Monthly Archives: September 2012

Why I Am a Work in Progress


“To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”
– Aristotle
After hearing this quote at Brené Brown’s book talk the other evening in Santa Monica, I reflected on my ability to attract criticism.  I actually began to think of ways I could avoid future criticism and started planning a simple, uneventful life of mundane days blending into months and years of ordinary sameness.  It would be less stressful, less complicated and allow more time for chilling on the couch watching TV or working out at the gym, if I just stopped trying to create, trying to learn and the biggest one of all, stopped looking in and participating in the endless analysis of myself (thanks mom,  for that habit). 


I also started pondering the possibility sitting silently during group gatherings and meetings in order to blend in and strive towards invisibility.  That, after all, would certainly allow me to get in the “Zen state” and greatly reduce stress.  I try to imagine living a simple life.  A life where I just go to a job, come home leaving work behind, sit around in the evening, maybe taking an after dinner walk with the dog and then settling in for a great evening of television followed by drifting off to sleep on the couch. 

An evening of relaxation.

In this way, I can surely avoid criticism, unless I am criticized for watching too much TV or for my sudden lack of opinion on anything. 

Remember this?

I remember my mother, getting riled up over school drama between the teachers and the District, the Vietnam war, women’s rights, civil rights and other social injustices.  I overheard her heated conversations on the phone to friends in the evenings, around our kitchen table over cups of coffee, in the living room watching Walter Cronkite, or 60 Minutes.  I grew up in a liberal, vocal, caring home.  I come from a culture of people who ask “why?”  It is in my DNA.  So, what good can come of this?  Do my questions cause others to wonder?  Do my actions help anyone? 

The pain of criticism.

I wonder if looking in, trying to grow, improve and learn, really services a purpose or just serves to frustrate.  Criticism is not fun to receive because it comes with that little jab of pain, like an inoculation.  It hurts with the initial puncture, and that little throbbing lump under the skin hangs around for a while to keep the memory alive.  However, like a vaccine, criticism helps build tolerance.  Tolerance to the opinions of others and protection from blending into anonymity.

Looking within.

Critics are everywhere and pop out at unsuspected times. They lie in wait for an opportunity to say, “I told you so” or “Who do you think you are?” or worse, the silent grimace of knowing disdain.   Critics nowadays have open forums to express opinions through social media but they can’t compete with my biggest critic.  The little critic that lives in my head.  She’s the one I need to talk to, to explain the truth.
My truth is that creating is as necessary to me as breathing, learning is engrained into my genetic code and looking at myself with acceptance and vulnerability is a goal I am happy to set.

1000 chances to make mistakes, to learn, to grow.

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Filed under choice, Life thoughts, Mom

Taking My Time

I am taking my time.  This is something new for me because I operate at high-speed, my Type A personality functioning best with lists, schedules, and immediacy.  I return emails promptly, phone calls a.s.a.p. and strive to fix all problems with ingenious solutions.  Breathing deeply is a struggle for me and sitting to relax usually results in immediate sleep because when my motor slows down, it just stops. 

Recently however, I have come to a realization.  Most situations are not emergencies.  Most questions do not require immediate answers and most importantly, time is precious.  So, I am taking my time.  I am training myself to breathe first, listen more carefully and ponder more often.  I have not come to this conclusion alone.  I have had many mentors along the way both virtual and those in my real life.  The books I read keep me focused on the importance of taking each moment as a special gift.

So if I take a little long to make a decision, to respond to an email, to text back and answer or to return a phone call, you now know why.  I am taking my time.

It is amazing what a little breath can do to quite a heartbeat, improve vision, sharpen hearing and to enhance perspective.

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Filed under change, choice, Life thoughts, Relax

Why I’m not a bad money manager.

I am not a bad money manager.  I have been thinking for the past four years, that something was wrong with me, after all, why am I continually coming up short in the budget department?  Why, when I keep cutting corners, eliminating experiences and streamlining personnel services, do I keep receiving warning notices from that I am over my budget for….food….gas, you know, little things like that? Reading David Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover is illuminating, but this summer, I realized that simple envelope systems and debt-snowballs are no match for giant reductions in income.

This summer, I was, once again, reviewing and modifying my budget, looking around my house for more things to sell or donate in a feeble attempt to live more simply, when I happened to check the State Franchise Tax Board website to be sure my last payment had been recorded.  The site has this really cool feature that allows you to see archives of the last four year’s wages earned and taxes paid.  It was then that I realized the enormity of the Los Angeles Unified School District pay cuts and furlough days. 

Between 2008 and 2009, my pay decreased $1,072.15

Between 2009 and 2010 my pay decreased $1,572.04

Between 2010 and 2011 my pay decreased $5,977.17. 

If you have been keeping up with that math, the difference between my teacher’s salary in 2008 and 2011 is $8, 621.36

I would add an exclamation mark, but there is nothing to be excited about. I am coming up short about $862 a month.

This is not entirely the fault of our union, UTLA, for weak negotiations with the District or the LAUSD, because their budget is controlled by the California.  This is not entirely the fault of the California because the State budget is dictated by the taxes collected in the State both income and property tax and some sales tax revenue thrown in too.  Our State is suffering, just like the country, in fact we are just a small part of the entire global economic downturn, but that down turn was caused by the few and mighty who control Wall Street. 

So when I’m feeling the pinch and thinking of second jobs, launching a business, writing material to sell on Teachers Pay Teachers and my own ebooks and independently published books, it is my effort to retain a shred of dignity after 34 years of teaching almost 600 children to believe in themselves.  It is time for me to believe in myself, regardless of whether the LAUSD, UTLA the California, the Federal Government or Wall Street investment bankers believe in the value of teachers.


Filed under Education, Life thoughts, Teaching

Learning to love cooking….again.

So I really love cooking but what I mean here is that I am learning to love cooking new recipes, specifically, healthy, lower calorie, or “Points Plus” recipes.  I decided that we should use my nifty new Weight Watcher’s cookbook, Tastier Than Take Out to find inspiration.  Gary and I browsed through the book this morning and decided on a Mediterranean meal.  We selected the Lemon Oregano Grilled Mahimahi and Sweet Onions and a Greek salad.  We headed down to Trader Joe’s and got our provisions and came home to create a 10 out of 10 dinner for two.  Gary the grill-master found new inspiration for grilling fish and sweet onions.  The salad was a combined effort of preparation, but I must admit that with a bit of encouragement and a couple of great recipes, the team of Amy and Gary once again succeeded! When looking at the photo below, you will note the addition of garlic bread and Pinot Noir.  It is important to create a meal that satisfies and this one really did the trick.  As we sat gazing out of our sky-high kitchen nook window, we realized that we are our favorite cooks and our meals never disappoint.  Maybe we are on a roll and we can dabble in Weight Watcher cooking heaven.  Eating so well and staying on my points “budget” was the perfect end to a lovely, long weekend.

Dinner for two courtesy of Weight Watchers.


Filed under food