Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Interesting times / Times for faith

Musings on faith during Advent.

"May you live in interesting times." Reputed to be an old Chinese saying or curse, these words have been bouncing around in my head for several months. This country, this era in which I find myself is stretching me to my perceived limits. The American people, the American government, American attitudes, politicians' attitudes, students' attitudes; rage, despair, depression; deficits, unemployment, lack of basic needs and services; consumerist, me-centric culture; all of these are weighing on me. As if it's up to me to fix it all. Interesting times, indeed.

And now: the end of a year, the beginning of a season, the shifting from dark to light, the persistence of the Magi, a child born in Bethlehem all point to faith and hope.

How hard it is, when things get dark, to focus on the light. Yet, that is what a faith-walk calls us to do. Faith is confidence or trust. By its definition, it is applied to what is NOT seen, what is NOT experienced. The times when I least feel faith are the times when I most need faith. This paradox is tough for me. It would be easier to give up, to think that God has lost track of us sorry humans, to believe that no good will come from these "interesting times."

And yet. Martin Luther King , Jr. said "Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that." It is only by recognizing the light that the darkness can fade. Sometimes recognizing the light means knowing the light is coming, it's coming, it's HERE! Sometimes recognizing the light means bringing light back in faith, when there's no evidence of it. When it's dark. When it's interesting times.

...Lux venit...Happy Solstice...For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given... In the beginning was the Word...

"Faith is a bird that feels dawn breaking and sings while it is still dark." - Scandinavian saying.

May I be that bird in these interesting times.

Friday, December 3, 2010

It's that time of year....

My version of the Christmas Waltz.

It's that time of year, when the students melt down,
Ev'ry word you hear is a whine: "No one told me...
It's your fault, I'm gonna COMPLAIN!!"
And this song of theirs, full of "it's not fair"s,
Will give me and mine migraines.

Finals end Dec. 17. Yes, I'm counting the days.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanks, and Thanks, and Ever Thanks

In no particular order, I give thanks for:
  • Health
  • Wealth (relative to the rest of the world, we're rolling in it)
  • Love
  • Faith
  • Friends
  • Family
  • Food every day. An excess of it.
  • Books, music, hobbies, and the time to enjoy them
  • Education
  • Hope

I am thankful that:

  • I am a woman.
  • I am educated.
  • I have resources and support and know how to access them.

My life is full and rich and important in all the ways that matter to me. What other response is there, but thanksgiving?

I can no other answer make, but thanks, and thanks, and ever thanks.... Shakespeare

May you be blessed in all the ways that matter to you. Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Book Reviews

The latest good books from my bookbasket:

1. Broken for You, by Stephanie Kallos. Luminous, sentimental without being maudlin, and a beautiful story about losing and finding, breaking and mending. Margaret Hughes has just been diagnosed with brain cancer and decides to open her Seattle mansion to boarders. Her first, Wanda Schultz, is nursing a broken heart. The two women come to know each other with help from breaking the pilfered antique ceramic treasures that fill Margaret's house. Wonderful characters and deeper meaning if you want it but doesn't beat you over the head.

2. A Reliable Wife, by Robert Goolrick. Gothic and dark and redemptive. Suspenseful and chilling and surprisingly warm. Ralph Truitt, magnate and the most important man in the small town of Truitt, Wisconsin, has sent away for a wife. Catherine Land, an enigmatic and calculating drifter, has answered his ad. Each with their own reasons, each with their own attempts to manipulate the other into the life they think they want, the two tell each other their stories. Set during a cold, bleak winter, this is a powerful story. I enjoyed Goolrick's unique writing style.

3. The Distant Hours, by Kate Morton. My current favorite author's newest tome. Morton's books are layered and thick and secretive and satisfying. This story weaves together publisher Edie Burchill, her mother's history as a WWII evacuee from London, a crumbling castle in Kent, the three daughters of a famed author, the famed author's most popular work, and all of the secrets, heartbreaks, and tragedies carried by each of them. A slow start and multiple story strands keep this from being a quick read, but the end result is stunning.

4. A Vintage Affair, by Isabel Wolff. This book tries really hard to be Important, but it's just a well-written story, and that's just fine. Phoebe Swift leaves her Sotheby's job to open a vintage clothing shop. In the course of collecting beautiful clothing for the store, she meets the ill Mrs. Bell and learns the story behind the fashion and the woman. Side plots are filled with loving and yummy details about beautiful couture, a splash of romantic "should she or shouldn't she" choice between men, and many likable characters. This book will not challenge your worldview but certainly redeems itself from being just another fluffy chick lit selection.

5. Annie's Ghosts, by Steve Luxenberg. In the 1990's, Luxenberg, a journalist, discovers the existence of a mentally ill and physically disabled aunt whom he never knew and who died in 1972. Learning this shocking news just before his mother dies, he and his siblings wrestle with whether or not to investigate. It took several years before he decided to look into the story. This memoir covers family secrets, a sobering look into mental health institutions and treatments, and continually asks (often poignantly) why? Fascinating read.

What have you been reading lately?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Late Bloomer

After an unusually long and mild Indian Summer, Fall has finally fallen here in my valley.

A golden tunnel of ginkgo trees lines one walkway on campus. It is so gloriously exquisite that I want to soak in it so I can feel it on my skin. I want to bite into it so I can taste it. I want to be a part of it, to twist my branches and watch the air glow with my color, watch the sultry tango of my leaves from stem to ground.

I have a crick in my neck and the goofiest expression from leaning back and goggling. Simply stunning, this late bloomer of an Autumn.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Beautiful words, from the book Grange House, by Sarah Blake (2000).


She thought a minute, then leaned forward. "Tell me, Maisie. What is it that you wish?"

"I wish-" Again sounded the foghorn's soft remonstrance to the incoming weather. "For someone to point me toward a place where I may go, where I might put down all this yearning in me."

"Toward what?" Her eyes were fixed on me.

I looked at her. What? What indeed? "I do not know. I cannot say. Papa might have told me."

"I doubt your papa ever would have told you what to do."

"No, but he taught me, introduced me to other minds....He would have shown me how to grow to be like them, to fit into the shapes they held open."

"What shapes?"

"Shapes, shapes, Miss Grange. Shapes of possibility. For a life."

She sat back. "Your father could never have shown you that. Never," she finished softly.

"Because he died?"

"Because he could not show you what to be - only your longing, that precious longing can show you."


What is your longing showing you?

Monday, November 8, 2010

The world won't fall apart if I...

Fill in the blank:

The world won't fall apart if I....

.....cancel appointments when I am sick.

.....spend the afternoon on the couch instead of dusting and mending and cleaning and sorting.

.....eat instant mashed potatoes, if that's all that sounds good to my upset tummy.

.....don't practice piano for a few days.

.....am not perfect.

Feel free to add to the list.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Kismet of Leeks

As I wandered the farmer's market Saturday, I found myself craving leeks. Introduced last fall to these lovely mild cousins to onions and garlic, I found I loved them and enjoyed cooking with them. They're so delicious and versatile.

Leeks of Destiny

So I was sad that I didn't see any in the market. But I just checked our farmshare box ingredients for this week, and on the list? LEEKS!!

Kismet, I tell you.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

3 R's

Not reading, (w)riting, and (a)rithmetic. Rest, reflection, and rejuvenation. I'm long overdue for some of my favorite relaxing activities, and will be taking a break over the next several days to pursue them.

"Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop." -- Ovid

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I'm just sayin'.

When I see young girls in "skinny jeans," and said girls are - how shall I put this - NOT SKINNY, I worry that they are going to ooze right out of their pants like toothpaste out of a tube squeezed from the bottom up. When they get up after having sat down, how do they not get up right on out of their pants?

Am I the only one who worries about this?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Homemade graham crackers

From scratch graham crackers. And vegan, too. These will make tasty snacks for me this week, along with some farmers' market jam.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lessons from the Supervisor's Notebook

When my expectations from my workers are high, I get quality results. When my expectations are low, I get poor results.

When I am clear about my expectations, my workers know what they need to do.

When I put myself in my workers' shoes, I am better able to give them the information they need to do a good job.

When my workers know when and how to reach me, they actually "need" to contact me less often.

When I think highly of the work, so do my workers.

When I create a supportive work environment, there is less turnover.

When I approach problems with their work in a collaborative way, my workers are more likely to make improvements to their work patterns.

When I say what I mean and mean what I say, my workers know they can count on me.


If you have any observations or lessons you have learned from supervising others, feel free to share them.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Of inspiration and everyday heroes

or, why I love facebook

As a student in high school, I was deeply involved in the Arts - music, choir, theater, dance. Our high school had such an excellent program that it became the district magnet for all these, plus multiple bands. Our leader, Mr. Paul Yonemura, poured himself into the program, into the kids, and into the music. This led to award-winning results, but even more importantly, it led to kids who felt connected to each other and to their high school. The band room was a safe place. Music classes were challenging and there were high expectations. You had to be on your game, in the flow. You were just as proud of being in the band as you were to be on the football team, or on the honor roll. There were no cruel cliques in music - just you and your schoolmates of all ages making music. Together.

We are the Gauchos - YEAH - and we are proud - YEAH - that's why we yell - YEAH - so very LOUD!!

How many of you feel discouraged about the world, about the future? Raise your hand, I know you're out there. I know I sure do. Maintaining hope and optimism sometimes takes effort on my part, especially with bad news everywhere, including at my old high school. The once proud and mighty high school music program has become, 20 years later, a struggling one. The instruments are ancient, the sheet music desperately needs to be replaced, and the program underfunded. Like most schools, there is money for academics, but not for Arts. Administrators back the programs that mean something to them, and recent principals have focused the limited resources elsewhere.

People forget that there's more to music programs than music. It's about discipline, and practice, and working together, and making goals, and falling short, and more practice, and finally reaching your goals. It's about feeling a part of something bigger than yourself, about belonging (especially if you are a little odd and don't feel like you belong anywhere else). It's about what you bring, not what you look like, what gender you are, whether you have a perfect body, whether you dress in certain clothes, where you go to church, who you're attracted to. It's about being responsible to yourself and to others and to your leader. It's about commitment and sacrifice. How many of these experiences get taught in a classroom?

And then there's this interesting little social phenomenon called facebook. This remarkable networking system has brought Gauchos from all over back in touch with each other. And one day, a band member posted a picture from an award-winning year. Instantly the memories rushed in, the postings about who was who, and where they were now, and "do you remember..." And someone had a brilliant idea to form a reunion band to raise money for the current program. (You can see more details here.) And this is why I love facebook. For me it's not about how many friends I can collect, or how many ways I can share my opinion, or brag about my life, or discuss the minutiae of an often mudane existence. It's because it is connecting me in a real way with people from my past with whom I lost touch. People who I would never have been able to find again in traditional reunions, because they were not in my graduating class. And facebook is what helped me learn about this event, since I no longer live in my high school hometown.

The concert was yesterday. It was fabulous! There were alumni from the '60's, '70's, '80's. I saw so many old friends and past teachers. The event raised close to $30,000. Inspiration and everyday heroes and hope for the future. 40 alumni, coming from all over the world (even a past exchange student from Norway returned for this event!), spending their own money and time to get here, to raise money and awareness. What does that tell you about the importance of music, and Mr. Y, and their experiences in the music program? These are all regular people, putting their talents and time towards a common goal. These everyday heroes are not rich, not philanthropists, and not in it for the glory. They saw a need and they worked to help. Inspiration. Everyday heroes.

The band and its supporters met for drinks at a local pub after the concert. Standing outside the pub on the corner, you could hear the sounds of people re-connecting, sharing memories, having a good time. The door opens, and as Mr. Y walks in, a cheer goes up that carries for two blocks.

It's an ovation that will last a lifetime.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

If at first you don't succeed....

I've been trying several baked doughnut recipes over the past few weeks. None have come close to either a) the delicious, albeit fried, doughnuts one can purchase at the local doughnut shop, and b) the delicious, albeit fried, spiced doughnuts I made as a child. Not to mention the horrible recipe that came with the doughnut pans. Bleck. People in China obviously are missing out on the culinary beauty that is the doughnut.

Anyhoo, it was like Goldilocks was the taste-tester - too tough, too bready, too soft, too buttermilk-y. But! I think I finally found the right combination.

Looks good, smells good, tastes good.
Just right!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

What price, beauty?

I've been pondering what it means to appreciate beauty. Not the geographical or altruistic kind, but the personal, appearance-based, social constructs of what makes someone beautiful. So many women hit a certain age (it varies depending on the woman, but seems to be about the age I am now) and decide to alter their appearance in some way - botox, hair color, permanent make-up, plastic surgery, liposuction, and so forth. What makes them do it? If "beauty is truth, truth beauty" as Keats said, what lies are being told in the quest for perfect body parts? Why is it so difficult to see wrinkles and freckles and tummies and the other signs of a life well-lived as beauty?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

5 Things

A fellow blogger has posted "5 Things I'm All About." These are 5 things "that she is so passionate about, she feels compelled to write them in capital letters. Five things that she's almost afraid to say out loud because they might be a little bit unpopular...or radical...or debate-inducing. And yet they are the rock-bottom hardcore reality of what makes her" who she is.

In other words, the passion, the deep inner knowledge, and the reality of HER.

So, as is so often the case, I'd like to take a page from her book. (see original post here.)

5 Things I'm All About
1. You are who you are, and that's OK. Gender, color, sexual orientation, ability, age, class, political affiliation, state of residence, you name it, there is someone out there who is it. And that's OK. Embrace yourself. You are all you've got. You are not perfect, but that's OK - neither am I. Accept your quirks. Get to know yourself. Change what needs changing. Love what needs loving. But know that you are special, and important. Don't let anyone, anywhere, anytime, make you feel "less than." That being said, this does not give you license or entitlement to do as you please, because:
2. We need each other. We are social beings who need the support, constructive criticism, guidance, egging-on, and acceptance of other social beings. You are who you are, but you need to be you in a group. There is wisdom and love and protection in a group. There is family and connection and a cheering section in a group. There are people to walk with, to vent on, to cling to. And that group needs you, too. And what you do affects this group, and vice versa.
3. Despite the efforts of many fanatical idiots in religions the world over, I still believe in God. I learn more about God every day, and in so doing, find myself less and less willing to put God into a box. No old man in white robes here, no angry omnipotent wielder of thunderbolts, no soft weepy New Age space-case, no muddy earthy Goddess, no irritatingly transcendant teacher. Instead, a force; an energy; a creative power; an intense love; a connective tissue weaving molecules and elements into living things. Bigger than me, but inside my heart. Smaller than can be measured, but everywhere at once.
4. This world needs more feminine energy. For too long we have lived the lie that female is evil, or wrong, or opposite of male, or less than male. Male vs. Female has become an either/or, a competition, a zero-sum game; one is stronger and one weaker, one has to be "on top," the winner. It's not so. We all have a mixture of each in us and that mixture needs to be balanced. We are people, and we all lose if part of us is denied. We need to recognize and nurture the importance of, the holiness of, the feminine. Male has dominated for several centuries, and now this world is crying out for the Female.
5. Sometimes you just gotta say, screw it, and go have some fun. Life can be pretty serious. We are all working hard on our CAREERS, our CHILDREN, our SOCIETY, our WORLD. We need a break. Take one. Go have some fun. Roll in the grass, eat a pint of ice cream, stay up all night reading a book, buy that sexy pair of red stilettos, pick wildflowers, do something FUN. Be in the moment. Enjoy this crazy life.

What are you all about?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Paradigm Shift

So I realized today that I have officially made a shift in my thinking.

Right about 11:15 or so, I was contemplating lunch, and a sweet little something for afters. Or perhaps more accurately, the lack of a sweet little something for afters. An hour later, as I pulled my lunch from the fridge at work, I noticed I had brought some leftover corn on the cob. My first thought was, "oh, now I don't need to buy any cookies."

I know. I KNOW!

The corn-on-the-cob is from our local fields, and so so sweet and crunchy and fresh. I honestly knew I would feel a satisfied sweet tooth after eating it. And I did.

Eating local, eating fresh, and eating healthy foods really does change your mind and body. I wouldn't have believed it myself a couple of years ago. (And I still love cookies, don't get me wrong!!) It has taken effort and time and practice to get to this moment, though. And the moment is as sweet as the corn.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Me and Mr. Buble

...we've got a thing, going on...

My BFF Nicole and I went to see our shared crush, Michael Buble, for his Crazy Love Tour. Lord have mercy. The man can sing. And it doesn't hurt that he's nice to look at.

photo from www.michaelbuble.com

I thoroughly enjoyed the show. The multiple-piece band was outstanding, the singing was amazing, and MB completely entertaining.

What is it about live music? There's something different about being in the same room as a band or a singer, even if it is a huge arena. The vibrations get into you somehow, and it feels like you are part of what's happening. And for a music lover like me, being in a place where there is real musical talent is very life-affirming.

Plus, it's fun to squeal at a heart-throb like a lovesick teenager.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


or, I get high with a little help from my KitchenAid.

I just spent the last 3 hours in the kitchen, and the sights and tastes and scents are unbelievable.

Almost obscenely voluptuous "shady lady" tomatoes.

Tomato pie = heaven

Creamy and silky (ha!) corn puddin'

Spicy and sweet snickerdoodles

Eggy, cheesy, creamy, crispy, juicy, crunchy, spicy, and oh-so-intoxicating. All from scratch with fresh, organic, local ingredients (except for the cookies, which, while homemade, used several well-travelled ingredients such as nutmeg and cinnamon).

I am in love with my food.

Friday, August 20, 2010

90 Years Later

A very important anniversary is taking place this last week. Do you know it? August 20 marks the 90th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."

The right to vote. It's a powerful thing, to be able to cast your vote. To be able to speak up, even symbolically, about what is important and who you want to lead and what issues deserve funding. But recognizing this civil right is only the beginning. Read this article by Carol Peasley to see what else needs to be done. Read the text of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women and educate yourself.

Discrimination is a hellhound that gnaws at Negroes in every waking moment of their lives to remind them that the lie of their inferiority is accepted as truth in the society dominating them. - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Now I say that with cruelty and oppression it is everybody's business to interfere when they see it. -- Anna Sewell

While there is a lower class I am in it, while there is a criminal element I am of it, while there is a soul in prison, I am not free. -- Eugene V. Debs

I asked them why one read in the synagogue service every week the 'I thank thee, O Lord, that I was not born a woman.' "It is not meant in an unfriendly spirit, and it is not intended to degrade and humiliate women" [they said.] But it does, nevertheless. Suppose the service read, 'I thank thee, O Lord, that I was not born a jackass.' Could that be twisted in any way into a compliment to the jackass? - Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. - Martin Luther King, Jr.

What can you do to eliminate discrimination?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Razr scooter of DOOM

Behold the razr scooter:

I'm either too old to be playing with these, or they are from Satan. Last night, mine bronco-bucked me into the gutter. Just where a 37-year-old on her way to a Cookie Lee party wants to end up.
Parents, you have been warned. I will never make fun of another kid in protective gear on one of these again.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Latest Books of Note

Or, what I did this summer.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. This summer was the 50th anniversary of the book, so a good excuse to read it again. I must say - it was better this time than when I was 12. Great story, great characters, great lessons.
  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver. It is not an exaggeration for me to say that this book has changed my life.
  • Some Girls: My Life in a Harem, by Jillian Lauren. What I thought would be trashy lightweight reading a la People or Us magazine turned out to be an insightful, tragic, and informative account of Jillian's experiences. I was moved, and educated.
  • Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison, by Piper Kerman. Eye-opening and fascinating, but not in a sensational way. What I love about Piper's account is how she brings honesty and humanity to her portrayals of the women she met. This book has made me want to help inmates transition back to the outside. But I don't know what to do with that yet.
  • Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson. Non-stop action and adventure. And c'mon, PIRATES.
  • Lady Julia Grey Trio - Silent as the Grave, Silent in the Sanctuary, and Silent on the Moor, by Deanna Rayburn. First of all, deal of the summer - all three of these in a bundle on my kindle for $9.99. Score! Second of all, great escapist books - very Victorian Gothic, very mysterious, very British. Nice break from the every day.
  • Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon. Recommended for years by Mom, finally I'm getting to it. Great read with dashing hero and intelligent heroine, time travel, Scots brogue, history, and lots of sexy bits. What more could you want, I ask you.

What are you reading this summer?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Last of the Free Fridays

Today is my last Friday off. During summer I have a reduced schedule, with a short Thursday and a free Friday. It's been lovely - but honestly? I don't really spend a lot of time out and about doing fun stuff. It seems most of my free Fridays this year have been taken up with errands and housework.

I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to do today. Massage? Road trip? Bookstore? Exploring my city? But a phone call earlier this week settled it.

"Hello, this is Jane from Bloodsource. We are in need of donations from your blood type and wonder if you could come in soon. Please call us to set up an appointment for a life-saving donation."

They made me an offer I couldn't refuse.

So today, it's off to an extravagant breakfast, then a blood donation, then home to rest. Kicking back, an excuse to eat good food and lots of it, and saving lives. Does it get any better?

For more information about donating blood, please see the American Red Cross website. They can help you find a local blood drive or blood donation center. Please consider being a donor - each donation saves multiple lives, and only 8% of those eligible to donate actually do so.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Still here

I've been enjoying a break from the blog lately, but I'm still here. Hope you are taking some time out from your regular activities, too!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Deep-Fried Fun

Summer is not complete without Girls' Night Out at the California State Fair.

BFF's Forever


Jen Lightyear

Corndog and Corn-on-the-Cob


I got the twinkie. So gross, yet so good.

Stuffed and happy BFFs

Monday, July 26, 2010

Power to the People

Today is the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a piece of legislation that ensures the rights of people with disabilities by establishing a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against people with disabilities. The ADA has expanded opportunities for Americans with disabilities by reducing barriers and changing perceptions, increasing full participation in community life.

On the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, I celebrate and recognize the progress that has been made by reaffirming the principles of equality and inclusion and recommitting my efforts to educate and advocate for these principles.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

In the kitchen

Making lasagna with farm box goodies, farmer's market goodies, giveaways from gardens goodies, and whatever else I can toss in.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

In the news

A collection of the latest stories:

What's new in your world?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Denver, the Mile-high City

They should change the nickname to "The Grumpy Waiters and Jaywalking Citizens City." But it doesn't really have the same catchiness.

Just home from a few days in Denver, mostly spent attending conference workshops. However, I would not be me if I didn't squeeze in some adventure while away from home.

16th St. Mall, a pedestrian thoroughfare running through downtown.

Naturally, the adventures included food.

Wiener schnitzel, spaetzle with mushroom gravy, and sauerkraut - Cafe Berlin.

Food of my people.

Tofu and rice noodle bowl, An's Lemongrass Grille.

Mexican chocolate cupcake, Mermaid Bakery and Pie Shop.

Denver omelette, The Delectable Egg

At the airport on the way home, I had another celebrity encounter. (This is getting to be a habit: last year, Alice Cooper was sitting in first class on my flight from Dallas to Louisville. A couple of years ago, Cliff and I saw Kimora Lee Simmons and Djimoun Hounsou at LAX. Before that, we ate lunch at the table next to George Lucas in Downtown Disney, SoCal.) I met the guys from "Ghost Adventures," a travel/paranormal show on the Travel Network. No, I did not take pictures. No, I did not get autographs. You'll just have to take my word for it that they fell at my feet and begged me to grace them with my conversation, and that they asked me where I have been all their life, and.... What? You don't believe me? Oh, all right, we just chatted about their show.

Great city.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Forever a Girl Scout

Or, how to be prepared

I made plans this weekend to prepare my disaster/emergency kit, in case of a, well, disaster or emergency. The world can be pretty unstable what with all the earthquakes, storms, tsunamis, mudslides, river flooding, and all that. And as we discovered a couple of summers ago *, an emergency evacuation doesn't give you time to go through your house and pack things to take with you.

* Exhibit A: when evacuation means get the f%@# out, NOW.

Thus - the disaster kit**. One for me, one for TH, and one for the cat. To be stored by the exit of our home and portable enough to carry on our backs.

**Et voila.

You can't see it, but there is a full change of clothes and pair of shoes, as well as "toilet kit" (ahem), and a space blanket, poncho, and glow stick. Also we each have a flashlight.

Kitty-boy's bag has food, litter, water, and will have a blanket and plastic feeding dishes.

We will also carry copies of important documents (ID, birth certificates, vet info for the cat, etc.) and cash.

For information on how to build your own kit, see this site. The wonderful amazon.com sells many items, if you need help finding them, but for me? I went to Target and spent about $120.00. Many of the items will not go bad, so think of it as an investment. $30 of that went towards a pre-made first aid kit. Considering I live with a nurse and I am First Aid/CPR certified, I figured we will be called upon to give help, and would need a more complete kit***. You can make your own for cheaper.

***Amazing, complete kit for those who dig being extra-prepared.

If you have a medical condition or special needs, that is even more reason to be prepared and have a plan. So get yourself ready, because you never know. Are you feeling overwhelmed? Start small - any preparation is better than none. How about starting with a small bag of food and water? And put a blanket in your car. Most people have that kind of extra stuff just sitting around the house already - just gather it in one place, go to Goodwill and buy a tote or backpack and make a quick kit for yourself. Everyone can be a girl scout.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

I'm just thinkin'.

I am completely fascinated by how people make changes. I've seen this process every day, a million times, in a million ways, in myself and those around me - for decisions big and small. What is interesting to me is this: people have their own timeline, and despite any evidence, observations, commentary, etc., people make changes when they are ready and not a moment sooner.

What fascinates you about people?

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Swimming success story

Yesterday was my first day in the pool. After 15 minutes, I was noodle-legged and out of breath. But happy - I easily swam through two cycles of 2 laps then 12 breaths rest. The next two cycles of the same were tougher, but I got it done. This is better than I expected. And today I feel my muscles, but I am not sore.

Two thumbs up for the summer workout! I will happily substitute this for running, as long as the weather stays in the 80's-100's.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Thoughts on Conflict and Resolution

A couple of weeks ago, I participated in a weeklong training workshop on conflict resolution, focusing on negotiation and mediation. One of the presenters is a professor at Sacramento State and also a mover and shaker in the field of mediation (both internationally and domestically). The other presenter is a lawyer who works primarily in arbitration, mediation, and negotiation. It was intense. Each day was packed with information, role plays, and debriefing. There was barely time for breaks and lunch. It took me until Thursday to finally speak up and negotiate (heh!) a more acceptable arrangement. But I'm glad to have gone through this experience.

Here are a few thoughts from the training:
  • What does conflict mean to you? Can conflict lead to positive outcomes?
  • Conflicts tend to fall into general categories, which often overlap. Conflicts can arise over data (information), values, relationship, behavior, or structure (institution or organization). However, while considering which category the conflict may fall under, one should also be aware of one's own perceptions about these categories and how that may affect the conflict.
  • In resolving conflicts, there are five general responses: avoidance, accommodation, competition, compromise, and collaboration. The focus of this workshop was collaboration.
  • During negotiation, people's true interests are rarely articulated. But if you can understand or empathize with where someone is coming from and what interests they are trying to address, you will be more successful in your negotiation.


I am struck yet again by how important it is to collaborate with each other, and to understand (even minimally) where each of us is coming from, and what is important to us. In every process, in every interaction: community and context are keys to how I function in this world.

Monday, June 28, 2010

You know it's summer in the Valley when...

  • It's 80 degrees. At 7:00 am.
  • The air conditioner doesn't seem to cycle off, and your thermostat is only set at 79.
  • The idea of cooking seems overwhelming.
  • Even if you cooked something, hot food doesn't seem appetizing.
  • You carry a water bottle with you. Everywhere. Even in the house.
  • You want to sit around in your chonies because even your shorts and tank top feel like too much.
  • Your steering wheel is too hot to handle.
  • You park far away from your destination if it means you can park in the shade.

Feel free to add your own "you know's."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

When the going gets hot...

... the hot go swimming.

Now that daytime temperatures are more 90-ish than 70-ish, it's time to move from land to pool. Last year the pool on campus was closed for repair, but this year, it's there for the taking! I found a simple swim plan that starts from scratch. Next it's time for the gear: a swimsuit that can take the chlorine, goggles, and possibly a swim cap.

I am very excited about starting a new exercise routine!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I'm just sayin'.

(Totally unrelated to the training that I'm in this week.)

I just thought of an awesome retort, that I cannot use because a) it comes about 12 hours too late, and b) I am determined to take the high road and not snipe at someone important to those I love.

Dang. It's such a good one, too - the perfect blend of truth, cutting commentary, and clever insult.

Monday, June 14, 2010

In training

It may come as a surprise to some of you, but I do not enjoy conflict. I can handle myself just fine, and I can usually end up with a happy student/colleague/whomever, but I am a quivering mess before, during, and after the confrontation. Occasionally I even end up physically sick. Yet my boss is convinced I have great innate mediation skills and has sent me into battle a few times. So the last couple of years, my performance objectives for the year have included a request for some advanced training in conflict resolution and/or mediation skills.

This year my chance came up! So this week, from 8:30-5:00 every day, I am attending an intense and intensive workshop with 17 other diverse people. There's the school principal, the African nuns, the German journalist who flew in from Chad (Africa) two days ago, the community college staff, the lawyer, and lil old me, among others. We're covering definitions of conflict, types of conflict, negotiation, two days of mediation, and much much much more. I'll try to share some wisdom later this week.

Meanwhile, I've packed my purse with tums and am practicing my yoga breathing to keep the heart rate steady. Wish me luck.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The sky is falling!!

Have you heard? There are nasty solar storms ahead!!

Thanks, yahoo news. Because I really needed more things to worry about.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Political madness

The primaries are Tuesday and there has been mud-slinging on the airwaves for months. TH and I are so sick of political commercials that we have taken to finding excuses to leaving the room when they come on. On the plus side, this means more exercise. On the minus side, most of our excuses involve getting ice cream or other snacks.

Sadly, it seems that it is not enough to discuss positions on issues. No - if one is running for office, one must dig up dirt on one's opponent and spread it around as much as possible, then use polls to see if one must actually flip flop on issues in order to gain points. One must also spend money. Lots of money. Obscene amounts of money. By some accounts, candidate Meg Whitman has spent $90 million so far. $90 million is a lot of moolah. By contrast, when I worked for the state of California in an early intervention program, our total budget was $15 million. We served approximately 125 programs statewide, had a staff of 6 professionals and 15 consultants, and served hundreds of kids, thereby keeping many of them out of trouble and out of more costly programs and services.

Instead of buying elections, what this state really needs is for some of that $90 mill to help fill the gaps. Instead of spreading the bullshit, what the people of California really need is a politician who cares about them by putting the money where it will do the most good - back into community programs and services, education, and support. How far would $90 million go to helping kids in our state? Towards helping people find employment? Towards easing budget cuts to education? Towards easing budget cuts to animal shelters?

"The idea that you can merchandise candidates for high office like breakfast cereal - that you can gather votes like box tops - is... the ultimate indignity to the democratic process." ~Adlai Stevenson, speech, Democratic National Convention, 18 August 1956

Thursday, June 3, 2010

National Doughnut Day

I plan to be high on doughnuts all day tomorrow, so I wanted to post this today. Be sure to celebrate!
National Doughnut Day is recognized on the first Friday in June. It was created in 1938 by the Salvation Army to recognize the women who served doughnuts to soliders during WW I.
ps. Yes, the proper spelling is D-O-U-G-H-N-U-T, not D-O-N-U-T.
pps. Yes, you can get vegan/vegetarian doughnuts. Check your local Whole Foods or google vegan/vegetarian bakeries in your area.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I'm just thinkin'.

You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.
-- Buddha

Is the love you give yourself the same as the love you give to others? Think about it. How many times do you call yourself names, or put yourself down, or belittle your life - and would you do the same to your friend? How can you love yourself more?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

I'm just sayin'.

I wish that advertisers would stop trying to cute-ify yucky stuff. For example - Mr. Mucous in the Mucinex commercials, and now an animated wart in some wart medicine commercial. Really, people. No matter how hard you try...some things are just gross.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Book review: for Jane Austen Addicts

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict & Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, both by Laurie Viera Rigler.

I read Confessions a few years ago, and enjoyed its fanciful premise: a modern-day woman, Courtney, is transported back to Regency England and finds herself trapped in the body and life of a young woman of the time, Jane.
Imagine my delight to find the "sequel," Awakenings, which tells the other side of the story - Jane's experiences in Courtney's life and times. So the stories are a little fluffy, and there's the whole unrealistic time travel aspect. So what? These books are fun diversions and made me look at life in modern America and in Regency England in new ways.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I see a light at the end of the tunnel....

..... I just hope it's not a train.

It's the end of the semester, which means finals week, which means I am swamped with work and essentially do not get to leave my office for the entire workday. But it ends tomorrow at 5:00 pm, and if you listen closely you may hear my celebratory shouts of elation.

My latest grief group ended Sunday after 5 weeks, so that's done. I won't have to lead this again till Fall, so that's a load off.

I have been fighting a cold, struggling with insomnia, and trying to maintain my sanity without my regular exercise regimen. My health feels a little ragged, but I know this weekend I will have a chance to rest.

Take care, blog friends. Hope the next week or so brings you some relief, too.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

An Allergy Haiku

Oh pollen, you bitch
Stay out of my sinuses!
Somebody shoot me.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Personal space. I wants it.

To: People who crowd up next to or behind me in line.

Back off.



Seriously? Crowding me will not make the line go faster. Maintain your distance, at least 12 inches but preferably 24 inches, at all times.

Do you not get it? Let me spell it out for you.
  • If you can move my hair (which is short) with your breath (which is gross), you are too close.
  • If you brush up against my purse (which is held close to my body), you are too close.
  • If by turning my head I could give you cooties, you are too close.
  • If I can smell your deodorant (or lack thereof), you are too close.
  • If by shifting my weight I bump you with my elbow (for which, in all honesty, I don't really feel I should apologize, because I am not the one who caused that unfortunate accident, that is your fault, you rude space-hogging cretin, however MY parents raised a courteous citizen so I beg your pardon), YOU ARE TOO FRICKIN' CLOSE.

I feel I have made my point.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

I want to ride my bicycle!

The past two weekends, TH and I have been riding our bikes around the 'hood. Last weekend it was over to the farmer's market. Today we rode over to our city's Living History Day. I love riding my bike. Besides the fact that it is black with pink flames (sweet!), I love feeling the breeze on my face and hearing the sounds of the world instead of being encased in steel and glass. I love racing with the birds and dragonflies. I love the pull of my quads and hamstrings. Yup, I love riding my bike.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

It's up to us

Yesterday, the Honorable Cruz Reynoso spoke on campus in honor of the Ethnic Studies Department's 40th anniversary. Mr Reynoso has been a leader in civil rights law and has seen a lot of history during his lifespan. His comments were especially important in light of the latest immigration law in Arizona.

Mr. Reynoso spoke in part about the importance of acting against injustice. He said, "when you act on an issue, you can make changes." He spoke about what he refers to as his "justice bone," that part of him that feels the pain of injustice and spurs him to speak up and speak out. He spoke of his life experiences with civil rights, and how he's observed that denial of rights is often caused by fear - fear of "other," fears based on sterotype or pre-judging people, fear of what might happen.

Which is what made me think of Arizona. Here is a place where fear has nudged rational thought out of the spotlight. Immigration is a complex issue, indeed, and I don't pretend to have all the answers. However, I believe the new legislation is creating an environment where people make decisions based on fear - fear of "those people" - fear of what will happen to you if you're brown (whether you are legal or not) - fear of reporting crimes against us, if we are illegal, because we will then be deported - fear of getting help. It is a step in the wrong direction. And we need to speak up and speak out about it, because change is up to us.

My favorite editorialist, Mr. Leonard Pitts, Jr., also has a few things to say about how change happens. People too often feel that "time heals all wounds" and that time will fix social problems. But Mr. Pitts, like Mr. Reynoso, knows that it is people who bring change, people who make choices that lead to social justice.

Justice does not come with tomorrow. It's up to us to bring it forth, with our choices, our words, our lives.

Monday, April 26, 2010

I'm just sayin'.

Can somebody please explain to me why I need to know about the lives of the Kardashian people? I don't get it.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Love your Mother

Happy Earth Day!
This is the only one we've got, so do your part to keep her whole.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Less is the new more

TH and I have been doing fairly well lately, despite the economy being so kooky. Our success is equal parts good luck, hard work, and well-thought-out choices. We are in solid professions and (mostly) live within our means. So we're hoping that we aren't crazy for deciding to reduce TH's hours (thereby reducing his income).

The way I figure it, giving him an extra day off a week will be a win-win-win. He wins by relaxing a little bit, shaking off the work stress, decompressing, and being healthier as a result. I win because he will be more fun to be around, I'll feel better knowing he is less stressed, and he will be at home on a weekday (so we can schedule home business for that day and I won't have to take time away from my job). Our life wins because we are both re-examining our budget, finding ways to tighten the belt, doing more with less, and being smarter about what we spend.

So, I may be less willing to pick up the tab while eating out with the BFFs. I may spend less time buying clothes and shoes. I may be visiting the library or seeking out used bookstores instead of Barnes and Noble. We may eat out less.

But I have no doubt that we will still be just as happy. And that's what really matters.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I'm just thinkin'.

"We may never be strong enough to be entirely nonviolent in thought, word and deed. But we must keep nonviolence as our goal and make strong progress towards it." - Gandhi

How do I let violence slip into my daily life? What would it mean to be non-violent in thought and word as well as deed?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Song of the Day

Through the corridors of sleep
Past the shadows dark and deep
My mind dances and leaps in confusion.
I don't know what is real,
I can't touch what I feel
And I hide behind the shield of my illusion.

So I'll continue to continue
to pretend
My life will never end,
And flowers never bend
With the rainfall.

The mirror on my wall
Casts an image dark and small
But I'm not sure at all it's my reflection.
I am blinded by the light
Of God and truth and right
And I wander in the night without direction.

So I'll continue to continue
to pretend
My life will never end,
And flowers never bend
With the rainfall.

It's no matter if you're born
To play the King or pawn
For the line is thinly drawn
'tween joy and sorrow,
So my fantasy
Becomes reality,
And I must be what I must be
and face tomorrow.

So I'll continue to continue
to pretend
My life will never end,
And flowers never bend
With the rainfall.

(Flowers never Bend with the Rainfall, Paul Simon)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Lenten sacrifice report

Since Easter has passed, all self-imposed Lenten restrictions are off. In other words - I CAN BUY BOOKS AGAIN!!!!! I can't tell you how many of my friends assumed that I ran straight to a bookstore after church on Sunday to binge. But I didn't feel like it. And I haven't felt the urge to buy an armful of books. But I did need to get a copy of my book club's next selection. So I went to the bookstore today, found the book I needed, and did a little browsing. And only bought one book.

Yes. One.

I realized that one was enough. And that there is a used book sale coming up that I want to go to. And that while many of the books looked good, none looked like ones I really wanted to read. And so while my hands felt strangely light leaving with only one book, my spirit felt lighter still.

Monday, April 5, 2010

All this beauty

For the beauty of the earth,
For the beauty of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies,
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our grateful hymn of praise.
For the beauty of each hour
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale, and tree and flower,
Sun and moon and stars of light,
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our grateful hymn of praise.
For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth, and friends above,
Pleasures pure and undefiled,
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our grateful hymn of praise.
For each perfect gift of thine,
To our race so freely given,
Graces human and divine,
Flowers of earth and buds of heaven,
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our grateful hymn of praise.
For thyself, best Gift Divine,
to the world so freely given,
for that great, great love of thine,
peace on earth, and joy in heaven:
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

(Traditional Christian hymn. Text: Folliot S. Pierpoint)

Happy Easter.

Friday, April 2, 2010


(Latin for shadows, darkness)

Today is Good Friday. In many Christian churches, this day brings a tenebrae service to commemorate the crucifixion of Christ and the day of darkness following his death.

It's also a reminder to me of how things don't stay static: grief precedes enlightenment, death precedes life, winter precedes spring, and life itself is cyclical in nature.

See you on the other side.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Another reason to love wine

Several months ago I was wondering how to cook spinach without the bitter flavor. I discovered one way - add some white wine to your onion and garlic and olive oil saute.


Friday, March 26, 2010

I'm just sayin'.

Chocolate doughnuts + vanilla lattes = happy (but somewhat spazzed) me.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Jenni, Jenni quite contrary....

...How does your garden grow?

With skinned knuckles, a ton of potting mix, dirty fingernails, a spiritual connection to the master gardeners of my matriarchal line, and lots of beautiful living things.



Bougainvillaea, phlox, marigolds, petunias, and ranunculus. I think our lemon tree hasn't quite given up yet - there is new growth!!

Close-up on ranunculus, a flower whose name does not capture its charm.

Broom, marigolds, and blue ground-cover-thing-whose-name-I-already-forgot.

I am not known for my gardening skills (matriarchal line notwithstanding), so this is a bold act of courage. At the very least, it's pretty. And so comes Spring!