Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends in Blogland!!!

I am so grateful for your friendship!

Hope you spend the day surrounded by good food and good friends!

Gratitude can transform common days into Thanksgiving, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.

--William Arthur Ward

Monday, November 25, 2013

Monday Morning Flowers

Good Monday Morning, My People!

Hope you had a wonderful weekend.

It's Monday!  

Time to start a new week and celebrate new beginnings.

"Dear old world," she murmured, "you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you."

--L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Observation Pit: Breakfast

Welcome to the Observation Pit in which Betty shares her salient observations, asks meaningful questions, and, yeah, lets her Freak Flag fly. 

How many of you eat basically the same thing for breakfast most every morning?

Please hold up your hands.  Ah, yes.  That's quite a few of you.

I do!   A banana, a big glass of green tea, and bite-size shredded wheat dipped in peanut butter is what keeps Betty happy, healthy, and sassy too.

Here's my question:  Wouldn't you go insane if you ate the same meal for dinner night after night?

Why does the same meal plan work for breakfast, but not for lunch or dinner?

I'll just sit right here in my pit and wait for your answers.

Friday, November 22, 2013


For a long time I had a project in my Intermediate Composition class in which my students built kites.  After they built them in groups, they wrote essays telling someone how to make the same kite. 

It was a project to help them understand how to write the process essay.  My goal was to reinforce the necessity of having good organization, and specific, concrete details.  Well, that was script I had ready just in case any administrator asked why I had my whole class running across the quad with kites.  (After all, we had to make sure they worked.)

Mostly, though, it was just a fun project that I could do mid-year when confidence and motivation were flagging.  I have a wide variety of students and this gave them a chance to work together, to create something, and for some world-weary students to experience some fun for a day.

I divided the students into groups, and they planned what materials to bring to the next class sessions.  I gave general instructions, urging them to bring balsa wood for the cross sticks, suggesting materials they could bring in to make their kites successful.  

After a few semesters, I thought I was pretty knowledgeable about kite construction and not afraid to spout off about it.  I readily told students what would work and what would not.

One semester, I had a student from Argentina named Luis who was in charge of bringing the materials for his group.  He did not speak very much English and apparently had not really understood what he was supposed to bring.  All he had was some string, a crumpled plastic bag from the grocery store, and some sad twigs he had picked up from under the tree.  

His group was distraught and came to me for help.  They were sure he had forgotten the assignment and had just thrown these things together.   I went to talk to Luis and he just nodded and smiled at me. 

His group was not happy and was getting a little stressed out.  I gave the group permission to borrow from other people in the class to make their own kite.  I talked to Luis and explained to him all the reasons why these materials would not work but he just went to a corner of the classroom and started his own project.

I felt a little bad, watching him cobble together his crippled little kite, but time was passing by quickly.  

Soon the groups had finished their kites.  There were some beautiful creations, decorated with bright colors, festooned with tissue paper and shiny streamers.  

I saw the students look at the kite Luis held. Some of them smirked a little.  I knew the kite wouldn’t fly but what could I do?

It was a gorgeous day, but there was not too much wind.  We tried flying the kites anyway.  I always love to see my students get excited about such simple things.  I have a very clear memory of one of my more gangster-type of students, arms full of tattoos,  holding up a kite in one hand, and his jeans with the other, a cigarette (unlit) in his mouth, as he ran in his giant black shoes, laughing all the way across the grass. 

The students released the kites, and ran with them, but none of them flew.  We decided the wind was probably not strong enough. Then, as you may have guessed, we all turned to see one kite high in the blue sky.  It was a kite made out of twigs and a crumpled grocery bag, and there at the end of the string was Luis, smiling.

The other students were amazed at how high the kite went, the way it hovered in the sky.  They asked him about it and he told them he had learned to make this type of kite as a child in Argentina.  They looked at him and then up at the kite with complete awe.

I think about Luis and the kite a lot.  This experience really changed my life.  I realized how rigid I was in my thinking, how smug I was about what I thought I knew, and how wrong I had been.

Now, when one of my students, friends, or my kids has an idea, I don’t discount it.  Instead I say, “Let’s try it!” 

What’s the worst thing that can happen? 

The world’s a big place.  

The sky is wide above us.

Even the most unlikely kites need a chance to fly.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Staying Put

Not too long ago. I was helping my friend K, get ready for a going-away party for her son who was going to Japan to teach for a year. As I hung lights in the tree, preparing for the party, I thought about the good times we have had in her backyard over the years. Our kids practically grew up together so from Pocahontas and Pokemon parties, to First Communion and graduation parties, we’ve covered them all. 

As night fell and the party went into its second hour, I stood beneath that tree and took in the whole scene before me.  I heard the laughter from the guests and saw their familiar faces, friends connected to us by both joy and tragedy.  I saw all the faces of the young adults, those kids we watched grow up, now just reaching adulthood, all so full of promise.  I stood there and felt the good solid weight of this life and all those years in this circle of friends, and I knew I was right where I belonged. 

Brian, that Certain Very Nice Man I date, asked me once if after I retire I would want to move some place new and different.  I immediately answered no.  “Sorry,” I said, feeling a bit stodgy and stick-in-the-mudish.  “But I really don’t see myself moving unless something pretty dramatic happens.” 

That night at the party, I suddenly saw my life as a Spirograph design.  Do you remember those sets of rings and geared disks?  You may have had one as a kid.  You pinned down the outer rings and then inserted a pen in one of the disks and made a design as you went around the ring.  By switching out circles, or switching holes, you could layer design upon design.

As I looked at the people at the party, and thought about all the history we share, I saw my life here as one beautiful pattern, one that would not have the depth nor the intricacy had I not made the choices I have made.  I am proud to provide "home base" for my kids.  I am happy knowing I'll still be here for many years.  I look forward to those parties at K's house someday in the future that, I'll just bet, include celebrating grandchildren.

I know the design of my life is not complete.  Oh no, not at all.  I have many more wheels to choose from, many more patterns to add.  

While there is adventure and romance in moving, there is also a beauty in staying put, in pinning your circle to a firm place, in choosing the colors of your design carefully, gracefully changing out the wheels when the time is right. 

I celebrate the opulent complexity of time spent in one place.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Monday Morning Flowers!

Happy Monday!

Here are your flowers, you special people, you.

I've got jury duty today.  

I am taking a stack of grading to do and crossing my fingers that I get to sit and grade all day.  

Happy Birthday to Brian, that Certain Very Nice Man of Mine!

What are you all up to today?

Friday, November 15, 2013

The (In)activity On My Bed

I think we all have mental pictures of what our pets are doing during the day when we are at work. 

Me?  Well, I knew they slept some, but I also imagined the cats, Zelda and Mabel, stretching, walking around the house, cleaning themselves, staring out the window contemplating life, eventually conversing with one another about the benefits of a stretching pad vs. a fence for claw maintenance.  

I pictured Kia, my dog, playing with her toys, chewing her bones, and keeping vigil at the door for my triumphant return at the end of the day.

A few weeks ago, I had to stay home from work because of an elbow injury.  I wasn’t able to do much, so I went into the bedroom to relax in bed and I found all three of them there, clearly ready to start their weekday routine.   

This is what I found out about my pets during the day: 




They were spread out, stretched out, and zonked out starting promptly at 8:00 a.m.  I had to physically move Zelda from the pillow to the other side of the bed and shove Mabel over so I could have a bit of space.  Kia had positioned herself sideways across the bed, so I had to work around her just to straighten out my legs.  When I finally got myself wedged in, I was amazed at their daytime devotion to complete and utter oblivion. 

They tolerated me, but just barely.  Any movement was regarded with irritation and undisguised aggravation from the cats.  I am a welcomed guest on the weekends and during the night time hours, but it was clear I was the interloper during working hours. 

At around 3:30, the time I normally get home, they managed to rouse themselves.  I was then put to work feeding them and taking Kia out for a walk, despite my very painful elbow injury. 

I actually love the fact that my pets have made my bed their campout zone.  As you may have guessed, I am crazy about each and every one of those critters.  The real trouble comes when it is time to change the sheets.  I assure them all that it will only take about five minutes and then they will be welcomed back.  It takes some convincing and some pulling on the sheets.  Sometimes the arm crane has to be employed, but they do get the message eventually.  

This picture was taken during one of our stand-offs.

Staying home gave me a new vision of what my pets do while I am away.  They zonk out.  They are devoutly dedicated to their rest.  The cats use their one or two hours of activity judiciously after I get home.  There are trips out to the food dish, and a bit of time spent on the patio taking in the afternoon sun.  Kia, my Rocket Girl, merely stores up energy that must be released when I get home, resulting in a trip to the dog park or a long walk.  

Ah yes, I guess I did have an incorrect vision of their daytime routine.  Staying home for two days showed me that.  I’ve readjusted my thinking. 

Good thing the vision I have for my sons is still a correct one.  They are both in college and so of course when I imagine them, they are sitting at their desks, studying all day and probably most evenings too.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Resilient Heart

After going through the pain of divorce, I was prepared to shut my heart away for awhile, to withdraw from the world of relationships that at that time seemed so murky and full of subterfuge.  

I had not seen divorce coming.  I felt pretty stupid.  Could I ever trust my judgment again?  

However, soon I found myself writing to and talking to a certain man who managed to open that closed door just enough to let me see that I could maybe, just maybe, risk it and take small steps in the direction of love again. 

I was lucky.  Brian was the friend of friends.  He and I had met over the years at parties where we had various conversations.  It was clear from the start that we both had a love of language.  We also had our own quirky ways of looking at life.  Our short conversations were always snappy, quick, and fun.  

He told me later that when he walked away from these encounters, his one thought was that my husband was the luckiest man on earth to have me as a mate. 

He is a decent man who understands the journey of healing is not a fast one.  He was patient with me and never pushed our relationship too quickly.  Divorce plays with your heart and your head.  It takes your self-esteem and throws it around like a Frisbee. He always gave me the room I needed to feel what I needed to feel.  He still does.

Best of all, he viewed me through a clear lens. 

So often in long-term, complicated relationships, one person sees the other through a lens scratched from the past, scarred by childhood, damaged from past injuries, so that even when one acts in an honest and true way, her motivations are questioned. 

I soon discovered that I had, in fact, lost touch with the person I wanted to be. I had started to view myself through the scratched lens of my spouse, and had started to believe that view. How refreshing it was to have all my actions unhampered by the past, by old hurts of which I had no part. I was free to be me—the real me.

And I had nothing to lose by being the real me. 

Divorce pretty much strips you down to nothing and you figure what the hell, I might as well be the person I want to be, the person I am supposed to be. I was tired of someone taking the play dough of my actions and pushing it through an extruder, contorting it into some shape that would justify a preconceived notion.  I knew if I stayed true to myself that would never happen again.

I read about a study done on people who regularly went to movies and ate popcorn.  Researchers gave them stale popcorn just before they went into the show.  After the movie, they asked the audience about the popcorn and the participants said it was fine, no different from the usual. 

They had become so accustomed to the same experience of eating popcorn at the movies, they did not even recognize when the popcorn was stale.

When Brian and I started dating, I started to taste fresh popcorn. Yowza!  Amazing! It had been a very long time since I had felt truly loved and appreciated just for being myself.  He reminded me that I was pretty, funny, and creative.  This is what I had been missing and I didn’t even know I had been missing it.  

I had been eating stale popcorn, accepting it, and thinking that was normal.

Perhaps it happens in all long-term relationships: appreciation is replaced by expectation; adventure is replaced by monotony.  (In fairness, I was serving up some major portions of stale popcorn as well.)  I know I won’t let it happen again.

My sister Kathleen once referred to me as someone who had a resilient heart.   At the time she said it, I didn’t see myself that way, but now I do. I am proud of the fact that I trusted the universe enough to try again and I recognize how extraordinarily fortunate I am to have found love again.

I realize what a wonderful life I have had, the great adventure I am living, and the incredible things that await.  I am so appreciative of it all.  I have a lot of happy memories of my marriage.  No matter how it ended, I know without a doubt that my husband loved me very much for the vast majority of those thirty years.  I have two incredible sons from that marriage who have blessed my life in so many ways.

And now, I have this new love, this new beginning.  

I have found a man who sees me for who I am and loves this big sparkling, mixed-up, sometimes confusing, happy Bundle of Betty. 

How lucky can a girl get?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Monday Morning Flowers

 Happy Monday, Everyone!

Happy Veterans Day, USA!

How was your weekend?

Tell Betty all about it.

We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.

         --Cynthia Ozick

Friday, November 8, 2013

Out and About With Betty

That man and I have a good time wherever we go.

This past weekend we went to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

I didn't take too many pictures, but I did play around with some reflections in a photography exhibit.

The museum is next to the La Brea Tar Pits.

We strolled over to see the sad sight of the concrete Mama Mastodon sinking into the pit, on her way to a painful, hideous death while the father and baby look on.

My Questions:
What wacky curator thought this nightmare-producing scenario was a good idea?

Is Disney somehow involved here? (Lots of dead mothers in Disney movies.)

Is it my imagination or does the father mastodon have an impassive look on his face?

Why isn't the father mastodon lifting a trunk to help?

Does the father mastodon have evening plans with the cute female mastodon across the pit?

Does he have disco dancing in mind for their first date?

Can a male mastodon dance properly with the baby mastodon waiting in the car (*insert your own trunk joke here) and with the hot tar of the pit in which his mate sank that afternoon upon his craggy toenails?

Am I perhaps overanalyzing this?

Did I perhaps quit therapy too soon?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

I'll Take Them All, Please

One thing I love about teaching on a college campus is coming across signs like this:

I was on my way to class, so I took Patience.  

It worked! 

Hope you have a happy day!