. 

Moral of the story: Listen to your body. I kept trying to make adjustments, always thinking that at some point I'd somehow figure out the secret and be happy with my job. I thought this even though I was having debilitating stomach pain and had to go on 40 mg of omeprazole in my early 30s, and even though I kept having recurring bouts of depression that got progressively worse each time they hit. It's been hard to transition out of academia because I spent so much time pursuing that goal that I just kept trying to make it fit because I didn't want to feel that I'd wasted so many years in grad school and on the tenure track, and as my mom says, my mama didn't raise no quitter. So I'm not where I imagined I would be in my 40s, but that's turning out to be the best thing for me.

(Silver lining to the stomach flu: I ate whatever I wanted today and I'm still several pounds below my regular current weight. :D)