Monday, December 15, 2014

Monday Morning Flowers

Hi everybody!

Life is busy but good here.

We are finishing up a busy semester at school and getting ready for the holiday season.

Hope all is well with you!

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, "I used everything you gave me." 

~Erma Bombeck

Monday, November 24, 2014

Monday Morning Flowers!

Happy Monday, People!

Are you ready for the party called life?

I hope so!

It's Thanksgiving week here in the States.

We have so much for which to be grateful.

It's incredible, isn't it?  

I am grateful for Mondays, for flowers, and for all of you!  

Happy Monday! 


Friday, November 21, 2014

Gifts of the Season

Christmas time is coming up which means many of us will contribute to a toy drive of some kind.  

For years I did what most people do.  I eagerly strolled down the toy aisle, delighted to buy a big colorful gift for a child.  Tonka Toys, Matchbox Cars, Lincoln Logs, Legos, dolls, action figures, Slinkies, crayons were all there to transport me back to my and my sons’ childhood.  

I thought about the delight on the faces of the children who would receive them and smiled as I dropped them in the big box outside the store.

Then one year I worked behind the scenes with one of the organizations that sponsored the toy drive.  It was fun to be given a basket along with a list of ages of the children in the families I was picking for.
In front of me were giant crates of donated toys, organized and labeled according to age ranges and gender. 

The crate for the little ones was overflowing and the adolescents had a good selection as well.  Even the crate labeled “Girls Ages 12-16” had a good supply of things like scarves, purses, and fun blank books, and jewelry boxes.  

It was when I got the “Boys: Ages 12-16” that my heart sank.  The supply was meager and the selection looked like cast-offs from the 99 Cent Store.  When there was nothing left in the crate, I asked the supervisor what to do.  She shrugged and said, “Just give them one out of the little kid boxes.” 

Perhaps it is because I have known the stigma of poverty, or because I am the mother of sons, but this experience really affected me.  Boys between the ages of twelve and sixteen are perhaps some of the most conflicted, most tender, and most misunderstood creatures on the planet.  

They are caught between childhood and adulthood.  Everything in our culture is screaming at them about what they should be and do.  The true little voices inside their heads are devalued and many times drowned out completely. 

Often times when there are financial burdens in the family, the older children are rushed into adulthood.  When the holidays roll around, the resources and attention are given to the younger kids.  
The older males, especially, have to rise to the occasion, and do what is expected.   Inside they may still be little boys, but circumstances dictate they sacrifice for the good of the family.  

They do it because they have to. The options open to then are as colorless and meager as the collection of items I saw in the crate that day.

So now, I don’t head to the toy aisle when it’s time to make my yearly donation.  Instead, I buy several presents I know will be right for boys between the ages of twelve and sixteen.  I look for good wallets, battery-operated coin sorters, I-Tune gift cards, cool watches, key chains that double as tools, and great t-shirts.  

I like to think of the boy who receives my present leaning up against the wall on Christmas morning, watching all the little kids open their presents, grinning at their exuberance, and then opening his, nodding and smiling.  

I hope my present helps balance the gap between childhood and adulthood.  

More than anything else I hope it keeps his pride intact and his boyish heart alive for just a little bit longer. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Dancing at the Wedding

The bride was alerted by the staff that it was nearly time to shut down the wedding venue but there were still rowdy guests out on the dance floor.  

She came to investigate and looked around expecting, I suspect, to find her similarly-aged (perhaps intoxicated) friends.  Instead she looked at us—five moms and two young women we had recruited into our circle-- and said, “Oh!  It’s you guys!”  We all waved to her and kept dancing our hearts out to “Build Me Up Buttercup.”

We continued dancing when the next song came on, knowing our time was limited and bathed in that particular happy light only a wedding can produce. 

I looked around at the circle of women, mostly in their fifties, the assortment of flowing dresses adorning various body types.  Life had been very different for all of us.  The mother of the bride, swayed in time with the mother of the groom --one from Washington, the other from Scotland.  I danced next to a woman I had known for years and one I had met just hours before.  

There were no partners.  We simply danced, a vibrant moving flower whose colorful petals waved and moved in the wind.  The two younger women danced with us and we enfolded them in the circle. We mothers felt the strength and glory that comes from producing life.  We had all been through joy and heartache.  Life had given us some muddy gravel roads to traverse and also some gorgeous perfect roses along the way. 

The younger women in the group had all that in front of them, the exquisitely beautiful and the painfully ugly, and at that moment, they all felt every bit of power and support in that group that they too, would make it through the journey and be just fine.

I love being where I am in this life.  Behind me are the insecurities of youth.  No longer do I hide as a wallflower, waiting to be asked to dance.  I dance when I want to, regardless of having a partner.  I love being with women my own age.  We understand each other.  We get it.  We support one another.  Gone are the small, petty differences we thought were so important.  Age brings wisdom, perspective, and a whole lot of forgiveness.

The last song played and we finally said good night to one another, lingering just a little before scattering out to our homes, knowing full well that we would never be together again.  

It was a moment in time that was both finite and infinite.   

The song ended.  Our music did not.

Friday, November 14, 2014

It's a Sign (2)

Dear Life,

Thank you, 

P.S.  I am grateful for it all.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Monday Morning Flowers

Happy Monday!

It's the start of a new week!

It will be a busy one for me, but I intend to make it a good one.

Hope you have a good one too!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

It's a Sign

(One in a series)

This has to be one of my favorite signs of all times.

It was in a busy breezeway of a Sydney office building.  People passing by the sign were entering a street congested with people walking and running, people on skateboards and bikes and crazy, crazy traffic, so I suppose on one level it's just about safety.

Don't run into each other.

Don't run over each other.

That sort of thing,

In that respect, I like the fact it doesn't scream out scary two-syllable words such as "Caution!," "Danger!," "Hazard!" like large paranoid, smug, omniscient birds just waiting from above to squawk out, "Told you so! Told you so!"

However, to me, this is less about temporarily watching so we don't careen into somebody at the end of a work day.

This pretty much sums up my philosophy of life.

It's a busy life, a great and awesome time on the Earth.  Sometimes it's a scary life, sometimes a lonely life. Sometimes it's overwhelming.

Look up, look around, find those who need you and be of service.

This is why we are put on this planet.

It's pretty simple, really.

Let's all look after each other.  

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!

Kia Louise is ready!  

Are you?


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Just One Thing

For years one of my New Year's resolutions has been "Drink More Water."  

Sound familiar?

Lucky for me I have one VERY SMART friend (who just happens to be the girlfriend of my Sonny Boy) who introduced me to these water bottles back in June.

The are made by Copco and are the best water bottles on the PLANET!

I have used them consistently since June and because of them I am one well-hydrated woman these days.  

The best thing about these bottles is they unscrew so you can clean them.  You can also add big pieces of ice to get cold water fast OR you can put strawberries, cucumbers, lemons, etc. in them to make for some tasty H2O.

Because I am a nut, I bought eight of them.  I keep four at school and keep four at home. 

They run about $8.00-$10.00 a bottle.  You can buy them on Amazon.  I got mine at JoAnn's for $7.50 with a 20 percent off coupon.  

Some might want a bigger size, and some companies make ones that unscrew like these that are larger. 

For me, these are just right.   

I take one with me in the morning and drink it on the way to school and always grab one at quitting time and drink it on the drive home. 

Driving time is drinking (water) time!  

My cat Zelda believes that any water glass is her personal cat bowl, so these have also come in handy to have by my bed.  Not that I don't appreciate some flavorful cat saliva in my water....

Sometimes it takes just one little thing to make life so much easier.  It may seem silly to do a happy dance over a water bottle, but I am certainly doing just that.

Happy Hydration, My People!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Betty Got Flame

What is it about fire that draws us in?   

There's something dreamy about sitting and watching the flames.  Ahhhhhhh.....

I currently have my living room set up so that two of the chairs face away from the fireplace, and this being California, we rarely need (or want) the extra heat a fireplace brings anyway.  I like candles, but one or two scattered around the room just doesn't cut it for a drama-seeking gal such as myself.  

So, I came up with a way to maximize the sparkle of little candles placed together.

Here's how I did it: I took (incredibly cheap) 8X10 frames with glass and took off the backs.  I crumpled up aluminum foil (fun!) and covered those backs with it, then popped them back on the glass.

I actually did five of the frames so I could line them up on my long dining room table for dramatic effect.  I like the square shape four of them make when they are on my coffee table.  I think it looks a little more like a communal fire this way.

Normally, I have books and magazines on the table, so I store the frames on the shelf just underneath the table.  This makes it really easy to pull out and set up.

The other night we had friends over and after a rousing round of board games at the dining room table, we needed to calm down, so we adjourned to the library with glasses of wine.  I got out the frames, and set a great, late night, gather-around-the-campfire Kumbayah kind of atmosphere.  I put on a little soothing music and soon my guests forgot all about the crushing defeat I had handed each of them via the board games.

Mine are just plain frames, but you could get even cool, fancy frames with higher sides and just do one or two for a dresser top.

Try it!  Take that frame that holds the picture of terrible old Aunt Hilda and put it to good use finally.

You (and lots of candles) light up my life!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Monday Morning Flowers!

Happy Monday Everyone!

Kia Louise says don't click on that mouse!  It's still Betty's Blog, just with a new look!  

I thought it was time for a change.  What do you think?

I've been buried in papers and grading lately, but it's time for me to exercise my own creativity. 
That means you'll be seeing me around the blogosphere more in the upcoming weeks.  
Can you handle it????
I think you can.

Here's to understanding that it is by honoring our creativity that we encourage it in others.

...and then use that anger.

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