Thursday, December 30, 2010

Celebrating Nora

Dear Reader,

As many of you know, yesterday would have been my mom's 62nd birthday.

I miss her.

Last year she had been in the nursing facility for just a couple of weeks when we all went to see her on her birthday. We brought a chocolate cake and sang happy birthday to her. She sang along with us at the very end "...Happy Birthday, dear Nora, happy birthday to you!" It was pretty freakin' cute and we all laughed.

Then we fed her some cake. She loved chocolate so we never denied her that pleasure, even at the end. Juniper was feeding it to her and mom bit down so hard on the plastic fork that it broke. We had to find her a regular metal fork. Then we left. It seems like it was just a regular day. I know I didn't really think about it possibly being her last birthday, maybe my dad or my sister did. I don't know if it would have made much difference if I had thought of it that way.

The reality is that any birthday could be our last. I think if there is any lesson I have really, truly learned this year it is just that: we are not guaranteed a single day more. None of us. I am not sure if it is a good thing or a bad thing that it has taken me 43 years to really "get" this. The real question may be - now that I "get" it, what do I do with it? How does that in the bones understanding change my life? Or does it change it at all? (This conundrum will be discussed at length in an upcoming post - check back soon! ;-))

Back to mom ~ she went to dinner with my dad and sister last night. Her favorite restaurant on her birthday. I celebrated her in a different, yet no less enjoyable or significant way. I was at S's annual Pirate Party with 14 of the most amazing, inspiring, hilarious women I have ever had the privilege to spend an evening with.

S and her friends have met once a year for the Pirate Party for at least 30 years. I have been a regular invitee for maybe 10? Maybe more. The detail is of no matter. What matters is the caliber of the women, the fun, the jokes, the stories, the life in that room each year. The sparkle. Ahh, the sparkle!!! Seems fitting to me that on what would have been my mom's 62nd birthday I was able to be in a room with these women who knew her through me, and who, just by being there and bearing witness to each other, provide sustenance and laughter to the Nth degree. We eat great food, drink wine and champagne, tell dirty stories and stories that make you cry and laugh and snort all at the same time (some kind of comedic holy trinity, that one) and emanate so much divine motherly feminine power and joy and hope and wisdom it is intoxicating. It was the perfect place to be.

It was the perfect space to remember my mom on her birthday. My mom was a pirate at heart.

I am a pirate.

Maya will be a pirate.

And so the line continues...

I love you mom. Happy birthday.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Anniversary Part 1

Dear Reader,

I missed it. I am so sorry. You have my deepest, most regretful apologies. I have no excuse for missing our one year anniversary. [insert deeply regretful, in the doghouse face here.]

What? What's that? Oh? Really? You missed it too? Really. That's so not cool.

I expect comments, posts, sharing, and general adoration in a blatant effort to kiss up to me, since you forgot too.

I began vinegar and vanilla on my birthday last year, 2009. So we have been here for 1 year! yay me!!!

I don't expect you to be half as excited and proud of me as I am. That's cool. I can drink champagne alone and toast myself.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Simple Human Contact Trumps Technology

Dear Reader,

I just love this article in today's New York Times. It talks about the idea of "kangaroo care" - in this case specifically for premature babies - and how it works so incredibly well. Born of necessity due to hospitals severely lacking in the basics (including water in some. The nurses washed their hands at home, after work. Ugh.) the idea of kangaroo care has proven to be amazingly effective. Place the nearly nude premie on the mom's bare chest. The human body (especially the mom's, but others can do the trick too) keeps the baby warm enough and - check this out - a mom's breasts will adjust their temperature to the baby's. PLUS, the position helps prevent reflux and apnea and the mom's heartbeat and breathing help regulate and stabilize the infant's!

It's an amazing, inspiring read. Mama says check it out.

Power to the Boobs!


If you care to donate to a worthy cause this season...

Here a couple of worthy organizations:

The first one is the hermitage where I go on my annual silent writing retreat. This year's retreat was so amazing that I haven't had the time to write about it because I am still processing the experience and following up on the prodigious amount of writing I did while I was there. This is a magical place on the most magical Big Sur coast. The monks there maintain 900 acres of the most incredible landscape in the world (see above photo). They need our help! To find out more about the hermitage click here. For a recent article on the monks in the LA Times click here.

Another wonderful resource that shows up in my email inbox every weekday is The Writer's Almanac. I love the daily poem, sure, that's a given, but the information about famous (and not so) authors and poets is really phenomenal. I learn at least two new things every time I read through the almanac. I know they - like most other things of value - really need our support right now. You can donate to their worthy cause by clicking here.

Of course, you can always be my patron...I would be open to that!



Thank God, the Goddess, Santa and whomever else for friends I say! Hip Hip Hooray!

If it wasn't for friends and family and the lure of Hector's All Meat pizza + liberally poured alcohol my tree would still be bare, dripping wet, and leaning against the wall of the garage. Instead she shines like a beacon in the foggy night of finals week, ungraded exams, essays, journals, un-checked off shopping and grocery lists as well as the unbaked cookies, unsent cards and discarded good intentions that are psychically scattered at my feet.

This morning, as I blow my nose one too many times, reach for the emergenC, and pray for prolific and powerful grading powers, I also thank my Santa-hatted family (yes, Sally, you are family) for coming through with the mulled wine and the Christmas spirit!


Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Prayer for the Busy Week Ahead

I like this idea of a "prayer" for something. Having not been raised in a religious household I have missed out on this practice. However, "a prayer for..." is a common writing prompt and one that I am beginning to enjoy.

I guess you could call it whatever you want, if you are not comfortable with the idea of a prayer though as time goes on and I a) get older and b)travel further on my own "spiritual path" I am less bothered by the language inherent to each religion and more interested in the common condition.

I am sure I will riff more on that at a later date. I'll add it to my "to do" list - the very one that I am about to take issue with - LOL!

Many of my fellow teacher friends and family are already on winter break. Unfortunately, I am not. I have three more days of work. And of course, I am behind on grading, planning, thinking, ruminating, contemplating and acting on work related issues, because, really, the Muse has been hanging around lately and I just can't ignore her, now, can I? I mean, what writer with any measure of sense will just say, "Uh, hey, Muse, nice to see you but I am really busy grading this milk crate full of homework packets so if you can just hang tight I'll get to you when I am done."

Uh, nope. It's a calculated risk, I know, but Reader, I took it. And yes, I know I am paying the price but I tell you what, if the Muse is there when I wake up tomorrow chances are I will offer to make her some coffee and listen to whatever it is she has to say, for as long as she wants to share. I am loving her company.

Huh, that's odd, this post started out about prayer and all that I have ahead of me and has ended up about the Muse. She's such a funny, fickle and did I mention demanding gal. Gotta admire the sneaky way she works herself into every conversation.

OK, the prayer for the week, the busy week ahead - at least it looks busy from here, but my vision is somewhat obscured by the eight ball I seem to be behind - my prayer goes something like this:

Dear Universe, please offer me the ability to prioritize wisely, to use my time fully and in a worthy fashion. Give me the strength to see the beauty and humor in all I encounter this week and to remain thankful for the blessings in my life evidenced by all I feel I have to do, in other words - a job, students who do their work, parents and students who care deeply about their grades, children and a husband to care for, friends and family to spend time with and the gift of being able to prepare a festive home and warm meals for them, and a Muse who has come to visit. I pray I am blessed with the ability to see the good in all the week brings to me. Amen. Insha'ALLAH. Namaste.

Gratefully (and calmly),

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A wish for you

that there is at least one person, every day, who sees you and smiles at you like a kid at school performance who was scanning the crowd and has just spotted his/her mom in the crowd.

You know the look - pure love and joy.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Birthday Mirthday!

So far, so good! Woke up as chipper and happy as my sun son. Shaved my legs without a nick - even though the kidlets startled me when then came in to wish me a happy birthday and show me all the goodies waiting for me.

Got dressed without incident, coffee maker had successfully brewed me some of the dark nectar, thermos was waiting to be filled. Hubby greeted me warmly, kids begged me to at least open the cards. Little Man's handwrittn greeting was adorable, Miss M made me a huge card with balloons and cakes and so many happys and so many loves ~ I hung it on the wall in my classroom for joy.

Happy, funny fellow Starbucks addicts in line exchanged witty banter (there is a family of 3 I see there from time to time - they are my Starbucks friends.) Everyone knew it was my birthday because I said YES! to the offer of whipped cream on my birthday mocha. That's how I roll people, stand back!

Got to skoolork (school+work=skoolork) a little close to the wire but it was all good because Michael Franti worked hard the whole time reminding me to stay human and listen to the words of the Dalai Lama - or at least the words of your momma. Every flower got a right to be bloomin'!

A student was waiting for me with birthday greetings and a gift, a fellow teacher came in with a card signed by my co-workers and my first class sang happy birthday - with an 80% pass rate - whoo hoo!

The day is off to a good start folks...

Stay Youthful,

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

You never know when it will hit you...

One of my most vivid memories of my mom is from December 8, 1980 - the day John Lennon was shot. She was sitting at our round table, crying. I didn't understand why, so much, but I knew enough about the Beatles and had listened to enough John Lennon to get it.

Imagine was one of her favorite songs, guaranteed to make her weepy - she was a crier. So am I. One more thing passed down the matrilineal line.

When she was dying my sister and I played music for her. My iPhone right next to her on the pillow. Imagine came on just as she drew her last breath.

This morning on the way to work NPR was talking about the death of Lennon, 30 years ago today, and of course Imagine was the lead music. Bam! Tears welled up, emotions rose, and the whole day shifted.

Not in a bad way,just a shift. Another reminder of how things change in the blink of an eye (I know it is a cliche, but that's really how fast it can happen), the beat of a hummingbird's wing.

Another reminder that this breath, this moment is all we have.

Tomorrow is the first birthday my mom won't be with me.

Deep breaths,

Monday, December 6, 2010

Puttin' the Wheels Back on the Wagon

just so's I can get back on the wagon m'damn self!

Yes, it's true, my wagon fell apart. Again. The yoga, meditation, eating well, less caffeine, less consuming wagon that could. Fell apart a couple of weeks ago - right before Thanksgiving and all it's abundant bounty. Or before that...maybe the long Veteran's Day weekend? Oh, no, I know when....when I started my 50,000 word quest! THAT's IT! Whew, at least I found something to blame it on. Thanks V&V fans (all 10 of you) for letting me work that all out at your expense.

The good news is - you'll get to read some exciting, energizing, motivational posts over the next few days while I get my mojo back on track.

The bad news is - you'll get to hear about me getting my mojo back on track..again.

I'll try to keep it fresh for ya Babe!

But enough about me, how you doin'? How (where?) is your Mojo? Have you lost it? Is it right there with you? And your wagon - all 4 wheels intact?

Share with us your secrets for staying on track. We need them!

Hard at work,

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Do you live like a dog on a leash?

Another walk in the woods today with Pixie. Another lesson learned. Or at least well illustrated.

Generally I dislike bloggers who post cute stories about their pets - how Fluffy changed their life in some way. Nonetheless, here I go...

We went into the park with the kids today. Pixie and I have a nice little routine, a short walk into the park and home - about 30 minutes in the redwoods with the joggers and hikers and bikers and stray crazed pick-up driver trying to wipe everyone out on their way down the one lane fire road.

Pixie thinks she is one of the 3 puppies in the family - Miss M. and Mr. T being the other two, of course. So, when you have her on the retractable dental floss leash and the kids on their bikes taking off in front of us it's really not a pretty sight. Thankfully she weighs about 7 pounds so the dental floss leash will hold her back. But she still strains against it with all her mosquito might - pulling and pulling while cutting off her oxygen intake and wheezing while she tries to gain traction against the road.

It's really pathetic.

And once the kids get out of sight - yes, even with all the possible dangers out there I let my kids out of my sight - she really freaks out. This is made more tortuous because my kids are loud, first of all. You can hear them a quarter mile away. Second, they love to get up the hill on the other side of the deep redwood forested ravine and yell "Hi Mom!"

This really drives the dog batty.

I was tempted to let the mutt off the leash to see how long it would take her to bound through the brambles and poison oak and old growth and small creek to get up the other side to her litter mates. But I refrained.

It was a tiring walk. Not the relaxing jaunt the mutt and I have been having lately, when it's just us. You know, listening to the water drop from the branches overhead, counting the banana slugs, enjoying the scent of forest as we walk through the fallen leaves and feel of the moist, soft soil underfoot.

So, you know, on the way back it occurred to me that we are often like Pixie. We set our sights on something, or someone, and just go after it no matter what. No matter that we are cutting off our flow of oxygen, wearing our tender feet down running futilely after something that just wants to taunt us and go on it's merry way.

And the real bummer, aside from looking completely bonkers, ridiculous and even pathetic, is that you miss all the really cool stuff. You are straining, wheezing, crying out for attention and you miss all the natural goodness that is right there, all around you.

You miss the stroll. The sound of the rain. The give of the path. The birdsong. The breeze. The space to think and daydream. The perfect place to poop.

As I write Pixie is passed out in her little mutt bed next to a raging fire, her litter mates tucked in their human beds, dreaming of sugarplums. All of them soothed by the rain outside.

All is well again. But my advice to you? Be the mellow dog, not the frantic, pathetic one.


Now toddlers need coaches? Are you F'n kidding me?!?!?

This clip about toddler "athletes" has me so riled up this morning! My stomach is all knotted up. Honestly, I hate this kind of shit. Excuse my language, but I am about to get my vent to another page if you don't want to hear this.

Is it just me, or does this look like forced parental playtime? Do parents really have to pay $100 for an 8 week program where they are forced to play with their kids? "up...down, jump, jump, jump..." Oh Look, Johnny can swing a noodle at a balloon and I will think he might be the next Barry Bonds (but white and not on steroids...Mark McGuire then? D'oh, no, not him either..)

NEWSFLASH: Johnny would love to run around your house with a papertowel or wrapping paper roll and chase after a balloon, hitting it with all his might - if you let him! And the "tracking" with the flashlight? Really?!?! Make a fucking fort and play with a flashlight OR let them have a friend over and make a fort themselves and then play under there for hours without you checking in to see if they are ok.

It's called unstructured play and they need it. Let them build the freakin' fort themselves and they will eventually figure out that sheets are not as heavy as the wool blanket and they will then stay up better, or that stacking an empty shoe box on top of the blanket to keep it on the dresser isn't effective and they need something heavier. DO NOT FIX THE FORT FOR THEM.

If you need to feel useful go pop them some popcorn and then sit your ass down on the couch and relax for a minute. Don't pick up a magazine, book or iPhone or turn on the game or real housewives or frontline. Just lay there, with your kid and their friend in the other room and listen to them play - alone, without adult supervision or a fucking toddler "coach" (really, you need a coach to be a toddler?!?!) Enjoy eavesdropping on the little buggers...I bet you'll learn something about them, and kids in general, and you might hear hear something funny.

Still rarin',
(3 time NCAA all american, 10 individual high school league championships, college and high school hall of fame member, child athlete, parent of 2, age-group, high school and college coach) JUST IN CASE YOU THINK I DON'T KNOW SHIT.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

wine turns into vinegar, doesn't it?

fantastic, creative night out with the girlfriends...felt really good to create in a different way and be inspired by others!

a little dehydrated from the wine and cheese and pre-night out coffee I had to have in order to stay awake past 9.

but totally worth it. I have had a really fruitful 48 hours or so and have some exciting ideas bouncing around in the vast real estate I hold in my head...looking forward, looking up, enjoying the scent of vanilla.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Real Vanilla Flavor!

Pajama Day at work - one of the biggest perks of working in education!

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Going to sleep at 9:00 and feeling rested this morning.


Forgetting the poems I needed to work on last night at schoolork (school/work).