No More Qi (for now)

Yes, it’s true.  At least until next fall, I am on a hiatus from the “qi” part of my studies.  It wasn’t an easy decision to reach, but my health has taken a beating to hell and back over the past few months, and it had reached a point where I was having to decide whether to miss class (and consequently not pass) and attend medical appointments.  When you’re in too much pain or discomfort to contemplate getting up and going to class, when you’ve been running on 6 hours of sleep for weeks and can’t think straight anymore, it’s a sign things are not ok.  

So, I have taken a temporary leave of absence and hopefully by the time fall rolls around, will have figured out how to structure this program into my life in a constructive, healthy way.  I love acupuncture, and I want to become a practicing acupuncturist one day, but I can’t go back to the way things were this past semester. It’s not worth it.  I am getting better, and in fact, since I made this decision a week ago, I’ve improved by leaps and bounds, but maintaining that balance is going to be a continued work in progress.  

I have much to write about – AASL, classes, life lessons, but since today is Thanksgiving Eve, I figure it would be nice to end this post with thanks.  I’ve had a number of friends do the “daily thanks” status update, and I quite like the idea, so here is nearly a month of catchup: 

1. I am thankful for the life I have. 

2. I am thankful for the friends in my life who are like family to me. 

3. I am thankful for the love and support of my someone special. 

4. I am thankful for parents who support and encourage me to pursue my dreams. 

5. I am thankful for family. 

6. I am thankful for my doctors. 

7. I am thankful for having excellent (if pricey) health insurance that enables me to see the aforementioned doctors. 

8. I am thankful for delicious food and homecooked meals. 

9. I am thankful for my creativity. 

10. I am thankful for finding the courage to make difficult decisions. 

11. I am thankful for books. 

12. I am thankful for the people in my life who care about me. 

13. I am thankful for indoor heating and warm blankets. 

14. I am thankful for the beautiful flame-red maple trees on my way to school. 

15. I am thankful for a relatively mild fall. 

16. I am thankful for beautiful sunny days and unexpected warmth. 

17. I am thankful for imaginary friends who’ve enriched my life in immeasurable ways. 

18. I am thankful for opportunities. 

19. I am thankful for having faith. 

20. I am thankful for my improving health. 

21. I am thankful for mentors who support, advise and guide me. 

22. I am thankful for my life experiences. 

23. I am thankful for all the happiness and joy in my life. 

Minneapolis Bound!

I’m sitting at the airport ready to head to the AASL conference in Minneapolis. My trip has been made possible by the fantastic work of my advisor, who wrangled funding from the university to pay for hotel fees and registration, and our student government reimburses students for professional development fees, including airfare. This is an astonishing opportunity, because honestly, I don’t know when I’ll next have approximately $600 to spend on attending a conference.

The array of sessions is dizzying, and the only downside is that there are so many great ones happening all at once. It’s going to be an insane three days of back-to-back sessions, social events, learning and soaking it all in, and I can’t wait. Even a nasty case of conjunctivitis combined with cellulitis won’t slow me down if I can help it!

I will hopefully be updating this blog at the sessions, and I will be tweeting to the best of my ability as well. If you’re on Twitter and are interested in what’s going on, you can follow along using the hashtag #aasl11.

The First Needle

This past Monday, I took a momentous step in my life as an acupuncturist-to-be.  After discussing setting up a clean field and clean needle technique, it was time to move to the practice room to needle ourselves.   Obviously, acupuncture is about sticking needles into other people,  but before we start experimenting and practicing our technique on each other, the school feels it’s a good idea to have us practice on ourselves first.  I’m in favor of this idea.  After all, if someone is going to be practicing sticking needles into me, I would much rather know that they have been doing the same to themselves and practicing their grip and technique so as to minimize the potential pain and bruising I may experience at their hands.

So, I steadied myself.  I set up my sterile field, I had my leg marked up, and I grabbed a needle.  Heart racing, I tried to calm myself.  The thought occurs to me that trying to slide a needle through my skin is going to be difficult if my hands are shaking.   I breathe deeply, reassuring myself.  Finally, I feel as though I have enough confidence built up to give it a go.   Breathing in once more, I valiantly thrust my needle downwards.

Only to have it snag in the skin and get stuck, refusing to budge past the tiniest bit of the tip, which is latched onto my skin.   Damn.  I try again.  No luck.

This happens about four more times, by which point, my nerves have given way to “goddamnit, I KNOW I can do this!”  And then, finally, I succeed!  It’s not a perfect insertion: I get the needle through the skin but then have to apply a surprisingly large amount of pressure to coax it past the skin barrier and into the muscle tissue below, but I do it! I’ve needled myself!

As the remainder of class wears on, I manage to successfully stick myself four or five more times.  To my great relief, each time gets a little easier, and I even manage to needle LI-4, which is located in the fleshy part of the back of the hand, where the thumb meets the index finger (yeah, one handed needling!).

But nothing will ever quite replicate the feeling of joy and success of getting that first needle in:

It’s the first of thousands.  And I did it myself.

Experiencing Japanese Style Acupuncture

Part and parcel of becoming a good practitioner of acupuncture is to be treated by other acupuncturists.  A few months ago, as I had a needle inserted into bladder 1 (a point that lies in the corner of the orbital socket), my intern remarked that when the time came to practice needling this point on a classmate, I would have an advantage because I had had the point needled on myself.   There is a certain logic to this, because while I have never stuck a needle into someone’s eye socket, feeling how the needle is supposed to go in and what the sensations are like is helpful to making the experience a little less (hopefully) traumatic.

Being treated with acupuncture also played a fundamental role in bringing myself and many of my classmates to this field of study, and influences our belief in this field of healthcare as an effective treatment modality.  So, having done Chinese acupuncture with a number of different practitioners and having taken herbs, I decided, on the recommendation of my roommate, to explore Japanese style acupuncture this semester.

Many of you may be surprised to learn that there is such a thing as Japanese style acupuncture, but there is.  Acupuncture encompasses a wide variety of treatment styles, and Japanese differs from Chinese in the needling technique, the diagnostic process, the inclusion of palpitation of the abdominal area, and the number of needles used.

The differences became apparent at the beginning of the treatment, as I sat down to do my intake.  Instead of going through the categories (skin, respiratory, musculo-skeletal, digestive) straight off the bat the way the CAS (Chinese acupuncture) intake goes, we talked at length about my eczema before moving on to these other points.    I then lay down on the exam table, and she proceeded to take my pulse (again, slightly differently than CAS), and then raised my shirt to press my abdomen, searching for tender/sore spots.   Unlike CAS, there was no tongue examination.

After her supervisor came in to meet me, she then set about needling me – imagine my surprise when she told me I was getting a heavy-duty JAS treatment with a grand total of…12 needles! Whenever I’ve done CAS treatments, I’ve ranged from having between 15-40 needles inserted at any given time, so 12 was a big change in a way.  The needles were also gold, another difference, and she used an insertion tube (something we are initially taught not to do in this program, but that is central to JAS insertion technique).

All in all, the treatment was very relaxing and seems to have helped.  I’ve felt considerably better since going, and I’m looking forward to being treated in this style for the rest of the semester.   I think it’ll be a good modality for me at this stage of my healing process, and I’m feeling very optimistic.

Welcome to Acupuncture School

I’m currently in the midst of orientation day at acupuncture school, and the differences between it and library school could not be greater.  At my library school orientation, we discussed matters germane to us as future educators: licensing, standards, etc.

At acupuncture school, we began with an icebreaker to introduce ourselves to our classmates as a precursor to the extremely hands-on practice we will soon be engaging in with each other.  In a matter of days, we will begin to literally use each others’ bodies to learn, touching, feeling, palpitating, needling, scraping, and more.  To say it’s a much more intimate learning experience is a vast understatement.

And now, I am sitting in the midst of a seminar on infectious diseases.  This is important information – we will be working out in the general public, exposed to any number of infectious patients, some with your run-of-the-mill issues like the common cold, others with more serious issues such as HIV/AIDS or hepatitis.   I think I know more than the average person about infectious diseases, being generally interested in the sciences and having studied biology at a higher level, but I had forgotten how learning this information has a tendency to make you a little hyper-paranoid.

I am not the most health-nervy person out there – I don’t jump or take notice of every little sniffle or sneeze, but when you take a moment to stop and consider just how many nasties are out there, that we are being exposed to without even realizing it, well, it’s enough to make you really freak out if you let it.

My feelings on this first day are hard to describe.  I’m apprehensive at being able to tackle both programs at once.  I’m worried that I’m going to be in over my head, that my relationships are going to be impacted, that my skin is going to flare up again.  I’m wondering how I’m going to juggle what promises to be an intense workload.  But most of all, I’m curious to see how my brain handles dealing with two very different subject matters simultaneously.  I had a taste of it this summer with my technology class, but for a variety of reasons, my brain didn’t really feel like it was being split in two, so to speak.  This semester, I think it very much will.

No matter what, it promises to be an interesting ride.  All aboard!


It’s hard to feel like it’s summer these days. First, there’s the weather, which has tended towards unseasonably cool. It’s the middle of June and my roommate (who usually runs hot) turned on the heat this morning. Yes, you read that right.

Heat. In June.

Ponder that.

It’s also hard to feel like it’s summer because unlike many of my library school cohort, I have had no respite since library school classes ended in the first week of May. This is because, with my bad luck, the summer term for acupuncture school started the very same day, which meant that I skipped my last day of library class to attend my first day of acupuncture class.

So now, instead of leisurely whiling away the hours, I have chemistry once a week (just under four hours), tai chi, a course on the history and cultural foundations of Chinese medicine, and anatomy, which will be starting in two weeks time, and will meet twice a week for 3 hours each class. I’m also preparing to take my state teacher licensing exam, a necessary component of my degree program, wrapping up an online biology course, and taking a technology course for library school, which promises to be really fun and interesting.

It’s tiring, yes, and it’s a lot of work, but if I can make my life easier down the road, then it’s worth the sacrifice of a few more hours of free time. August (when classes end) seems both impossibly far away and extremely close. Somehow, I’ll make it, and everything will get done. All I have to do is breathe.

Do school librarians really teach?

The school library world has been abuzz over the last week due to an article published in the Los Angeles Times about the almost surreal treatment of school librarians (“The Disgraceful Interrogation of L.A. School Librarians“).  The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is, like many school districts across the country, facing budget cuts.  On the chopping block are all of the school librarian positions in the district (85 in total).

The American Library Association and the American Association of School Librarians make clear in their response to the LAUSD what is at stake should these cuts go ahead, and it’s sobering to say the least:

If the elimination moves forward, only 32 of approximately 700 schools will have full-time school librarians and only 10 will have part-time school librarians. This means that approximately 600,000 students will be deprived of one of the most valuable educational resources needed for students to compete in today’s 21st century workforce – a school librarian

That’s bad enough for reasons I will get to in another post some day, but what’s worse is what’s being done to the school librarians as working professionals.  If these librarians get fired, they obviously no longer earn any money.  However, if they can prove that they have taught students in the last five years, a necessary credential for teaching in California, then they can find employment elsewhere in the system.

The LAUSD, which is attempting to save money by firing these librarians, does not want this to happen.  More people on payroll somewhere or other means the money hasn’t really been saved.  So what have they done? Well, logically, they’ve hired attorneys to interrogate the librarians and prove, legally, in front of a judge, that they are not teachers and thus must be fired.

Yes, you read that right.  The LAUSD is using state attorneys to try and fire the librarians by claiming they are not teachers.

“When was the last time you taught a course for which your librarian credential was not required?” an LAUSD attorney asked Laura Graff, the librarian at Sun Valley High School, at a court session on Monday.

“I’m not sure what you’re asking,” Graff said. “I teach all subjects, all day. In the library.”

“Do you take attendance?” the attorney insisted. “Do you issue grades?”

Are school librarians teachers in the traditional sense, that they teach English, or Social Studies, or Math?  No.  Are they teachers? Absolutely.  To try and insist otherwise is a complete sham, and the fact that lawyers have had to get involved is beyond disgraceful.

You might well be wondering “how is it that Ms. Graff teaches all subjects all day long in the library?”  The simple answer is, she’s doing her job as a librarian.  To be an excellent school librarian involves collaborating with subject teachers to find resources to help them enhance their lessons.  It means teaching your colleagues about the latest technologies that can support student learning and achievement.  It means teaching students skills like keyword searches, note-taking, summarization, and how to think critically.  It means fostering student learning through collaboration, the support of independent inquiry, and yes, teaching lessons.

In my teaching strategies class this semester, a major part of our coursework was writing lesson plans that correlated with a subject teacher’s goals.   The middle school lesson we had to teach concerned learning about the solar system.  Now, I’m not training to be a science teacher, so I didn’t teach about Jupiter or why Pluto isn’t a planet anymore.  What I did teach was how to read two different paragraphs with similar information, how to compare and contrast the information in each paragraph, and how to organize those comparisons using a graphic organizer.    The skills taught in this lesson were applicable not only to science, but to any academic subject and even to standardized tests.

I may not be giving tests or taking attendance, but I am most certainly training to be an educator. If I weren’t, it certainly begs the question why I’m paying thousands of dollars and taking standardized tests to obtain a license in my state. When I get a job as a library teacher, I will be using my librarian credentials day in and day out to be an effective administrator, teacher, educator, and collaborator.  To think that my teaching skills might one day be questioned by a zealous attorney looking to achieve budget cut goals is like a slap in the face.

Luckily, the LA. schools affected value their school librarians, and many are scrambling to find alternative funding to pay their salaries for the next year, but the situation is ludicrous.  It’s another example of how far off the right path we as a country are going in our attacks against teachers and education.  We’re actively harming our future through our actions, and the devaluation of the teaching profession, school librarians included, is a truly disheartening indication of just how bad things have become.