30 June 2011

The Parameters of Normal

There is a popular saying around these parts. It materializes on bumper stickers, tee shirts, coffee mugs, and even downtown marques: "Keep Santa Cruz Weird."
The oxymoronic insistence of this statement is, for me, a source of great amusement because it implies that anything less than strange would just be, well… strange, not to mention quite utterly unacceptable.
It begs the question:  if weird is the norm in this coastal haven, then is it REALLY weird?  And who is to say what is normal and what is weird? Who are these people- the mysterious "they" that keep making up all these rules?  And in what beige cookie-cutter suburb do “they” live?  Not here, that’s for sure.
Umbrella Man, downtown Santa Cruz

As the crow flies, my own small beach community is very near to Santa Cruz.  I feel a definite affinity for the uniqueness and diversity of California’s unofficial “Surf City” and the entire central coast.  Perhaps the real question then is this: was I attracted to this area because I am weird or am I weird as a result of living in this area?  Or, is my particular brand of weirdness just so normal it doesn’t really matter? 
I’ll let you be the judge. Here are three of my (maybe) not-so-normal norms:
1. I typically procrastinate washing my laundry for up to 2-3 weeks at a time. Perhaps it is laziness, a lack of time for what I deem a low priority, or the desperate clinging to the last vestiges of a once-twenty-something self. The point is that it is perfectly NORMAL for me to wait until I am down to last, most threadbare and undesirable pair of undergarments in my wardrobe (or heaven forbid, none at all) before I will rummage the cupboard for quarters and detergent and march myself over to the laundry machines. And yes, I have even gone so far as to purchase new undies just to avoid the wash for a few more days - shameful, I know.
2. I am a thief. Well, okay, not really. But I do have a collection of hotel soaps, shampoos, lotions, mini sewing kits, and disposable shower caps - it seems I have a compulsion for pilfering these small items (but really aren't I paying for them anyway with the cost of the room?). And if perchance we order room service, I absolutely cannot resist swiping those tiny bottles of breakfast ketchup and jams. Not only are they adorable, but who knows? They might come in handy one day. Savvy? Yes! Weird? I think not.
3. I find television completely unnecessary. Yes, I do have a TV, but I am not connected to cable or satellite of any kind. We receive only two (yes, I said TWO) channels - filtered through a cumbersome antenna perched precariously on the top of the set.  It is not merely an issue of cost (though we do save greatly), but rather one of need.  I do not particularly need the mind-numbing entertainment of 300+ useless program listings.  AND with the advent of wi-fi internet, everything I need or want is available to me within seconds.  Local and international news, weather, the occasional show via Hulu, and all the Netflix a girl could ever want.  Call me crazy, but it makes perfect sense to me!
So there you have it. Okay, now it’s your turn.  What are some of your normal idiosyncrasies?  And don’t fear the oxymoron – maybe you’re just keeping your town weird too J

Cheeky smiles,

Today's Gratitude List:
  • my neck/shoulder/arm is FINALLY starting to feel better
  • a new YA novel to check out for next year's literature circle list: The Iron King
  • just purchased our tickets to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival - very excited!

27 June 2011

Being Well Part 2

As mentioned in my last, albeit necessarily brief, posting, I was stricken by some rather unexpected and quite excruciating pain. My neck, right shoulder (and consequently right arm) staged a rather brutal Caesar-style rebellion against me, for which I have so far twice visited doctors and begun some light physical therapy. The "Medical Powers that Be" assure me that these things take time to mend and that I must relax and practice that ever perishing virtue: Patience.

Easier said than done, my friends.

Today I am propped up in bed, with my lap top somewhat comfortably arranged so as not to strain my malfunctioning muscles over much. I have missed writing. The lack of creative outlet over the past couple of weeks has left me feeling rather despondent and restless. I had not realized just how much I've come to love my blogging time - a time just for ME to catharticly compose my thoughts and happily inspire those semantic synapses.

I owe my current temporary alleviation of ouch-ness (and ability to tenderly type this post) to the altogether soothing physical therapy I was able to participate in earlier today.

This is The Well Within, a rejuvenating refuge located in the heart of downtown Santa Cruz, specializing in the wellness of body and soul.

The outside of this serene paradise may seem unassuming and humble, but like the often overlooked oyster (yes, a coastal reference - couldn't resist), its true iridescent secrets are contained within. Upon arrival, visitors are immediately greeted with friendly service, a quiet sanctuary, and the promise of healthful relaxation.

And true to the words of their website, the environment can best be described as "Japanese traditions blended with California lifestyle."  Myriad services include massage therapy (everything from Aromatherapy massage, Prenatal massage, and Couple's massage), private spas and saunas overlooking a Japanese garden, and a wide assortment of skin and body care, such as facials, body wraps, aromatic salt polishes, etc.

We opted today for a private spa and sauna room. These accommodations are usually reserved for a 50 minute duration, however we were happily treated with an 80 minute session as a special Monday promotional.  Plush towels, herbal tea (peppermint today), shampoo, conditioner, aromatic body gel (rooms include a shower), and essential oils for the sauna were included in the price - a very reasonable $15 per person!

And let us not forget the beautiful view of the garden! Our private room surveyed a tranquil Japanese Koi pond and softly percolating rockbed stream.  Dappled sunlight filtered through the foliage. Harmonious in every way, the experience was all I had been craving.


For a blissful span of time the complaints of my tired and aching muscles were quelled and my cerebral positivity returned. I temporarily divorced myself from pain and allowed myself an awareness of beauty and life and the connectivity of it all: mind, body, and soul.  

I wish you all the same and the wellness that is within.

*Most pictures are from The Well Within website (see above link).  All others were taken by me.

25 June 2011

Being Well

At times the body will quietly whisper that it's time to slow down.  An ache here, a tired muscle there...relax.  Take it down a notch.  Be at Peace.

BUT if one does not heed this subtle and soothing voice of reason, make no mistake--the body will retaliate.  No more Miss Nice Girl.  It will hold your health and well being as ransom until her demands are met.

This week, my body has taxed me for my blatant disregard of her needs.  I have found myself in excruciating pain and days of suffering. 

Okay.  You've got my attention, body.  I promise to behave.  In the meantime, here are the lessons I have learned from my bedridden banishment:

1.  Jersey is quite possibly the softest, most comfortable fabric ever

2.  The heating pad is a marvelous invention -especially with a Vicodin/Valium combo

3.  There is no reward for suffering in silence. Don't be a martyr. If you need help, ASK FOR IT.

4.  Kisses from Molly, my ever-faithful cat, have magical healing powers.  Well, not exactly, but they DO make me smile.

Well Wishes,

18 June 2011

Tea Time!

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me”  C.S. Lewis
Every once in a while I like to have a “Ladies Day.”  You know the kind:  You gather up a bunch of your wittiest gal-pals, put on that fabulous blouse or amazing pair of shoes you’ve been saving for a special occasion, and head on out to do something incredibly chi-chi and girly.  Sometimes it’s a mani-pedi extravaganza; sometimes it’s a Sex and the City marathon with cosmos; sometimes it just a leisurely lunch with wonderful friends.

Tea anyone?  Welcome to Lovejoy’s , a charming little tea house nestled in the Noe Valley area of San Francisco.  Inspired by a series of novels about an antique dealer named Lovejoy, the shop originally dealt in antique curios and collectibles.  Patrons of the tiny shop were treated to a “good cup of tea” and the occasional scone.  As time went on, people “became more interested in the tea and scones than in the antiques” and Lovejoy’s Tea Room was born!

What makes this place such a treat? Perhaps it’s the eclectic whimsy of mismatched furniture, the doilies, tea cozies, cups, saucers, and various antiquarian bric-à-brac.  Perhaps it’s the American’s occasional need to feign Britishness (don’t ask me why—that’s material enough for another post altogether). Perhaps it’s the delicious food (the scones!) and the bottomless pots of English and specialty teas. But mostly, it’s just fun and frilly and the perfect excuse to indulge ourselves in true Lady of Leisure fashion.

High Tea included a bottomless pot of tea (I opted for a tasty Vanilla black tea), your choice of two sandwiches (from an extensive list –I had the asparagus and chicken and the ham and English mustard. Both were quite delicious!), served with coleslaw, organic spring greens, a scone with preserves and Double Devon Cream (which I thought was grand, though my friend Rachelle lamented the lack of clotted cream), and a shortbread tea biscuit for  $17.95  I also couldn’t resist a side of lemon curd for a small additional fee. 

If you’re going to be in San Francisco in the near future, I highly recommend a stop by Lovejoy’s.  You can visit their web page and peek at the menu and retail items at:  http://www.lovejoystearoom.com/index.html  or read their rave reviews here.
You're sure to be delighted - by the chi-chi and the tea!


15 June 2011

Row Row Your Boat

Over the river and through the woods...it was a beautiful day for a picnic.

We wound our way up a narrow road to one of Santa Cruz County's best kept secrets: Loch Lomond

Boat rentals are only $10 for two hours--an excellent deal!

I admit, my sweetheart did most all of the rowing.

My job was far more relaxing:

Some sandwiches, lemonade, and breathtaking scenery: the perfect equation for a fabulous Wednesday.

I am grateful for this day.

12 June 2011


Most educators, and/or their significant others, will agree: teachers have split personalities:  School Year Self and Summer Self.  It is a topic much discussed at our kitchen table, most often during the rainy months of February and March, when the Summer Self seems to be an inaccessible entity and School Year Self has become a gnarly hunch-backed beast with an insatiable hunger for freedom and starchy foods.
I will forgive, then, when my sweetheart declares his eager anticipation of my “return to normal” this summer.  How can I take offense when I know he merely speaks the truth?

The METAMORPHOSIS into Summer Self is a three-stage process:

Stage One: Larva (Caterpillar)
This stage actually occurs during the last few weeks of the school year.  Teachers begin to prepare themselves, mentally and physically, for the transition into Summer Self.  It is actually an exhausting time and large quantities of wine are usually consumed to assist in the process.  The educator larva must expend a great deal of energy as she finalizes semester grades, attends countless committee and department meetings, fends off groveling students, and de-clutters the 30x30 cavern of chaos she calls her classroom.
Stage Two: Pupa (Chrysalis)
This stage can last from one to two weeks at the beginning of the vacation and is also known as “the resting period.”   The teacher can most often be found in a cocoon of squishy pillows and other appropriately soothing bedding, wearing only the comfiest of lounge wear, for undisclosed amounts of time.  She sleeps, and sleeps, and sleeps. The restorative slumber of the chrysalis stage is essential for effective transition into the next, and final, stage.
Stage Three: Adult (Butterfly)
Sometime near the third week of summer vacation, the Summer Self will fully emerge.  Unlike the butterfly, there is a plethora of growth during this stage; however, the end result is much the same: a beautiful flying adult.  The full-fledged Summer Self will begin to rediscover former hobbies and areas of interest, as well as journeying forth to seek new ones.  For the next several weeks she will stretch her proverbial wings and remember who she was prior to her mad (but rewarding) voyage into public education.
It’s early yet for me.  I’m still snugly ensconced in stage two. It never serves to rush the metamorphosis, you know.  After twelve years, I am aware that I must give myself over to time and let each stage play out as needed.  But I’m looking forward to seeing just where my Summer Self will lead me this season.  Will she paint toenails, pottery, or watercolor flowers?  Will she wax poetic or just her eyebrows?  Will she dance at midsummer’s eve or sing the body electric?  

We are, indeed,  “winging” it in every sense of the word.

Today's Gratitude List:
  • homemade guacamole
  • the thrill of grilling
  • easy Sunday morning
  • stretching
"stressed image"source here

06 June 2011

Wasted Not

"Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time." ~John Lubbock

The mental countdown started at 30.  Now we are down to three.  I've been planning.  I've been anticipating.  I've been waiting.  And it is, finally, almost here. 

Three days more until summer vacation.

No more homework
No more books
No more teachers'
dirty looks...

Talk about gratitude!  If I had to make a list right now, items one through five would be gratitude for that glorious spans of time in between school years.  Quite honestly, I'm tired.  I'm ready to dig my toes into the sand, to drink iced coffee in the afternoons, to lunch with friends or catch a matinee, to be STILL and embrace the silence.  I am longing for leisure time. 

I am renewed by summer.  It is the season wherein I become a better friend, a better teacher, a better partner, a better me. It is necessary and it is precious.  It is not idle and it is not, ever, ever, wasted.

02 June 2011

Conversation with a 3-year Old

One of the many perks about living near the ocean is that there is never a shortage of family and friends who are willing to travel to see you.  Let me just tell you that I am perfectly happy with this arrangement. While an estimated 35 million people hit the roads last weekend for the Memorial Day holiday, I was at home playing host to some of my favorite people: my best friend and her beautiful family. 

Great weather (mostly) led to some great times.  In particular, I loved being "Aunt Niki" to my friend's three year old son.  His vocabulary has grown by leaps and bounds in the last year and his imagination delights me.  He's exhausting, but such a charmer.  On day two of their visit we were getting ready to stroll down to the beach for some good ol' fashioned kite-flying.  When it was time to go, I noticed my flip flops were strangely missing.  Here is the conversation that ensued:

Me: RJ, where are Aunt Niki’s shoes?
RJ: They disappeared!
Me: As in magically disappeared?
RJ: Yep
Me: Can you make them reappear, please?
RJ: I don’t think so. Nope.
Me: Why not?
RJ: Because they disappeared!
Me: Okay.  How ‘bout this?  Take this magic wand (hands him a stick) and use it to find my shoes.
RJ:  This?
Me: Yes.  It’s magic. Just say “Shoeus Appearus” over and over again around the house.  Maybe it will lead you to Aunt Niki’s shoes. Okay?
RJ: Okay.  (Goes through house saying “Shoeus Appearus” several times.)
Best Friend: Are you teaching my son witchcraft?
Me: No, don’t be absurd.  It’s wizardry.

RJ returns 10 minutes later.
Me: Well?  Did you find my shoes?
RJ: Nope.
Me: What about the magic?  It didn’t work?
RJ: I’m not magic anymore.  I’m a robot dinosaur. 
Me: Oh. I don’t suppose robot dinosaurs know how to find shoes, do they?
RJ: No. 
Me: Sigh.  I was afraid of that.

We did eventually find the magically disappearing shoes (after several other members of the family joined in the search party) and we even managed to make it to the beach for a few hours of sunshine and kite-flying before traipsing back home for BBQ. The robot dinosaur morphed into Iron Man by dinner time and was back to just plain ol' RJ (my preferred version), pajama'd and sleepy, just in time for bed.  Hugs and kisses for everyone and the flip flops on my feet...

And that's what I call a very good day.

Today's Gratitude List:
  • a cat nap on the couch
  • a message from an old friend
  • vitamin C
  • a short work week

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