Monday, August 9, 2010

I've Moved!

I have moved my blog to Wordpress, so look for me there! The new address is

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Cambria Day Three

More hiking. More beauty. More eating. More pictures. More wildlife. More laughing. We packed it in the last hours. We sang and prayed together. We checked out a beautiful Craftsman house where we might stay (for free) next year. Guess who wanted to go home when the time came? Not me! We took side streets home because the traffic was almost stopped from Goleta to the Rincon. Even that felt like an adventure. Now it's gray skies, summer school, up at 5:15 am and the to-do list. I'm so thankful for this restorative weekend with special friends.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Cambria Day Two

We started the day with a leisurely breakfast and good conversation around hot drinks. Then we attended an outdoor church service that was very touching. Our friends the Drs. O'Donnell were treated like celebrities. They are famous experts in their field, not only France, but in the world, but to us, they are just Kelly and Michele. Good times of worship, prayer and communion. I don't normally take pictures at church, but this so special seeing our friends praying together and receiving a special blessing after communion that I couldn't resist capturing the moment.

When you have ten people, it's hard to get going in any direction, so after an hour and a half of preparation, we were out the door for our hike through the Harmony Headlands State Park. I was reminded how much I love being a California girl. The Central Coast scenery is spectacular. We enjoyed seeing sea otters play and float on their backs. Is there anything cuter than an otter?

It was fun melding multiple styles in the kitchen for dinner. The boys guarded the grill and produced slabs of charred animals. I enjoyed collaborating with other women in the kitchen making blueberry cobbler, beans, salad, bread, and more. We all eat the same--plenty of fruit and whole grains, and little fat and chemicals. It was great to get new ideas and see how other people cooked.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

We are in Cambria, but it feels like we are in Paradise. We are here with two other couples-dear friends of over thirty years. The setting is beautiful and the food is amazing. We spent the day hiking along the bluffs, walking around the charming town, eating, reading, drinking wine and talking. This morning we sat around with steaming cups of coffee and tea just talking and having a leisurely morning. We all have Italian names and pretend we are part of the Venucci family, the famous millionaire. Anduve played his guitar in the background, while they occasionally glanced at the Tour de France on TV. (A dog got loose and ran into the pack, injuring a rider.) Anuncia is cutting up fruit for lunch. The food is amazing--lots of healthy salads, fruit, and Sweet, Salty Nutty trail mix. DO NOT EAT Erin's cereal.
We laugh, remember, share stories that have become even better with each telling, and roast Vido. We all have different stresses on our lives, too, and these come out slowly. There are times when the tears well up because we realize how special these friendships are.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Happy Birthday Jim!

Today we celebrated Jim's birthday at one of his favorite restaurants in Summerland. Matt and Brenna drove down from the Bay Area and since Kelly and Molly are both home now, the whole family was together. Jim is hard to buy for--do you see the theme in the presents he received (pictured above)? We laughed, talked and shared. Matt told us about how his coworkers give him bugs to fix and he fixes them. Brenna deals with crazy clients who want pictures of what their one-of-a kind custom jewelry will look like before the piece is made. Kelly showed her kindergarteners that even in a thick book like Pillars of the Earth there are many words on a page that they can read. They are so proud of themselves and I'm proud of her. Molly is amazing. She has such a heart for the Middle East and is excited about Lebanon preparations. We had multiple cups of coffee, and great food in a beautiful setting. I love these precious times.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mothers Day

When the kids were little I loved Mother's Day because I was able to read and dink around the Internet all afternoon. I didn't have to make dinner. Now that Jim's been doing most of the cooking, EVERY Sunday is like Mother's Day. My kids make it easy to be proud of them most days, and I'm very thankful for each of them.

Friday, April 30, 2010

It's Off to Work We Go...

Although my amazing teaching partner was absent today, I had a fun day at school with my crazy staff. Nancy emailed the names of all the students who had won the weekly raffle. (Students get tickets for completing classes, keeping a planner, and more, and five of them win (donated) $5 gift cards every Friday.) Today, all the winners were from one class. All five.

Wendy replied: Whoo hoo! In your face! Look whose students won this week!! Watch your back, the underdog is catching up...

Me: Something's rotten in Denmark.

Wendy: All is well in Denmark and the Queen is smiling.

Jean: For some reason, all of a sudden, I am wishing that this morning Mr. G. had brought not the usual Friday donuts, but instead, danish...

Mr. G: With all due respect, Jean, danish--or lack thereof--is not what's rotten here. I'm with [me] It's Novak's shameless, brazen co-opting of this whole Renaissance raffle process that has me more than a little concerned. I must say I'm not surprised by that brown nose Wendy. But I'm starting to worry if Nancy, Mrs. Office Manager, or Mrs. Counselor, are "involved" too.

Someone put a Danish flag outside Wendy's classroom.

Me: Room 2 has posted a Danish flag. It is an act of hostility indicating that the non-Room 2 students are not as worthy as the Room 2 students. "Though this be madness yet there is method in it."

Jean: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." There may be a flag posted on Room 2, but that does not mean that Room 2 has posted a flag.

Louise: Be it known that I am swearing allegiance to the Queen. She is a little scary.

Kris: My roommate SWEARING? "Foul whisperings are abroad. Unnatural deeds do breed unnatural troubles." Alas!

(These quotes are all from Hamlet, which is set in Denmark, by the way.)

Mrs. Counselor: I hope it isn't the danish. I am still glad we have donuts today.

Ms. Principal (who has Fridays off, but keeps up on her iPhone): You guys are hilarious. I'm sad I'm not there today!

Wendy: We miss you. Feel free to throw in some zingers. I can take it.

Ms. Principal: I'm Switzerland.

Often the exchanges are full of puns and grammar corrections. Mr. G is an expert in hyphen use. They always demonstrate the camaraderie we have with each other, and the thirty seconds spent creating the email pays off in so many ways.

Here's one from the other day:

Me (after a round of hilarious emails that don't translate well if you don't know our in jokes): I think Mikey (Mr. G.) should copy us on all his emails to keep us laughing. Where does he get off hiding such talent?

Taz: Oh, believe me, he doesn't hide it. It just emerges from time to time and he can't help it.

Mr. G: Hey Taz, when you said “he can’t help it,” I think that was the sweetest thing you’ve ever said to me (though, in fairness, you haven’t said many sweet things). But we like it that way.

I love our staff. We all get along, we collaborate well, and it makes us better teachers. We aren't competing with each other--we are giving each other laughs, ideas, help, and encouragement. I know this helps our students, too.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Tad too Late for Earth Day

Today was an agricultural day. In the wee morning hours Jim and I mixed peat moss, vermiculite and compost into potting soil.(And when I say "Jim and I" I mean mostly Jim.) The ground wriggled and squirmed, still moving because the compost was packed with red worms wondering why they had been dislodged from their bin. Then (and this is the easy part), we planted baby plants: lettuce, beans, three kinds of squash (butternut, crooked neck, and zucchini), green and red peppers, and tomatoes. Yum! The plants are so little and cute and the beds are all neat and tidy and weed and fungus free!

Then I went out to my family ranch where today they are picking avocados in preparation for Cinco de Mayo. It's so beautiful out there with the mountains, the flowers, and the rows of fruit trees. I loved seeing the big bins of fruit. This year the avocado trees are so heavy with fruit that Raul, who does most of the work on the land, had to put in many support boards in to keep the branches from dragging on the ground. Because there was so much fruit on every tree the avocados grew to only about 3/4 the size we normally see. Every farmer has a big crop, so the price will be really low. Great news for the consumer! Not so good for the rancher. My cousin, Bob, made me pick the avocados I brought home with me. The picking pole is about 15 feet long, and it takes a lot of strength and coordination to cut the fruit off. I wasn't even on a ladder and I was so terrible at it that Bob complained that he'd be broke if he had to depend on me to get the fruit off the trees! I, and my painful shoulders, felt a new sympathy for the men who were working in the groves.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

When I say teasingly that I'm old, no one laughs anymore

There are so many ways I feel old. I learned tonight that only old people use the Comic Sans font. Sigh. Now on top of everything else, I need a NEW favorite font. I'm going to go soak my bunions now.

Monday, April 12, 2010


I set the alarm for 3:30 because we had to leave for the airport at 4:10 am. We traveled all day and as we pulled into my town, my alarm clock startd beeping--it was 3:30 am in Copenhagen. We had spent exactly 24 hours traveling from Copenhagen home. I am happy and exhausted.

Copenhagen Day 2

Today started with a sightseeing tour of the city, which included then colorful and quaint waterfront area, the changing of the guards, the intertwined dragon-tails spire of the stock exchange, and many beautiful buildings, many of red brick with copper spires. In the afternoon a small group of us set off for Kronborg Castle, the home of Hamlet. Because I've had too many times when people have taken advantage of me, I have become old and skeptical. (My family will remember a certain Chinese restaurant.) Today my Grinch heart was melted just a little. On the train to Helsingbǿord, we met Jack, a New Yorker who has lived in Copenhagen for 40 years. He offered to show us around. As the crowds turned right off the train, we turned left and discovered a darling and colorful medieval village that, as Jack put it "coined the word 'quaint'." The narrow cobblestone streets led to a beautiful, but hidden church, built in 1616, and then to a convent with a peaceful garden. Without Jack we would have hurried past not realizing these treasures existed. He led us down a dirt path to the castle and joined us on the tour. The castles was a fortress guarding thee sound between Sweden and Denmark, and had beautiful tapestries and a lovely old chapel. In the labyrinth of a dungeon was a huge statue of a sleeping giant. The legend is that as long as the giant sleeps there will be peace in Denmark. T hen Jack showed us his favorite pizza parlor, where we warmed up from the biting Nordic wind. Here Jack shared how lonely he felt. The independent Danes don't accept him, and the Americans come and go. He spends each day trying to find kind deeds to perform, but that he hasn't had such a wonderful day for a long time. He thanked us profusely for letting him be our guide. He took all the stress out of our day--translating, bargaining, asking for group rates, and finding the right trains. He made no profit off of us, but we brought him joy by allowing him to make our day brighter. There are still kind strangers in the world, and I am deeply encouraged.

Beautiful Beautiful Copenhagen

We spent most of today getting to Copenhagen by bus and ferry. The ferry was amazing and the kids really liked it because of all the stores and places to eat on board. Then, In Copenhagen we took a walking tour of the city and then had a lot of free time. The buildings are beautiful. The famous little Mermaid statue is visiting China right now, but we still got to enjoy the Hans Christian Andersen statue. We went in a lot of little shops and walked along the pedestrian street. Had dinner at a Middle-Eastern restaurant. I loved it , but many people thought the food was strange.

Lübeck had predicted rain on several days of our trip, but so far we've avoided it and had beautiful sunny days. It's rained at night, and it rained the whole time on our long bus ride today to Lübeck, Germany. It was great timing because we were warm and dry in our comfortable bus and spent much of the day sleeping. At our lunch stop on the autobahn we ate delicious German food including Apple Kuchen and Cherry Kuchen.

It was difficult to connect with my friends Hilli and Niels and their 2 year old son, Joschi, because neither of us knew the city. We're both on cell phones saying things like "I'm at this big round tower.." "Do you know where the big open square is?" "I'm looking at a McDonalds." until we found each other. We walked around the quaint medieval town with it's picturesque buildings and caught up with each others' lives. We had dinner at the little Hotel Trave. I fell in love with Joschi. He spoke German and I spoke English. We didn't understand a word each other spoke, but communicated quite well. Two year olds are very accepting of people who are different. I gave Joschi some books and he LOVED them. He made all these great delighted noises as I read him, and when I read King Bidgood's in the Bathtub, he imitated all the characters' facial expressions.

Lübeck is a darling medieval town in Germany with lots of history. The buildings are gorgeous! I'm a sucker for brick buildings because we can't really have them in California. I had a great time in this small town.

Amsterdam Day 2

We are in Amsterdam now, and what stands out to me are the windmills and tulips and marijuana. The way each country uses its natural resources gives it character. In Ireland the farmers

cleared their fields of the many rocks, and then built fences out of them. In Amsterdam flooding is an issue so the Dutch have built dikes and canals, and use the water as fences to enclose their animals and delineate their property. It feels a lot like Venice to me. The canals are lined with daffodils and quaint bridges.
Sometimes my students don't want to get involved in politics, or even register to vote when they are 18. Young and old here are very interested in politics. Before the war, the Dutch left politics to their government. They learned that you couldn't always trust the government to do what's right.

We went to a working farm where they made cheese and clogs. It reminded me of my family's farms in Ireland--small, family operations on beautiful land. It took about 3 minutes to make a clog from a block of wood, and only a little longer to sell a large part of their inventory to us.

We saw the bustling flower market where they sell bulbs, and found some bargains at the flea market. We saw most of the artist's original paintings at the Van Gogh museum. Amazingly beautiful! At the museums many young people are standing in front of a painting getting the information about it from their iPhones. Only the old people are using the audio-tour headsets.

Anne Frank's house was quite sobering. She always believed she would escape and get to live a normal life again. The eerie details of their lives shut away are still there: the marks on the wall to measure the children's height, the flash cards Anne's sister used to study Latin by correspondence course, and the playbills on the wall of Anne's room of the performances she was missing.

The Red Light District was actually started by the church to keep the sailors concentrated in one area, and not let their sinful excesses corrupt the rest of the area. They put a huge church in the middle of the area in hopes some will find a more lasting comfort than the drugs and sex they are seeking. Marijuana isn't legal, but tolerated, and the coffee shops don't sell coffee. There is a huge crime element connected with the drug sales.

Then we took a cruise down the canals. The kids were tired and quiet until about halfway through the cruise when a passing boat of 5 young men mooned us. They were quite animated after that, and many said the cruise was the best part of the day.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Amsterdam Day 2

A full day! We were gone from the hotel from 8 am to 11:30 pm. We saw a cheese and clog factory--My dad would have loved the beautiful woodworking tools for carving the clogs. It took about 3 minutes to make the unpainted shoes--and about an hour to sell a good share of cheese and clogs to the Americans. Also had a sightseeing tour of the city with a knowledgeable and funny local guide--an American with a masters in International Relations. At the Getty there are one or two Van Gogh paintings, but here we saw dozens--most of his famous ones-- at a museum that also had a visiting Gauguin exhibit. We took pictures and observed a windmill up close and personal. We also shopped at a flea market and the grocery store (always my favorite.) Do I know how to find the bargains, or what? The tour of Anne Frank's house was sobering. I had, of course, read her diary, but to actually see the pictures she had glued to the wall and hear the church bells she heard, and to see the lack of sunlight she endured for two years was heartbreaking. She and her sister kept up their studies, always believing the war would end and their family would return to normal life. They even kept track of their height on the wall. The pencil marks are still there. As if the day was not full enough yet, we took a river cruise through the canals, and walked through the Red Light district. Interesting that the church initiated concentrating all the brothels in one area. They wanted the sailors who came into the busy port to keep the sin in one area, rather than infecting the whole city. Now Amsterdam couldn't clean up this area because it brings in tourist dollars. The kids have been great. Annie was hospitalized last night, but is much better today after resting in the hotel and taking the medicines--that's been a little stressful. I am exhausted, but happy.

More Paris to Copenhagen

We are in Amsterdam now, and what stands out to me are the windmills and tulips and marijuana. Some areas of the city smell like my college days. Pot is not legal, but it is TOLERATED. Amsterdam had such a bad drug problem in the '60's that they localized all the drug dealing to one part of the city, and looked the other way when it came to enforcing drug laws. A "coffee shop" here means that they sell recreational drugs. Cafes are where you buy lattes. The way each country uses its natural resources gives it character. In Ireland the farmers cleared their fields of the many rocks, and then built fences out of them. In Amsterdam flooding is an issue so the Dutch have built dikes and canals, and use the water as fences to enclose their animals and delineate their property. It feels a lot like Venice to me. The canals are lined with daffodils and quaint bridges.

Sometimes my students don't want to get involved in politics, or even register to vote when they are 18. People here are very interested in politics Before the war, the Dutch left politics to their govt. They learned that you couldn't always trust the government to do what's right

The internet connections aren't great, so I'll have to add pictures later!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Days 1-2 in Paris

We left LA Saturday afternoon, and arrived tired and happy in Paris on Sunday afternoon. We immediately took the train into the city and started sightseeing. We are six of a group of about 40 people from California and Canada. We explored the area around Port Clichy, including the Moulin Rouge and had dinner at a nice restaurant. (The chocolate eclairs were delicious and I ate two of them.) The kids love the architecture and are taking a million pictures. When they put their cards into the ATM and euros came out it was like winning the Lottery. One of them commented about how French money was so much prettier than ours, and it is. If they learn that other countries and cultures have much to offer, and that the way America does it is not always the best, I will feel the trip is valuable. Meanwhile we are all having a great time. We are tired already and it's only Day 2, but also eager to see and do everything.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Times They are a Changin'

I like to embrace change. Change is good. But when the change happens in friendships, I find myself eating Cookies and Cream ice cream straight from the carton, followed by Toll House cookies by the handful. Some changes are not all good.

A couple that Jim and I would count as some of our closest friends is moving. Far away. We've been friends for 20 years. We've camped together, seen our kids grow up together, prayed together and laughed and cried together. Their middle child and our last child are close friends. And they are moving. Another layer to this is that he's my minister. He officiated at Matt and Brenna's wedding. If you don't go to church, you may not understand this part, but a minister has a huge impact on his congregates' lives He is the person who gives wise teaching, who is there to to pray, counsel, listen and care in every crisis, and a person who guides us to continually live at a higher, spiritual level. It sort of leaves a hole when ministers change jobs, because they aren't just a project manager or something. They're family. The move is good for them, and I believe they are making the right decision. They feel called by God, and since he is a minister, they should probably listen to that call. But I'm heartbroken because I'm self-centered, and I can't see how this will make MY life better.

My school staff is also family, and part of that family is changing, too. Our counselor has the nerve to be retiring!!! This wonderful lady does not consider her work to be only supporting the students, but also caring for the quirky, but lovable staff at my school. The counselor takes this part of the job seriously and does it well. Many, many times I've been in her office crying. She's listened to me, and given me good direction. She's just a good person to turn to for comfort. She has excellent ideas about how to handle different situations-both school-related and otherwise. She's been through so much herself that she speaks from experience. The kids and staff alike adore her because they know she cares. She makes us all better people. She's not moving away, but her house will be too far to walk to when I need comfort and counsel at school. I will miss her daily.

The last change is especially sad. Some friends of ours are having marriage issues. They are both great people. Amazing people. Loving, compassionate, caring, funny, spiritual people. They are both hurting, and there's little Jim and I can do but listen and hope for healing. When our friends hurt, we hurt, and it's no fun to see them like this. We love both of them. We are praying for a miracle.

Meanwhile I pray. And eat too much sugar. In setting my heart on the things above, I find comfort. It's not about me. Peace comes in waves as I adjust to the changes.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Thirty Year Journey

Jim and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary Monday. I took the day off school and we took a sentimental journey back to our roots. We walked around Isla Vista noting that the Bank of America, which was burned in the student riots in the 70s, was now an ATM, and the falafel stand,

the frozen yogurt place, the coffee place, the original Kinko's and every other sentimental building was gone. The woman at Starbuck's asked if we'd ever been to Isla Vista before, and we said that we'd fallen in love there 30 years ago. She said "Awww. It's so nice to know it's possible to find true love here." We walked on the beach, took in the view from the eighth floor of the library, and were amazed at how much it had changed. A few years after we got married we returned to campus and tried to fit in as if we were still students. Years after that we wondered if we looked like professors. Now we can't pass for either. We look like parents of students who had children late in life. I gave Jim a book I had made (a Snapfish photo book) and he cried. We had dinner at Enterprise Fish Company where we had shared so many meals when we were twenty-somethings, and really enjoyed being together. I'm so thankful for Jim, and for all the fun we've had together, and for what a great dad he is, and for how he's really been there for me in the hard times. I'm really glad I moved in next door to him in the summer of 1977. It's been an incredible journey.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Kelly Makes the Quarter Century Mark and Molly's Right Behnind

We celebrated Molly's 20th birthday and Kelly's 25th birthday yesterday. Matt and Brenna came to party, too, and, as always I was happy to have all six of us together. I offered to take them out to dinner, but they wanted me to make something. Since we don't eat out (ever) I thought they would think it was special to eat out, but either to save our budget or because they really do like my cooking they wanted to eat at home. "What do you want? I'll make you anything." Molly wanted that famous special occasion birthday dinner tuna casserole. Tuna casserole?!!! (Although I do have a recipe from scratch--not made with canned soup--that I like, too.) I ended up making these Salmon/Pineapple/Green Pepper Shish Kabobs with Israeli couscous.
They originally wanted an ice cream cake, but Molly chose this delicious tart instead. (With Kelly's permission.) It's always so fun to hear their stories, see their thrift store purchases, and view the newest TED talk or Youtube video with them. They always find the most interesting entertainment on the web.

I already wrote about how proud I am of Molly, and Kelly is every bit as amazing. She makes me laugh, she brings home great kindergarten stories each day, she is living out her faith, she has good common sense ideas, and is a wonderful daughter. I'm so lucky.

Happy birthday to my special girls! May the Lord shower his best blessings on you this year.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy Birthday Molly

I am no longer the parent of a teenager. Molly turned 20 today. She has grown up into an amazing person and I am so proud of her. She is compassionate, and cares about the world. She is smart and doing well at University. She has a lot of friends and is busy most nights. She is artistic and talented. And she is an incredibly wonderful daughter. I'm so lucky. Happy Birthday, Sweet Molly!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Put Another Candle on the Birthday Cake

Los Angeles City Hall

Disney Concert Hall

On Super Bowl Sunday my family celebrated my birthday playing in downtown Los Angeles. I can be happy anywhere if I am with all the kids, but I love walking around big cities, taking in the buzz, the architecture, the culture, and the outdoor art. We were able to park on the street FOR FREE a block from the Disney Center as the city was deserted because of the Super Bowl and because it was Sunday morning. We toured the concert hall, which is such an amazing building. The unique architecture and engineering of the brushed titanium combined with the warmth of the interior with its hand-designed carpets, and wood makes this building a world treasure. The garden on the third story is an oasis of beauty.

Disney Concert Hall Third Story Garden

Matt, Brenna, Jim, Marsh, Molly, and Kelly in the Disney Concert Hall garden

We walked to the busy and colorful Grand Central market where I longed to buy the inexpensive fruits, but didn't want to carry them. We saw the Bradbury building with it's beautiful rod iron work.

Jim at the Bradbury Building

We saw the Central Library, climbed Bunker Hill steps (a recreation of the Spanish Steps in Rome), and certainly got our exercise! We had lunch at a fun restaurant in China Town. The food was delicious and the kids picked up the check. They claim they are grown ups now! Hooray. The whole city had been deserted until we got to China Town, where all the shops were packed with people because next weekend is Chinese New Year. The girls bought the traditional red envelopes used to give money as gifts. (There are traditions associated with this money: It should be given in an even-numbered amount, such as 1.68, not $1.67.) The amount should not have a four in it. For example, $4.00 would be an unlucky amount. Eights are good luck, so you could give $5.88.) Molly brought along a sweet friend. All of us got along and I really enjoyed being with them and hearing more about their lives, and laughing with them. It was a great birthday.