27 May 2011

Remembering Recess

As children we lived from recess to recess.  The monotony of multiplication tables and world geography was tolerable only because we were rewarded with twenty to thirty minutes of glorious freedom on the playground.

When the bell sounded we would hurriedly divide ourselves into kick-ball teams and race each other to the big field behind the blacktop basketball courts.  In a heated game dust would fly up in the wake of powerful runners, leaving behind a cloud of anticipation for the eager faced spectators. 

"Is he out?  Where's the ball?"...

Marbles were played on the lawn that sloped down from the third grade building.  If we were lucky and the groundskeeper had mowed the lawn recently, there would be delicate mounds of cut grass scattered about the area.  The heavy marbles would roll-crashing into the clumps like Zeus' lightening bolt-destroying the perfect knolls, grass particles sailing in all directions.

*Marble playing was restricted a few years later when two fifth grade boys got into a rowdy fist fight over whose steely was whose.  Their names are long forgotten, but the legacy continues.

Ah, recess.  I'm longing for a little slice of that childhood heaven.  Play time.  Free time.  What a wonderful concept.  What would you do with that glorious break in the day?

26 May 2011

Mirror Mirror

Mirror Mirror on the wall,
Who’s the fairest of them all?

When you gaze into the mirror each day, who greets you in return?  Is she friend or is she foe? 

According to a recent (March 2011) survey by Glamour Magazine (ironic?) most women have an average of 13 negative thoughts per day regarding their body.  Think about it—when you and your pals are snapping photos at a fun event, do you immediately check the LCD display to see if you looked “good”? Do you demand that your friend delete the picture if you don’t?  When you pass by large shop windows, do you check your reflection, zoning in specifically on those “trouble spots” that you constantly fret about?  Do you pull and tug at your skin every morning, wondering what just a little “nip and tuck” would do?

Let’s face it: We are our own worst enemies.  And all of that negativity is bound to add up -often with unhealthy consequences.  There is plenty of research out there connecting negative body image to stress, depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, eating disorders and more.  In effect, a negative body image can lead to--well, a negative body.

The Evil Queen in Snow White may actually have had the right idea (sort of).  But whereas she had a magic mirror to boost her ego on a regular basis, we only have ourselves.  It’s up to us to provide the “magic.” 

I’ve seen a lot of blog posts lately by mothers wanting to instill a positive self-image in their young daughters.  I would agree that in this world of constantly streaming media pressure, the message of self-acceptance is of utmost necessity. Often times the best method of teaching is modeling.  And while I don’t have daughters of my own, I am a role model to my students—a job I take very seriously.  What messages am I sending them?

Ask yourself: How many times did you criticize yourself today?  And what good did it do? Probably none.  I’m not perfect, not in any sense of the word, but I am pledging to make a conscious effort to not think or speak ill of myself.  Life is far too short for that kind of pessimism.  And at the end of it all, I know I’ll regret having spent so much time on such silly scrutiny, especially when I could have been enjoying this wild journey and the skin I’m in.

 Saying No to Negativity,

Today's Gratitude List:
  • refreshing glasses of ice water
  • Burt Bee's Extra Energizing Citrus and Ginger Root body wash
  • Tobie, an inspirational teacher and friend

blog hop at Diminishing Lucy!

23 May 2011

Lessons from My Cat

In the two years since I adopted Molly Kittenclaws from our local SPCA, my affection for her has grown exponentially.  Oh, I knew right away that I would love her, I just didn’t realize how much I would love her - how I would look forward to seeing her furry little face greet me every morning, how I would love to snuggle with her after work on a wintery day, how her feline antics would induce laughter out of me in even my crummiest of moods.  When other people brandish smartphone photos of their adorable offspring, I proudly display my Molly pictures, like any proud mommy would.  Yes, I’m THAT person.  Crazy cat lady.
I understand why people with furry companions live longer, healthier lives.  In just the short time Molly has graced me with her presence (because SHE chose me, not the other way around), I have already learned so much.  Take this afternoon, for example.  In the midst of yet another grading marathon (picture me surrounded by heaps of papers, hunched over the coffee table, punching scores into the digital gradebook on my laptop) Molly decides to leap into my lap, curl herself into a ball, and purr herself to sleep.   Instead of getting annoyed with her, which is impossible because she’s just too cute, I decided to recognize Molly’s infinite cat wisdom.  Yes Molly, you’re right.  I need a break. Thank you for reminding me to slow down and enjoy the moment.
Here are a few other important lessons I’ve learned from my cat:
1.       Reserve trust for those who have earned it.  Then, and only then, can you show them your tummy.  No trust, no tummy.
2.       If at first you don’t succeed, meow meow again.  The squeaky wheel gets the grease, so whether it’s kibble you desire, or that all important ear nuzzle, make sure your demands are clearly heard and acknowledged.
3.       Shiny objects = happiness.  When a shiny object catches your eye, appropriate protocol is to collect said object and hide it under your blanket.  This will later provide hours of entertainment and joy, as well as make other kitties jealous of your hoard.
4.       Always take the higher ground.  There is no need to lower oneself like a commoner.  Whenever possible, avoid travelling via the floor and opt to traipse over the chairs, couches, and tables instead.  Not only will you reach your destination faster, but you will feel taller and more superior.
5.       Never miss an opportunity to nap.  A good nap can occur at any time of the day, and in almost any location.  Of course soft, squishy, and sunny places are preferable but when one is sleepy, any cozy corner will do.
It’s no secret that our lives are enriched and improved by our pets.  From lower blood pressure to increased opportunities for socialization, we gain just as much from them as they do from us.  And, at the risk of sounding like that crazy cat lady again, I honestly can’t imagine a world without Molly.  I know she will be an important part of my life for many years to come, as a companion and as a teacher, of all things furry and all things Zen.
My Little Helper

Today's Gratitude List:
  • greek yogurt
  • an uncrowded grocery store
  • a stack of graded papers
  • beautiful puffy clouds and blue sky
Blog hop at Life in a Pink Fibro!

21 May 2011

The Importance of Gal Pals

I love men.  I love their directness and testosterone driven senses of humor, their hoots and guffaws.  I love their unique ways of interpreting a conversation (especially if it pertains to doing the dishes or picking up something from the grocery), their lack of analytical skills (as opposed to our superior female ones), and their powers of observation (boobs, bigger boobs, food).  I love that when a man says “I’m fine,” he really is. No deciphering of hidden meanings or complex definitions.  It’s truly refreshing.

And, all jokes aside, I absolutely love spending time with my sweetheart, The Big Guy.  He completes me (blush).  But he doesn’t always get me.  It’s not his fault – I mean he IS from Mars, after all. 
Hence the need for gal pals and that all too rare event called “girl time.”  The Big Guy is wonderful, he is my love, but he is perplexed by my sudden, and ravenous, cravings for chocolate.  My girlfriends understand.  When I am standing on tip toe, craning my not-so-limber self into positions of acrobatic proportions  to reach the remaining third of a Hershey’s Chocolate bar, left over from last year’s camping trip, in the back of the cupboard, I feel them willing me their support.  My gals know that this is, in fact, a crisis and that their collective powers of sisterly love must bolster me in my time of need. 
Tonight a covey of us will descend upon San Francisco in a celebration of…well, ourselves.  We will be fabulous today, dolled up and dangerous.  I have my outfit and accessories laid out and ready. The Big Guy can’t begin to fathom why sneakers are not the appropriate footwear for a night out on the town:
 “But you’ll be walking a lot, and you’ll be more comfortable.” 
“I know, but I won’t be cute. I have to wear the purple heels.” 
“Being cute is more important than being comfortable?”
“But none of you are single-who are you trying to impress?”
“Each other, of course!  Women really only dress up for other women.”
“You’re going to get blisters.”
“I know.”
“I don’t understand women.”  He shakes his head and walks away.  Poor guy.
I am excited.  I may be a bit biased, but I have some AMAZING friends.  Rachelle is a brilliant photographer (see her website listed under my favorites), Molli has a booming cake-decorating business – in addition to her already established card and invitation web-store, Tobie is a rockstar (how she manages teaching, raising three kids, and performing weekend gigs with her band, I’ll never know), and Dawn is a world traveller, breezing in and out of our lives, regaling us with stories of exotic places and her inspiring adventures.  Of course, my favorite among this evening’s party is my own sister, Dana.  A successful San Francisco business woman in her own right, she is not only our benevolent guide tonight but also the dearest friend I will ever have.  Any moment spent with her is sure to be a great one.
Ah, girl time!  I am looking forward to an evening of fine dining, amusing discourse, camaraderie, laughter, dancing, pretty cocktails and –of course-cute shoes. 

Here’s to good friends and good fun!

Today's Gratitude List:
  • chocolate, mustn't forget the chocolate!
  • it's not the end of the world :)
  • leisurely Saturday morning

18 May 2011


"It is not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, 'What are we busy about?'"
 Henry David Thoreau

I admit it: I am an agenda-loving kind of gal.  I like to know what my day will consist of even before  I sweep aside the bed covers or plant my pink painted toenails on the carpet.  I theorize that this must be a direct result of my twelve years as an educator.  Teachers become the ultimate time-keepers.  We plan, we budget, we assess, we adjust, we monitor.  We are the hyper-vigilant clock watchers and the conductor of each educational journey.  The agenda must be sound!

Lately, however, I have begun to questions my priorities.  Oh, not in the classroom, but outside of that chronometrical institution.  The rest of my day is sometimes alarmingly disorganized! And when  I find myself faced with far too many unchecked items on my To-Do list, I begin to make bad decisions, such as:

"I don't have time to exercise today- I need to get this laundry done."

"I should return my best friend's call, but I really have to clean out the refrigerator and then vacuum the living room."

"I'd really like to write for pleasure today but I should be grading these papers and working on next year's curriculum instead."

"I don't have time to cook something decent for dinner, so I'll have this microwavable something-or-other that probably has too much sodium and too many calories."

See what I mean?  These are some piss-poor priorities and I'm calling myself out on them.  When did I become such a slave to my household chores and protracted work assignments?  Did I really just put off calling my best friend?  Is there no room on my all-important To-Do list for a little exercise and a healthy home-cooked dinner?  Something is rotten in the state of Denmark California, my friends.  This can continue no longer.  Thoreau was right--it isn't enough to be busy.  Any blockhead can be busy.  I want my minutes to count for something, to be meaningful, to send me to sleep with a smile and a sense of satisfaction. 

Did I laugh today? 
Did I make some one else laugh? 
Was I a good friend? 
Did I treat myself right today? 
Did I do something fulfilling? 

This is how my To-Do list should read.  This is an agenda to be proud of -worthy of gold stars and smiley faces.  And tomorrow, when my feet hit the floor, I will already be excited to execute my tasks and tally-up my accomplishments.  I will be busy about the things that matter and mindful of the things that don't.

Many smiles,

Today's Gratitude List:
  • flash-mob at the faculty meeting- such fun!
  • salmon
  • sunshine peeping through the rain clouds
  • may flowers

16 May 2011

A Made Bed

I LOVE coming home to a clean house.  The only problem is that that rarely happens.  I’m not even really sure why—I mean, it seems like I’m ALWAYS cleaning.  So, who keeps messing up my house?!  Is Molly Kittenclaws throwing raging cat-nip parties while I’m at work?  Are tiny mess-making fairies running amuck as I sleep?  It remains an unsolved mystery.

But this afternoon, at least, one room was still orderly upon my return.  Miraculously, I awoke 10 minutes before my alarm sounded this morning.  Those precious spare moments afforded me time not only to languish over my morning coffee, but also gave me just the extra minute I needed to make the bed -something so simple, yet rarely achieved in my weekday rush to work.

3:30 pm. High heels dangling from one hand, my cardigan in the other, I tiredly pushed my way into the master bedroom.  The sun is shining through the blinds, the birds are singing, the furniture shines, and the bed—the bed is beautiful!   The duvet is crisp, the pillows are fluffed, and the sheets are neatly folded at the border. 

Bear with me, I’m having a moment here. Do you hear singing?  I do. 

I forget the dirty dishes in the kitchen sink, am unfazed by Molly’s feather-toy on the stairwell landing and the pile of size 14 man shoes that have accumulated by the front door.  I can’t be bothered with laundry that needs folding or the sorting of mail.

I just want to stand here and look at the made bed and smile.  Ahhhhh…gratitude.  It really is the little things.

*Photo not my actual bed (but I wish it was!)

Blog Hop at Maxabella Loves...
Today's Gratitude List:
  • My fabulous weekend at Disneyland with my sister
  • A great first day of senior presentations
  • A walk in the rain with my sweetheart
  • An unexpected sunflower

11 May 2011

What's My Motivation?

This is my doormat.  And this is the message that greets me each day as I enter and exit my humble abode:  Live, Laugh, Love.  We've seen it before - on placards and knickknacks, bric-a-brac and fridge art.  It's good to surround oneself with positivity.  But if, in the hustle and bustle of life's interminable duties and chores, we forget to notice these encouraging reinforcements - well then, the message is hollow.

Which brings me to my most recent rumination: the concept of wellness.  Perhaps you heard of the six dimensions of wellness? 

The National Wellness Institute touts the benefits of a balanced life, which includes:
  • intellectual (check!)
  • emotional (check!)
  • social (check!)
  • occupational (check!)
  • spiritual (check!) and
  • physical wellness (um.....uh oh.)

Well, five out of six isn't bad, is it?  Sigh. Okay, I know.  I've got some work to do.  But what does it mean to be physically well?  And where the heck is my motivation?   I seem to have misplaced it somewhere.

I was a scrawny child, all knees and elbows.  I never gave a second thought to wellness and though I was never a fan of exercise or sports (I really really dislike sweating), it never really mattered before. 

That was then, this is now. 

The advent of my recent birthday has caused me to reflect.  I'm in my MID thirties now.  My body has CHANGED.  My once fast-as-lightening metabolism has all but abandoned me and I am scrambling to maintain my dress size.  But even more disconcerting is my family's long history of heart disease and stroke.  It occurs to me that life is fragile, and so precious.  I truly want to be around for another 35 years and, as my insightful sister pointed out, I need to begin to "prepare my old lady self" now. What kind of 70 year old do I want to be?  The housebound, achy, and miserable kind? Or the spunky, chase-the-pool-boy-around-the-yard kind?  My vote is for the latter.

Hmmmm...I may have just found my motivation.

So what comes next?  Well, I'm not going to make resolutions or empty promises, but I AM going to be aware of my physical wellness (do I eat a balanced diet, get enough exercise, and have regular medical checkups?) and I will continue to have that conversation with 70 year old Niki, to see how she's getting on.  I would certainly hate to miss the opportunity to get to know her - she sounds like quite a gal!
image by abarrett07 on Photobucket

To our health,

Today's Gratitude List:
  • my fabulous sister
  • no after-work meetings
  • finding Molly pawprints in misc. places

Blog Hop at Diminishing Lucy!

09 May 2011

A Feast for Eyes

My friends tease me because I post pictures of food on my Facebook page.  I can’t help it.  Good food is a work of art.  I get genuinely excited about really delicious nom-noms-the more colorful the better. Take this picture for example. These are the fixings for fresh guacamole- a warm weather celebration of flavor:

What’s not to love about such gorgeous ingredients?  And most of these were purchased at my newly-discovered paradise: the Aptos Farmer’s Market.  Locally grown AND delicious!

I’ll have to warn my friends. My obsession with foodie photography will only worsen as we move into the summer months and I suddenly find myself with more time on my hands.  It happens every year.  The sunny weather, less demanding schedule, and abundance of fresh ingredients, are too much to resist.  I hear the siren call of succulent fare and I am swept away!
Last year I was especially proud of this EASY plum tart:

  1. Place 1 thawed puff pastry sheet (half of a 17.3-ounce package) on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  2. Using the tip of a knife, score a 1-inch border around the pastry without cutting all the way through. Scatter 3 thinly sliced red plums within the border and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake at 375° F until the edges of the dough are golden and crisp, 30 to 35 minutes. Serves 4.       
                                      By Kate Merker and Sara Quessenberry, August 2010

Only three ingredients but so yummy!  Perfect for an impromptu brunch or afternoon tea with the ladies.
I also love pouring over a new cookbook every once in a while and spending a few weeks trying out the recipes that catch my eye.  My sweetheart picked this one up for me (uh huh, he’s clever that one—knew if he gave me a cookbook that he would soon reap the rewards of home cooking!):

I tried out several of the recipes, including the cucumber and salmon bites and the crabbed stuffed mushrooms, shown here. 

Some of the recipes were more complicated than others, but I have a feeling I’m up for the challenge this year.   This cookbook hasn’t seen the last of me! And as for my Facebook friends—well, sorry pals, you haven’t seen the last of my photos.  

Today's Gratitude List
  • an easy Monday at work
  • patient colleagues
  • leftover ice cream cake
  • books, books, books
  • my favorite pillow

07 May 2011

For Mama

Portrait of My Mother
Her hands
Held up the world for me.
“This, you see? This is for you.”
She said.
And I believed her.  
For those were the hands that mended,
And mollified.
My mother’s hands could never lie. 

Her arms
Embraced the whole of me
“All of you is perfect.”
She said.
And I believed her.
For those were the arms that cradled,
And cured.
My mother’s arms were always open.

Her smile
Dissolved all doubt for me
“You can do anything.”
She said.
And I believed her.
For that was the smile that attended,
And applauded.
My mother’s smile would never wane.

I noticed.
I always did. 
When she wasn’t looking—
Her hands, her arms, her smile –
I noticed and I loved,
As only a child can love
As only a child can observe
The portrait of
An angel.

by Niki Hudson, 2011

Me and Mom 2006 (during my experimental hair-coloring stage!)

Happy Mother's Day,

Today's Gratitude List:
  • leisurely weekends
  • strawberries
  • my new rosemary and mint conditioner--ahhhhh!
  • other peoples' blogs - had so much fun reading through them this morning!
  • new recipes to try: linguine with roasted asparagus (see www.finecooking.com) Yum!

05 May 2011

The Coin of Life

"Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you."  Carl Sandburg

Ah, Time.  Today I lamented my lack of it.  It seems- like dark chocolate, red wine, or cute shoes-I can never get enough.  I wasted a good deal of time this afternoon, in fact, calculating that I need more time.  Two hours more, to be precise. 

What would I do with two additional hours?  Perhaps I would pumice my heels and treat myself to an avocado and cucumber home facial. (There's never time for that.) Maybe I'd organize the nightmare that is my linen closet or finally get around to cleaning out my filing cabinet.  I could vacuum the couch cushions or polish my jewelry. Shampoo the carpet or wash the mini-blinds. Hmmm...I would have time to bake something or start a new scrapbook, or perhaps I could sort through the clothes I no longer wear and donate them to charity. I could straighten out, or at least dust, my bookshelves or rearrange my junk drawer.  Perhaps I could find the mates to partner-less socks or sew the missing buttons back on to my coat. With two more hours the possibilities are endless!  I could accomplish so much!

Just two more hours...sigh.

Today, I taught a full day's worth of sophomore English (including new vocabulary, literature circle meetings, a discussion on satire, and a reading from Bradbury's The Illustrated Man). I graded papers, planned curriculum, made copies, and sent important emails to colleagues.  I went to the pet store, got gas, cleaned the kitty litter box, did the dishes, washed and folded a load of laundry, made dinner, and went for a walk.  Soon I will pack my lunch for tomorrow, prepare my wardrobe, and set the coffee to auto-brew in the morning.  Molly will be fed, the kitchen will be tidied, and the living room set to right.  I will trudge up the stairs, wash my face and head to bed, where I will eek out a half an hour to read before falling asleep, exhausted.

I shouldn't complain, I know.  I really have no right.  I had time to write this, after all. And while I do have a sweetheart and a cat, who both seem to require an enormous amount of my attention, I don't have children.  I am simply AMAZED by all the mothers out there.  If I can barely find the time to get things done, how on earth to YOU do it?  I can only imagine what you ladies would do with two more hours.

Alas!  I have at least six clocks in my home and I have been unable to coerce any of them into giving me those precious additional hours.  Ever forward they march, and so ever forward I go.   No sense in dwelling. As Plutarch said,  "The whole life of man is but a point of time; let us enjoy it."  If twenty four hours is all I'm given on this day to spend, then so be it.  I will spend them wisely and spend them well.  I will spend them thankful and leave off lamenting what could have been.  It was enough.  And I am happy.   

Until next time (hee hee), 

Today's Gratitude List:
  • open windows
  • birdsong
  • fabric softener
  • ice cream

02 May 2011

A May Day Birthday

 Yesterday I celebrated my 35th birthday.  It was a strangely simple and lovely day, full of what I can only describe as a quiet prettiness and space for reverie. Perfect, in the way that birthdays should be, in that I felt completely my own and completely content. 







It was a wonderful day, from start to finish, and I'm so grateful to add another year to my "collected works."  Cheers to life!


Today's Gratitude List:
  • extended morning cuddle-time
  • birthday cards that make me laugh out loud
  • strong coffee, already brewed when I get up
  • the ocean air and tall groves of eucalyptus
  • ladybugs

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