Saturday, November 30, 2013


Some months ago I read an article in Smithsonian magazine about Cai Guo-Qiang, who is a gunpowder artist. Well, gee...those are two words you don't often see juxtaposed. 

Anyway, the gunpowder artwork was a little beyond me, but some of the things he said in the article about the process of creating his art resonated with me, and I got to thinking about his words again tonight. 

This, to me, is the essence of patience:

"Many things don’t have an immediate solution, and many conflicts cannot be resolved immediately. Sometimes things take time to heal and when you take a longer time you might be better able to accomplish your goal.

"[As an artist] the things you’re trying to relay, they can be full of conflict, and you do not necessarily have to use art to resolve all these conflicts. As long as you acknowledge these conflicts or address the conflict in your art, that is already meaningful.

"John Keats [expressed] the idea of “negative capability”: the distinction of a first-rate mind is that it can entertain conflicting ideas, “is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching” after certainty."*

Thank you, Mr. Cai.

I needed your words tonight. 

When I googled the artist this evening, I found these cool images of his recent show in Australia. And this is the artist's home page.

Just watched this video from Cai Guo-Qiang's web page. I liked it.

*From Smithsonian, April 2013, article about gunpowder artist Cai Guo-Qiang

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving 2013

Today is a beautiful day on Laurel Lane.

I slept in until 9:00 am. Ahhhhh….

We went for a walk along the OC Promenade.

Mom marching bravely across the catwalk over Hwy 99E.
 Snazzy new WARM jacket from REI.

 Yes, it really is this pretty here today.

I made a pumpkin roll from this recipe.
I calculated the points using the Weight Watcher's e-tools.
It will be 8 points for one slice.
Totally worth it.

Mom is making a pan of homemade lasagne from scratch.

I will make some of my delicious and beautiful single-serving green salads, and Mom is also making a squash-and-apple dish.

Turkey? Nope, not this year. Keepin' it simple.

At dessert we'll read our annual Thanksgiving poems. Mark and Mom have written theirs, but I haven't seen them yet. I'm giving you a sneak preview of mine.

This year my poem is a sonnet (again), which makes me happy. The first lines of the first two stanzas came to me in a dream last night, and I actually remembered them when I woke up this morning. I wrote the poem out longhand before I typed it. I like writing poetry longhand because it slows my thoughts down. Writing longhand lets me access different places inside me.

I Would Not Be

I would not be a stagnant pond—
algae-bound, where fish must grope for air—
though still and sure, complacent, always found
the same. There is no freedom there.

Oh make of me a heaving sea, a froth
of foam, a cauldron surging round its depth and height
that feeds its citizens with life, a broth
of air that fosters hope and joy and life.

God, make me lively, sensitive to all
the subtle senses of the unquiet soul,
that listens in the breath between the fall
of leaves, and silent seeds that rest in soil.

Awaken me to every moment’s birth:
Alert to daily miracles that crowd this spinning earth.

Hazard Canyon, central California coast, Dec 2006

Happy Thanksgiving 2013, dear blog friends! I'm so happy to be here on the planet with YOU!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Simple Sewing

I'm not part of Katie's amazing blog tour or anything like that, but I do want to tell you about Katie's book.

Probably I'm not part of the blog tour because I didn't begin the post saying something like, "I'm so excited to be part of the blog tour for this amazing little book! It's by Katie, who blogs over at The Red Kitchen…" I just don't have that sewing-craft-blogger voice. But that doesn't mean that I'm not really excited about Katie's book. (Well, that was an awkward sentence. Which is why your English teacher used to tell you to avoid double negatives. Because what I was trying to say is that I am really excited to tell you about Katie's book!!)

The first day I had my very own real honest-to-goodness print copy, I carried it all around the high school and showed the other teachers. The sewing teacher. The teacher who has his own publishing business on the side. The teacher who wrote a YA novel and sent it to an agent but it never made it (yet) to a publisher. The teachers who ask about my grandkids and know my kids' names. The teachers who taught Katie when she was in high school. The teachers who know nothing about sewing or Katie or my grandkids. Yeah, basically anyone who would listen.

Because, do you know just how cool it is when your daughter is a published author!!

Um, it's pretty amazingly cool.

You see books out there on the shelves of stores and libraries, and it's hard to imagine that it hasn't always been…a book. This thing, with the cover and the table of contents and the page numbers and the wonderful story or the dandy information or whatever it is that this particular book is. Books are…books, right?

But I'm the lucky mama who got to watch this book come together, from the time when it was "a twinkle in its author's eye" to the time when my very own copy came in the mail. I got to help Katie proofread some early drafts. I got to be her cheerleader on the sidelines. I got to brainstorm with her when she was writing her book proposal for her publisher (!!).

This book started out as a dream. Then it moved into a notebook filled with instructions and dimensions that came to life when Katie started making patterns and trying out the projects on her sewing machine. (Oh, and that would be the sewing machine that Mark and I gave her as a wedding present.) The book became a photo file with several thousand photos that Katie took to create the step-by-step photos. It turned into hours and hours and hours and hours of Katie working away in her little basement sewing room…or writing away while Olivia was in preschool…or editing again the instructions and the photos because she wanted it all to be right.

She just did it.

And now it's a book. In time for Christmas. Perfect for beginners, no matter the age. Dandy for experienced sewers who want simple, classy, classic ideas they can customize to their heart's content. Ready to jump its cheery little self into homes all over the continent (the world??) to bring sewing goodness to everyone.

Can I share with you the best moment?

It was opening up the cover and reading the dedication: "To my mother, who taught me how to sew. And write."

Oh, and then to turn the page to the acknowledgements and read, "Heartfelt thanks to my mother…"

And then finally, in the author bio at the back of the book: "She first learned how to sew as a child in her mother's makeshift sewing room and this early love of creating has continued throughout her life."

I'll say. We used to call her the Engineer because she was constantly twisting wire and bits of this and that into…this and that.

Thanks, Katie. Thanks for letting me share those things with you. They mattered to me, and I'm glad they matter to you, too.

Anyway, it probably won't surprise you too much to hear that when I was dragging my bee-you-tee-ful copy of Simple Sewing  around the high school that I sometimes introduced it as my "newest grandchild." It's just pretty darn amazing.

And then, last night when I stopped in at Barnes and Noble just to see it on the shelf, the clerk told me they were all sold out and they would call me when the next shipment comes in. (Go, little book, go!!) So when he asked me, did I give him my number? You bet your little sewing book.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Best teacher

Today in Sunday School, the teacher asked us to reminisce about the best teacher we remember.

Mr. O'Connor, 6th grade. Awesome. It was a 5-6 blend, and it there were several pairs of siblings in the class. One of them was me and my brother, Maury. Not sure how Maury felt about it, but I loved it. There was also Judy and Phoebe Froggat and Joan and Nancy Nagano (although the Naganos were actually cousins). But I digress.

Mr. O'Connor made us do isometric exercises out of a little book from the Canadian Air Force. I thought they were dumb and I didn't like doing them. I loved Mr. O'Connor but I didn't like his exercises. But he also taught us a new game called Speedball, which I loved. This was in 1965, and soccer was not a big deal in the U.S. In fact, I had never heard of soccer. But speedball must be soccer's little brother. Very similar. It was great fun.

(I looked up "speedball" on google and came up with: 1) mixing heroin and cocaine, 2) a game that involves some sort of bunkers, 3) a brand of pens. None of those is the speedball I am referring to. Many thanks to Mrs. King and her homepage, which provided the above link. Actually, I think Mrs. King has some work to do on her homepage. I found her speedball page. Then I clicked on "home" at the bottom of the speedball page to see what other awesome links she has. She has a great picture of a tiger, and an animated title ["Mrs. King's Homepage"] that inches across the screen, but that's it. No links to anything. Not even the speedball page. So I hope she'll contact the tech department at her school district in South Dakota and get some help. Her url begins with, which means she works in a school district in South Dakota. I did a quick google search for jk065 and I got a link to flag football! Awesome. Do you think Mrs. King teaches P.E.? I did a little more sleuthing and I think that in South Dakota "jk" means something like Junior Kindergarten. I know that seems a big much, but I found some schools that prided themselves on being JK-12 public schools. Here in Oregon, we refer to school districts as K-12, meaning Kindergarten - 12th grade, so what else are you going to do with the "JK"? They can't mean "Just Kidding - 12th grade," right?)

Anyway, it's time for bed and we are now so far off track that I don't think I can say much more about Mr. O'Connor. Not that I could have said much more anyway…it's been almost 50 years since I was in his classroom doing Canadian AF isometrics and playing Speedball. Beyond mentioning that I remember doing awesome poster projects (the entire process of photosynthesis in a leaf) and giggling a lot with my friends while Mr. O'Connor gave us the evil eye and said, "Ladies, you are babbling like a brook," and…um…yeah. That's about all I remember.

Oh, except that I remember feeling valued and loved in his classroom. He was a really awesome teacher.
Just like Mrs. King is, too, I'm sure.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Sun Salutation

For years I have wanted to be able to do the Sun Salutation. It is a series of yoga poses, and even though I tried several times, I never could quite learn it.

Then I found this video.

The description on the video says, "This video explores the traditional Sun Salutation: a simple, and effective series of Yoga Postures that invigorates the whole body. Guided by Brooklyn Yoga School founder, Lily Cushman, learn the sequence step by step with detailed instruction. No Yoga experience required. Open to all Levels. Enjoy!"

That is a good description! I did learn it step by step, and now I do at least one Sun Salutation every morning when I get up. Sometimes I do 4 or 5, and some mornings I set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes and just keep doing them. It's a wonderful workout that stretches me, strengthens me, and gets my heart rate moving.

It doesn't matter that I'm clumsier than Lily in the video. I'm getting stronger and more graceful every day. I love the way Sun Salutation helps me breathe deeply and stretch at the beginning of the day.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Meditations for Women who Do Too Much

I recently rediscovered a little book on my bookshelf:

Meditations for Women who Do Too Much
by Anne Wilson Schaef

It has 365 short meditations. After I found it on the bookshelf a couple of weeks ago, I've been reading one each morning. Here are a couple of my recent favorites.

October 22: Being Direct
If you can't be direct, why be? -- Lily Tomlin
     Being direct is almost archaic in this culture. With all the "spin," "handling," innuendo, and outright lying it is difficult to know what anyone is saying and what is real or not real.
     "Feminine" women have been trained in smooth talk, inference, manipulation, and control. Our mothers and grandmothers were masters of the "soft sell." They had to be. They were raised to be impotent and dependent.
     We often feel resentful and sad because we find ourselves dealing with illusion. It's not that we don't perceive reality. We do! We just don't want to have to dig it out all the time.
     We women are good at seeing the whole picture. We are good at seeing the fine details. We are great at generating creative options. And we are excellent at understanding the emotional as well as the intellectual nuances.
     As we women are changing and our roles are changing, do we want to slip into the male form of smooth talk and spin? We have some choices to make here. This particular choice may not seem like such a big one, but it has great implications.
     Why not be direct? Being direct takes so much less time and energy. Why be if we can't be direct?

October 30: Being Obsessed / Needing Others
She who rides a tiger is afraid to dismount. -- Proverb
     Being obsessed with our work is often thought to be a requirement for success. Yet, when was it that the tail started wagging the dog? Where was the point at which we stopped doing our work, and it began doing us?
     It is a lot harder to get off the roller coaster in the middle than it was to get on it. This is why we need the companionship of others who are struggling with the same issues: they support our process of getting unhooked from our obsessive doing.
     It is only with the support of others and the renewed connection with a power greater than ourselves that we can hope to become whole.
     I suppose I can dismount if I have a few people helping to hold the tiger. I have been known to dismount!

…and so on. Some of the meditations are a little cheesy, and a couple haven't resonated with me at all, but for the most part, my morning meditation is a helpful moment of stillness as I begin another busy day. I'm grateful for the encouragement to slow down, to stay with what is truly important, to speak up for myself and my needs.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Weight Watchers

I've joined Weight Watchers off and on over the years. Two years ago I joined an "at work" group, which is really nice because the meetings are just there after work once a week. I'm lucky because my insurance company pays for policy holders to join WW, as long as you attend regularly (10 x in a 13-week cycle).

I'm not a lot overweight. My body mass index (BMI) is currently in the "normal weight" category.

The problem is, if I'm not careful about what I eat…and I love to eat…my weight steadily creeps up. In September I was 4 pounds heavier than I am right now, and I was at the absolute upper limit of the "normal weight" category for my BMI.

You know, that place where your pants are too tight and you feel bloated and lethargic.

So this fall I re-committed to attending the meetings regularly and making the Weight Watchers healthy eating + activity program a lifetime commitment. Even though I'm technically at a point where I could go to the meetings once in a while, I'm trying to weigh in and stay for the support group every week. It's making a difference.

It's so easy for me to be a weight-loss snob. I'm not that fat. I know the principles of good nutrition and I often follow them. I carry a backpack around in the woods for days at a time, for heaven's sake!

On the other hand, it's not as if I have the weight-maintenance thing nailed down yet, either. I've been keeping daily track of my morning weight for 6 years now, and I repeatedly fluctuate between 129-141 pounds. I'm 129-ish when I live the Weight Watchers healthy program consistently. I'm 140-ish when I don't.

Three weeks ago I bought a new tool to help me monitor my activity levels. It's called the "ActiveLink" monitor and it's just a dandy little gadget.
Here's why I like it:

  1. It's easy to wear. It's very inconspicuous. 
  2. It gives me detailed data on activity levels every day when I plug it into the computer. It also gives a quick look at my activity levels during the day so I can see if I need to take the long way around next time I walk from my classroom to the office.
  3. It helps me set goals that gradually increase, so I can build up my activity and movement.
  4. It measures all my activity, not just the 30-40 minutes I spend on a walk or other activity.

Here's a screen shot of what my data screen looks like today. Cool! I made it over my activity goal!

 Since I began attending the weekly meetings in September, I've lost 5 pounds! Hooray! Tomorrow I'm going shopping for new pants in a smaller size!

Update - The Young Women in Excellence program on Thursday night was awesome…and no one said anything to me about the Canadian spelling. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Canadian spelling - do you think anyone will notice?

The theme the girls chose for the Young Women in Excellence program is "True Colors."

When I was typing up the program this evening, I wanted to add a little visual touch, so I went to my old standby - google search + images.

First I found this:

Then I found this, which I like even better because of the love note at the bottom.

Hmmm…do you think anyone will notice the funky Canadian spelling?
Guess I'll find out tomorrow night!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Kool-Aid Popcorn

Some days, life of a Young Women's president has a little extra joy.

Today is one of those days.

My friends, I present: Kool-Aid Popcorn.

(You know, I really am sorry about those nasty-eye photos I posted yesterday. What was I thinking? That's what I thought to myself when I looked at the blog again this morning. My apologies, and I'm sure you'll have more fun with this photo.)

We have our annual Young Women in Excellence program coming up this Thursday, and because it's almost the end of 2013, we're on a pretty tight budget. How to have a fun and tasty treat that incorporates a bunch of the different Young Women's colors?

Why, Kool-Aid Popcorn, of course!

O, but there is a problem. It's the 21st century, not the 1950s. Come to think of it, when was the last time you whipped up a pitcher full of Kool-Aid? Or tried to find Kool-Aid packets in the grocery store? For those of you, who can't remember, I'll let you in on a little problem with this recipe that features fancy popcorn colored with all different colors of Kool-Aid…there is only one Kool-Aid color left any more. It's red.

Technically, there are still two different Kool-Aid flavors: Tropical Punch and Wild Cherry. But they're both red. And while red is not a bad color, in and of itself, I wanted more than just red. Much more.

Pondering, I prowled the grocery store.

Inspiration came in the baking aisle. More specifically in the pudding/gelatin section. Also known as the Jello jamboree. There they were, arranged like little glinting jewels on the grocery store shelves: lots of colors! Hooray for Jello!!

I promptly bought 8 packets of sugar-free Jello and made a trial run. The verdict? You can replace the packet of Kool-Aid in the recipe with 1/2 packet of sugar-free Jello. Tasty, easy, cheap. And colorful. The perfect treat for our program later in the week.

Stay tuned. I'll try to remember to take my camera on Thursday night so that I can post a few photos of our festivities, including our Kool-Aid Jello popcorn. Nothing but the finest here on my blog.

PS - If you decide to try this recipe, I do not recommend mixing the whole sticky shebang in a shallow pan, as the instructions indicate. No sirree. Keep that gooey mess in a nice big bowl until it's all evenly stickie-fied. Then you can spread it in the shallow pan and slip it into the oven to be baked to its heart's content. Mmmmm…yummy!

Monday, November 4, 2013


It may shock you to learn that I have been diagnosed with blepharitis.

Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids. In this artist's rendering, it looks sort of elegant and evil.

Some people with blepharitis look like a pink-skinned elephant, apparently. Happily, this is a random Google image, not me.
You know that gunk you wake up with sometimes in the morning…when your eyelids are kind of stuck shut? Like in the close-up photo below??? Ewww…who takes these photos, anyway?
These, I believe, are fairly severe cases of blepharitis. Even when I went to the doctor because my eye was "gunky," I was nowhere near this bad.

However, even though I just have the everyday garden variety of blepharitis, it still has the benefit of making me more interesting to my optometrist-wanna-be son-in-law. We have something to talk about now besides "How are your classes going? Any hard tests lately?"

And besides, it makes me sound so knowledgeable to be able to say, "blepharitis."

(To be honest, it took me quite a while to remember what the name of my gunky eye was. Blepharasia? Blephanoia? Bleph-a-what-do-you-call-it??)

So the eye doctor told me that my gunky eye is NOT just an "allergy to dust" acting up. It's a long-term condition that I'll probably always have. Boo to that. But it's easy to treat. At first I had to use lubricating eye drops and erythromycin goo at night to get the whole flare-up to calm itself down. But now I just have to wash my eyes 2x a day with baby shampoo. That's it. I can use the more extreme measures if I ever have another flare-up.

I'm a wimp about getting things like soap or eye drops in my eyes, but the baby shampoo really does live up to its slogan of "No More Tears." And no more goopy eye.

PS - So sad - the officer in yesterday's shooting (see post below) died from his wounds. He was only 41 years old. The suspect, age 88, was killed by the SWAT team. No happy endings here for anyone.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Too close to home

We had a shooting in Oregon City this afternoon.

It was just down the street from my house.

The house at 841 Linn Avenue was on fire. When the police and fire crews showed up, one of the policemen was shot in the face. He was life-flighted to a Portland hospital. The suspect is dead. Names aren't being released until tomorrow.

Mark and I frequently walk past that house when we are out for a walk. It looks, you know, normal.

There is news about the shooting here and here.

Sorry for such downer news on a Sunday evening, but this isn't the kind of thing I can post every day. At least, I sure hope not! Prayers for the police officer in the hospital, and for the families of all involved.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Anxiety Dreams

Teachers are notorious for anxiety dreams. The dreams start about the middle of August. They have thrilling plots like

  • Can't find my lesson plan
  • Standing in front of the class in my underwear
  • Late to school
  • Kids won't behave
  • Etc, etc, etc.
We (teachers) laugh about how silly our dreams are when we all come back to school. The dreams tend to fade after the first week or so, once we get settled in with our new students and the new school year.

Part of my job is to provide professional development for the other teachers in my building. In other words, I not only teach teenagers, I also teach teachers from time to time. I have a big presentation coming up during an in-service day next Friday.

So last night I had an anxiety dream. It wasn't about problems teaching kids, it was about problems teaching adults. Thank goodness I was fully clothed this time, but I did have the following problems in my dream:
  • The presentation started a full 25 minutes late and it was my fault
  • The projector didn't work for my slide show
  • I ran up to my classroom to get another projector. I mean, I tried to run. My legs were moving in slow motion, and no matter what I did, I couldn't get them to move any faster. 
  • The teachers were mad at me because they didn't like the information I was presenting.
Hah! I guess we'll see how next Friday goes! Might be a good post for next Saturday.

How about you? Do you ever have anxiety dreams? What triggers them, and what kinds of embarrassing problems do you have in your dreams?

Friday, November 1, 2013

My latest mantras

It occurs to me that trying to get in the rhythm of posting on the blog again is kind of like trying to get back into exercise when you've been avoiding it for a while...

Same avoidance techniques: I'm too busy, I'm too tired, I don't know how to get started, I pulled a muscle last time I tried, I might do it tomorrow, it might hurt, my pinkie toe is sore today, etc. A little cheese with my whine, please.

Bleh. Am I a writer or a mouse?! A writer.

So it's November and I'm dragging my kicking-and-screaming little self to NaBloPoMo. William Stafford frequently told students who struggled with writer's block to lower their standards and keep going.

WARNING: This seems like a perfectly acceptable mantra to me at the moment. I am promising only quantity, not quality this month. We are trying to revive a writer here.

Speaking of which:

Mantras I Am Living By Lately
  • Every hall, every day. (This means that I walk every hallway of Oregon City High School at least once every day. In case you have been wondering, there are there are something like 14 different hallways in the school. Each one is about 100 feet long. It's a big school.) By the way, this has been my mantra for all of 2 days. We'll see if I can maintain this noble effort. 
  • My stomach is as big as my closed-up fist. (This helps me eat less, sometimes. Really, why am I cramming so much food into such a little space?)
  • Go to bed. Tired is stupid. (This memorable quote comes to us from A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin. Thank you, Ursula. I really am trying to get to bed by 9:00 every night.)
  • "I don't see it nowhere in evidence..."  I learned this awesome line last year when I was Grandma Ida in The Homecoming at OCHS. It comes in handy when things go missing. Which seems to be more often now that I am sneaking up on 59 + 1/2.
  • If I'm stuck on what to write for NaBloPoMo, then lower my standards and keep writing. See you tomorrow!