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A New Year, A New Outlook

A New Year, A New Outlook

School has been in session for two weeks and my team, the students, and I are all trying to get in the swing of things. Routine takes time, and we’re trying to get it right. Overall, things are going well. I have a very chatty but overall good group of kids. It’s a big class (34 students in one and 33 in the other), but so far they’re manageable. I like my new partner, and working together is going well.


Me by my tree, that changes with the seasons just like me.

I am really trying to keep in a good headspace this year. It’s so easy to get mired in the negative. Last year, I had a lot to mire myself in – including inconsistent leadership and kids that I was pretty sure were trying to get me to quit. Add to that  going back to teaching after 14 years off, seeing less of my kids, losing the daily support of my “mommy friends,” moving homes (and all the stress that goes with it)… it was a bit crazy, erratic, unstable, and sometimes I just felt ridiculously under pressure.


This hammock saved my sanity on numerous occasions last year.

This year, I actually started out under a lot of stress. I was (am) taking online classes for a CLAD certification. At one point, I was taking three classes at once, while planning for the first week of school. It was very stressful, but thankfully I managed to eek out 2 A+s and am almost done with my 3rd class and so far so good. I’m still not getting enough sleep, and its something I’m working on.

What’s different about this year? Well, for one I’ve got one year under my belt. Instead of starting work 3 days after I got hired, I had a whole summer to think about things, and relax. I knew what I was teaching. I was somewhat familiar with my students and I knew who my partner was going to be, which is so helpful. I’ve also got a big support staff in my corner. Not only do I have two amazing aides in my classroom, but I’ve got my husband cheering me on, my girls telling me I’m doing a good job, my own parents supporting me, and my son who inspires me every day to be positive. He reminds me of the good things when I’m in a bad mood in the morning. The other day I was ready to snap and I was just getting in the car. He reminded me of a time a few weeks before when we ran into a friend who stopped her car when she saw us walking and literally told me that I inspire her. If that didn’t snap me out of my mood, I don’t know what would have! As my son got out of the car when I dropped him off at high school that day, I told him that HE inspires me.


This kid… meditating at Vasquez Rocks.

I’ve found one last thing that makes me happy and helps me destress, which was completely unexpected. Last week, my husband brought home Coldplay tickets. He likes them and wanted to go. I admit, I was coming down with a cold and wasn’t sure I wanted to go, but I did. We hadn’t been on a date in ages, and we haven’t been to a concert (not at the Hollywood Bowl) in years. (Probably the Police reunion concert or Flight of the Concords) Anyway…


I’m just going to say it. That concert made a fan out of me. I’ve been listening to their music every day for the last week and it just makes me… HAPPY. I want to dance (and do) and I have to say, Coldplay may just get me through the stress of being a student and teacher at the same time. I’ve also been watching interviews with Chris Martin (or rather of Chris Martin… sadly he’s not sitting here with me😉 ) and he is just SO positive. I have to remind myself to be positive and grateful, and thanks to not just Mr. Martin but my son, my daughters, my husband, my parents, and my teammates at work, I think this year can be a great one.


Bill Clinton Made Me a Democrat

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When I was a sophomore in college, I had the opportunity to vote in my first presidential election. At the time, I didn’t understand just how important this was, and I went into the election uniformed. I attended a private, Catholic university and everyone I knew was talking about voting for Bush. Not being very informed, and assuming he should be a good choice because he had been Vice President for 8 years, I voted for him.


Like many young voters, I didn’t think about politics again for quite some time. That’s when I first learned about Bill Clinton. I was in my last year of college, and in one of my Education classes, I saw a piece on him and how he helped Education in Arkansas (now I know his wife was the driving force behind this). Soon after, I began to see him speak in the primaries, and I was all in. I felt like he was talking TO ME. I felt like he really was the best person to be President of the United States. For the first time, I was EXCITED to vote for my choice for president. And I learned that my parents were already Democrats and had in fact voted for Dukakis while I voted for Bush.

After that, I paid more attention to elections and politics, but I was never on fire about a candidate like that until 2008. No, it was not Hillary Clinton. It was Barack Obama. I was so excited about him and so inspired, I drove to Nevada (I live in California) with some friends to go door to door for him. We were joined by a friend of mine who was a Hillary supporter. Once Barack Obama was nominated, she fully supported him and helped us campaign.

voting 4 obama

My husband and I took the whole family to vote before school started.

This year President is a new election year, and boy has it been interesting (and stressful). I will admit that I was mildly interested in the movement Bernie Sanders was creating. Lots of men and young people I know seem to be very excited by him. On the other hand, Hillary was running again and this time I was in a better place to accept her as my candidate. I was very wishy-washy, though, and not entirely sure who I was voting for. That is, I was unsure until Bernie made some choices I didn’t like and my Bernie-supporting friends were starting to be downright mean. And you know what? I think it is time for a strong woman to be president.

As time went on, I became more and more with HER. I will admit, while I loved (and still do, honestly) her husband, I just didn’t know enough about her and her accomplishments. Perhaps that’s because she wanted to stay out of her husband’s limelight. Perhaps it’s because the media only concentrates on negativity. I don’t know for sure, but what I learned last night at the convention about what she’s done for Education, the prison system, and justice in general, I am very firmly WITH HER.

I have friends and family members who keep talking about getting rid of the two-party system. Perhaps that’s true – I don’t have a lot to say about it at this time. I do agree that our Republican nominee scares the daylights out of me, as do all his followers. I never thought there was so much racism and hate until his campaign shined the light on it. I’m not sure what the future holds for elections and party systems, but for now, until I see it otherwise proven, I am and will remain a Democrat. As long as I’m represented by kind, caring, wise, strong, change-making candidates, I’m here.

Hometown Tourists -Walking In L.A.

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I have lived in the greater Los Angeles area for 24 years. When I was younger and single, every now and then I’d do a touristy thing with friends, but for the most part, we worked and then we went to the beach or to hang out or dance at clubs or go shopping.

Once we were married, we did a few touristy things, like the Huntington Gardens, but honestly – not much.  “The Internet” wasn’t available as a quick source to find things to do, and I didn’t have a social media outlet that would let me see what cool things friends were doing that would give us ideas.

Now, with all of the above, and more (podcasts, vacation advisor sites, etc), we see things to do in our own area that we never knew existed. So, now every once in a while (especially during the summer), we find touristy things to do around L.A.

On Sunday we headed to the MOCA – Grand Ave. (Little did I know when I Googled “MOCA” that there would be so many options to choose from. What I didn’t realize was that it was so close to Angel’s Flight. I’m still waiting for them to open it again, and am so saddened at how horrible the stairs next to it have gotten – urine smell, what I think was human feces. Come on, Los Angeles… why is our city so horribly dirty?😦


I enjoyed a lot of the art in the MOCA. This one in particular stood out to me. “Hourglass on legs” made a statement to me as a woman. THIS is what society wants from us. To be nothing more than an hourglass on legs. We are so much more.


We walked a few blocks to a bookstore I’d heard about through friends on facebook, honestly.

We saw these cool Metro run bikes that you can rent to ride around the city. What a great idea.


The bookstore was neat, but hotter than hot, as there was no air conditioning. There was a cool little knitting room, but sadly their collection of knitting books was paltry. (and no, they didn’t have my book, nor ANY of my knitting friends’ books)

We enjoyed the museum and the bookstore, but as a whole, L.A. can be overwhelming and depressing. We have been to other big cities – Denver, Portland, Seattle, Salt Lake City… none of those are as dirty or smelly as L.A. and none of them makes me more nervous than walking in L.A. can, depending on the day.

The next day the kids and I went to Griffith Park to do some sightseeing. We went looking for Bronson Caves (aka the Batcave from the Adam West tv series). There are no real signs letting you know, and there are lots of signs like these:


Luckily, there were other people we could ask and we finally figured it out.


Heading up, it was a short, 10 minute walk.



Can you picture the Caped Crusaders pulling out of this cave in the Batmobile?


The boy found higher ground.



Once out of the cave, turn left and you’ll see the Hollywood sign.


And just outside the cave are these rocks.


After the caves, my youngest daughter had found some photos of “neat parks” and steered us to a place called “Shane’s Inspiration” that is a playground for kids of all abilities.


I read while they played.

It happened to be right next to the carousel, which the girls wanted to ride. My son isn’t a fan of carousels, but he went so that the girls would walk up to the old abandoned zoo, which he wanted to visit.


Happy girls.


He is not amused.


It turns out this is the very spot Walt Disney thought up Disneyland. I had read it before, but had forgotten.

We had lots of fun in the cages at the old zoo.

While Los Angeles has its ups and downs, it does have some great gems to visit if you have time. Wherever you live, I’m sure you can find gems of your own, and be a tourist in your own hometown.


Leaving L.A. for Another Planet

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Leaving L.A. for Another Planet

Today, thanks to the suggestion (and urging) of our son, we headed up to another world to hike at Vasquez Rocks. We’ve been there once before, 3 years ago.

This time, we left pretty early in the morning to beat the heat. We weren’t the first ones there.


The sky is unreal

There were two photo shoots/ filming happening, so we headed in the other direction. At first, it seemed we were headed far from any cool rock formations.


But there were a few…


These rocks looked otherworldly to me – as if they really could be on a different planet than Earth. I suppose this is why it made for an excellent other planet in Star Trek.IMG_1564


I love that they walk like this, still.

Even the flowers look alien.


My older daughter needed to stop, because she felt “a rock” in her shoe… turns out it was an actual rusty nail. Thankfully, after a thorough inspection of her foot to make sure it didn’t break the skin, she was fine, and we were back on our way.IMG_1586



We went up and down and around and finally came back toward the rocks we remembered.


The boy wanted to climb.IMG_1619

So they climbed. I was very content to stay down below.IMG_1624

Until I wasn’t.


Once we were up top, we enjoyed the view, then headed down another side (the easier side!) and the kids found themselves some comfy little holes.


I tried to find some Zen (with a little help).IMG_1655

They boy found his Zen as well.IMG_1660

Going down was much easier than getting up!


We saw a couple (?) who were taking photos in their Trek outfits. (Yes, those are the same outfits my husband and I own, thankyouverymuch.)IMG_1670

Good-bye, Vasquez Rocks…. for now.IMG_1673

Heartbroken, Angry, and Lost. America is Broken

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There has been SO much horrible news lately. When we were on vacation, we read about the shooting in Orlando, the toddler who was drowned by an alligator  at Disney, and a man who fell into one of the boiling hot acidic pools in Yellowstone days before we arrived. There have been more shootings and more bombings since then. There is so much horrible out there right now. (Not to mention all the hate being spewed around our Election Year.) And yet, there’s no respite.

This morning I read about two black men who were killed by police officers. Again. I won’t watch the videos, because I can’t. I don’t handle watching fake violence, much less real violence. I know that they were horrible.

It’s not the first time this has happened. It seems like every week there are videos and reports of police brutality against African American youth. A boy gets beaten by several cops for jaywalking. A group of kids gets beaten and dragged around for swimming in a pool.

I find myself heartbroken, as so many others are. I can’t pretend to know what it’s like to be African American. I can’t pretend to know what it’s like to be targeted. To be afraid of the police (more than usual, at least). I do, however, teach African American children. I teach the boys who will grow up to be men. I worry for their future. I worry for their families. I worry that they are going through life knowing this is a truth about America right now. That this is something to worry about as they get older.

I don’t know how to fix it. I don’t know what to tell them. I don’t know how to make them feel safe outside my classroom. Inside my classroom, I will show them kindness, love, and challenge them to do their best. I will expect them to be their best and for ALL my students to treat each other like brothers and sisters. Like friends. With respect. No matter their differences.

But how do I help them outside my classroom? How do I help them feel like the world is a safe place for them? How do I help them when I don’t know that this is true. How can I teach them the world will not let them down when I don’t know that I believe it myself?


I’m angry. I’m angry at institutions that allow their officers to shoot innocents. That they treat white males with respect – even if the white male is beating up on the officers. Even if the white male has slaughtered people. And that officers will shoot a black male almost immediately, whether or not they are complying with their requests.

I’m angry that our society has allowed this to happen over and over again. I’m angry that NOTHING IS CHANGING. I’m angry at myself because I don’t know how to fix it.

I’m lost. As are so many others. I’m lost as to how I can help. I’m lost as to what to do. I’m lost, because the country I’ve grown up thinking is great is now starting to feel evil. My rose colored glasses are off, and I’m lost as to what will change things.

America is broken. America needs to wake up. America needs to stop allowing African American citizens to be gunned down at the drop of a hat. In front of their children. America is broken for so many reasons. There is no such thing as a “good guy with a gun” as so many people think…

facebook makes me sad

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Back when I first joined facebook and started connecting with all sorts of old friends – from high school friends to teacher friends to friends I worked with at Universal Studios… even former students of mine, I loved it.

I loved connecting with my cousins and seeing what was going on in the lives of my friends and family, near and far. It even helped me get to know local friends a little better.

But there has always been a part of facebook that has eaten away at me.

~When I see friends get together in groups and I’m not invited.

~When my kids’ friends’ parents post photos of birthday parties my children weren’t invited to.

~When my aunts, uncles, and cousins all “like” each other’s photos and posts but mine go literally unnoticed by 90% of them.

~When people get political.

The first three things have bothered me on and off for YEARS, but I have (mostly) made peace with it. I try not to let it shape my feelings about certain people or my own self-worth. It is hard sometimes when you feel like your life accomplishments or celebrations mean nothing to them, but you tell yourself stories to make you feel better. “Maybe your uncle accidentally unfollowed you. Maybe that’s why he like everyone else’s posts but never once has done so for yours.” “Maybe my friends think I’m busy on Fridays… maybe that’s why they don’t invite me.”

The other night I was at a gathering where I saw a friend I hadn’t seen in far too long. It was great catching up, but she said something that hit me rather hard. She said she was glad for facebook, because she could keep up with me, but let me know that she’s not “one of those crazy people who’s on facebook all the time” (like me). I know she didn’t mean it as a slight against me (or did she?), but clearly the reason she can keep up with me is she knows that when she signs into facebook after months, she can go to my page and see exactly what I’ve been up to.

{Maybe that’s part of my problem. I post TOO much. Who wants to keep up with that?}

The last thing, however, is what’s causing me stress at this moment. Whether it’s Gun Control, taking away women’s rights, calling our president a criminal, calling our presidential candidates ugly names, or calling certain groups of voters stupid (or worse), it’s all taking away the joy that comes from connecting with people I care about. It’s making me angry at people I like because they’re posting such negativity.

I’ve tried to keep away from posting anything too political. 8 and 4 years ago, I was VERY vocal about my support of President Obama. This time around, I have been silent. Mostly because I’m afraid to post my support of Hillary Clinton because I see SO MUCH HATE for her from people I call friends. And I want to keep that off my own page. So I seethe in silence and I like all my friends’ posts about their support of her – in a space I know is safe for me to do so. I don’t start arguments with gun enthusiasts, or Trump supporters because that will get me nothing but stress and strife. My husband would tell you it’s healthy to argue, but I don’t think anything good ever came of arguing on facebook.

I need to figure out a way to limit my time on this social media without isolating people I really want to connect with. I may need to take a little time out. I don’t want to make a big dramatic exit, but I do need to back away. I need to take care of myself and my family and get ready for the classes I’m taking that begin next week. I need to figure out how to balance things and not take things so personally. Hell, I suppose some people will read this and think I’m oversharing. Perhaps I am. Perhaps I’m a chronic over-sharer, and that is where the problem truly is.

I don’t know how to curb that part of me, but I suppose I can try. Is there a 12-step program for that?



Road Trip Part One – Yellowstone I

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Summer in our family means it’s time to pack up our things and cram into the family car and head out on a great adventure. In the past, we’ve gone to National Parks, National Monuments, a great meteor crater, cute small towns, big cities, and many places in between. This year, my husband booked a trip he’d wanted to make for a LONG time, which included most of the above listed destinations.

Stop 1: Salt Lake City.


I can’t say too much about the place, as we were only there one night. It was clean, pretty, and pretty windy. Sadly, we didn’t see the actual Great Salt Lake. Hopefully we can make it back again someday in the future.

Stop 2: Yellowstone National Park, Old Faithful Inn

Our first stop in Yellowstone was at the Old Faithful Inn. My husband and I have wanted to visit Yellowstone for several years. Last year we weren’t able to go on a big trip, so he took matters into his own hands and booked our trip a year in advance. He didn’t ask advice from anyone we knew, but just tried to figure out what to see based on reading a book and searching the net. He did a pretty darn good job.


The entrance


Old Faithful


The giant clock on the giant mantle in the lobby


These people I love, exploring the hotel walkways.


lobby, from above

Old Faithful is just outside the inn. Just beyond Old Faithful are a few walkways to explore several geysers. I have to say that there are signs EVERYWHERE telling visitors to stay on the path for their own safety.


The paths keep you safe from wandering into a dangerous hotspot.


Castle Geyser. When geysers aren’t active, they are always emitting some gas and steam.


We walked up to this geyser JUST as it was going off.


The Grotto Geyser went off in waves, like the ocean. (Where’s Ariel?)


Just starting


Girls taking a break by the river

I’m going to make a confession right now. I thought that Yellowstone was JUST GEYSERS. And, of course, a National Park that would be pretty and have trees and trails and whatnot. My husband did his research. I did not. I was treading water all year trying to survive my first year back to work and let him take care of the trip planning, so I didn’t do my research.

Imagine my surprise when we headed to a basin filled with one the most beautiful sites I’ve ever seen.


Walking by the river on the way to the Midway Geyser Basin


I was always fascinated by the tiny flowers thriving among the treacherous landscape.




Reading the no swimming sign and discussing the landscape


Hot springs. The lighter blue the water, the hotter it is.


Beautiful but deadly


A waitress in Salt Lake City told us she’d never seen so many colors as in Yellowstone. Now I know what she meant.


My favorite of all, which isn’t done justice by my photograph. The Grand Prismatic Spring. Just amazing.

Click HERE to see a breathtaking overhead view of the Spring, from Getty Images.

We bought me a pair of earrings and necklace that were inspired by the Grand Prismatic Spring.




An example of the boardwalks everywhere to keep everyone away from danger


Bubbling in the water


On the left, you can see where some runoff from a spring is making a little waterfall, altering the ground around it and heading into the river.

The next day we drove to the Lake. We saw more geysers and springs right on the lake, stopped to get a closer look at the lake, and had dinner right on the lake.


pools next to the lake


Beautiful but deadly, part 2


Touching the lake


boy on a log


Enter a caption


taking in the beauty


3 kids in front of the giant fireplace


the lounge of the Lake Hotel


beautiful view



That night, when we got to our lodge, we took a silly picture.🙂

Since there are so may photos and I want people interested in Yellowstone to be able to see as many as possible, I’m splitting up the blogs into pieces. Stay tuned.