Me

Me
Bugaboos 2010

Friday, August 14, 2015

The harvest begins

This week, during the ritual morning garden inspection, I walked into a spider web. Noooo! Fall is coming! Though Seattle keeps breaking heat records, summer is starting to fade a little. This hint of cooler days to come, the sudden ripening of my garden, and our upcoming travels caused my harvesting (or hoarding?) instinct to kick in full force! 

Let’s start with tomatoes. Oh, the tomatoes! We are growing Sungolds, Early Girls, Brandywines, cherry tomatoes, and a fancy Russian heirloom beefsteak whose name I forgot. This year, we learned all about pruning suckers. As a result, our plants are less chaotic and more productive. 


Jon is the main tomato caretaker this summer, as I had to travel so much for music stuff


We eat tomatoes right off the vine, in Caprese appetizers, on sandwiches, with eggs, etc. 

Colors of Italy right there.

This week, the tomatoes started ripening so quickly that made our first batch of sauce. Last year, I committed to stop using commercially canned tomato products in the metal cans, due to concerns over the BPA in the can lining. Thankfully, our jars of frozen garden tomato sauce lasted until late July. This evening, just weeks after using the last of 2014's tomato sauce, we roasted three huge trays of tomatoes until the skins were lightly browned. I don’t bother to peel or seed the tomatoes; that is so much work that it would stop me from growing and preserving tomatoes. We puree them and then freeze in jars. I made a polenta lasagna with this roasted tomato sauce and froze three more jars. Divine!


this many tomatoes turned into four pints of delicious sauce


Some of our basil turned into pesto for the freezer...



Then there's zucchini, the prolific home gardener's crop. Our lone zucchini plant keeps on valiantly producing, despite its struggles with powdery mildew and blossom end rot. We’ve enjoyed a zucchini with nearly every dinner this week. And, because one can never have enough zucchini, we nabbed a free “heaver” from our neighbor Mary. The nickname heaver comes from Barbara Kingsolver’s amazing book, Animal Vegetable Miracle: a Year of Food Life. When their zucchinis sneakily grew as big as cats, they joked about heaving them over the fence into the woods. Thus, the name heaver. 


Jon about to annihilate his nemesis


The “heaver” got shredded in the food processor and frozen, to be used in recipes this winter. A little of it went into a delicious zucchini frittata. 


1 C zucchini, three eggs, a tomato, and some cheese


All the fruits ripened EARLY this year. I posted on my neighborhood’s message board asking if anyone had extra fallen fruit I could collect. I spent a very satisfying cloudy Saturday afternoon biking around loading up my panniers with apples, plums, and pears. Jon and I picked a boatload of juicy blackberries at Magnuson Park. The pears are on hold in the fridge until we have time to ripen them. Then we’ll dehydrate them. I got pounds and pounds of Italian Prunes that would have otherwise rotted. I wasn’t as successful with the apples, but I managed to make a few jars of “neighborhood applesauce” and plan to get more apples in the fall. My old college roommate Sydney visited for a few days and we made 12 jars of delicious plum-blackberry jam—all from FREE fruit that would have gone to waste otherwise!




While I was at it this week, I made muesli, kefir, a berry crisp, pumpkin bread with the last of 2014’s pumpkin puree, and blanched and froze some green beans and squash. Yeah, this could be considered hoarding. Or maybe it was my way of de-toxing from the arduous task of making my student's fall schedule. 




Don't forget about the consequences of hoarding: a lovely, full freezer, and boatloads of dishes to wash before, during, and after marathon kitchen sessions. Long live the harvest!






Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Music Season!

The more music I do, the fewer mountains I climb. This year, I've had a string of amazing professional opportunities. So, instead of my usual outdoor-related blog post, here is an update on all the cool violin-related things I did this year!

In September, I launched my fully-independent home studio and we had a great year filled with lessons, recitals, and workshops. I now have 34 students and a long wait-list. Some of the kids I started 4-5 years ago are finally making it to the Suzuki Book Four level. Hooray! It takes a long time to build a studio and start them out right. I think that all my time spent in the trenches of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” will reap dividends in the coming years. For me, an average student takes 6-12 months to learn all the Pre-Twinkle material and complete the Twinkle variations. Once they master that, they have pretty good posture, play in tune, have nice tone, and know how to focus during lessons. 

me with most of my students at a recital

In March, I made the schedule for the Seattle Young Artists Music Festival. I don’t get paid for doing this monstrous job, but I do get a free dinner with the adjudicators! I had the privilege of meeting Cornelia Heard from Vanderbilt and Mimi Zweig, a renowned professor of violin pedagogy from Indiana University. Both of them were amazing teachers and they had great things to say to our young local talent. I decided to go to Mimi’s summer string teacher workshop in Bloomington, a class I’d wanted to take for a few years.  First, though, I had a busy spring to get through. Right after spring break, my students had a few fiddle-packed weeks that culminated in a fiddle workshop with Sarah Comer. I took some lessons with Sarah over the winter and was pretty clueless about fiddle to begin with, but under her guidance I learned a lot about the nuances of the bowing and the “accent” of the fiddle language. I taught my students some basic tunes to prepare for the workshop, where Sarah coached them on style and improvisation. Then we had a big jam session and Sarah finished the day by leading some folk dances for the students and parents while her band played. It was awesome. 

Improvising on "Possum's Tail"


Unfortunately, teaching all those fiddle pieces took a toll on me. It meant a lot of extra playing during my lessons. I’m a Suzuki teacher, meaning my young students don’t read music right away, so I have to show them new pieces by playing bits for them to repeat, play it again, etc. It can get pretty repetitive. My right arm has been over-used and slightly injured since early 2013, when my teaching load went from twelve to 30 students and I re-joined orchestra. My wrist/arm flared up painfully this spring when I had to cram-teach a lot of fiddle tunes. I limped through the fiddle workshop and my spring orchestra concert. Meanwhile, Jon decided to leave the UW for a corporate job, which meant kissing our sweet NASA benefits goodbye. I started physical therapy to take advantage of the great health insurance while we still had it. I spent 10 hours a week on PT in May and June and things improved. Unfortunately, the pain sometimes comes back when I get sloppy with my posture and slack off on my exercises. It is not a severe injury (no tingling, etc.) but I am trying to stay on top of it. Meanwhile, Jon sought treatment for a shoulder injury that turned out to be a partial rotator cuff tear. Needless to say, body-care is going to be a big focus in the Toner household from now on. 

Jon falls asleep during PT exercises. 


The school year ended with a bang: my students had a recital June 13, and my parents came to watch and provide moral support as I ran around putting on the event. Jon was climbing Mt. Challenger, having a last “hurrah” before starting his new corporate job June 15. [Yeah, Jon played in the mountains a lot this year while I was doing music stuff.] I did all the household duties while Jon transitioned to his new job, endured the inevitable flurry of year-end lesson re-schedules, puzzled together my summer lesson schedule, and cajoled burned-out kids through their last lessons. Next year, I’m stopping lessons before school gets out!! My wrist was hurting and I was ready for a break. But, no rest for the weary: I had a major performance looming! Over Father’s Day weekend, I got to perform in the Bellingham Music Club’s 100 year anniversary gala concert, re-uniting with other Ferndale High School alumni to play some fun chamber music. We had received the music months before and I had practiced my parts thoroughly, but all the group rehearsing took place in the 48 hours before the concert. I worried that my wrist would fail me, or that my muscles would seize up. But, it was great fun and my wrist felt amazing. It was special to perform with my former teachers and coaches, including Joanne Donnellan, my early teacher of 9 years. One more piece of the puzzle learned: “real” playing, where I’m sitting up and really paying attention to what I’m doing, doesn’t hurt. Playing during lessons, on the other hand, does tend to hurt if I get tired or slouchy. Posture. 



I came home from the Bellingham performance, taught one day, then packed up and flew to Bloomington, Indiana, for a teacher training course with Mimi Zweig and some other amazing string professors. During a layover in Minneapolis, I checked my email and saw a message from Julia Gish-Salerno, a Suzuki teacher I met years ago in my Book One Course. She is the director of the Walla Walla Suzuki Institute and wanted to know if I would join the faculty for their weeklong institute July 19-24. Whoa! I said yes in a heartbeat! When it rains, it pours…I wondered if I’d be able to keep my energy and motivation high, without burning out or getting sick, but decided that if I was really careful to give myself enough rest and sleep, I could do it.

I arrived in Bloomington, checked into my Airbnb basement apartment two miles from campus, and then lived and breathed violin pedagogy for the next eleven days. I walked or bussed to campus, where I had classes and observation opportunities from 8 AM to 6 PM every day - even on July 4. It was cool, rainy, and humid there. Perfect weather for being indoors in windowless rooms! 

There must be a law somewhere against putting windows in ANY music classroom or practice room!

I crammed my brain full of as much pedagogy knowledge as possible, focusing on connecting ideas and gathering little missing pieces information.  I think the workshop really improved my “big picture” view of the teaching process. We covered just about everything from the beginning to the highest levels of playing!

geeking out about bow strokes..


I LOVED the faculty and my fellow workshop students. People who choose violin teaching for a career are generally kind, intelligent, and wonderful people, if I do say so myself :) I left feeling really excited, affirmed, and more informed about violin teaching. Here is Mimi working her magic on Kelly, who happens to live in Seattle.



More news: while I was in Bloomington, Jon called and said he wasn’t happy at his new corporate consulting job. It's a great company with nice people, but the pay isn't great and when he said "there is no artistry in the work," I knew he needed to return to academia. Fortunately, he had just found out that he got a three-year NASA grant of his own (!!!) and he had until August to accept it. So, as of today, Jon has accepted the grant and will be returning to the UW in September as a Research Associate, knowing that academia is where he really wants to be. He will be pursuing more grants, broadening the scope of his research, and possibly teaching a class or two at the UW. 

I came home from Bloomington, rested one day, taught two full days, then took a “staycation” week where I didn’t do much other than ride my bike, lay around, and take a few hikes. I had just worked for five weeks straight with only two days off, and I was exhausted. But before I knew it, I was at SeaTac AGAIN, flying out to Walla Walla for a week of Suzuki Institute teaching, another new, sink-or-swim experience. 

It was a great week. I taught five hours each day and we had an event most evenings. I was assigned two master classes, where three students shared an hour and each got a short individual lesson with me while the others watched. I fixed LOTS of posture problems - look at this beautiful new bow hold!



I got to coach a string trio and introduce some very hard-working 8-10 year olds to the awesomeness of chamber music.. 



And then, the wildcard… I had two group classes, each with a large spread of ages and playing levels. Group is something that I have gradually gotten more comfortable teaching over the years. I’m an introvert and it takes a lot more personal energy for me to get up in front of 20 or so kids and lead a fast-paced and fun Suzuki violin class. You can make a plan for a group class, but once you start, it is kind of an improvisatory process. You have to constantly read the class, engage them as a group, and keep them learning. I decided to view it as a challenging, but cool, opportunity, rather than something to dread. Overall, it was great. Sometimes, the pre-teens in the back were bored; other times, the pre-schoolers in the front were totally out of control. I felt exhausted after a few of the classes. But, most of the time, I was having fun while teaching and the kids were engaged, which meant they were having fun and learning, too. I’ll call it a success. Finally, perhaps the best part about the Institute was spending a whole week with my colleagues. I just love them!

An army of violinists at the final play-down


This week I'm at home catching up with my own students, securing rental spaces for recitals and workshops, and making the calendar for the coming school year. The Japan-Seattle Suzuki Institute starts in a few days, where I will be take my Book 7 teacher training. I’m tired, a little less fit that I would normally be in late July, and my over-use injury is still nagging me a bit…but I’ve been living into my calling and love it. I don’t want to be this busy with violin all the time, and I am looking forward to it slowing down after next week's class, but it’s been a good music season. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Red Rocks Again

I miss writing! Writing has been, sadly, low on the totem pole, not because there's nothing to record, but because my creative energy has been taken up by work. I started my own independent violin studio last fall and it's great, but is also a bit more responsibility. Writing is so good for me, though. It helps me sort things out, and hopefully provides you with something interesting to read. So here's a baby step toward remembering how to write: a report on our third climbing trip to Red Rocks. It was a great trip with an even better partner (Jon).

Red Rocks boasts great rock, endless multi-pitch routes to choose from, grocery stores close to the camping, cheap flights to Vegas, and reliably beautiful springtime weather. There are a few downsides, like crowded camping and occasional high winds, but we've learned to navigate them.

I just love those pink flowering cacti!


On the first day, we woke up at 4:15 AM, drove to SeaTac, and flew to Vegas. This trip was a bargain thanks to our $99 companion fare ticket and Alaska's free checked bag promotion - yes, this year I discovered travel rewards. We picked up our rental car (also paid for with rewards points), stocked up on groceries, and drove to the campground. And...no sites, not even in the dusty overflow area. Typical. After getting a map for some dispersed camping on BLM land, we headed for the scenic loop drive and were roping up for the first pitch of Tunnel Vision (5.7+, 6 pitches) by 2:30 PM.

happy to be on warm rock!

...Modern travel is insane, if you think about it. One morning we were in Seattle; a few hours later, we are tunneling through vividly colored, grippy desert sandstone. Oh, the tyrannical luxury of modern life. We have so much wealth that we voluntarily go on trips to arid deserts that really shouldn't really be all that populated. Then, we push our bodies to the extreme, sleep in the dirt, deprive ourselves of showers, and climb up huge cliffs, only to go back down them and climb another one the next day. [At least, that's what the Toners do.]

Jon had wanted to climb Tunnel Vision for awhile, and it did not disappoint - who can resist a dark, tunnel-like 5.6 chimney pitch?! I had never really enjoyed chimney climbing, but it began to grow on me this trip. For non-climbers: a chimney is a very wide crack in the rock into which you can fit your entire body. You can use any side of the chimney, and you often put your back or shoulders up against one side while you work your hands and feet up another. They can be awkward, scary...and surprisingly fun.

a chimney

We topped out and enjoyed the view for a moment, then hurried down, knowing that we could get an expensive ticket for leaving our car in the parking lot past 8 PM. We drove off into the sunset, eventually finding the dirt road that led into BLM land. Groggily, we cooked up some spaghetti in the dark, slept fitfully in the car, woke up tiredly with the sunrise, made breakfast, and began the hiking toward the next climb only 12 hours after finishing the last route.



This climb-cook-camp-climb cycle repeated itself for most of the week. I began to feel as if I were on a treadmill. Thankfully, we did a good job of pacing ourselves over the week, and we kept up a pretty steady output of energy. By the end of the trip, we had completed five stellar multi-pitch routes and ascended about 5000' of vertical rock. By the end, I was very content and tired, and didn't want to do any more climbing, no matter how classic the pitch.

The climbs: 

  • Tunnel Vision (5.7+, 6 pitches)
  • Black Magic (5.8, 4 pitches) and Romper Room (5.7+, 1 pitch)
  • Frigid Air Buttress (5.9+, 9 pitches) - GREAT, comfy belay ledges! Highlight for me was leading the 5.9+ crux pitch, a fun finger crack.
  • Olive Oil, first pitch - crowds were insane and after waiting for several hours we bailed and climbed Cat in the Hat instead (5.6, 4 pitches)
  • Black Orpheus (5.10a, grade IV, 14 pitches, 500 feet of scrambling, 1500 feet of roped climbing). A big route and definitely the highlight of the trip! Jon was the hero of the day, leading the entire route. I felt sick from my period, and was content to carry the pack and follow all the pitches. No wonder they call it the "curse." 
  • evening cragging at the Panty Wall, home of many punny, slightly inappropriate route names, such as Panty Line, Boxer Rebellion, Panty Raid, Edible Underwear, The Lost Panty, Cover My Buttress, A Brief Encounter, Sacred Undergarmet Squeeze Job... We challenged ourselves to invent as many new route names as possible while we climbed. 


The fun crux pitch on Frigid Air Buttress


totally exhausted on the rest/wind storm day

Jon leading up Black Orpheus, with style

spectacular exposure 2000' up on Black Orpheus

Summit of Black Orpheus - it has a surprisingly easy descent



We did take a few breaks from climbing. One day, we did a long mountain bike ride on rented bikes. That was fun. The best trails we rode were called Techno and Rubber Ducky. I got 2nd place on Rubber Ducky, according to Strava - oh yeah! Another day, it was really windy, so we made the mistake of visiting the strip. I hate museums, shopping malls, casinos, crowds, zoos, and commercialism. They drain and bore me to tears. So, logically, the Strip is about the last place I should go for a rest day. For some reason, we thought it would be fun. (?) I felt desperately exhausted after about 30 minutes of walking around, but unfortunately our outing dragged on for about three hours. I just wanted to lie down and sleep, but instead I was barraged by advertisements, lights, noises, and people trying to sell me something. While we were downtown, a big dust storm blew in and I started worrying about the tent. Sure enough, the MegaMid was half collapsed and full of dust when we got back. That thing is horrible in the wind. All in all, we should have just gone to a movie that day. The best, truest rest happened at Spring Mountain State Park, where we spent an afternoon laying around in the shade after eating a huge brunch, watching puffy clouds and rustling leaves. I am happiest in nature, I guess!

And then, suddenly, we were flying home to a sunny afternoon in Washington. The beautiful green of spring in Puget Sound was thrilling to see. The Northwest is where my heart belongs--even if I am stuck in Seattle for the time being!

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Ptarmigan Traverse

We finally did the Ptarmigan Traverse! I'm too lazy to copy this over from Cascade Climbers, so here is the link to my trip report:

http://cascadeclimbers.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/1128888/TR_Ptarmigan_Traverse_N_S_Form#Post1128888

Monday, June 09, 2014

Summer Vanilla+ Pudding

Summer has arrived! What a relief. As great as this year was, it also brought some major stresses, late nights, and unwanted big-ticket expenses. Things finally seem to be calming down. I'm recovered from the pneumonia and we're getting into the mountains every weekend. Music has dialed back a lot, too. I am really enjoying a bit of open time and space in my life.

To celebrate, here's a quick recipe for a refreshing summer dessert that goes well with all the wonderful fruit that's in season now. I took my favorite chocolate pudding recipe, removed the chocolate, and added some nice touches. I'm calling it Vanilla + pudding because it's got a wonderful blend of flavors, much more nuanced than your average vanilla pudding! Enjoy.




Ingredients:
1/6 to 1/4 C corn starch*
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 C evaporated cane juice (sugar)**
1 tsp cinnamon
2 3/4 C whole milk (preferably that yummy non-homogenized grassfed stuff)
1 TBSP vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 TBSP butter
1 ripe banana
flaked coconut for garnish
fresh raspberries or other fruit for garnish

Before making, assemble all your ingredients, 6 custard bowls, and slice up a banana into medium-thin rounds.

Sift corn starch, salt, sugar, and cinnamon into milk. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat this mixture gently over a medium heat, stirring regularly with a whisk. 

When the pudding gets hot and starts to steam, it will begin to thicken and stick to the back of a spoon or whisk. Keep stirring as it thickens, but don't let it boil.  Remove from heat. Add butter, vanilla, and almond extract. Once the butter is melted, stir it all together. 

Put a banana slice or two into the bottom of each bowl. Pour the hot pudding into the bowls. Add another banana slice or two to the top. The banana will soften just enough to be delicious but not soggy. Sprinkle the top with coconut flakes. 

Let cool at room temperature until no longer hot, then refrigerate 4-6 hours. The flavors in this pudding are subtle and while it's delicious warm, you'll have the most flavor when it's had a chance to chill and flavor. It's fabulous with fresh raspberries. 


*Corn starch is probably not the healthiest thickener: processed, GMO, etc. Egg yolks are a great thickener for pudding, and there are many recipes that explain how to use them. However, I spend hours cooking already and dealing with eggs is the last thing I want to do when making an "easy" dessert. I figure that if we eat clean/organic 90% of the time, that's good enough! Bob's Red Mill cornstarch is great, but tends to be stronger than more conventional brands, so use a bit less. 

**Jon and I rarely have sweets, so we've sort of lost our taste for sugar. With 1/2 C sugar, this recipe is sweet but not overwhelming. I thought I'd like it less sweet, so I tried it again with only 1/4 C sugar, but the pudding didn't set as well - it was a little runnier but still definitely still "pudding." Both tasted great. 


Friday, May 09, 2014

Pneumonia Derails the MTB project

It's the night before Stottlemeyer, a big 30/60 mile mountain bike race that I look forward to every year. But, instead of packing my biking backpack with Shot Bloks and bars, I'm still convalescing.

The pneumonia is going away, slowly. My fever went away after two doses of antibiotics. I can teach lessons, go for walks, and keep up with housework, so that's good. But I need 1-2 naps per day. I get a little out of breath walking uphill. I can almost take a full breath now, but my lungs still feel crackly. I plan to be VERY cautious with returning to exercise. You can do serious damage by trying to push through pneumonia. Sick people are called patients for a reason. You have to be patient.

In other news, today is my mountain bike's first birthday! It's time to make my final report on my "Mountain Bike Project." My goal was to ride my new bike 50 times in the first year of owning it. Well, I didn't quite get to 50, but I have some pretty good excuses (the rainiest March on record and pneumonia). But I had some really fun rides in the past year. My technical skills improved a lot and I saw some beautiful places. The best rides were Cutthroat Pass and the Chuckanut Enduro. The most disappointing ones were when I tried new areas near Seattle like Tolt, hoping to finally discover some good riding around here. Nope. The riding near Seattle is not so great, and involves driving 40-60 minutes each way, often through random, unpredictable traffic. The commute really deters me from riding because it takes away a lot of the fun. Maybe someday Jon will get a job in a small outdoors city that has easy access to open space and the outdoors. Until then, mountain biking will be more of a weekend/destination activity, a rare treat. Sigh. Cities: horrible, confining, traffic-ridden things.

Here are the rest of the rides, for what it's worth. I'm looking forward to getting back on the bike this summer!

38. 2/2/14 Team ride at Dash Point to practice for an upcoming race.
39. 2/6/14 St. Edward's ride with some road hills thrown in.
40. 2/8/14 Tapeworm trails. Pretty fun, but a very small area. Probably shouldn't have gone mountain biking, as I had a student recital that night and it ended up being just too much for one day.
41. 2/16/14 Dash Point Race. Went out hard, blew up, finished the race. Felt really nauseated during race. Oops..
42. 3/14/14 Chuckanut Ride! Hard and fun!
43. 3/23/14 easy St Ed's Ride on a sunny day.
44. 4/30/14 I took my mountain bike for a VERY slow lap around the block, helmetless. I had a 102 fever. What can I say, it was 80 degrees and sunny that day and my facebook newsfeed was filled with pictures of happy bikers. I had to at least pedal a few circles!

Friday, May 02, 2014

I got what?!

Ten days ago, shortly after returning from Red Rocks, I came home exhausted from a long day of work. I couldn't get warm. "I really miss the desert heat," I thought. When a sweatshirt and blanket didn't work, I took a triple dose of cod liver oil and collapsed into bed.

It was all downhill from there.

For the next week, I had a fairly high fever that came and went throughout the day. I had a bad headache and couldn't turn my head or lean over without a lot pain. I also couldn't take a full breath without coughing. I cancelled all my lessons for the first few days of the illness and was able to Skype or re-schedule them after that.

I let the fever burn and used every home remedy I knew, but nothing really helped. I also felt pretty sad and hopeless. Saturday, Jon went climbing and left me alone. I felt very isolated, but also didn't really want to see anyone--or make them sick.  Every show I watched on Netflix made me cry. I also felt really homesick for Whatcom County. I despaired over my career's lack of sick pay and benefits in general. Basically, I was a mess.

After one week, I was more clear-headed and didn't need to sleep all the time. It seemed like I should start getting better. But the fever kept spiking every afternoon, and I had some tightness and congestion in my chest that wasn't going anywhere. Then, the coughing started. I'd wake up coughing and soaked in sweat, unable to stop. Poor Jon got woken up too, but thankfully he hasn't gotten sick. I stayed up for the better part of several nights, breathing steam, drinking tea, and coughing. From 1-3 AM one night, I finally figured out our new health and found a great-sounding new doctor. I see her next Tuesday!

However, not sleeping wasn't good for recovery. To make matters worse, my appetite went from low to zero. I've lost seven pounds in ten days, so far. My body was struggling. Something just wasn't quite right.

Yesterday morning, I'd just had it. I hadn't eaten or slept, and my fever had spiked to the highest yet at 4 AM that morning (102.8 degrees). I went to urgent care. Naturally, when I got there, I wasn't feeling too bad, and when they took my temperature, it was a prim and proper 98.6 degrees. Of course! I felt a little silly for going in there, but was just so tired of being sick that I would have happily paid for a doctor to pat me on the back, tell me I'd be fine soon, and send me home.

I got excellent care there. They listened to my breathing, gave me some medicated steam to inhale for ten minutes, did a chest X-ray, and tested how hard I could exhale. Then the doctor came back into my room and said, "I have good news and bad news. The good news is that we know what's wrong with you. The bad news is that it's pneumonia."

Pneumonia?!

Yep. I was actually not too surprised. I am normally able to get better pretty quickly. My body was doing everything it could to fight it, but it wasn't enough. I saw the X-ray myself. One lung had a sizable growth of pneumonia in the bottom - not a severe case yet, but definitely there.

Bring on the inhaler and antibiotics! Wait, you may ask. You most likely had the flu (a virus), so will antibiotics even work? I tried to ask my doctor about this but I was pretty out of it by that point and she assured me that it was bacterial and antibiotics were the right choice. I did believe her, but was still curious. My sister, a med student, helped out by explaining it further. She said there is such a thing as viral pneumonia, but it wouldn't show up on an x-ray. Texting Dr. Amy is much better than consulting Dr. Google. She is well on her way to being an awesome doctor :)

So yes, antibiotics. I'm very against the overuse of antibiotics, but they are miraculous when you actually need them. I've taken four of the twenty pills and feel MUCH better already. My appetite is returning slowly, the doctor said I can go back to teaching, and most importantly I feel alive and optimistic again! Whether I can sleep without coughing tonight remains to be seen. I'm dreading going to bed a little because the last few nights have been awful and my chest is still congested. But I WILL recover and soon this will be in the past.

Moral of the story: health is gift.

Moral #2 of the story: if you think you need to see a doctor, just do it. Had I waited, I'd have only gotten worse.

Moral #3 of the story: This experience made me incredibly grateful for the generous health insurance plan I have through Jon. I'm also thankful for the amazing doctors and nurses who are here to serve us. Yet, I feel sad that, in this country, the career path you choose determines whether or not you will have good health coverage. I've got as much, if not more, training than many professionals do. I'm also successful and hard-working. But since I decided to become a violin teacher, not a programmer, lawyer, public school teacher, nurse, etc...I'd be really limited if I needed to buy my own health plan. Thankfully, I don't have to find out what that's like as long as Jon has a job. But I do feel more awareness and empathy for others who work hard, don't make much, and therefore don't have the luxury of a great insurance plan. Usually, people in those types of jobs don't get sick pay and have high deductibles. It's good that we are making steps to take away some of the injustice in our country's health insurance system, but we have a long way to go.