30 March 2011

Words, Words, Words

Every week I give my students SAT prep vocabulary words for homework.  Lately, I’ve been assigning words like “halcyon,” “bucolic,” and “nostalgia.”  Hmmm.  Is my subconscious trying to tell me something?  Am I feeling the sentimental pull of days gone by?  A wistful yearning for the rural backdrop of my upbringing? Is it time to pay a visit to that place I once called home? 

Perhaps it’s because spring seemed to take SO long to push her way up through the earth this year, that I’ve been reminiscing about childhood seasons and the traditions I’ve left behind. And while it has never topped my list of holiday favorites, I do have many fond memories of springs and Easters past.  Perhaps, in the retrospective conjuring of those carefree days, I have also stirred some still and quiet longing for the way things used to be.

My trip down Easter’s “memory lane” alights on these vignettes:

--Dyeing eggs with my sister (who, by the way, cannot STAND the smell of vinegar—always fun to taunt her with it). Each of us would gently, oh so carefully, scrawl our names on an egg with the magical wax crayon and watch with delight as it appeared through the colored dye.  Our own egg was special, and absolutely off limits to each other during the egg hunt on Easter Sunday.

--The year the back yard was turned into an eggshell mosaic.  Our beloved dog Duke evidently decided that hardboiled eggs were quite delicious and that some nice person must have left the pretty orbs outside as a holiday treat for him. Brightly colored egg shell pieces were everywhere.  I thought my mother was going to cry, but we salvaged the day and made the most of it anyway.  I collected all the lovely egg shells in a glass mason jar and amused myself with my homemade kaleidoscope for the rest of the day.

--The year it snowed—on Easter.  What was the Bunny to do? (I should note that we were living in Montana at the time and snow in March or April is not altogether unheard of).  My resilient parents decided to hide our eggs inside the house that year and kept their fingers tightly crossed that we would find them all.  Can you imagine if we hadn’t!?

--Our Easter Bunny House baskets. Shaped like an Easter cottage, with a removable roof for viewing, these baskets/houses were the best of traditions.  Different rooms, with different bunny scenarios, each held different candies (along with the plastic grass that would be stuck inside the vacuum cleaner and found in random places for months after).  When the morning’s festivities concluded, the decorated eggs found and the marshmallow peeps all eaten, my sister and I would continue to entertain ourselves for hours—with nothing but our own imaginations and the brightly colored cottages that appeared for just one day every spring.

I was blessed with an amazing childhood.  Not a moment of it--no scraped knee or science project, no meatloaf dinner or Monday night dish duty--would I trade.  I had parents who loved me and disciplined me, a comical and spunky little sister for a sidekick, and an abundance of happy days, holidays included.

Which gets me thinking:  Maybe the really important vocabulary words aren’t ones that can be found in an SAT prep guide or the footnotes of a textbook.  And while words like “pastoral” and “magnanimous” and “lucrative” are certainly all good to know, maybe, when you come right down to it, the words that matter most in life are the ones like family, tradition, and love.


Today's Gratitude List:
  • the smell of newly cut grass
  • weather nice enough for margaritas
  • flip-flops and hoodies
  • singing in the shower


29 March 2011

A Study of Spring

Remember that old adage about March?  In like a lion, out like a lamb...
Well here's the lamb, folks.  Make sure you take some time to enjoy it!

Lovely California poppies!

Some cute chicks out for a ride.

Delightful daffodils,

and tulips,

and beautiful blossoms everywhere I look!

Go ahead and smile!

Today's Gratitude List:
  • nine hours of sleep last night
  • fantastic colleagues who make me laugh
  • leftovers!
  • a sister who randomly texts me very sweet messages

26 March 2011

Gathering Rosebuds

The sun came out today. Came out and stayed out.  Oh you beautiful rays of vitamin D—how I have missed thee! The past few weeks have been nothing but wet.  Don’t get me wrong—I appreciate rainy days.  I even sometimes relish them, languish in them.  I use them as an excuse to remain in my favorite pajamas (the pair of blue flannels with beret-wearing Parisian cats) and read trashy romance/zombie/vampire novels. 

But one can only do that for so many days in a row (and for so many trashy novels), before one starts to feel a little…




Cabin-fever sets in.  I start to pace, caged within the walls of water, and wonder if perhaps Noah had the right idea.  Let’s pack up the animals and get the heck out of here!  What?  I thought YOU were going to build the ark…damn.

But then, oh happy day, that “glorious lamp of heaven” graced us with her presence.  I traded cozy flannels for cozy sweats (it is Saturday, after all), crossed the threshold of my home, sidestepped the puddles beyond my door, and ventured out into the world!

I didn’t go far--a quick trip to the bank and then on to Trader Joes. But I felt revitalized.  Awakened.  Hungry.

I came. I saw. I bought groceries! 

Apparently a lot of other people had the same idea.  Cars still dripping with raindrops bustled into town.  Parking lots filled with pale, sun-deprived shoppers. Businesses threw open their doors to cautiously optimistic consumers.  Suddenly Robert Herrick’s famous line “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may” translated into “Quick!  Everyone go get your errands done before it rains again!”

Still, I felt triumphant.  I greeted the world and she sent sunny salutations back.  I’ll take that as a sign: Arc no longer needed and “while ye may, go marry.”

Today's Gratitude List:
  • a new shipment of books to read (thanks Mr. Postman!)
  • my wonderfully supportive family
  • a (mostly) growth mindset
  • my blue flannel jammies
  • socks!


23 March 2011

Whimsical Graffiti

Today I was assaulted with graffiti.  And I smiled. 

Not the reaction one would expect, but this particular act of vandalism was so whimsical, I couldn't help myself. 

There at my intersection, boldly ornamenting a county utility box, was the fanciful proclamation that "Unicorns R Real," creative spelling and heart symbol punctuation included.

I grinned and shook my head, amused, before turning down the street.  I wondered what spray-painting sprite could be responsible for this morning's magic.  In a world lately grown so accustomed to mess and misfortune, it's comforting to know that there are people still eager to spread some joy. 

I am once again reminded of the unparalleled charm of my community.  From artist colonies, to Buddhist temples, banana slugs to begonia festivals, this pocket of the left coast is fearlessly weird, resolutely open-minded, and absolutely whimsically wonderful.

And while, yes, I am quite aware that unicorns are not actually real (please, don't shun the non-believer!), I DO appreciate the cheer-inducing message that greeted me today.  I can only thank the person who left it there and hope that a little more of that kind of magic will find its way into my life a little more often.  And that is positively something worth believing in!

Today's Gratitude List:
  • bagels and sun dried tomato cream cheese-yum!
  • pretty candles, for power outages AND ambiance :)
  • the nostalgic sound of train whistles
  • the silly Molly cat who tries to climb on my lap every time I'm typing
  • hugs from my sweetheart-always safe and warm

20 March 2011

Mudluscious and Puddle-wonderful

Into every life a little rain must fall...and fall...and fall... 

It seems like the central coast has had its fair share of interesting weather these days.  From heavy downpours to high tide advisories, hail and thunderstorms to tsunami warnings and even snow, it would seem that mother nature is putting on one hell of a show for us.  Well, if she wants my attention, she's certainly got it now.

We had a simply amazing storm last night.  The wind howled.  The windows rattled. Corpulent rain drops hurled themselves at our outer walls and ricocheted down rain gutters.  I worried that our giant eucalyptus tree would be lifted from its earthly bed while I, unashamedly, cowered in mine.  It was a truly magnificent and awe-inspiring display of power.

And yet, today for a brief moment there was a calming, a clearing of skies, a patch of blue between the clouds. People poked their heads out of doors and smiled, dogs paraded their owners, children splashed on sidewalks and pondered the formation of rainbows.  The world really was mudluscious and puddle-wonderful.  And weeeeeeee.

And then...Splat... Drip... Plink.    Nimbus ambles in.

Ready the umbrellas! Line up the galoshes! Prepare the hot cocoa! For friend, the earth is thirsty and the heavens are accommodating.

Today's Gratitude List:
  • Clean, warm laundry-love that smell!
  • Earl Grey tea, with honey!
  • Electricity and central heating
  • Sunday mornings and sleeping in

16 March 2011

Jumping the Fire

It's a new day. 

I do some of my best thinking during my commutes to and from work.  Thirty-five minutes (on a good day) of just me and the corolla, navigating the beautiful curves and crests of the Santa Cruz mountains. 

I have my rituals.  Trusty travel-mug of coffee at my side and lunch bag occupying the passenger seat, I check my make-up in the rear view mirror.  I scrunch my still-wet hair a few times before tuning in to hear the traffic report and celebrity gossip from my local radio station. In a few minutes my mind wanders... I am on auto pilot.  I've driven this road so many times, she feels like an old friend.  I start ticking off my agenda for the day, visualizing my carefully planned lessons and anticipating potential problems or things I may have forgotten. 

Somewhere near the summit, my mind returns to its task.  I lose my radio station to static and slow down for the descent toward Los Gatos.  I switch over to ALICE 97.3, a popular bay area station, to hear if Sarah and Vinnie have anything raunchy to say.  I'm starting to wake up now, the commute half over. 

Today the DJs announce that it is the start of the Persian New Year, called NoRuz, which means "New Day."  Residents of Berkeley were out in full force last night to kick off the celebration.  I listen as they describe the events.  Apparently, it is a long standing tradition, for young and old alike, to "jump the fire" at the beginning of the New Year festivities.  When a person jumps the fire, they let go of last year's woes.  They "burn" the past and leave it behind them.  The fire takes it all away and they are able to begin anew. 

I am fascinated and inspired. I start to think of woes I could give to the fire. One by one, I imagine letting them go as I leap above the flames. Heated amber tongues consume my worries.  It is so simple, so symbolic, and so very cathartic. The year begins with Spring--when the world is blooming and winter cares are shed. I find myself envious of the Persians and their beautiful tradition. I contemplate changing my calendar.

As I exit onto the side-streets near the school,  I am somehow lighter than when I left the house.  The thirty-five minutes have gone by in a blur and I am ready.  Ready for Wednesday.  Ready for Spring.  Ready for the new year.

Ready to jump the fire.

Today's Gratitude List:
  • cupcakes from a sweet student
  • yoga pants (especially after eating above cupcakes)
  • my diverse and beautiful community

14 March 2011

Of Rainy Days and Mondays

Mornings are rough for many people, myself included.

My first alarm clock goes off promptly at 6:00 a.m. It's the same small, battery-operated model I've kept since my high school days. It fits nicely in the palm of my hand so that, depending on my mood, I can clutch it to me beneath the covers to muffle the sound and hit the snooze, or hurl it violently across the room in a show of very mature protest.

My second alarm clock begins to wail at approximately 6:01. She, unlike my ol' reliable clock, does not include a snooze button and would certainly object, and rather loudly I imagine, to being thrown anywhere. She is fuzzy and hungry and impatient. I call her Molly Kittenclaws and, as second alarms go, she's a pretty efficient one.

Today, though, today was especially difficult. The time change on Sunday throws everyone off. Statistically, it is the worst day of the year to commute. We groggy working folk pull ourselves out of bed at what seems to be an ungodly hour, an hour before our brains are even ready to think about waking up, drown our sorrows in giant mugs of coffee, and head out to face the day. In the dark. On a Monday.

What's this? It's raining, too? Sigh.

These tired and drizzly days, however, are the ones that show us our true character. It's EASY to whistle and smile and offer kindness to others when the sun is shining and the birds are singing, when it isn't a Monday, or you haven't lost an hour of sleep, when you aren't driving to work in the dark on a slick stretch of congested highway. But what would that tell us about ourselves?

It's THESE days-- days when I am especially tired, when the demands of work and home are an ever-present ringing in my ears, when Molly Kittenclaws is demanding her kibble in an unnatural octave, when all I want to do is cover my head with blankets and wait for Tuesday-- these are the days that show me what I'm truly capable of: perseverance, dedication, optimism, strength, humor, and gratitude.

Today's Gratitude List:
  • mmmmm...coffee :) always, coffee
  • the duck that waddled up outside my classroom today and decided to quack at me (the rain brings so many interesting things!)
  • the tulips and daffodils in full bloom outside the front office
  • a safe journey to and from work today (no tsunami warnings! yay!)
  • good books and good company
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