Monthly Archives: March 2011

Happiness is My Own Island


My own little island.


I have been pining for a kitchen island for about 10 years but never it never even made the top 5 of my priority list.  First of all, I could not find exactly what I wanted, a portable workspace, preferably with a butcher block surface and some shelf space.  Secondly, I could not rationalize spending any more money on household items.

We are a family that loves to cook.  We cook together when ever we can and especially during the holidays when everyone is home and all are assigned a dish to make for the celebration.  Counter space is lacking and we usually spread out to the kitchen table.  Times spent in the kitchen are my favorite, surrounded by things familiar; the family stove that my mother bought in 1952 when she got married, the big mixer Gary bought me one Mother’s Day, the family table that holds so many memories of meals shared together throughout the years.  I love looking at the tiles with little teapots, the tumbled marble and the view out the kitchen window of neighbors passing by with their dogs.  We listen to the old-fashioned radio, to NPR news,  Prairie Home Companion, Car Talk or Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me.  My daughters poke fun at my listening choices but as they grow older, they too appreciate public radio.

Today my kitchen became complete and I have my island thanks to the barter system.  A friend told me of her kitchen remodel which involved a new, bigger island in her kitchen.  Her house is the same model as my house and our kitchens are twins.  She wondered if I would like to buy the island she would no longer need.  We talked more and she told me of her need for a dishwasher.  I just happened to have a brand new dishwasher in my garage from a prior vacation home.  We struck a deal!  Her contractors came with the island and left with the dishwasher.  I am thrilled!

It is funny how a little thing like this can give me such inspiration. I did some spring cleaning, opened all the windows, aired out the house, washed the linens, cleaned and rearranged the kitchen and feel like I am in a new, updated house.   This Passover we will have plenty of room for all of us to make the special food for our Seder and our meal and another memory will be created.  This one, created on an island.


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The rain is dissipating, the clouds are blowing off to other regions and though the ground is still damp the wisteria have decided to burst open filling the yard with fragrant, lovely lavender blossoms.  The bees aren’t interested in us anymore, they are drunk on the sweet-smelling nectar oozing from these springtime visitors.

It has been seven years since we planted these wisteria plants and I’ve grown used to their arrival with the sudden explosion of lavender perfume and the following lush green foliage.  It is a treat every year and a pleasure I look forward too.  In other areas, the seasons bring radical differences of shocking red, orange and yellow leaves, dramatic weather, snow, blizzards or tornadoes, but in California, we delight in the smaller changes:  actual creeks, small waterfalls, lupines and wisteria.  It reminds me that there will be warmer weather to look forward to.


Our wisteria is a simple pleasure, but one I can enjoy free every time I open the sliding door to the garden.  It brings tears to my eyes, as do many sensory experiences that elicit memories of other Springs when there were more of us here in this house, and times were not so uncertain.  The scent of spring flowers is an expected indulgence that I have shared with my family and even my dog seems to wallow in the heady blossoms that litter the patio.

Spring is a time for new beginnings,  and as my Weight Watcher leader said at our Saturday meeting, “We can’t create a new beginning, but we can create a new ending.”  We have a chance in the Spring to start again, to look forward at the ending we want to create and begin now to walk that road.  The wisteria remind me that there are possibilities and there is still hope.  I hope I see them blossom again next Spring.


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Zumba, Wine, and Candlelight Flow: Happy Equinox

Tonight was the Spring celebration at my gym:  Equinox.  It was a great party with all the festivities, a DJ playing pulsing music, wine and appetizers, special classes offered and tours of the club.  Even with all that to offer, as I sat at home, syncing my phone after a reset to fix my corrupted software, I debated leaving the comfort of the couch to venture out.  I decided to go for it and I am so glad I did.

I arrived at the gym, stowed my bag in a locker and strolled over to the main studio for Zumba, which I have been dying to take, only to find out that the class started a half hour earlier that I had thought.  I hesitated, but spotted a woman I knew and she waved me in.  It was a blast!  I was dancing for the half hour and got a great workout, but it ended too soon.  I had come to the party and wasn’t ready to call it quits yet so I headed up to my favorite yoga class, Candlelight Flow.  Wine was being served outside the spa, so I took a glass with me into class at the encouragement of Holli, my yoga instructor.  What a wonderful class we had in the dimly lit room with Holli’s amazing music and encouragement.

Days begin early for me lately, since I started a 5:45 a.m. workout regime and then head off to the world of kindergarten-a workout in itself, but I’ve realized that being a teacher is like being a mother, and I have to take care of myself if I am going to be able to take care of others.  Here’s to self-care, cheers!

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Crying in the Pharmacy

Tonight I stopped in to the Kaiser 24 Hour Pharmacy to quickly pick up a couple of prescriptions and though I thought it would be a quick errand, I ended up in a line of about 25 others with similar intentions, crammed against the back wall of a packed waiting room.  As we proceeded at a Zen pace, one step at a time, towards the front of the line, I was struck by the loud, antagonistic conversation of an elderly couple sitting together in the front row, he in a chair, and she beside him in a hospital wheel chair.


“Look, your name is up there.  Do you see it?” the husband inquired of his wife.


She sat, with eyes as red as her jacket, hunched over, hands trembling, slowly nodding “no.”


“Why can’t you see it?  It keeps showing up in the corner up there on the screen.  You just won’t try!  Why won’t you even try to learn anything new?”


Her sadness at disappointing her long-time husband was evident even to me, a bystander in the line.


Suddenly, a small woman ran up to them, “Don’t worry, I am in the line.  I have to stay in the line.  You just sit here.”  The Filipino caretaker provided short-lived comfort to the agitated gentleman.  He nodded, as if understanding, but then, two minutes later, he was at it again.


“Nancy, why won’t you even try?  Look, there’s your name again.”


Nancy shook her head, confused, not understanding what she was missing, what she was doing wrong.


The caregiver ran out of line again to gently pat their shoulders, to assure them that she was in line and my heart went out to all of them.  It was not that long ago that I was the comforter, depending on the kindness of others to help me take care of my elderly mother.  I asked the others in line if they would mind if I let the caregiver get in front of me in line and all agreed.  I went to get her at the end of the line and she smiled softly, “Are you sure it’s ok?”


“Yes. You need to be at the front of the line.”


“I brought her into Emergency at 1:00 this afternoon.”


It was now 8:00 at night.


How much suffering had they all endured that day?  It broke my heart and tears welled in my eyes.  A gentleman in a yarmulke was up ahead of me in the line and I motioned to him. He motioned for the caregiver to get in front of him.  I went to reassure the couple that their caregiver had shifted positions and was further ahead in the line.  The gentleman nodded understanding.


Even as she was finally called to the counter to get the prescriptions her head rotated between the counter and the couple, continually checking, allowing them to make eye contact and assuring her presence.  It was then that I felt the tears slipping out of my eyes.


Their vulnerability, her compassion, it was too much to bear as my mother’s presence swirled around me as comfortable as a memory foam pillow holding her permanent impression.  I felt my heart softly pounding and the familiar lump in my throat, but at the same time, the hint of warm happiness at having made a small difference to someone, settled in too.


As the caretaker assured the gentleman that Nancy did not have to stand up and walk out of the pharmacy, that it was ok for her to be wheeled out, they made their way to the door.  The caregiver sending me a smile and delivering one to the man in the yarmulke as she passed him gathering his medication for his sick, blanket wrapped daughter.


I was at the front of the line.  I paid for my prescription and inquired about a suggestion form.  Shouldn’t there be a line for the elderly and critically sick?  Why should they have to wait in line so long, when it only ups the magnitude of their suffering?


We can’t all make big differences daily, move mountains, or make millions and donate them to charity.  We can’t all invent the next new technology or travel on peacekeeping missions in foreign countries, but we can all show at least one act of kindness a day.



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