Monday, September 15, 2014

Monday Morning Flowers

Good Mondays to you all!

I got out a little late last night to gather these flowers for you.  

My first thought was I would need to lighten them up, but I rather like the dark, dreamy quality of the light.

One of my goals as a photographer and a writer is to start trusting my instincts more and stop following conventional wisdom.

Thus, I present to you these flowers, and hope you follow and celebrate your instincts today. 

Trust your intuition, your inner knowing; allow yourself to be immersed in the process of creation as a joyous and sacred dance of materials; neither listen to critics nor be one; leap into the dark secure in the knowing that wherever your feet touch down will be the right place at the right time. 
                                                                                 --Burnell Yow

Saturday, September 6, 2014


The vine appeared almost overnight and where no vine had ever been before, in the little patch of ground filled with delicate alyssum plants just outside my kitchen window.   

I eyed it suspiciously.  

The power-hungry squash vine had already taken over one side of the yard.  Had it somehow broken through the line of defense that the lawn and patio provided in its quest for universal domination?  I looked over at the wily squash plant who played it cool, close to the ground, doing its best to like just another innocent gourd.  

Yeah.  Right.
I considered the new green vine with its vibrant blossoms.   Squash or no squash, it certainly wanted to live, to travel and to bloom.  I understood completely and let it be.

Soon it was obvious that this was not a squash plant, but a pumpkin that had popped up.  This puzzled me since there has never been pumpkin plant in the back yard, or even a pumpkin on the patio for years.  

I watched it over the weeks.  Only one blossom developed, slowly changing from green, to yellow, until finally a heavy orange moon rested there amid the white stars of alyssum.  

A few weeks ago, my friend Lori was visiting me from the Virgin Islands.  As we sat on the patio,  I told her the story of the pumpkin and suddenly, I realized that the seed must have come from a homemade bird seed star that she sent me at Christmas time.  It had hung in a branch from a fichus tree not far from the spot where the pumpkin had grown.  We sat looking at the pumpkin, smiling and simultaneously toasted it with our iced teas, neither one of us really knowing why.  It just felt like the thing to do.

The pumpkin is now on my table, Lori has returned to the Virgin Islands, and I have returned to a very busy school semester. 

The other day I was working my way through my school e-mail account—most of it mundane work-related stuff--when I came across a note from a past student, thanking me for my help a few years back.  She told me she had learned so much in my class and from me and wanted me to know she appreciated it.  As I read the e-mail in which she filled me in on her current life, (attending a university, getting ready to graduate) I was embarrassed that I did not immediately recognize the name. (In fact, it took me a couple of days to remember who she was.)   When I was done with the e-mail, I sat back, grateful for her words, but also grateful that I had apparently done my best when she was in my class.

I have many students who are the first in their families to attend college, so I spend some time at the start of every semester, motivating them to overcome some of the obstacles life will put in their path on their way to their diplomas.  Usually I tell them if they stick with it they’ll be rewarded with better jobs and more money. 

This year, however, I am telling them about my pumpkin.

I tell them how that singular seed fell from a gift from a friend, was blown by the wind, and was probably buried by a cat’s paw as she sat in the dirt, looking up, making a (no doubt nefarious) wish on the birdseed star.  In the dark earth, it nestled there for months until it got enough water, sunshine, and strength to sprout, bloom and grow.

I tell my students they may not think their act of making the decision to further their education is a big deal, but that somewhere somebody is watching.  Maybe it’s a little brother or sister, or a neighbor kid or maybe even a parent who has secretly always wanted to go back to school.  Whether they know it or not, their actions and their attitudes matter to someone who is thinking about gathering up the courage to take on something big in life. 

It's a lesson we all need to be reminded of from time to time, whether by a teacher, a friend, or by a large, beautiful pumpkin.  

"When we do the best we can, we and never know what miracle is wrought another in our life or the life of another.”   
--Helen Keller


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Back to School!

We've just started the second week of the semester so I have been in Teacher Mode, getting all my classes organized and underway.  This includes getting my sixty-four  101 students  into Blogland, helping them create their blogs to use in the class and hopefully even after the class.  (After I have helped them develop their love of writing, don’t you know.) 

The first of the semester is a wonderful time of hope and renewal.  Anything is possible.  My students can choose to leave their pasts behind and create new images.  Almost all of them are enthusiastic and hopeful.  I look out at my filled classrooms and see so many hope and dreams sitting there.  I also see the ones who are a bit wary, wondering if they can trust me or not.  

Each fall semester I remind myself that I may be the first college teacher they have ever had.  I know can set a positive tone or a negative one.   I think you know which one I choose.

Along with students, we teachers get a new opportunity with each start of a semester.  We can rely on the old stuff, be the same people we have always been, or we can step out, take chances and get out of our comfort zones a little.  It’s not easy when you’ve been doing the same things over and over, year after year, but is there anything more deadly than a teacher who is staid, and well, frankly bored with themselves?

Whether you are directly involved with the school system or not, I think this is a good time of year to feel that sense of renewal  and hope.  Pushing boundraies, taking chances, nudging  yourself out of safe routines is all necessary to feel truly alive.  You’ll succeed some,  you’ll fail some, and hopefully laugh at your own foibles.

So, Happy New Year in August.  Buy yourself some kicky new boots.  Throw out that pesky book on the night stand that you’ve been “meaning to get to,” and pick up whatever really appeals to you. Eat lunch with someone new.

I hope you'll sit in the front row in this classroom called life. Raise your hand and join in the discussion.  Break some rules.  Break lots of rules.  

Don’t ever think your voice doesn’t matter.  

Because it does.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Monday Morning Flowers!

Good Monday, My People!

Usually I ask about your week ahead, but lately I've been reading about mindfulness and the need to be present in the moment.   

So, how's your moment?

How's your right now?

You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.

                                                                                                    --Henry David Thoreau

Friday, August 22, 2014

Avocado Madness Tamed!

We live in avocado country.

Lucky right?  

I keep up with the supply from friends pretty well, but there are times when the stock builds up.  

Look at these beauties.  


I decided to try to freeze some, so I looked up instructions on the Magic Computer.

First, I scooped them out and whizzed them up in the food processor with some lemon juice.

Dramatic picture of lemons (from my tree) above.

Whizzed up avocado and lemon juice.

You can freeze the concoction in freezer bags in a big blob


You can use a handy-dandy silicone pan to divide the mixture into cool individual squares.

Freeze those suckers.  Pop them out and place them in freezer bags.

This morning Brian had a frozen breakfast burrito and so I just microwaved a square of 'cado for about 20 seconds and it was ready.  He reported it was good!

Also I have been making a lot of green smoothies in my Nutribullet lately.  I plan to just pop one or two of these frozen beauties into my Bullet and add a little good fat to the smoothies that will get me through the morning.

I know nothing replaces fresh avocado.  (Don't you just want to be a little Lego Person and go boating in the half without the pit?)  However, I hope you find this hint handy.

I am here for you, my people.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Rain, Rain, Come Again

I awoke last night and heard it.


All the windows in the bedroom were open and I did not think for one minute about shutting them.  That sound was so beautiful to my ears. The last rain our area received was in February and we were in New Zealand. 

All told, it had been about a year since I had really seen rain from my windows, so even though it was about 1:30 a.m.,  I got out of bed and went out on my front porch just to see, hear, smell and touch the rain. 

Our area is in a severe drought, with little or no relief in sight for a long time.  Of course, there are the dire consequences that come with the drought.  The newspaper tells us each day about what the lack of water will do to our agriculture and how it impacts our every day activity.  We are on alert, ever watchful, ever-preserving the precious liquid.

Standing there last night watching the rain, I realized that rain quenches not only the ground and the crops, but also our souls.  Hearing the rain last night, I felt nourished.  I felt secure.  I felt like part of the earth again.  There was a peace that came over me. 

Perhaps it has partly to do with how rain makes us reflective.  It makes us happy to be in our snug homes.  Heavy rains impose a sort of self-reflection that is easy to escape when it is sunny all the time. 

In fact, I have often thought that Californians could use a little more weather turbulence.  We are outdoor people who rarely have reason to seek shelter inside.  We love our sunshine and our beaches, and our parks.  It seems everything is geared toward being on the move.  Indeed, even earthquakes,  send people out of their shaking abodes, not in.  

Winds tend to keep us home, but jangles our nerves so much in the process that it makes just thinking difficult.  Heavy rains though?  That’s when we settle down long enough to do some serious thinking.

Being a Kansas girl, I endured nearly every type of weather growing up.  We had thundershowers, blizzards, heat waves, and have course a good ol’ tornado every once in awhile.  They were all forces that we accepted.  It does no good to go out and shake your bony little fist at a tornado.  It just laughs and picks up the nearest tree just for fun.  

We learned to take shelter and wait.  We had no choice and there was a strange peacefulness in that situation. 

On winter days when it cost too much to heat the whole house, we stayed in one room reading or watching TV.  During tornados we stayed together and mused aloud about the hay wagon that had just passed by the window. 

During a thunderstorm or when the lines grew too heavy with winter ice, our electricity went out.  It happened so often that we took it in stride.  My mom got down the kerosene lantern from the sideboard, lit it, and placed it on the dining room table.  It had been her mother’s lamp and when she touched it, her voice seemed softer than usual, and uncharacteristically warmly wistful.

I was usually already downstairs, but my older sisters, their bedrooms plunged into darkness, came out to sit with us.  With no TV or radio available, we tried to read by the lamp, but usually ended up just talking, the circle of light gathering us all up within its glow.  The turbulence, disorder and darkness outside contrasted sharply with the pool of calm, quiet, warm light inside.

The rain came and went last night.  Though we wanted more, we had to settle for just this small amount.  The next morning we plunged on with our lives, back out into the sun, living this fast-paced outward life.  

We need more rain for our crops and for our water table, but we also need it for balance, for the enforced reflection and the inner peace it brings to us, and for the feeling of knowing our place in the scheme of the world.  

Monday, August 4, 2014

Monday Morning Flowers!

Happiest of Mondays to you!

Hope you are off to a great week.  

Here is your flower delivery!

Just imagine becoming the way you used to be as a very young child, before you understood the meaning of any word, before opinions took over your mind. The real you is loving, joyful, and free. The real you is just like a flower, just like the wind, just like the ocean, just like the sun.

--Miguel Angel Ruiz