Category Archives: Mom

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under choice, Life thoughts, Mom

A Sense of Smell

Sometimes I wonder how smells can so influence my life.  We are all familiar with the memory trigger of a well-loved song, or the feeling of looking at a picture, a snapshot of a time and place enshrined in photo paper, but smells often elude conversations of memories.

Have you had the experience of getting a whiff of a familiar perfume and having a scene from the past jump up as if it were yesterday?  I can conjure up an image, a person, a time and place when I walk into a room and a familiar scent wafts over me like a warm blanket, an old friend.  This happens to me daily when I walk into my “mothers” part of our home and truthfully, I do it so I can “feel” her through the comforting aroma of…what?  I am really not sure what it is that I smell, two years after her passing.  It is true though, and my sister backs me up on this one.  She now owns my mother’s dresser and says that every time she opens a drawer she feels mom is there.  I wander into her living room, bedroom, office or bathroom and feel a wave of sentimentality, but also one of comfort and reassurance.  I cannot bear to think of leaving the scent and happily drive her ten-year old car for the same reason.

We bask in the memories of those we love and have lost for one reason or another, a favorite recipe, coming home to a kitchen filled with the smell of brisket or waking up to fresh coffee brewing.  These are the smells I cherish.  So sometimes, I just sit in mom’s living room, gazing lovingly at her favorite books, still on the shelf (I will read them all), her tea-cup collection and the photos of her as a college graduate, a bride, a wife of 25 years, a grandmother, and breathe deeply, filling myself with memories and love.

1 Comment

Filed under Family, Life thoughts, Mom

Sorry Mom

Dear Mom,

I am sorry to tell you that after more than 50 years of waking up to the Los Angeles Times for breakfast, and having watched you spend a couple of hours reading it cover to cover every day, I am cancelling my subscription.  In a way it feels like sacrilege, but I just cannot support a newspaper that endorses irresponsible journalism.  I tried to ignore the pleas of my Union and covertly read the paper for the past couple of weeks, but after learning of Rigoberto Ruelas’ suicide in reaction to his name being published as “less than effective” in the Times, I cannot support this paper any longer.  I will miss the morning ritual, and the comforting remembrances of you mom, every morning.  I will miss reading the writers I love and have been reading for most of my life.  I myself had a small editorial published in the paper years ago.  But I cannot believe that the writers, Jason Felch, Stephanie Ferrell, Megan Garvey, Thomas Suh Lauder, David Lauter, Julie Marquis, Sandra Poindexter, Ken Schwencke, Beth Shuster, Jason Song, Doug Smith, of the education article on Value Added Evaluations of teachers could not have done the same article without naming names and humiliating hundreds of decent, hardworking teachers.

As a teacher, I know we are not in this profession for the money or the glory.  We are in this profession to help children.  I am not writing about evaluation methods, simply about the notoriety seeking journalists that are making names for themselves on the backs of many teachers.  I would like to see Value Added Evaluations of those in the following professions:

Journalists-how many people benefit from your articles?

Lawyers-how many cases were won/lost?

Doctors/Dentists-how healthy are your patients?

Money Managers-how successful are your investments for your clients?

Accountants-how many of your clients are audited?

Automobile Industry-how safe are your cars?

Parents-how ready are your children to start school?

Let’s start naming names!

Students arrive at 5 years old, but the five years before formal public school are filled with the impact of many others including parents, preschool teachers, siblings, relatives, television, video games, neighbors and environment. I know there are claims that Value Added takes all of this into account, but can’t it be used to privately help teachers who need support and publicly without naming names?

For public education to succeed, we need the support of the students, parents, community, government, and media.

I am sorry mom, but really I think you would be proud of me because you were a wonderful teacher; in the classroom and in my life.  I love you.  Good by L.A. Times.


Filed under Education, Mom, reading