Thursday, September 18, 2014

Sneak Attack

Yesterday, I made a hearty meatloaf for dinner. Along with family-favorite side dishes of roasted carrots and red potatoes, I decided to serve up this cute little squash.

While my meal was merrily cooking away, I snapped on a few lamps around the house and lit a candle to fill the rooms with a cozy glow.

And that's when I knew for sure that fall is most definitely in the air.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Biology 101

Look at this plant in my front porch. 

Check out those crazy long tentacles, twisting and turning in pursuit of sunshine. 

At the ends of the waving arms are gorgeous pink blossoms, bursting forth in their fiery beauty. If they were to touch down and make contact with the soil, they would most certainly produce roots and become self-sufficient plants, soon making babies of their own. 

The parent plant astonishes me as well, in all its silvery grey, geometric glory. How anything so pristine and precise can hold its form after months of real-life wear-and-tear on my busy front step is beyond me. As individual petals are knocked askance here or broken off there, the plant somehow corrects the problem and quickly sends forth a replacement member to smooth over the trouble spot and restore the flawless perfection.

Honestly, this sweet little succulent is just a scientific miracle to me, and I marvel at its majesty every day.  

* * * * *

This evening, I helped one of my algebra students with his science homework. For two and a half hours, we slogged through his biology textbook, searching for the answers to the dreaded Chapter Review questions. He had fallen a bit behind in his assignments, so we faced around 30 formidable questions. Digging up the proper responses was a frustrating and painstaking exercise, and more than once, my student moaned in anguish, "I hate science sooooo much!"

And I thought to myself how utterly tragic it is that the breathtaking, mysterious forces of nature can be reduced to a tiresome, even hateful chore. 

This, my friend, is not how learning should be. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Roma In My Linen Closet

So lately, I've been daydreaming about my linen closet.

I know. That's a little over the top. But the cozy cupboard at the top of my stairs has been over-stuffed and under-serviced, full of mish-mashed odds and ends, for quite a long time, and I am quite sure I can do better.

Mmm, imagine the possibilities.

Crisply ironed sheets, color-coordinated to each bedroom.
Soft, fluffy towels, neatly stacked by size, and all in white, of course.
A few extra blankets, for cold nights and sick beds.
Colorful beach towels, rolled and artfully arranged in an oversize basket.
Two down pillows, because it just seems so luxurious to have extra pillows. 

And of course, my OCD fantasies wouldn't be complete without a decorative theme. 

I know. That also seems a little over the top. But every nook and cranny of a home can tell a story, and I love to peek into a little space and find a surprise inside. Why not hang some framed photograph inside the linen closet door?

I considered several possibilities.

Fields of lavender.
Baskets of fresh fruit.
Hand-pieced quilts.

But none of those subjects quite captured the sense of windblown freshness and sunshine-y clean that I had in mind.

And then it hit me. 


When she was in college, my second-born spent three months studying in Rome, Italy and took several billion photos during her stay. After a quick scan through her files, I found exactly the kind of shots I had in mind.

Blue skies.
Puffy white clouds.
Brilliant Mediterranean light.
And gorgeous sunlit architecture..

These photos capture precisely the mood that I want to evoke in my new-and-improved linen closet. Even the colors - blues and whites, ivory, gold and grey - satisfyingly coordinate with the neat stacks of sheets and towels that I fantasize will soon be filling the shelves.

And just in case these beautiful street scenes weren't enough, I also found this dreamy photo.

Just imagine folding those sun-warmed shirts, fresh and sweet-smelling, deliciously crisp from drying in the Roman breeze. They are the perfect inspiration for my linen closet update and now I can't wait to get started on the job.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Living In The Moment.

My mind was a million miles away as I started to work on dinner tonight. My thoughts raced around in my head as I pondered gold spray paint, Ranger's walk, and the current state of my linen closet. I was most definitely inattentive to the tasks before me.

Suddenly, my rambling reflections disappeared and I snapped into reality. I had just laid these six hard-boiled eggs on a dish cloth and the afternoon sun simply set them aglow. Each shade of brown was subtly different; each oval shape was uniquely shadowed and highlighted in the brilliant light. 

As I contemplated this remarkable masterpiece, I remembered once again how lovely life can be when I slow down, every now and then, in order to live in the moment. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Power Of Blue

Once again, the forces of whimsy and making-do are on the march in my home. This time, the locus of change is my bedroom. Without any real intention or forethought on my part, I notice that the kaleidoscope has shifted and a new color scheme has drifted into place. 

My bedroom, as it looks in real life. 

Grass green and orange.

Okay, I'm good with that. The yin and yang of those colors - one to sweetly nurture me and the other to blast me out of bed - work really well to balance my moods and set an invigorating tone for my mornings

But in the past week or two, I've been craving something more.

Specifically, I need some blue.

I'm not talking a bout a LOT of blue. Just a few drops. See them?

Here's the thing. Normally, blue is not my jam. It is my husband's favorite color, so I make a point to splash it around the house here and there, but this deep-seated soul need for a tiny pool of blue to call my own is something quite new. 

At first, Iwas a bit confused by this thirst, but now I understand. 

In this season of my life, colored blazing red by my mother's Alzheimers, I am craving a well-spring of peace and calm. In the mornings, when I open my eyes and the reality of life comes rushing back to me, my heart aches for a simple place of renewal and refreshment.

Somehow, a little bit of blue gives me just the Zen power-boost that I need.

Yes, I do buy used books based on the color of their spines. But only if I actually want to read them too. These are some of my favorite authors and I plan to turn the pages soon.

Interestingly, last night, I stumbled upon an article that puts a finger on my feelings.
Wallace J. Nichols, a marine biologist, believes that we all have a "blue mind" -- as he puts it, "a mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment" -- that's triggered when we're in or near water. 
"We are beginning to learn that our brains are hardwired to react positively to water and that being near it can calm and connect us, increase innovation and insight, and even heal what's broken,"
Yes. That describes me to a tee. I'm passionate about water in all its forms, and in lieu of moving to the coast or digging a pool in my backyard, I'm feeding my "blue mind" with a stack of books and a wooden dog.

I've been obsessed with the idea of planting Irish moss in this bitty brass treasure box. While it may not feed my "blue mind," the springy color and delicate white flowers definitely make me smile. 

 Strangely enough, that strategy seems to be working.

The basket goes back to my freshman year of college; the big dog on a stick was a splurge from a pricey Manhattan boutique. The two smaller dogs and candle holders I've had forever; the silver tray, treasure box and stack of books were recently thrifted. 

So if you'll excuse me, I'm off to the thrift store to search out a few more blue treasures to add to my tiny yet powerful collection of blue

And in the meantime, I leave my room to sleepy Cedric, who seems to enjoy the power of blue just as much as I do.


Thursday, September 11, 2014


I'll never forget September 11, 2001.

I'll never forget opening my eyes to a perfect blue sky and dazzling sunshine as my husband's phone call woke me from my sleep.

I'll never forget knowing, deep in my bones, that as I told my daughters the news, I was shattering the illusions of safety and innocence that had guarded their childhood up till then.

I'll never forget going about our daily routine of Spanish class, math homework and dinner chores, trying to feel normal in a day that had turned the world upside down.

I'll never forget leading the children's message at my church that night, listening as the kids shared honest and heartfelt prayers for themselves, their families, their country, and the "bad guys."

I'll never forget how all four of my daughters were scared to go to sleep that night. They huddled together with me on a single twin bed and let me try to soothe their fears..

I'll never forget, after they had drifted off to sleep, hearing the sound of a military aircraft, piercing the silence of the traffic-free night skies as it patrolled the Pacific coast. I couldn't decide if that plane was a comfort or yet another element of terror.

Though I didn't know them in this life, I'll never forget the men, women and children who died because of September 11:

The victims of the original terrorist events.
The rescuers and heroes of the aftermath.
The soldiers caught up in the conflicts and wars to follow.

And ultimately, thankfully, trustingly, I'll never forget that God promises to make all things good.

* * * * *

Other thoughts on the anniversary of September 11:

My Deep Gladness

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” - Frederick BuechnerWishful Thinking: A Theological ABC

Mmm, today was a delicious day of freshly sharpened pencils, crisp pages at the front of new notebooks, and a full supply of Post-It flags. 

Yay for the first day of school!

Happily, in my line of work, I enjoy more than one first day. I meet with my high school algebra students in small groups or even individual sessions, one or two days a week, so over the course of the next few days, I'll be kicking off the new year over and over again.

Never in my life did I intend to become a free-lance math teacher. But this vocation surprisingly revealed itself as a place where my passions and experience benefit my mostly homeschooled students and their brave parents. Each year, new families make their way to me and ask for help; I am blessed to have them in my life.

I am one of those lucky people who wake up in the morning and can't wait to get to work. Plus I get to buy cute school supplies. And that is a very deep gladness indeed.