Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Remarkable Teacher Demonstrates Incredible Grace Under Pressure

The video below is of a kindergarten teacher in Monterrey, Mexico trying to calm and protect her very young students as a violent gun fight takes place right outside of their classroom. Using quick thinking to keep the children's heads near the ground, she begins singing the Raindrop Song from Barney, a song about imagining if raindrops suddenly became chocolate. She instructs the children to roll onto their backs to catch the chocolate raindrops in their mouth, thus keeping them as low to the ground and as far out of harm's way as possible. Instinctive, maternal and courageous. I'm so in awe of this woman, and to the teachers out there that do all they can to safeguard and teach our youth.

Friday, May 27, 2011

No, Non, 没有, Keine, нет

It doesn't matter how you say it, NO in any language can be difficult for graceful women who sometimes confuse being kind with also being a pushover. Perhaps it's an attempt to be perfect, we want to be everything to everyone, putting our needs or obligations on the back burner to tend to another's. I have many times been guilt-ridden by not having enough hours in the day to do whatever I could to ease someone else's burden, often forgetting that I had many tasks and many loved ones that were waiting patiently for some of my time as well. This desire to multi-task to the point of collapse is draining, can cause resentment, and tends to result in a lot of half-done ventures that can leave us scrambling to figure out how to begin putting our own lives back together again.

Much of this multi-tasking can be contributed to technology; the cell phones, blackberries, tablets, laptops, and constant access to non-face to face communication means that we often have to come up with reasons why we can't do something, or have to utter that dreaded word "No," whose cousins "I can't" and "I'm not available at that time" tend to leave just as bitter a taste on our tongues. Perhaps we think that if they could peak through our window at that very moment, they would see that we were up to our necks in other obligations, but they can't, we don't want to appear lazy or unaccommodating, so we drop everything to do for another what they could often do for themselves.

What?!?! Do it themselves?!?! But they need me, they wouldn't do it correctly, and/or no one else could do it as well as me.

Aha! This is point #1. You're amazing. No seriously you are. You organize a million schedules, have the ability to make a dish on the fly that would rival the main course at French Laundry, and you smell nice too. However, there are times when it's important to let people handle their problems themselves. Of course, you can help guide them, but you have to remember that keeping others from learning how to manage tasks such as budgeting for and paying their bills, cleaning up after themselves or how to get from Point A to Point B, is not really helping them, it's hindering them. There are those in our society that really truly need help with these tasks (children, senior citizens, those with certain medical conditions) but in general, most people have the resources, brainpower (but perhaps lack of will power) to find ways to make their lives run. If they get stuck at Point A because they really didn't find a way to get to Point B without you dragging them there, perhaps Point B wasn't really that important. Start lovingly giving others the opportunity to solve their own problems and see if you find that, lo and behold, they really could do it.

But won't they dislike me if I say no, or that I'm not available to do it?

Point #2. If that loved one who wants you to help them move apartments for the 6th time, or who needs to borrow your car again, or who needs a dog sitter while they go to the lake is going to stop loving and caring about you if you say "No, I can't absorb your obligation," that's not the kind of love you wanted in the first place. Love in its highest form is unconditional, and having people that will only be kind to you if you pick up their slack and stop what you're doing to help them with crisis #4,873, is not really the kind of person you want around anyway. If these types stop coming around because you aren't their butler/trust fund/catch-all drawer, you might be better off.

*Bonus* Again, this will lovingly give the favor-asker the chance to re-evaluate their choices. If they are making decisions that don't fit into their lives and is making them have to constantly rely on others to manage it, maybe having to miss out or do without will be inspiration enough to make some changes.

Point #3. But you really like helping out. Okay, I understand this. Just make sure you have a point in mind where "No" is okay. If you're too exhausted from handling your sister-in-law to be a good parent to your children, it's time to say no. If you have done too much overtime at work and have no love left for your honey, it's time to say no. If everyone else's lives are running smoothly thanks to you, but you are down to the "ugly panties" and only have condiments in your refrigerator, it's time to say NO!!

There are incredible charities that really do need people with the giving, generous spirit that you have. Find one that you're passionate about to share your kindness and let it serve as a reminder to yourself that you are a good person, but also not one who will get in the way of a learning moment for another. If you see that helping another will really not take away from your life, happiness or well-being, for example watching that niece that you adore anyway, or helping prune a friend's garden that results in some exercise and delicious home-grown tomatoes, then by all means, chip in!

But if it doesn't, I give you my blessing and encouragement to say gracefully, politely, but firmly, "No."

Monday, May 9, 2011


From, a few years ago, the scent that is also now floating in through my window:

petrichor (PET-ri-kuhr) noun

The pleasant smell that accompanies the first rain after a dry spell.

[From petro- (rock), from Greek petros (stone) + ichor (the fluid that is supposed to flow in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology). Coined by researchers I.J. Bear and R.G. Thomas.]

"But, even in the other pieces, her prose breaks into passages of lyrical beauty that come as a sorely needed revivifying petrichor amid the pitiless glare of callousness and cruelty." Pradip Bhattacharya; Forest Interludes;; Jul 29, 2001.

Cycling Through The Vineyards

This past weekend, I finally got to enjoy two months of planning for my honey's birthday. I know many people speak of living in the present, but my love of coordinating and looking forward to those plans being played out for the recipient is just as much fun. I recently decided that I liked the idea of giving experiences rather than gifts, so I set about researching bike tours through vineyards, nice hotels and delicious restaurants to give my busy boy a nice relaxing mini-vacation in the quaint little town of Paso Robles. It's about a three hour drive, and neither of us had been there, so it seemed like a fun adventure.

We arrived at our hotel moments before our guide, and we were promptly shuttled over to the first vineyard, where we enjoyed a light lunch under a bright red market umbrella. The guide was sweet enough to even have a brownie with a candle in it for my man's birthday. We were anxious to go so we both barely ate, and soon we were peddling across the rolling hills of the East Side of Paso Robles, considered the valley part of the region and giving it a completely different flavor profile from the West Side which was more on the coastal ledge of the area, and with a completely different soil. We rode past beautiful old farmhouses, livestock with their new offspring basking in the sun, flowers and fields of every different kind and of course, row upon row of grapevines.

I have to admit, a part of me was a bit frightened. Having a bike accident when I was twelve that put me in the hospital for a week, I could feel tension and panic creeping up when we headed down some of the steeper hills. But I kept reminding myself that I was not a 12 year old anymore and rode cautiously on and by the end of the day, I was letting the exhilaration of the hills fill me with the euphoria of riding in fearless motion.

That night, we made up for all of the calories we'd burned and then some by diving into one delicious Italian dish after another at Il Cortile in downtown Paso Robles. I had wavered back and forth between this restaurant and another with a more "famous" reputation, but by the end of the meal, we were in heaven. Everything was cooked to perfection, innovative and beyond satisfying. My thanks to all those Yelpers! that posted about this place.

Upon returning to our room, we discovered that in addition to our turn-down service, they had put on some great jazz music to welcome us back. It reminded me of our first date, when a coffee meeting led to dinner, and we found ourselves at a jazz club, listening to the late show, not wanting that first day to end. And luckily, after three years, I still feel that same way.
With bike helmet hair in front of J. Lohr Vineyards.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

"You will put the star in starting over..."

I started this blog because I wanted to seek out and help create better role models for our children, so naturally I was intrigued to hear Sarah Kay's "If I Should Have A Daughter." Her spoken word poem plays out the insecurities, the gentle nudge, the knowing wink of being at that threshold between knowing yourself as a daughter and becoming the mother of one; when the world is no longer just about your path but about looking outward at the future your child will face.

I bet we've all had those moments where that maternal advice from your past finally sunk in and you've realized, "So this is what she was trying to tell me," and "Wow, I really don't know a thing!!" As Austin Kleon said "All advice is autobiographical," and in hearing Sarah Kay, I felt that the words were directed to not only a progeny but a past version of the poet herself. Her poem spells out guidance to help a child who can't yet foresee the trials they will encounter: the heartache, the defeats, all the moments that will help shape them and mould them and hurt them. And in the same breath, she speaks as the proud and grateful daughter now comprehending the wisdom of the generations of mothers before her, adding the experience of another age for those to come.

To all the grandmothers, mothers and daughters out there (Because the mothers are the daughters of the grandmothers. Remember that word puzzle, Mom?) have a Wonderful Mother's Day!

Here's her presentation at TED: