What’s Happening?!

Hey everyone (anyone?)

I’m doing a little pre-spring cleaning and I decided I should probably drop a little note on this ol’ blog.

What’s going ON!?

Well, a whole lot. Unfortunately, a whole lot of it is not music related. But it’s still a lot of good and yes, I’m still singing and writing music.

I had to step off the stage for a little bit to get some things in order, more specifically, start my own business.  This came as a surprise to some folks but most people close to me know I love to bake and veganism is extremely important to me.  When I realized the opportunity I had to leave my “day job” and start my own business as a vegan baker, I hopped on it!  But it’s time consuming and it’s hard work, so music has temporarily been put on the back burner.   I still write in my down time and I still sing every day and I’ve even got some projects coming up in the future, but as of now if you want to show your support drop on by the facebook page or follow me on instagram!



I’m sorry. I lied.

Okay, so I know I didn’t make the announcement here on my blog, but earlier this month I posted to my band’s youtube page that we would be releasing a new music video today for Lives Lost.

The thing is, I thought I could compile a bunch of photos of loved ones over three weeks and put out a heartfelt video.  Nothing complicated, just a basic slideshow of people we love, but something happened while I was reaching out to friends and family… I realized this could be something bigger and better and more meaningful than just a handful of pictures.  I’d really like to make this video something really good for the soul.

I’m no videographer, photographer, or visual artist by any means, but everything I do I do it from the heart. So I’m apologizing to you, for those of you who have submitted photos and those of you who were patiently waiting for the release.  I’m apologizing for not releasing it today, but I realized that I want to take more time on this one.  I want to put more love into it.  I’m not going to give a release date as of now, but I am going to be doing a little more outreach and (regardless of my saying this wasn’t going to be a PSA in the video) I’m going to put more information in it.  Maybe it won’t reach many people. Maybe it’ll only get a few hundred views and never make it on any charts.  But if our song can make you smile, if it can give you a little peace, or if it can touch one person who’s struggling with addiction or suicidal thoughts, my job is done.

On that note, I can at least do one thing for you today.  Here it is, the full song, downloadable on our ReverbNation page.
Please listen and enjoy and if you like it, share it with your friends.  If you’re still on the fence about sending your info, contact me.
evangelinaandtheboys @ gmail.com or though fb: http://www.facebook.com/veganvita

Here’s the direct link:

Another MMA vs Kung Fu blog post.

I never liked the “my style is better than your style” attitude that rolls around the world of Martial Arts.

I do believe there is some truth to it at some levels, yes. I personally believe that some styles are less effective than others, but for the sake of this post, I’m not going to get into which ones and why–plus, I might be wrong. No reason to open up that debate at this time.

What I really wanted to blog about is specifically “Kung fu vs MMA” or really “Kung fu vs anything”.

I love kung fu.

I have been raised with kung fu and I have been personally training and teaching kung fu for thirteen years.

I also love other styles of martial arts and I do enjoy watching MMA fights.  Now I don’t know the names of the top fighters or have any favorites or anything like that, I just like to watch them when they’re on and I like going to live fights, that doesn’t mean it’s my passion.  In the martial arts world, I definitely would say my passion is kung fu.

That being said, lets take a moment to explore the term “kung fu”.

Kung fu translated means “learned skill”.  So in essence, kung fu can be anything.  I have amazing cupcake kung fu.  Holy crap I should name my business that. “Kung Fu Cupcakes!”… Don’t steal it, it’s mine now.  Anyway, What most westerners mean when they say “kung fu” is actually “wushu” which means “war art”. In today’s martial arts world, “wushu” refers to the performance sport. Like below:

(This is an old video but one of my faves)

That’s pretty amazing, right?

But “wushu” didn’t start as a performance sport. It started out as fighting and later developed into a performance sport due to many different reasons, most of which having to do with government crack downs on martial arts practitioners in China and introducing kung fu into dancing, theater, and the rest of the entertainment world–watering it down and taking out the application aspects.  There’s also some that would argue the elitist attitudes of some schools/teachers in their refusal to teach their styles to outsiders and their refusal to allow their students to cross train due to their own pride, is hurting the styles themselves. I’ve seen that happen so I can believe it.

But really “Chinese martial arts” includes so much, you can practice many many different styles and they would all be considered “kung fu” so when I started hearing people dissing kung fu vs mma, I was very confused. Especially because everything I saw the MMA fighters doing… I had seen kung fu practitioners do in various forms.

Believe it or not, kung fu has grappling, submissions, boxing, kickboxing, etc etc etc.  All of these things can be found in various styles of Chinese Martial Arts.  The hard part is finding a good school/teacher that will train you how to actually USE your kung fu.  You can’t do it alone and you have to be flexible (mentally.. and sometimes physically).

A good teacher is a good student. A good teacher will teach you how to be a good student.  And a good student learns from every situation they’re in.  I see kung fu in everything I do, inside and outside of the ring.  What people need to focus on is not whether or not MMA style fighting is better than kung fu, they need to focus on the athlete.

If you train only kicks and you refuse to learn how to punch or block, guess what? You’re going to get knocked out.  If you train only punches and never learn how to kick or protect yourself from kicks, you’re going to get kicked in the face.  If you train only throws and submissions, you just might get knocked out before you get the person on the ground.  And I’m sorry to break it to you, but “kung fu” or Chinese Martial Arts has a method for all of these things.. so in a way Chinese Martial Arts are a form of MMA.  Maybe not in the technical sport fighting sense, but in the literal sense.

I’m rambling now, but the point is… it’s not the style, it’s the athlete.  The best athletes I’ve known are the ones who learn to adapt to other styles even if they’re maintaining their own styles.  So be open to learning everything you can and stop trash talking my kung fu. 😉


UPDATE: I added photos at the end of things my teammates submitted that were my favorites. Enjoy 🙂

I was going to just start posting pics on facebook but I think GISHWHES deserves it’s own blog post.

If you’re not familiar with GISHWHES then in the words of Fire Marshall Bill, “LET ME SHOW YOU SOMETHING!”
People do silly things for charity, like… run 5ks and.. walk.. and.. have “beef and beers” for animals (which I never understood),right? Why not do silly things for charity like… dress up like a storm trooper and get your nails done? Or get your grandparents to let you video tape their mud wrestling match? These are the kinds of questions that I think GISHWHES stemmed from.  GISHWHES stands for “Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen”. And it is, people. It is.

Check out this video from the GISHWHES website:

Did that answer any questions you had? Probably not, right?

Well, I heard about GISHWHES last year after I became a late blooming Supernatural fan and started adding more SPN sites onto my tumblr account. It was GISHWHES this – GISHWHES that.. and I was all WTF is GISHWHES! And what is this obsession with kale?! (Though admittedly I do love me some kale)  So I subscribed to the website and was immediately intrigued.  It’s all about breaking out of the norm, shaking things up with fun and creativity, and doing good deeds! This is something I can get behind! Because, well, I hate running and I don’t like cold water. Plus I’m not so sure about some of the organizations out there that host the big 5ks and such, but that’s a whole other post.  This is about doing kind things, helping other people, and bringing silliness out into the open to break up the humdrum day to day boringness of life.

Plus it’s hosted by Castiel himself–Misha Collins! How awesome is that?

Sooo… when I started to hear those whispers.. “GISHWHES is coming…”
“Join a team..”

I decided to give it a shot.  And as soon as I registered, I became a little bit frightened.  Have you SEEN the things that these people are doing??? Bungee jumping with angel wings?! Dressing up in clothes made of fruits??? I’m not that adventurous OR creative!

I am, however, every competitive. So there’s that.

So I joined a team and we got to know each other through facebook. The team consisted of about 10 absolute strangers to me, my sister, and three of the Boondock Betties. On 8/2/14 the list for the scavenger hunt was posted… and then my life changed.
I was a bit overwhelmed.. 185 items! Images of videos of things worth different amounts of points! And some of these things were absolutely impossible for our team! I went through the list and picked out the most feasible ones first.. SPN nail art on hairy toes, sure I can do that! uhmm… do something nice for a neighbor? make an excel doc for Jared Padalecki? Yeah, I can do that! Then I figured… why NOT try to accomplish some of the more crazy items like:

  • Get a brass band quartet to play Carry On My Wayward Son on a median strip while commuters are in heavy traffic
  • Drive an invisible car through a fast food drive thru and order a diet water, among other things.
  • Get GISHWHES written in window lights on a sky scraper.
  • Have a food truck put cat food on their menu and actually have a cat order that item.
  • Dressing up like cookie monster and delivering cookies to kids in an orphanage or children’s hospital.
    (I was only able to accomplish one out of those listed there, but I did try!)

For the next 6 days, GISHWHES took over my life.  When I was at work, I was thinking about GISHWHES, when I was at home I was plotting for or participating in GISHWHES. My son added GISHWHES to our morning prayers and thoroughly enjoyed going through the item list with me and helping me create some of the items.  I put a hold on every other activity in my life aside from work and feeding my child to complete as many items as I could without losing my mind (though I did get close to it) all while keeping in contact with my team and loving the updates from Misha and Miss Jean Louise.  Twitter lit up with all the GISHWHES activity and I absolutely loved the back and forth tweets with Aisha Tyler and William Shatner and of course Osric Chau being awesome while we annoy Jared Padalecki!

Here is a list of what I was able to contribute for my awesome GISHWHES team, Team MADMENWITHABLUEBOX.

  • Create a brady bunch style group photo of your teammates mugshots
  • Paint Supernatural nail art on someone with hairy toes
  • Host a formal dinner party where all items above the table cloth except for the food are made of legos.
  • Register to be a bone marrow donor
  • Sing a duet of Eye of the Tiger while the other singer is standing 30 yards away from me
  • Race a baby vs my turtle
  • Drive an invisible car with a passenger through a fast food restaurant drive thru and order a diet water with my food.
  • Create and send an excel document to Jared Padalecki that would make him fall in love with Excel documents.
  • Write a short description of a random act of kindness from a stranger that truly happened to me
  • Do something kind and generous for another GISHER on a different team.

I did try to complete other items, but resources were few and time was short! For example, we spent an hour and a half outside trying to get lightning bugs to light up in a jar so that I could read huck finn!  They were too busy trying to get out of the jar, so we just let them go.

I reached out to musician friends to try and find a brass band quartet to play on the median strip, but even though I spoke to a few who were extremely interested in the idea, no one had the time to do it :-/

I spoke to an owner of a local food truck who told me he couldn’t put cat food on the menu for health inspection reasons, so I guess I can accept that

.I was rejected by the local Star Wars cosplaying group because they were overwhelmed by GISHERS trying to get them to lend their storm troopers to our worthy cause.

All in all I have to say that I have never asked so much from complete strangers as I have this past week. It was a little scary, knowing people were probably going to think you were insane or on drugs, but somehow when you say “It’s for charity!” that makes it all better! And when people realize that this is for fun and for the sole purpose of spreading joy and creating crazy things? They’re usually happy to be a part of it or at least just happy to know someone who is.

You should have seen the look on my face when I said to my roommates, “So uh.. later, just in case you’re wondering what’s going on… I’m going to be racing my friend’s baby against my turtle in the back yard…. but it’s for charity!”Yeah I couldn’t keep a straight face.

I want to say a special thank you to Rachel Schain and her husband Adam Greenspan for letting me borrow their baby for the race.  Thank you Sarah J for humiliating yourself with me in public and screaming Eye of the Tiger very loudly.  Thank you Tim Muraoka for also humiliating yourself with me in public going through that drive thru. Thank you to my brother Chris for videotaping me humiliating myself over and over again.  Thank you Vannda, Jodie and Amber for also being witness to the humiliation and helping build lego place settings and utensils for our “formal” dinner party.  Thank you to my son, Ethan, for laughing at me all the way and of course, thank you to my AWESOME team, MADMENWITHABLUEBOX for being ridiculously abnosome badasses.

I’m really tired now and I don’t remember half of what I just wrote, so I’m going to stop there and leave you with some photos of what my contributions were to the team. I can’t post all the photos my team submitted on here because it would take forever, but I will probably post them online at some point in the near future in an album for all to see. Enjoy! And until GISHWHES 2015!excellovesjared






Photos my team submitted:

What do you see when you look in the mirror?

I’ve struggled with body image issues all of my life. I’m not sure where they stem from, but I remember being as young as seven and looking in the mirror and thinking I was fat.  At that point no one had ever told me I was fat, no one had judged me based on my looks (yet! ..or as far as I can remember) and I really didn’t have anyone shoving it down my throat that I needed to be thinner. I just remember looking at myself sideways and wondering why my belly stuck out instead of being flat, why my cheeks were so round, and any other “imperfection” I thought I had at seven years old.

As I grew older and my world changed around me, my body image issues only got worse.  Enter the abusive stepfather and they increased ten fold. By the time I was seventeen I had been suicidal, depressed, and eventually anorexic.  I was 125 lbs and thought I was fat. I looked in the mirror and saw flabby skin, rolls, and never thought that I was attractive.  I started by counting calories and then eventually reduced my food intake to one small bowl of rice every other day. I hid it from my family, pretending to eat when they were around or saying that I ate already before I got home.  Everyone told me how great I looked because I had lost so much weight. I looked in the mirror and I saw nothing different.

The bout with anorexia only lasted a few months because thankfully when my dog came into my life my depression lifted and I also discovered veganism.  Having the puppy to take care of and learning about veganism gave me something other than myself to focus on. I didn’t think “Yay I’m going to get healthy!” I was just enjoying everything else so much that I started eating again. 


Hiding my face from the camera..

So.. I was healthy again, getting back to normal, and weighing an average weight.  But when I looked in the mirror I still saw fat. If I felt pretty all it would take would be one look in the mirror or one photo to remind me that I was fat and ugly.  If you ask any of my friends for photos of me when I was a teenager, they likely won’t have any or in those photos I’d be covering my face. I never wanted my picture taken because I knew if I saw it I would criticize it and make myself feel awful.

But things were getting better! Right?  I was vegan, eating healthy, had a great dog, awesome friends, an AWESOME car, a job.. and then eventually a boyfriend->husband->family. I started doing kung fu.  Thought I was pretty healthy… but even at my smallest I still thought I was fat and ugly.  Now, after my kid I did put on a lot of weight as many women do when they have kids, and I have been working since then to lose that weight, but my point isn’t really about my actual weight. The point of this post is about how I see myself. How I saw myself then, how I see myself now. How I’ve always seen myself… I wanted to write about it because I think there’s a huge misconception out there about people with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).


My old ’73 Plymouth Duster -sigh- I miss her. I don’t miss the bad breaks or the gas guzzling, though!

I have never been officially diagnosed with BDD, but based on the reading I’ve done (and based on the way this one psychiatric school keeps contacting me after I took their survey) I’m pretty sure it’s exactly what my problem is.  BDD goes beyond just thinking, “I need to lose a few pounds.”

BDD is when you obsess over the features you feel are imperfect. I won’t go into the symptoms and all that here because I’m not a doctor and it’ll make this blog post even longer, but I’ll explain it this way:

My brother and I were talking about one hollywood actress who keeps getting plastic surgery. He told me that he was so irritated and annoyed at people who constantly pay for surgeries when they were already perfect to begin with.  He didn’t understand why they felt they needed anything.  I told him that some people just don’t see what everyone else sees when they look in the mirror.  One might look at her and think she’s absolutely stunning and perfect, but when she looks in the mirror… All she sees is the imperfections.  She probably knows that people find her attractive and that’s good, but what SHE sees is not what she thinks is beautiful… and since she’s got the money? She can “fix” it.

I used to want to save up for plastic surgery. I was going to have my nose turned up, get a tummy tuck and take some of the jiggle off my arms. I always liked those cute button noses. I used to push my nose up and hold it there when I was a kid, hoping it would grow that way if I did it enough. I didn’t think anyone could possibly find me attractive because I looked “weird” and different.

I know that some people find me attractive. I know that in the grand scheme of things I’m not terribly ugly. But when I look in the mirror I don’t see someone who I find attractive.  In fact, I’ve just met my weight loss goal that I set over ten years ago and when I look in the mirror sometimes it doesn’t look like I’ve changed at all.  I just have to remove myself from the situation and remind myself that I’m no longer a size 14, I’m actually a size 8. A size 8 is small.  Therefore I’m not allowed to think that I’m fat.  If I let myself think that a size 8 is too big, then we’re getting into dangerous territory. When does it stop?

The great thing is I have amazing friends and family who are always there for me to help me see what I can’t.  Kung fu taught me to teach myself how to be confident, my family makes me feel beautiful, my friends make me feel important, and God makes me feel special (and not like special but like.. one of a kind 😛 ).  Over the years it’s helped me learn to recognize when I’m being unrealistic.  I still get depressed now and then, but I’m much much better than I used to be.   I still obsess over my flaws but it’s not debilitating, it doesn’t affect me as much as it used to , and hey! I even take pictures now 🙂

I feel like this is becoming a whiny blog and I don’t want this to be a whiny blog. I just wanted to say something about BDD and body image issues in general as well as mentioning eating disorders. 

Be kind to people who seem like they’re dealing with the same thing.  Tell them the truth, but be kind.  A lot of people told me AFTER I re-gained my anorexia lost weight that I had actually looked sickly when I was at my smallest.  I think they were trying not to hurt my feelings when I was starving myself.  Be encouraging, but don’t encourage the negativity.  Encourage healthy thinking and healthy living.  If you’re really concerned for their health and well being? Suggest counseling.

If you think you might have a problem with body dysmorphia and it’s disrupting your daily life you should seek counseling. Talking to a professional will help you get your mind on the right track. Surround yourself with people who love you and see you the way you wish you saw yourself. It’ll help.

I feel like I’m rambling now so I’m gonna stop there. Goodnight and good luck!

I can see why people give up.

The words have echoed so many times in my head I can’t stand to hear them anymore. 

“It would be so easy to just stop.”

Just give up. Just let it go.  Accept defeat.  Accept that maybe you’re just not cut out for the life that you’ve always dreamed of. Look, you’re thirty one years old and you’re still nowhere near where you want to be in life. Sure, you’ve got some things accomplished, but is that enough? Are you really going to continue to try and climb this hill when you just keep sliding back down (and hitting rocks and branches along the way)?  Just give up.

Maybe in order to make it in this business you have to sort of like pain. Not that I enjoy pain! I certainly don’t!  But I’ve lived with enough of it to become quite acquainted with it. To expect it. To wonder where it is when it isn’t around.

Sounds unhealthy.

Anyway, I can see why people give up. There are so many distractions in life. So many good and bad things that can pull you away from your main focus. 

And it’s hard!

You’re constantly comparing yourself to others who are where you want to be and you’re constantly wondering if your efforts will be fruitless.  There are people who are just waiting to claw at you and pull you back down when you even get a little bit ahead. Nitpicking at your appearance, your sound, your accomplishments. Making you question your own work.  Usually it gives me fuel. When someone tells me I can’t do something it makes me want to do it even more.  But after awhile of being in the ring, you get tired. You need that hype man, you need that encouragement to keep going.  Stay on your feet. Keep your eyes open. Don’t drop your guard.

The problem is you won’t always have that hype man. You won’t always have your friends and family around when you fall to tell you that you can get back up and stay in the fight.  They intend to be, sure! But sometimes they just can’t be. Sometimes you have them, but 100% of the time it will come down to you.

And God.

Personally, I have to constantly remind myself through prayer and scripture that God is still with me. 

Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you. Gen. 18:15

Yet another thing that would just be so easy.  Just throw up your hands at God and tell Him that He’s not working for you. He’s not helping you. He’s not doing anything for you. 

No, I can’t do that. The more difficult thing is to look at what’s going on in your life and force yourself to remember that God isn’t working FOR you. He’s working ON you. He didn’t create you so that He can do your bidding, He created you to become something amazing.  He wants YOU to be a blessing to others.  What kind of blessing are you when you’re not getting anything accomplished in your own life? That’s not what He wants for you. He wants you to be able to shine and show the world that you’re shining because of Him.

But it’s dark, it’s scary, it’s frustrating, and you might look at your dreams and how far away they are from where you’re standing and you think there is absolutely no way that you’ll ever make it because you don’t know how…. but HE knows how. And you might be afraid that you’ll never make it. You’ll die before you get there.  Maybe accomplishing your goals requires a lot of risk and a lot of putting your neck out.. it’s scary! Maybe it requires hours upon hours of additional work on top of what you’ve already got going on in your life. How are we supposed to accomplish so much in such a small amount of time???

But Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

I can certainly see how easy it is to give up on your dreams.  I’ve done it before… but it just wasn’t for me. I actually had a boyfriend break up with me and tell me that I needed to pursue my music career. He knew I wasn’t happy with what I was doing. He was right.. and it still took me another year to force myself to start working on it. Finally in 2008 I stepped onto a stage again… It’s been a crazy rollercoaster ever since with extreme highs and extreme lows and I only hope that it continues to get better until I’m finally living the life that God intended me to…

I can see how easy it would be to give up again.. But I’m not going to. And whatever it is that you’re trying to accomplish in your life, I’m telling you.  Don’t give up. Don’t look back on your life and wonder, “What if I had tried..”


And we did it all without the meds!

This has nothing to do with my music but everything to do with life and sometimes I like to write about life.

My son Ethan is eleven years old. We’re a quiet family, he and I. I’ve always been “the quiet one” at home, I think its because I was the baby for awhile and then the middle child. I didn’t “find my voice” until I left home and started teaching kung fu, which sort of forced me out of my shell. There was nothing wrong with me (Hah. At least not in THAT way).  I was a quiet child who liked to day dream, draw, read, write music, and when I got to know you, I’d talk your ear off. Again—there was nothing wrong with me. Yet,  I had so much trouble in school I began to think that there was something wrong with me.  I didn’t want to be there. I thought the work was pointless and the teachers didn’t care about me. There were less than a handful of classes where I actually felt like I was supposed to be there and in those classes I did extremely well, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the classes that skipped or flunked out of.  In the end, I just didn’t have enough credits, so I dropped out in my third year and started working full time. All the while my dream was to be a musician, which I really didn’t feel I needed school for.

School made me feel stupid. School made me feel like a number. Just another kid slipping through the cracks of the educational system. Eventually, I decided school just “wasn’t my thing” and that was okay with me. It’s still okay with me now. I still believe that school “isn’t my thing”.  I can do it. I can sit in class, do the work, follow directions, and get good grades, but unless I absolutely need the class and/or enjoy it… I’m not feelin’ it. I figured I was just “too ADD” for it. Yet I went back and graduated college with a 3.93 GPA. Suck on that, HS!

Anyway, now I’m a mom with a child who’s in school and having the same problems that I had when I was a kid.

I didn’t want him to be off with a slow start in school so I took advantage of every helpful opportunity I could get. Every program that was offered I accepted. All the extra help he could get, I gave it to him. When we were at home, I helped him with his homework. When he was at school I communicated with his teachers to see how he was doing. It was a long, stressful, and anxious time. Every parent/teacher conference was the same. “Ethan’s a really sweet kid, he’s really kind and polite and he loves to help, but he just can’t keep up with the other kids.” 

Even in first grade he struggled with his homework.  He and I spent hours over simple problems; Ethan shutting down and me growing frustrated and angry at him for not being able to just follow the directions.  I couldn’t figure why he was having such a hard time understanding the work. It made homework time excruciating for both of us. Eventually I talked to his teacher and she gave me great tips on how to make things less stressful. We’d set a timer to the appropriate time for one question then take a short break, we put his spelling words to music or turned it into a game. I’d even put chocolate chips on a plate in front of him and after each problem was done he could snack on a few (Yes, I reward with food. Don’t judge me!). The more fun we had, the better Ethan did with the work. Homework, over months of trial and error, became a much less stressful and much easier task, but that didn’t change the struggling in class.

Eventually came the testing and the psycho-educational evaluations. We did the Connor’s test in both households (his father and I are divorced) and both tests came back with different results because apparently his father and I see things differently… or we see different sides of our son.  Anyway, it was frustrating and difficult and for three years it was suggested that because Ethan has ADD (not AD*H*D) we should try medication because it would help him focus in school and he would be able to keep up with the curriculum without struggling.  

I understand that chemical imbalances do exist and that medication can be helpful to some, but on a personal level, knowing my son and what he was capable of, I do not believe that medication was ever the right choice for him.  His teachers were trying to help him, the school was doing everything they really could to help him succeed and it was really apparent that they all loved him and wanted him to do better, but whenever medication was suggested I put my foot down and insisted that we find other ways to handle the situation. His father, thankfully, agreed.  My worry about using medication is that if he relied on the medication he would never learn how to focus on his own.  I learned on my own when I recognized what the problem was. Surely, he could do the same.

At first, I thought this would change quickly. I figured maybe he was too young and by second grade he’d be fine, but it only seemed to be getting worse.  The report card was getting worse, the conferences were getting more frustrating, and he didn’t seem to understand why or how to be a better student in the classroom and I couldn’t figure out any other ways to help him from my end, especially with him having to live with two separate households. 

I don’t think that Ethan has a chemical imbalance. I don’t think that he has a “disorder”.  I do believe he has a short attention span because I know I do and I can see it in him. I also think that we are simply quiet people and that is not what the workforce or what the school system is designed for.  It’s a go-getter world.  We’re taught to talk a lot, “get your name out there”, “be more outgoing” (I’m quoting people who have said these things to me along the years), “speak up for yourself!”. And while I understand the importance of these things now and I’ve learned that in order to get ahead, putting yourself “out there” means speaking up and it also means that sometimes the people with the loudest voices, even if they don’t really have anything to say, are the ones that take center stage.  I’ve also learned that if you stay quiet… people think there’s something wrong with you.

They thought I was dumb because I didn’t talk a lot in school and my brother wanted to help me do everything.  They thought something was wrong with my little sister because she was quiet in pre-school.  They thought Ethan had a learning disability because he was quiet when he’d just started kindergarten at age 5. Shyness is seen as social phobia. While social phobia is probably real, not all shy people are suffering from it. Some people are just… shy.

A few years ago I read this book called “Neither Wolf Nor Dog” by Kent Nerburn. I think I’ve referenced it before, but I’ll certainly do it again. It brought to light something that really clicked in my brain and it made me feel so much better about my experience with schooling.  The book is a narrative, Nerburn was asked by an Indian elder to write a book for him about his life.  The elder, going by Dan, had this to say about his experience in boarding school:

“I remember as a little boy in school. When the teacher would call on me I would sometimes want to think about my answer. She would get nervous and tap her ruler on the desk. Then she’d get angry at me and ask me if maybe I didn’t hear her or if the cat got my tongue.

“How was I supposed to think up my answer when I could see her getting upset and nervous and knew that the longer I waited the worse it would be? I’d end up saying one word or, ‘I don’t know.’ I’d say anything to get her away from me. Pretty soon they said I was stupid.

“I remember one teacher telling me I needed to learn how to think. She really didn’t care about my thinking. She just wanted me to talk. She thought talking meant thinking. She was never going to be happy unless I started talking the second she called on me. And the longer I talked, the happier she would be. It didn’t even matter what I said. I was just supposed to talk.

“I wouldn’t do it. I thought it was disrespectful to talk when I didn’t have anything to say. They said I was a bad student and that I was dumb. (p. 66)

When I read that… I was so happy. I realized “Oh my God it’s not just me..” Ha!  And it’s true! So true! Next time you’re in class, or at work in a meeting, or even just out and about… listen to people. Listen to the people who are talking and being animated and consider their words. Sometimes they really are saying something. Most of the time they just want to make noise.  If you really want to test the theory–go quiet.  If you don’t have anything important to say, if you don’t have anything *nice* to say, or if you just want to think about your answer instead of feeling like you need to blurt out anything just to appease someone else… Go quiet. See how long it takes for someone to get antsy and speak up just to fill the void in the air. 

Anyway, that’s going a bit off topic. My point is… Nothing’s wrong with you if you’re quiet. Nothing’s wrong with you if you want to take extra time to think about your answer, to figure out a problem, or if it takes time to understand the work that’s set in front of you… It’s just that we are living in a fast paced world and if you’re not processing things as fast as everyone else, it’s going to frustrate the people that want you to move faster.

Now, going back to Ethan and the whole point of this post.  Last year was a particularly rough year. I sat down with Ethan (who was 10 at the time) and explained to him why his classroom habits needed to change and that everyone was there to help him figure out how to focus, because when he was focused and on task, he did great.  I also told him that we were going to try to change his diet, exercise, and sleep habits to see if that would help him focus better in school. I told him that we were doing this because his problems focusing in class were bringing his grades down and if he wanted to succeed he needed to get passing grades. I also told him that if he only continues to get worse, medication will eventually be an option to consider. At that time, I really wasn’t monitoring his nutrition intake, even if he was eating healthy. He’d go to bed when I felt like sending him to bed, but he was pretty active so we didn’t have to change that. 

From that point on, bedtime was 10pm. Still a little late for most kids, but he didn’t get up until 7:30, and with my schedule sometimes we just didn’t get home until late. I started making him breakfast every morning. We’re vegan, so it was a whole grain bagel with peanut butter, tofu scramble, vegan sausage and sometimes kale, and a glass of fortified soymilk.  At the very least if we were running late, he had the bagel with the peanut butter. Whatever he ate had to be packed with protein. For lunches I packed him a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread, again, packing on the protein, and his snack would be a cliff bar or some fruit. The cliff bars became his favorite. Sure, they’ve got sugar in them, but since he’s 11 and doesn’t eat many other sugars, it wasn’t gonna hurt. He also got tired of the peanut butter after awhile so I started packing him tofurkey sandwiches with greens, too.  The important thing was to make sure he had high protein and some carbs all day to keep him alert. All of these changes were made in addition to talking about his educational goals and praying every morning for God to help him focus in school and learn as much as he could.

Well, it’s been about a year now and let me tell you.  As of the last meeting I had with Ethan’s teacher and counselors… he is meeting or exceeding in all of his educational goals. ….!!!!! He’s doing so well that special education assistance is no longer necessary. I was so happy when they told me this that I requested his teacher pull him out of class so that I could give him a hug and tell him the news myself as well as how proud I was of him. His teacher said that he does have trouble focusing from time to time but he sees Ethan noticing his own distractions and pulling himself back to the task at hand and he’s not worried about Ethan falling behind the rest of the class. 

 When I told Ethan, he was very happy. He knows he’s on the right track now. He knows that he has the power to succeed and that he has everything he needs to do it. He can see the difference when he doesn’t eat right and when he doesn’t sleep well.  He’s seen his own prayers answered. He says he wants to be a doctor when he grows up and I’m sure that if he continues on this path, he will be. And we did it all without the meds…