Monthly Archives: January 2010

Commiting To Happiness

I made this butterfly cake to celebrate Hope's wonderful journey described in her book The Possibility of Everything.

Last night I spent the evening surrounded by some of my favorite women in the comfortable, serene atmosphere of my friend Sue’s home.  We had delicious potluck (somehow with this group there is always the right combination of food) and conversation followed by a great talk and description of her journey by Hope Edelman.  Her book: The Possibility of Everything is a fascinating story of trust, alternative viewpoints and hope. Hope writes in a most compelling way, and I felt involved in her story on many levels.  First of all, as a mother, I felt compassion for her struggles with her daughter and her commitment to help her daughter come out on the other side.  Secondly, I related to her role as a mother/wife/writer who has temporarily lost her sense of self.  Thirdly, her struggles with her relationship felt all too familiar, balancing time and the energy it takes to support modern lifestyles.  Hope inspired me to write more and to find out what my story will be.

Gretchen Rubin and Me at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena

Monday night I had  another literary adventure attending the book signing of Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena.  First of all, as my friend Danielle and I entered the store, audible gasps could be heard from us as we took in the amazing variety of wonderful things, books, cards, gifts and more books.  And, it’s two stories of wonderfulness!  We made our way upstairs in the elevator and enjoyed listening to Gretchen describe her realization of her need to create more happiness in her life. Reading both her blog and her book has motivated me to appreciate more, create what I need and to focus on happiness. We waited for the line to go down and got her signature in our books.  I even managed to have her write a note to my sister-who was unable to attend.  Spreading the happiness.

As we were leaving, we noticed that Friday night, Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame will be talking about and signing her new book, Commitment.  We got two books and two tickets and are looking forward to another night of book talk.

I want to be surrounded and embraced by books, words, new thoughts, random punctuation, other worlds and unforseen experiences.  And through some serendipity, I am.  My next task is to visualize myself as the writer, the creator and eventually the person giving the book talk.  Everything is possible with a commitment to happiness.

2 Comments

Filed under creative writing, Life thoughts, reading

Carbohydrates Are My Friends

The delicious culprits.

Ah, that milky swimming pool!

Carrying around “baggage” in the form of a very heavy cast, has re-aquainted me with some old friends: carbohydrates.  I think it is part of the healing process to crave the deliciousness of cereal for breakfast and again for dinner.  It is not exactly on the Jenny Craig menu, but I figure if I don’t eat anything else then it makes it OK and better than that, it makes me happy.  The crunchy puffs of rice and squares of wheat swimming in their pool of icy cold milk can almost make me forget that I am getting absolutely nothing done around here because hobbling takes too much effort.  So, I am resigned to reading, writing, yes, yes, slowing down, and trying very hard to ignore the piles of papers and the New Year’s resolutions to clean up and get organized.

The”best laid plans” and all those good intentions and visualizations did not predict this prison on my leg.  Do I sound a bit annoyed?  I am taking suggestions on productive ways to:  clean my closet, clean and organize my papers and generally begin the process of organizing the “energy” (i.e. Happiness Project) in my house so the chi can flow and the positive actions begin.

Suggestions?  Willing helpers?

Leave a comment

Filed under Life thoughts

Mother Knows Best

Mom would be glad I realized this and it's not too late for you!

It is pouring today, and I don’t mean just pouring in California terms, but actual buckets of rain pouring down causing trees to fall and rivers to form in the streets.  The water is trickling down the beams in the living room and waterfalling down the fireplace.  As I got ready to venture out for an early appointment, I prepared by covering my cast with my Seal-Tight giant protector, wearing my mother’s calf-length London Fog raincoat and a cute knit cap that my daughter’s friend made for me, I looked like a taller version of my mother albeit with a gimpy leg.  My husband Gary said, “Your mom is still taking care of you.” and I realized that it is true, for as much as I resented her constant over-preparedness I have now come to appreciate it.  As Mark Twain said, “The older I get the smarter my father seems to get.”  In my case, it is my mother’s wisdom that I now cherish.

Hopefully it won’t take my own daughters quite as long to realize that I too have some words of wisdom to impart and each of them, in their own way are beginning to realize that.  So in the tradition of the many notes and reminders I leave my family, here is a short list of rainy day musings:

1.  Dress for the rain.  You really will feel better if you stay dry.

2.  Make your bed every morning.  You will feel like you are beginning your day and will be happy to come home to a neat room.

3.  Clean up as you go and absolutely before you go to bed.  No one really likes to wake up to a mess and it won’t look better in the morning.

4.  Take time to spend with those you love (including pets) because the memories will stay with you forever.

5.  Listen more, talk less.

6.  Expect the best but prepare for the worst, and that includes rain, earthquakes, fires and other impending disasters.  Oy!

Some of these I learned from my mother, and others are things I have learned from my own experience.  Wisdom can be compiled and gathered from many sources, but mothers are stronger than we look and know more than we are given credit for.

3 Comments

Filed under Family, Life thoughts, Mothers, Rain

Slowing Down-Six Weeks in a Cast

There is a saying that things often happen for a reason and while I usually believe it, I don’t always need such a blatant reminder to slow down and appreciate the more mellow side of life.  Yet, that is what I know must do, thanks to DWP and a faulty, sunken water meter.

As I walked my dog Charlie, a slow walking dog of 10 years, around my neighborhood, quasi-training for the Avon Breast Cancer Walk I will be completing in September, My foot twisted painfully as I stepped on what I thought was level sidewalk, but was instead a 3″ drop.

The Evil Water Meter

So, as I lay on the ground, Charlie staring at me quizzically, I pondered my choices and decided I had none but to limp the 30 minutes home.  My, that tennis shoe was tight by the time I got home!  I was sure it was just a sprain, so I wrapped it tightly and continues with my usual active life.

Finally, Tuesday, my husband suggested quietly that I might want to see a doctor-since my foot was quite purple.  The doctor thought it was most likely a spain, but she would call the next day if the x-rays showed more.  At noon the next day, while eating lunch in the staff lunchroom, my phone rang and I was requested to show up at the orthopedic doctor the next morning.  After 2 hours I left with a lovely bright pink cast.

The lovely cast covered by a "sock" because my toes are freezing! I have a walking boot too!

I can no longer hop up and down multitasking, turn on a dime, maneuver effortlessly through my kindergarten classroom or sadly, walk Charlie.  My training for the Avon Walk is on hold, as is yoga class.  What is left?  I can plow through that ominous stack of books, write, balance my budget and take control of my finances, sit sipping green tea and work on my Happiness Project. It actually is possible to slow down.

When they say that everything happens for a reason, I guess my reason is to take the time to stop and appreciate things because after all, it is hard to focus on things when you move so quickly that life is a blur.

4 Comments

Filed under Life thoughts, reading, Walking

I Am the Skirball’s Featured Teacher!

FEATURED TEACHER

Amy Weisberg, Topanga Elementary Charter School

Amy Weisberg, our featured teacher this month, is a hardworking, inspirational figure in early elementary education in Los Angeles. With a BA in Sociology from UCSB and a MA in Education with an emphasis on Organizational Leadership from CSUN, Mrs. Weisberg has been teaching in the Los Angeles Unified School District for thirty years and in the Kindergarten program at Topanga Elementary Charter School for the past sixteen years. She shares, “I love working with the youngest students and watching them grow and change during the year.”

At Topanga Elementary, Mrs. Weisberg developed the “Developmental Kindergarten Program,” a transitional kindergarten program that is described as a sort of a “half-step” between the pre-school experience and traditional kindergarten classes. The program allows students “caught in the middle”—due to California’s late cut-off date—to advance more naturally to the next grade. For her development of this unique kindergarten program, Mrs. Weisberg received the Lori Petrick Educator Award, bestowed by the Palisades Charter School Foundation. The award honors excellence in education delivery and recognizes best practices utilized in K–12. To learn, more click here.

Mrs. Weisberg also conceptualized and oversees her schools “Garden Villa,” a working garden for the students that was jumpstarted with a grant awarded to the school from the California Instructional School Garden Program. To learn more, click here.

A few weeks ago the Skirball education department received a surprise—a whimsical and beautiful book featuring photographs of Mrs. Weisberg’s students with their own animal creations. The handcrafted animals—a bird, a zebra, a moose, a Very Hungry Caterpillar, and a polar bear, among others—were inspired by their visit to Noah’s Ark at the Skirball and made from recycled and repurposed materials that they brought from home, like pinecones, steamers, nails, and corks. “It was a very collaborative project,” Mrs. Weisberg explained, “which is pretty much the way I run my classroom—utilizing each parent’s strengths to enhance the kindergarten experience.”

Mrs. Weisberg has been married for twenty-seven years and has three daughters, ages 18, 20, and 25. All three daughters are highly involved in the arts: one graduating from UCLA with a theater degree, one at UCSC studying music, and the other beginning her college career as a dance major.

2 Comments

Filed under Family, Teaching

My Life on a Diet

Diet: figurative:  a regular occupation or series of activities in which one participates : a healthy diet of classical music.

It is the beginning of the new year and my life is on a diet that represents my aspirations for positive change, moving forward, visualizations of goals and dreams and a healthy outlook on life.  This is very ambitious, I know, to tackle an assortment of life habits at one time, but I like to look at it as a life makeover and by doing so, I am developing regular activities.

The first part of my life diet is an actual diet to increase my health.  This involves eating differently and developing habits that will become part of my lifestyle.  I have help from Jenny Craig and am enjoying the structured manner the program uses.  I like having someone tell me what to eat, provide the food and encourage me by telling me how wonderful I am progressing.  I like not thinking about the food I am going to eat, not cooking and not having to make too many choices.  I like the results!

Jenny Craig encourages a food, mind, body approach to weight loss and there is a lot of encouragement to have a regular physical exercise plan.  That is another part of my diet:  developing the habit to exercise daily and make it a regular part of my day.  I have started by walking each day for one hour and increased the yoga (good for the mind) classes I am taking.

The third part of my diet is a positive self direction.  I am willing to seriously consider the possibility that Thoughts Become Things and am actively practicing visualizing my personal goals.  I am opening my self up to happiness by creating my own Happiness Project (www.thehappinessproject.com) and taking the time to read the writing of others on a similar quest.

The fourth part of my diet is to develop financial intelligence.  I am determined to understand investing, budgets and how to simplify my life.  I am dedicated to this path and am happy for the expertise of others who have started exploring before me.  I have found the following people/websites useful:

http://www.simpledollar.com, http://www.suzeorman.com,www.mint.com, http://www.creativecatalyst.com, http://www.jennycraig.com, http://www.thoughtsbecomethings.com

So, you may ask, what is the motivation for this diet?  Well this quote was delivered to my email box and I felt inspired:

“You have to find something that you love enough to be able to take risks, jump over the hurdles and break through the brick walls that are always going to be place in front of you. If you don’t have that kind of feeling for what it is you are doing, you’ll stop at the first giant hurdle.”

~George Lucas, Film Director and Producer

It makes you think.

3 Comments

Filed under Life thoughts

Literary Magnetisism

I suddenly realize that the reason I cannot get things done is because I am a literary magnet.  I am heading towards the end of my three-week winter break and I am looking around at a house with tables covered with papers, remnants of the past holiday in the form of scented pine cones in baskets, a credenza that refuses to show its surface and various environmentally friendly bags hanging randomly on knobs of all sorts.  The conclusion I have come to is that the reason I am not successfully cleaning my house, organizing my papers and clearing surfaces is because I cannot stop reading.

I am hopelessly addicted to books, beautifully and artistically stacked on my side table, my desk, my night table and the credenza, and am reading 3 concurrently, but it does not end there because I have a mirad of magazine articles I have saved to read and my latest addiction:  Blogs.  It is such a treat to read the musings of so many wonderful writers, like small appetizers that fill up my time while I await my main course of one of the books tempting me.  I am hopeless and cannot stop!  I am staying up way too late and have had to buy a small reading light to allow my husband to sleep while I read into the wee hours.  Sadly, some people have to get up and go to work.

I am beginning to panic at the thought of going back to work next week as I have totally adapted to life in the pages.  Luckily the reading inspires writing so I am not falling too far behind in that area, but I worry about the panic I am likely to feel Sunday night as I realize I didn’t carry out the household tasks I listed at the beginning of the break.  Life is short though, and time well-spent reading is my dessert.

3 Comments

Filed under creative writing, Life thoughts, reading, writing

My “girlfriends”

I have recently started having “play dates” with two of my mother’s friends.  My mother passed away in October of 2008, but luckily for me, I inherited her two wonderful friends, Helen and Libby.  These women (both in their 80s) have invited me to cultural events, movies, dinners and lunches and I always include them in our holiday dinners, continuing a tradition started years ago.  I have friends of all ages, but these lovely women of my mother’s generation tell me stories of long ago and people from their past.  They educate me about early Los Angeles and are more knowledgeable that I am about movies, theater and literature.  So I am learning a lot by listening and enjoying experiencing time slowed down, time to sit and listen and time to talk about new subjects.  I am making time to include visits in my schedule and my new women friends now join me when I volunteer monthly at a shelter in the city, which happens to be located right in the neighborhood where they spent their childhoods.

Sometimes things come full-circle and just work out.  These evolving friendships stem from friendships that my mother (and father) enjoyed for years but I was determined not to lose touch with these women who meant so much to my mother and have been part of our family for so long.  Sometimes a little effort goes a long way and the benefits for everyone are simple but special.

Think about someone you know, or have contact with and next time the opportunity presents itself, slow down enough to talk to, and most importantly, to listen to that person for a bit.  The good feeling lasts longer than you would expect.

2 Comments

Filed under Family, gifts, Life thoughts

Walking

Well, today was a beautiful Southern California day.  70 degrees. After spending the morning moving furniture from storage into our spare rooms, I longed to walk outdoors, anywhere, but there were other plans in store for me which included Costco, the market, and…The Mall.  While I did get in 4527 steps in so far today (not my more inspiring 7000 at the gym while on the treadmill) I did spend quality time with two out of three daughters and it set the tone for a lovely evening of togetherness making our traditional taco dinner with rice and beans and generally hanging out.  In a few minutes we will begin our collages and then have a cozy night on the couch watching a movie.

These times are fleeting as our youngest leaves to go back to college tomorrow and our middle one off to college on Monday morning.  We appreciate our time together and my legs are actually tired from all that Mall walking.  The good news is that our new guest room is waiting for our oldest daughter and her boyfriend to come on down for a visit and stay is style and comfort.

The New Year brings change and challenges, but coming along for the ride are cozy, comfortable times and traditions.  Home.


2 Comments

Filed under Family, Life thoughts, New Year's, Walking