Happiness and Gumdrops

This school year has been wild. Wild I say.  There are moments when I get this tiny glimpse of the joy of life from a child’s perspective and I’m reminded that this is why I teach.  There are so many grabby hands at my time and energy as a teacher, and then a student will insert a bright spot and I’m reminded why I love this calling of teaching.

Two of my 5th grade students that I had as 3rd graders came to my 3rd grade classroom to say ‘hello’ on Crazy Hair Day (Red Ribbon Week). (I had dum-dum suckers in my hair and a handmade sign that read, “Drugs are Dum Dum.”)  As they were shelving books in my library, their conversation went like this:

Girl 1: “The classroom has changed a little.” (Spoken in a Japanese accent. When this student came to me in 3rd grade she didn’t speak hardly any English, and now, she’s reading at a 4th grade level.  I’m so proud of the progress she’s made.  She’s made it through some major hurdles in her personal life over the past few years.)

Girl 2:  “It still smells like happiness and gumdrops.”  (Yeah, she really said those.exact.words.) I had to write it down it was so cute and unexpected.

There are days when I wonder why I’m teaching.  There are so many things required of me that I don’t necessarily care a lick about, but I have to do as a part of my professional responsibilities. Then a student will say something profound or encouraging and I’m like, “Oh, yeah, THIS is why I do it.”

My job is to provide a safe place where students love to learn.  This girl’s memory of my

I don’t know what I did that was “very good, very very good” for this 3rd grade student, but I love our awesome cape, my side bangs and that I’m holding her hand. 

class made me take a deep breath and capture the feeling of satisfaction, if only for a fleeting moment. Yes, I am trying to create an environment that makes students remember something happy.  She came away from her 3rd grade year feeling like she belonged.  (Joy, you got all that from the happiness and gumdrops comment?  Uh, yeah, I did.)  You should have seen her face.  Recalling that joy makes me teary as I’m writing.

Then there are moments when I’m teaching and I do… this.  I literally do… this.  I’m not always a happy shiny teacher.  (Keeping it real.)  I get frustrated, but underneath all the layers, I think my students know I really care, and I do.  So here’s a little comic relief from one of my favorite principals.  I do this… the quick change with a head whip… regularly.  Watch on.


This one.  So true.  I love this.

So there you go, folks.  I’m reposting these videos because all my teacher friends need a little comic relief right about now. America will be so grateful that we cared for her children on Monday, Halloween!  You know the leftover candy will be eaten all the way through Friday.  Oh boy, gear up my friends.  Next week is going to be a LOOOONG week. Hopefully you won’t have to use Google Teacher Translate for any ‘licking other kids’ incidents.

Life in the classroom isn’t always happiness and gumdrops as we know, but when your students leave you, hopefully they’ll remember that you cared because I know you do.  The caring is the gumdrops.  You’re all full of gumdrops.

Until next Friday.  Love you loves.


Gastric Bypass Update:

I walked enjoyed my walk today.  image-1

The Pumpkin Cookies of Greatness

Let’s spur on the fall weather my So Cal friends.  This 95 degree day on October 20, is kinda well, yuck.   I want fall! I’ve purchased the foaming fall soaps from Bath and Body Works in hopes that making my hands smell like vanilla and pumpkins will somehow make the fall season stay for awhile.

I have come up with  a better solution.  If we all converge and make The Pumpkin Cookies at the same time, maybe fall will have no choice, but to come and smell these alluring cookies, take a bite and stay for awhile.

I forgot that I used to make these cookies. I have no idea where I got the recipe, but a friend of mine from my high school days, (Deanna!), said she lost the recipe and requested it.  I was like, “Hmmm? What? I used to make these?  Well, I’ll look in my handy dandy recipe box and see if the recipe is there.”  Sure enough, boohya, recipe found, just were I’d normally file cookies, under the C.  The Pumpkin Cookies, as they’re called, because once you have these, you do not need another recipe for pumpkin cookies.  The Pumpkin Cookies are all you’ll ever need in the pumpkin+cookie department.  (Yes, this is an actual department.)

Here it is, once you read the recipe, you must agree to make these. Look into my eyes, and say, “I will make these cookies. I will make these cookies. I will make these cookies.”


Now, you’ve committed.

Enjoy.  Take some cookies to your neighbors or a party this weekend.  We all need a little lovin’.  I know I do.  Right now, I just want to be warm and cozy.  I want to be home.  So Home We’ll Go.  Have a listen.  It’s a good one.

Don’t let your head hang low
You’ve seen the darkest skies I know
Let your heart run child like horses in the wild
So take my hand and home we’ll go
The sun it glows like gold
Feeling warm as a burning coal
Let your soul shine bright like diamonds in the sky
So take my hand and home we’ll go
Home we’ll go, home we’ll go
Home we’ll go, home we’ll go

In all the chaos of the past few weeks, I’m trying to take a friend’s advice, “Let it all roll off, like Teflon,” (Shout out to Lisa!)   So, don’t let your heads hang low.   Take my hand, make The Pumpkin Cookies, and hug the people you love.  Now if only these cookies could change the world.  We can hope.

Until next Friday.  Love you loves.


Gastric Bypass Update:

On October 23, I’ll be at 7 months post-surgery. Whaaat?  It actually seems like a lot longer than that to me.  So much has happened in the last 7 months, so much weight lost, so much change.  I never thought I’d be able to lose weight again.  It’s been dramatic for me.  But, at the same time, I’m still me… Joy…

And in case you were wondering, I DID eat 3 of The Pumpkin Cookies (and I enjoyed every second of it, yes, I said seconds because it only took a few to scarf ’em up), even though they’re not gluten free.  My Cypress friends are going to get to enjoy them tomorrow at work.  TGIF!

…after making and eating them, I didn’t feel guilty at all.  Now THAT’S progress.

Later, I went for a long walk.  That’s progress too.  This time 7 months ago, I wasn’t exercising at all.  Recently, I bought an awesome fanny pack hydration belt so I can carry a water bottle hands free (and bonus!) there’s a pocket for my phone.  It was a good investment, way cheaper than a gym membership. Listening to music keeps me motivated and makes me walk faster.  I’ve listened to all the electronic dance music stations on Amazon Music.  It’s my favorite walking genre.  Keep on walkin’ (in the free world). See what I did there? Rockin’ – Walkin’ Love the word play.  Back at ya’ Neil.

Had to add this:

So much jammage here.  They’re called Pearl Jam for a reason.


Try Again in 60 Minutes

Try Again in 60 Minutes

Try Again in 60 Minutes

Try Again in 60 Minutes

Try Again in 60 Minutes

Try Again in 60 Minutes

Oh my gosh.  Do you ever have those weeks where you wish you could just start over? Saturday night, I lost my iPhone.  I know where I lost it, in a Lyft ride.  I sat my phone down next to me while I was filling out a card in the darkness of the ride to the party (Way to go Joy, you’re procrastination is brilliant. Well, at least I brought a card. Gimme a break. Plus the card was pretty rad.  The best- “I Love the Shit Out of You” card I’ve ever seen.  I love cards that are perfect for the person you’re giving them to.  She’s got an amazing sense of humor and fearlessness about her.  I do love you, Katie.  I do, and I can’t believe you’re grown up and off to AMDA. **Teary**) Oh yeah, so, I left my phone on the seat of the car that day and didn’t realize it until the next morning.  The sad part is, I thought it was just buried somewhere in my gigantic purse.  You know your purse is too big when…you’ve got a fan, foldable scissors, essential oils, calcium and Flintstone vitamins for everyday of the week, ear buds, stevia, lipsticks, hand cream, reusable grocery bags (2, because 1 isn’t enough), cough drops, feminine emergency kit, and of course all the loot in my wallet.  (I know you’ve always wanted to know the contents of my purse.  So there ya go.  I’m always prepared, like a Girl Scout.  Ladies, you don’t need to bring any of these items when you hang with me, I’ve got your back.)  So THAT’S why I just assumed it was buried in the abyss of my purse. Sunday morning came.  After a panicky search and texts to my dear friend at the party the night before, the phone wasn’t located and then I realized, I’d left it in the Lyft ride.  Ugh. Oh no. Customer service back and forth emails for the next 3 days resulted in confirmation that my phone would not be returned.

The crazy part is, a friend actually gave me another phone the day before I lost my phone.  Weird right?  She gave it to me because my screen was cracked on the phone I had on Friday night.  She said, “I’m not using this phone if you want it.”  So I had a replacement. Unbeknownst to me, I’d lose my phone the next day.

And then I tried to set up the new phone.

I was able to get to the AT&T store on Tuesday, to move the phone from Verizon.  Awesome.

And then there was an Activation Lock.

img_7755Oh my. So many hoops.  Do you ever feel like you’re in a perpetual loop?  You keep trying the same thing over and over again, hoping something different will happen.  I do this constantly when I enter passwords.  (Inner dialogue: Oh, that one didn’t work.  Well maybe I skipped a letter.  Oh, that didn’t work.  Dammit. Ok, let’s see, maybe I forgot to capitalize the first letter.  Oh, that didn’t work.  Deep breath.  Hmmm.  Maybe, I should add a number at the end of the sequence.)  I’ve since learned that I can’t possibly remember all my passwords, so I use Last Pass on my computer to manage all my passwords, but my phone is a different story, and this new phone was complicated, finicky, like a cat that doesn’t want dry food, it wants Fancy Feast.  So, after 19 attempts of trying to enter the same 2 sets of  4 digit numbers, I think the phone MEANT what it said the other 19 times, “Try Again in 60 Minutes.”  Actually, if it was a really smart phone it would say, <<insert Bill and Ted voice here>>”You’ve tried those numbers 19 times dumbass, it’s not going to work!”   (Yes, my smart ass phone talks to me like Bill and Ted, you know, from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Doesn’t everyone give their phone an accent?  Party on, dude!)

I’m in Trouble.

Have a listen:

I’ve been in this troubled loop for days.  I will stop now. Just thought I’d share.

Try Again in 60 Minutes is an analogy for my life right now.  I’ve been trying some of the same things over and over again and I’m still getting the same repetitive message.

The message is, you’re burning the candle at both ends.  Stop it.  You know what happens when the candle burns and the wicks meet. There is no candle left.  I am the candle.

Many of my memories are full of impressions. There was a Christmas when I lived on Barbara street in Tyler, Texas.  This was a lovely home we rented in a nicer neighborhood than some we’d lived in pre and post-Barbara street.  There was a succulent pear tree in the backyard and this was where we brought home my cocker spaniel, Lady, that I learned to love with all my heart.  She was with me throughout several moves to new houses and states. The smell of gardenias at that house was enchanting. Every time I smell one, I think back to living in that house in Texas. That Christmas was a challenging one financially and my parents were struggling to make Christmas the best they could for their 3 kids, at the time.  This was probably a direct result of paying rent in a middle class hood.  I remember my dad being very discouraged that Christmas.  I tried to cheer him up, in the best way a 10-year-old can.  I gave him a chocolate bar and a sign that I had found somewhere that said:  You never fail, until you fail to try.

I keep that phrase close on weeks like this.  There have been several circumstances and interactions with people that have made me want to just, literally, call it a day, and go back to bed.  But, then,

You never fail, until you fail to try.*

Up next: I love the Strumbellas’ perfect rock geekiness.  Listen: their song starts at 15 seconds in.  This song spoke to me this week.  We often don’t know.  We just don’t. But, “we all know there’s hope and we’ll be okay.” Encouraging words.  Thanks Strumbellas.  Oh, and that Jam Van is full of sweet Austin-awesomeness.

This band takes me back to my college years when EEG performed with Mama (me) and we called ourselves The Mamas and the Mamas because all the guys in the band dressed in drag.  Good times. I wish I had pictures of that performance.  I performed Respect by Aretha (daring or stupid to sing a cover of the goddess of soul) and a song by the Bangles (I think).  (Steve, it’s time… we need to start a band. Oh, wait, we’ve already done that.  But it might be time to rock again.  I need another outlet. If anyone wants to join a geeky middle-aged rock band with male-female vocalists, we could have concerts in the backyard pop up trailer. Takers?  A backyard concert in San Dimas, sounds pretty amazin’ to me and it’s a lot closer than Austin.)

Lyrics: It’s hard when you’re living and you don’t feel much
And you’re down and you’re hoping that things are gonna change
Oh we don’t know the roads that we’re heading down
We don’t know if we’re lost, that we’ll find a way
We don’t know if we leave, will we make it home
We don’t know, there’s hope, then we’ll be okay
So, for me, change must happen again.  I’m extremely overwhelmed with perceived responsibilities that will probably work themselves out fine, if I just let other capable people take the reins.  This week has been a realization of how my life has become unmanageable- to use a recovery phrase.
This change thing, it’s kind of an ongoing challenge.  This change thing…it keeps happening. But, what would life be if everything was always the same?
Like you, I just keep trying.  Just keep trying.

*Turns out, this phrase is a restatement taken from Albert Einstein,

“You never fail until you stop trying.”

So there you go, don’t listen to me, Albert said it first.

Until next week.  Love you loves.
Gastric bypass update:
Maintaining my weight.  Walking.  I’m eating totally “normal person” portions for the most part, much more normal than 4 months ago.

Pandora’s Box and Russian Dolls

So there I am, teaching a typical ordinary 3rd reading group, with a student teacher standing nearby taking copious notes.  A third grade student says the most profound statement I’ve heard in the classroom to date, possibly all year, and definitely ranks ‘Most Profound of All Declarations’ I’ve heard in the presidential debates. “Hope is the emotion you need in order to beat any fear you may have.” Let it soak in.  Hope.

Taken from the version of Pandora’s box written for third graders, I had asked a simple, yet deep question , “Why did Zeus put the butterfly as a symbol of hope in Pandora’s box?” The story referred to how, once Pandora opened the box, sickness, worries, crime, hate, monsters and “everything that bothered and haunted humans was released from that box.  The bad things flew all over the place like angry bees swarming and stinging.”  (Sidenote: The reference to monsters exploded into an intense discussion about how some humans, specifically these 3rd graders, are intensely afraid of dolls, scary dolls, like Chucky and the ventriloquist doll from Goosebumps. I agree, that’s freaky and scary.  The onset of nightmares.  Those dolls came straight from Pandora’s Box.  Reign ’em in Mrs. Guiles, reign ’em in.)  This insightful student totally understood that humans needed hope.  Several of the students in the group also said that Zeus knew that they would need hope before they did, and that’s why he put hope in the box.  This, from the mouths of babes.  These are the moments of teaching that I live for. It makes me feel so alive when they connect their learning to life.  Real life. Hope is real, people, I know it doesn’t feel like it some days, (especially in October right before the presidential election) but it’s real.

Then later this week, I read, in my most recent book of love, Bread and Wine by Shauna Neiquist, the chapter about Russian dolls.  I’ve always loved Russian dolls, but now I love them more.


Notice, in the photo of the Russian doll, that the second from the smallest one is missing half its body.  This is symbolic for the time in my life where I lost myself.  (I can’t help but think of Radiohead when I hear that phrase. Yes, this is how my brain works.)

So what’s the significance of the Russian doll?   Shauna spent a lot of time looking through photo albums with her grandma and grandpa.  Her grandma said this from her 83-year-old perspective reflecting on all those photos:

…getting old is like carrying all these selves with you. She said she remembers just how that thirteen-year-old in the picture felt, and how that nineteen-year-old bride felt and how that thirty-year-old on the back of a motorcycle felt.  She said you carry them inside you, collecting them along the way, more and more and more selves inside you with each passing year, like those Russian dolls, stacking one inside the other, nesting within themselves waiting to be discovered, one and then another.

I’ve often found this to be true in my own life.  This is why I don’t like to criticize who I was, at any given phase of my life.  Those former selves formed who I am now.  What good does it do to belabor and critique how different I should have been in the past?  The past is OVER.  Without that former nesting doll, I might not be my most current version.  Right? So, the moral of the story here is, love your former selves and love yourself now.  Simple.  And not so simple.  But hopeful.

I’m keeping this post short and sweet this week.  Love and hope. Complex and necessary for survival.

Until next Friday.  Love you loves.

Gastric Bypass Update:

At least two people a week comment on how much weight I’ve lost.  I still feel it necessary to blame the gastric bypass on my rapid loss.  However, I’m coming to the realization, slowly, that I have done a lot of work to get here.  The gastric bypass has been a tool, but I’ve had to take the initiative to exercise and eat better.  That’s the work I’ve had to do. Those are my decisions.

The gastric bypass can’t get all the credit, yo.