Lynchburg College Visit

Last week I had a speaking engagement and book signing at Lynchburg College in Lynchburg, VA, and it was a great campus visit! Last year, some of the graduate students in the counseling program read Purge: Rehab Diaries for one of their classes, and decided they would invite me to speak as part of their eating disorder awareness week. I spoke about the complexity of eating disorders, and how they’re about more than just food as well as co-morbidities, the recovery process, and how to help someone with an eating disorder. The audience was a mix of undergraduates, grad students, faculty, and staff from Lynchburg College, and they asked lots of good questions, and I enjoyed talking with people afterwards, and as I signed books.

While I was only in Lynchburg for roughly twenty-four hours, I had a wonderful time. Everyone was friendly and welcoming, and I was definitely the recipient of Southern hospitality! When I arrived at Lynchburg Regional Airport, R, a grad student was waiting for me, and she gave me a tour of Lynchburg, which is a pretty little town at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Then she took me to my hotel, the Craddock Terry, which was originally a shoe factory in the 1800s. If you’re ever in Lynchburg, I can’t recommend this place enough: http://www.craddockterryhotel.com. They even have a hotel dog that you can take on walks! Here are a couple pictures of my room:

Craddock Terry

Craddock Terry

Craddock Terry

Craddock Terry

In the morning, they put your breakfast in a little wooden box outside your door. My breakfast consisted of a croissant, brie, fresh fruit, yogurt, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and coffee from the Keurig in my room.

Thursday night, I had dinner at Waterstone Pizza, and it was delicious. I had a BLT with fresh mozzarella, and lemon berry mascarpone cake, in addition to two sweet teas. I love sweet tea, so anytime I head to the South, I always make a point of ordering one (or five). If you’re ever in Lynchburg, this place is great (and affordable): http://www.waterstonepizza.com.

Friday morning Dr. P picked me up and we headed to campus. It was a beautiful day, in the mid-40s, and after living in a white-on-white landscape in Minnesota for the past few months, it was so nice to see grass and (non-snow-covered) trees again. Lynchburg College has a beautiful campus, and I thought the chapel was especially pretty. Before I gave my talk, I met many members of the graduate student counseling organization, C.O.P.E., that helped bring me to campus. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming, and I wasn’t nervous at all. The talk went well, and afterwards, I was presented with a C.O.P.E. t-shirt, which I will definitely wear. I always try and get a t-shirt or mug, or something like that as a souvenir whenever I speak somewhere, so I love that they gave me a C.O.P.E. t-shirt! Afterwards, I signed books and talked with members of the Lynchburg College community and C.O.P.E. Here are a few pictures:

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Signing books

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Speaking

Me and the C.O.P.E. group after my talk.

Me and the C.O.P.E. group after my talk.

After the book signing, we headed to lunch at a place called Neighbors, where I had more sweet tea and crab cakes. I love crab cakes, but I often question the freshness of the crab cakes I can get in Minnesota, so I usually only order them when I’m near the East Coast. These crab cakes were excellent. I would recommend this restaurant as well: http://www.theneighborsplace.com. At lunch I had the opportunity to talk more with the C.O.P.E. members as well as some of the counseling faculty. Afterwards, Dr. P. showed me more of Lynchburg before dropping me off at the airport. Lynchburg Regional Airport has just one gate, but while you wait for the security line to open, you can sit in a rocking chair and look at the Blue Ridge Mountains.

On my way home, I had a long layover in Charlotte, NC, and my cousin J came to the airport and we drank Starbucks and talked. I hadn’t seen J for about two years, and it was really good to see her, and I’m happy our airport cousin meet-up worked out.

I had four flights total last week (MSP–>CLT–>LYH and then reversed for the trip back), and on each flight, people asked me why I was headed to Lynchburg, and whenever I told them, they told me about a loved one, friend, or coworker who was struggling with an eating disorder. I know this is a small sample size, but I think it’s telling that on each flight I encountered someone whose life had been touched, even indirectly, by an eating disorder. This is why it’s important that we keep the conversation going, and keep talking about eating disorders.

Upcoming Speaking Engagement: Dickinson College

I’m excited to announce I will be speaking at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA as part of “Love Your Body Week” in early March. I was at Lynchburg College in Lynchburg, VA last week, and I had a fabulous time. I will be blogging about my Lynchburg trip soon. I love doing campus talks and visits, and I am so honored that people read my book and invite me to come talk at their school. It’s a huge privilege.

Pennsylvania H.B. 1959

Residents of Pennsylvania, please think about supporting Pennsylvania H.B, 1959, proposed by Rep. Steve Santarsiero, which would require schools to share information about eating disorders with students in grades 5-12. It would also create guidelines for optional screenings (with an opt-out option) for school districts as well. More information on the bill can be found here:

http://www.pahouse.com/PAHouseNews.asp?doc=34905

You can show support of this bill by writing to your local politicians using this easy form letter from NEDA:

https://secure3.convio.net/neda/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=231

If done appropriately, I believe that age-appropriate education about eating disorders and when to seek help is highly valuable. School district guidelines for how to assess and help students with eating disorders would also be good. When I was a student in the Pennsylvania public school system (K-10) we received little to no information about eating disorders, and I’d like to see that change. If you are a Pennsylvania resident and have a moment, please consider looking into this proposed legislation.

Upcoming Speaking Engagement: Lynchburg College

I’m excited to announce I will be heading to Lynchburg College in Lynchburg, VA to talk about eating disorders and recovery! It looks like in a couple of weeks I will also have another campus visit to announce…it’s going to be a busy spring!

If you are interested in having me speak at your middle school, high school, college, or organization, you can contact me via email: nicolejjohns@gmail.com

Autumn 2013 Recap (Part 2)

As you can see from my previous blog post, last fall was a busy time. I’m enjoying my January break, and I’m prepping for my spring classes, writing, submitting to literary magazines and contests, and working on various projects. It’s very cold in Minnesota, but I’m determined to get outside this winter. Prince Charming and I went to Lake of the Isles for some ice skating (this is the first time I’ve ever skated on an actual lake!) and a New Year’s Day walk.

Skating at Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis on New Year's Day.

Skating at Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis on New Year’s Day.

Posing with a snowman at Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis.

Posing with a snowman at Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis.

After finals week, Prince Charming and I headed to Green Bay for the Packers vs. Steelers game. I could not have asked for a better first NFL game. It was cold and snowy at Lambeau Field, and it was a good game; the lead changed several times. Prince Charming is a Packers fan, and I am a Steelers fan, so we are a condo divided.

Steelers vs. Packers 2013, Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI

Steelers vs. Packers 2013, Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI

We also watched the last Steelers game of the season at the Steelers’ bar. It was an excellent way to the end the season.

Steelers' bar, St. Paul, MN Steelers vs. Browns

Steelers’ bar, St. Paul, MN Steelers vs. Browns

Other highlights of autumn 2013 include having Thanksgiving brunch at the Saint Paul Hotel, where Prince Charming and I got married (it’s going to be five years this May!). After we ate, we walked around Rice Park in St. Paul.

Rice Park, St. Paul, MN, Thanksgiving 2013

Rice Park, St. Paul, MN, Thanksgiving 2013

I also got back into baking. I love making pizzelles at Christmas, and I also enjoy baking cakes using various bundt cake pans.

Pumpkin-spice turkey bundt cakes.

Pumpkin-spice turkey bundt cakes.

Pizzelles!

Pizzelles!

As much fun as autumn 2013 was, I’m looking forward to winter 2014. I hope all of my readers have a wonderful 2014!

Autumn 2013 Recap (Part 1)

Autumn 2013 was quite busy, and I’m just now getting some time to catch up with my blog. I did a lot of traveling and speaking in addition to my usual teaching load, and I’m currently enjoying my January break. My first school visit was at Elkins Middle and High Schools in West Virginia (which I previously blogged about here: http://www.nicolejjohns.com/speaking-engagements/my-trip-to-elkins-wv/), then I headed to the Wisconsin Council of Teachers of English (WCTE) conference in Madison, WI, to do a presentation on narrative writing and developmental English with two of my colleagues, which went very well.

I finished my fall semester travels by giving a presentation on eating disorders and recovery, and visiting a few classes at the University of Wisconsin-Marinette, and visiting a creative writing class at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. I know I’ve written this before, but one of the best things to have come from publishing Purge: Rehab Diaries is that I get the chance to talk to schools and organizations about eating disorders and writing. I love doing this, and I am honored that I get the chance to do this. I had a great time at UW-Marinette and UW-Green Bay, and I enjoyed meeting the students and faculty there. They were quite welcoming and friendly.

Prince Charming came along with me on this trip (it was his birthday), and we drove up into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and also headed to Door County, WI. We also visited Lambeau Field! I’ve included some pictures from my travels below.

Near Marinette, WI

Near Marinette, WI

I was a cheesehead for two seconds at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI

I was a cheesehead for two seconds at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI

 

St. Odile's Church, near Thiery Daems, WI.

St. Odile’s Church, near Thiery Daems, WI.

Gills Rock, WI

Gills Rock, WI

Another fun part of the trip was that my friend Tara, who I met at the University of Minnesota MFA program, was the one who invited me to UW-Marinette and UW-Green Bay, and it was good to reconnect with her, and meet her family.  Prince Charming and I both really like Green Bay, and we hope to go back again soon.

This is getting to be a long blog post, so I will break it in two. More later…

 

University of Wisconsin-Marinette

I’m going to be talking about eating disorders and writing at the University of Wisconsin-Marinette next Thursday, October 24th. This event is free and open to the public, so feel free to stop by if you live in the area. I will be speaking at 11 a.m. in room M-117 on the Marinette campus. I have never been to Marinette or Green Bay, and I’m excited to visit!MNT-Author-Flyer

The Gym: Health vs. Weight Loss Culture

For a lot of people that have dealt with eating disorders, going to the gym can be complicated. Some people with eating disorders struggle with overexercising or using exercise as a purging mechanism, while other people might feel guilty for not going to the gym. Joining the YWCA in Minneapolis was an integral part of my recovery, and it was a highly positive experience, but then I moved to another part of town with no YWCA, and ever since then, I have struggled to find a gym that I like. I have tried the stripped-down, bare-bones gyms, and found them lacking in one thing I love: the pool. I don’t want to use the recreation center at school, and yet again there is no YWCA or YMCA near me, and I don’t live near my community recreation center either. What I do have where I live are lots of high-end, fancy gyms.

A couple years ago, B and I belonged to a fancy gym, but it was obscenely expensive, and parking was an issue, and we didn’t go very often, despite liking the water aerobics class, yoga class, and the exercise equipment in pristine condition. There is a branch of this same fancy gym close to where I work (which is cheaper and has ample parking), and I took the plunge and joined it last week, and my meeting with the membership consultant highlighted just how screwed up we are as a society about body image, weight, and health.

The membership consultant was a perfectly nice woman, but she assumed I wanted to join the gym so I could lose weight. According to the CDC BMI charts, I am at a perfectly normal weight for my height. I am neither overweight, nor underweight. I am right within range.

Basically, I don’t need to lose any weight.

I told the consultant I was joining the gym because I wanted to move my body, get some physical activity during the bitter Minnesota winter, and just feel good overall. I’m in it for health, not weight loss.

She then proceeded to tell me that I should get my body fat measured.

I told her I had absolutely zero interest in having my body fat measured, and she could not understand why I was not jumping at the chance to do so. Knowing my body fat percentage is not going to do anything helpful for me. She said that if I measured my body fat now, I could measure it in six months and see how much progress I had made. I reminded her I’m not interested in weight loss or other common “progress” metrics.

I am interested in something somewhat unquantifiable (by the usual metrics): feeling good.

One thing I am interested in is talking to a dietitian about my caloric needs, because I have no idea what they are, and what amount of protein, carbs, etc. I should be eating for optimal health. So, I am going to see a dietitian through the gym, and I’m curious as to whether she will be able to focus on something other than weight.

It’s disheartening to see that this is where we are, as a society. I keep thinking about how I might have felt about the membership consultant’s assumption that I wanted to lose weight if I was not fully in recovery. How would I have felt if someone had said that to me right after I got out treatment? It might’ve been an obstacle in my recovery.

Not to mention, it’s just crappy salesperson-ship!

I have to wonder if this emphasis on weight is also a way for gyms to make more money in that they can sell more services (personal training, boot camp, weight loss group, etc.) if the new member is passively shamed about their body size, whatever size that may be. I think it’s readily apparent that I am a normal-weight person, but if the membership consultant can plant the idea in my head that I need to lose weight, then maybe I will sign up for weight loss-related services which will increase gym revenue (and perhaps increase the consultant’s commission, if they work on commission).

This is all highly disappointing and somewhat depressing, but I am going to remain a member of this gym, because I like their facility, the location is convenient, and they basically have what I need. Still, their sales tactics and behavior are awful, and I wish I had a better selection of gyms around me, and most importantly, I wish our culture wasn’t so focused on weight.

 

My Trip To Elkins, WV

Last week I was in Elkins, WV talking to middle school and high school students about eating disorders, how to develop a healthy body, and how to help someone with an eating disorder. I greatly enjoyed my visit to Elkins; the students asked smart, thoughtful questions, and every single person I met in the state of West Virginia was friendly and welcoming. I stayed at the Graceland Inn & Conference Center (http://www.gracelandinn.com/) on the Davis & Elkins College campus, and I also ate dinner there on Thursday night. I had the grilled cheese and tomato basil soup, and it was delicious!

One thing I really miss about living in the east is how outgoing people are there. The servers at Graceland went out of their way to talk to me, and they were genuinely nice, friendly people. In the room where I ate dinner, there was a campus ministry meeting being held, and the campus chaplain chatted a bit with me, and when I went to pay my bill, I found that he had paid it for me. Because of his kindness to me, I’m going to pay it forward for someone else. I found this kind of friendliness and hospitality to be the norm while I was in West Virginia.

Another thing I miss about the east: mountains! I flew into Pittsburgh and drove to Elkins, and the drive down I-79 was gorgeous. Pennsylvania and West Virginia seem to have gotten a lot of rain this year, and mountains and hills were quite lush. It was beautiful, and it made me so happy to see mountains and hills (we don’t have much in the way of mountains and hills in MN!).

Here is a picture I took as the sun was setting behind Graceland:

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While this isn’t the best picture, you can see the mountains in the distance, and how green it is there. I also really liked the stone fence.

My presentations at the high school and the middle went really well. This is the first time I spoke to high school and middle school groups (I’ve mostly spoken at colleges and treatment centers) and I was a bit apprehensive before I flew out, but I was so excited, and I felt confident on the day of the presentations, and for the first time ever, I did not experience any public speaking anxiety! I feel like I’ve finally overcome the public speaking anxiety. I had a sort of epiphany where I realized that I know what I’m doing, I’m good at what I do, and I’m prepared for this. I thoroughly enjoyed giving my presentations and answering questions. My hope is that it helped the young women of Elkins.

After the presentations, I went out to lunch with an AP Literature class, which was fun. The students were bright and talkative, and I learned a lot about Elkins and the surrounding area. We went to a restaurant called C.J. Maggie’s (http://www.cj-maggies.com/) where I had a quesadilla and a big cup of sweet tea. I LOVE sweet tea, and except for McDonald’s, I don’t know of anyplace that sells it in Minnesota.

When lunch was over, I started the drive up to Pennsylvania. I spent Friday afternoon-Sunday morning hanging out with my grandma and my aunt. We had a good time, and we hit up some of my favorite places including Dunkin’ Donuts (the closest one to me is in the Wisconsin Dells!), Rizzo’s, which is my favorite Italian place, and we went to the mall so I could get a women’s fitted Troy Polamalu jersey. We spent a lot of time going for walks and just catching up, and I unexpectedly ran into some of my cousins, and a family friend. It was a good visit. 🙂

I am an anxious flyer, and I had some rough flights on the way in, and even though I was a bit of a wreck when I landed in Pittsburgh, I had the wherewithal to take a picture of the Franco Harris statue in the airport (which is right beside a statue of George Washington–only in Pittsburgh):

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It was a great trip for a number of reasons, and I hope that someday I can go back to West Virginia because I had such a good time there. The AP students were talking about something called Forest Fest, and another festival that celebrates Appalachian heritage, and that sounds like something I’d like.

My next speaking engagement is at the University of Wisconsin-Marinette, with a class visit at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, and I’m looking forward to that trip now! I love that I get to talk to students about eating disorders, writing, etc. It’s such a privilege, and it’s just so cool, and so much fun, and such an honor. This is by far the best thing to come out of having published Purge: Rehab Diaries.

 

Upcoming Speaking Engagement: University of Wisconsin-Marinette

I’m going to be at the University of Wisconsin-Marinette on Thursday, October 24th. I’ll be giving a lecture on eating disorders, recovery, and writing, and I will probably also be visiting classes. I’ll be posting more specific details at a later date. I love visiting colleges, and I’m especially excited about this visit because I have never been to Marinette or Green Bay (and I’ve only been to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan once), and I will get to see one of my colleagues from the MFA program.

It’s shaping up to be a busy fall semester! I will likely be posting more information about appearances and events in the next couple of months.