Just a Drop in the Bucket

Drops in buckets.  This week has been full of drops.  Lack of drops and celebrating drops. Drops, whether you realize it or not, DO, impact your quality of life, good and bad.

Last Friday Steve had a lovely ablation.  I won’t go into details, but it involved the part of the body that you sit on. Yeah, and then Part 2 involved the part of the body that expels what we all refer to as #1.  Needless to say, when both #1 and #2 are compromised, life basically stops in its tracks (or there is a lot of painful moaning).  I’m grateful to say, we made it through the weekend and both organs that control #1 and #2 are functioning properly again.  Thank God. Let’s refer back to drops.  Drops are important.  Drops do impact you for the good or the bad.

My ablation had a much different recovery trajectory. (Thank God!)  In the video link, this patient received treatment from the same device, Minerva, that I received mine.  My gynecologist, Samuel Kassar, used this on me, for the first time with another gynecologist, nurses, and the Minerva representative present.(Yes, I was the guinea pig, I feel so sad for guinea pigs, why would people do experiments on guinea pigs? They’re so cute.) I was a teaching tool and was grateful to be completely anesthetized during the procedure.  When he told me there were going to be other people watching the procedure, I said, “Well, I’m glad I won’t be awake for that.”  He said, “Fair enough.”   (Can I get an amen from all the ladies in the room?) If you have heavy menstrual cycles that are teetering out of control and inhibiting your quality of life (for me this was extremely heavy days that made it so I needed to rush to the bathroom, which was a challenge when I only have a bathroom break during recess time.  I can’t just leave my class full of students alone. Duh. So I’d have to bleed out and hope I have a change of clothes or a sweater to cover myself the rest of the day.)  The anemia was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  The exhaustion of not being able to retain my iron levels, made me seek a solution.  Birth control pills and an IUD involved side effects and foreign objects in my body that I wasn’t willing to introduce.  A hysterectomy was too extreme and involved other hormonal side effects.  The D&C ablation seemed like the best option for me at this point in my life.  This particular dropping has significantly impacted me & I’m grateful the drops in the bucket will be basically nil from now on.

In the middle of drafting this post, I found out that our 13-year-old water heater could not be repaired without ongoing problems.  So, we were advised to get a new one.  What’s another $1000, when you’ve spent almost $90,000 over the past couple months?  Just a drop in the bucket, yo.  Drop in the bucket.

The thing is, I could be really angry about this whole hellish-home-investigation-solar- panel-construction chapter, and believe me, I’ve had my moments.  However, when I look at the bigger picture, the fact that I live in one of the richest and most financially stable places in the world, it’s hard to complain.  We may not have as much equity in our home as we had hoped at this point in time, but our house is going to value at over $530,000. (WHAT? Yeah, that’s SoCal.  Location. Location. Location.) Really, considering we bought our house in 1999, for $159,000, I think it’s a pretty darn good increase in value over 18 years.  Also, considering we had NO IDEA what we were doing when we bought this our first and only house, it has turned out to be a good investment.  Although we have been tormented by some stupid-ass decisions, i.e. not getting proper permits back in 2005.  (Live and learn from us people.  GET PERMITS! It will come back to bite you later.  It will. Or maybe it won’t.  Or maybe it will.)

Hopefully, we’ll look back at this time of our lives and say it was just a drop in the bucket. It feels a little like the chunks of rusted parts in the picture below.  These rusted parts separated from the inside of the water heater.  But now, we’ve got a new and improved water heater.  Hopefully, this is a foreshadowing of good to come.

Until next Friday.  Love you loves.

Gastric Bypass Update:

I’m not supposed to lift or exercise for 2 weeks after the ablation.  This freaks me out a little because I’m a bit rigid with my routine.  I don’t think I’ll fully abide by the doc’s advice.  (SHHHH!) Really, I’ll stay away from the heavy lifting (hard considering I need to clean up my classroom, “Uh kids, want to help in my classroom?”) and walk as much as I can this week to work up to my daily quota of steps.

Another Hill to Climb

I thought I was just tired because of the packing up of the entire back of the house and the mental energy required in figuring out a plan for how we’re going to pay for construction.   It turns out there’s a medical reason why I’m tired.  I’m anemic.  My doctor assured me I’m not ‘transfusion’ anemic (uh, reassuring, I think?) but I definitely need more iron.  I’ve been on the fence of anemia for years because the lovely menses, (AKA the monthly time when Aunt Flo comes to visit) has become heavier and that, coupled with my body’s need for absorption of iron at a different rate post gastric bypass, has made the perfect storm of anemia.   I’m exhausted and now there’s a medical reason.  I’ve been continuing to walk, almost daily, but I’ve felt like I’m totally dragging. I just chalked it up to typical mom exhaustion— March Madness, teaching grades 3rd and 5th, managing the lives of 3 children, you know, just, too-much-on-the-plate.  I’m relieved in some ways, to know that hopefully once my iron levels are in check, I’ll feel a little more spunk.

In other news, the saga with the house continues.  We’ve basically packed up our bedroom and the music studio into a storage pod and put everything else in the front of the house.  We’re definitely in close quarters.  It looks like we may be doing this for 3 months.  I’m hoping that’s a realistic timeline.  Meanwhile, we’re considering litigation against Zero Energy.  It’s a hot mess.  Now you feel anemic, right?

The picture is a hill that I used to avoid.  It’s quite steep, up Allen Avenue toward San Dimas Canyon.  I dreaded that hill before and I’d walk a different path.  Now I cruise up that sucker several days a week.  I thought I’d share my accomplishment.  It’s hard to see how steep it is from the photo.  IMG_1549

I will conquer this construction hill, this anemia hill, and the 2016-17 school year hill, one day at a time, with lots of naps.  Thank God for naps.  Anyone?  I give you permission to nap.  Let’s make a nap revolution.  I’m in.

I’m just too tired to write more.

Until next Friday.  Love you loves.

Two Feet Converts to Miles

So, we’ve all got these things in our lives that just take 2 feet to fix.  First of all, let’s agree on an image of two feet.  Pick one.  Two feet is the distance of my face to the pan of sizzling fried bacon pan.  Two feet is the distance from my mid-thigh to my foot.  Two feet is the width of my pillow.  Two feet is less than the width of most doors. But the movement of just two feet can be paralyzing, debilitating, and make you want to roll over and throw the covers over your head and go back to sleep.  Especially when the wall of your bedroom (you know, that place where you sleep) has to be moved in two feet.

Yes, you heard that right, two feet.  That’s the requirement that the County of Los Angeles Building Code Department (Shout out, for the record, I want to punch you in the neck right now DLA BCD!) has required we move our wall in…two feet.  It doesn’t seem like a big deal when those two feet are any of the examples above because there’s no monetary requirement attached. But moving the wall those two feet is going to cost us, big big big money.  Big.

It all started when were handed a nice little bit of bonus stress (just what I’ve always wanted, I just love bonus stress, YIPPEE!) in January of 2016.  (Oh wait, it’s now January 2017, right?  Just checking.) Four months prior to January 2016, coming off one of the hottest 2015 summers on record and the air conditioning bill to prove it, I was fed up, & I wanted a change. I wanted to pay less for electricity.  I was beginning the new school year and told Steve, “We have to do something different.”  (My persistence and determination, in most cases is a blessing, in this case, it has not proven to be a blessing, just the opposite.  Curse has come to mind many times, and since we’re being honest cursing has occurred as a result.)  So in August of 2015, I did my research with Southern California Edison and began looking at energy efficient options and contacted one of their vendors for a home energy efficiency plan.  I wanted a lowdown of WHY our bill was so expensive and how we could change it.  Hindsight is 20/2o.  If only I hadn’t been so hasty and determined, we would not be dealing with this Two Foot Nightmare.  Consequently, we’ve had to involve and pay two architects, a surveyor, an attorney and a contractor.  (How many people does it take to move a wall in two feet?)  The construction hasn’t even started yet and probably won’t for several months.  Good times.  (You wish you were me right?)

This, all because I decided we HAD to save money on electricity and that solar panels would be our best option.  Those are the solar panels up above my head in the picture, that we STILL haven’t been able to use because they’re on the unpermitted part of our house. Brilliant.

Speaking of two feet, my Little and Middle are headed to winter camp today.  They are hoping for at least two feet of the powdery white stuff.  Last night I helped the girls pack for winter camp.  It’s fru-EEZing at our house today in SoCal.  I thought Santa Ana winds were hot winds, well, not today:

Moderate to strong northeast winds late through Saturday.  High pressure will settle into the Great Basin this morning with strong north winds forming aloft. This will set up a moderate to strong Santa Ana wind event, affecting much of Los Angeles and Ventura counties. Winds should exceed 60 mph at times in the mountains and Santa Clarita Valley, with gusts to 40 or 50 mph in the other valleys and coasts. Downed power lines and trees are possible, especially considering the loose or saturated soils caused by the recent rains.

Side note lecture: (Girls, you better wear all those clothes we packed, leg warmers, scarves, snow boots, wool socks, beanies, gloves, winter coats because it’s going to be butt cold where you’re going.  You better look like the youngest whiny brother from The Christmas Story when you walk outside at camp, because I don’t want you coming back sick.)

Two feet of snow is WAY better than moving our bedroom wall in two feet.  For now, I’ll just do what I’ve been doing.  Living life and lovin’ on my family, and try not to sweat the two feet, even though two feet seems like miles.

Until next Friday. Love you loves.

Gastric Bypass Update:

My 1-year Surgiversary is coming in 7 weeks.  I’m looking forward to seeing where my weight loss is at the end of one year.  The two feet I moved in having the GP surgery has converted to miles.   I’ve literally and figuratively moved miles this year.  I’m grateful.


Shultzie- Practical Vocabulary

So, this has happened to us all, right?  We’re sitting with a friend, spouse, date, business associate, eating something green, like a lovely spinach salad with a raspberry vinaigrette. After an hour of chit-chat or heart-to-hearts, we take a look in the mirror in the car or in the bathroom.  Stop and look in the mirror.  Check teeth.  Check nostrils.  Whoop, there it is.  Bat-in-the-cave.  (Gosh, what kind of friend doesn’t tell me when I have at bat in the cave.)  Bat-in-the-cave you ask, what’s that?

Maybe it’s because there’s not a word for what happens when you have spinach in your teeth or an unsightly boogie hangin’ post-blow.  Yes, I am speaking of the unspeakable, those embarrassing moments that happen to all of us.  We need the word for this, like a secret code to point and say, uh, you have a ______.  But you don’t want to say all the words, like, “You have spinach in your teeth.” Or “You have a boogie.”  You just need one word.  One word.  I’ve found it, in a slang dictionary.  Now you have the word, shultzie.  I have no idea the origins of this word, or if it’s legitimate. But… I…need… this word.  I’m going to start using it when necessary.  When you have one, I’m going to point at your mouth or your nose and say “shultzie” maybe with a raised eyebrow and nod.  A courtesy. You’ll know what I mean.  I am your friend. We all want to know when we have a shultzie, right? Come on.  Let’s make the world a better place and help each other.  I’m doin’ my part.

Shultzies and all, you’re fine.  You’re fine, really.  You’re alright.


Trying hard to breathe, head between my knees
Take my hand and squeeze, say I’m alright.

Whisper in my ear, “happy you are here.”
Everything seems clear, and we’re alright, we’re alright.

Tell me not to trip or to lose sight.
You are walking in my guided light.
Take my hand and help me not to shake.
Say I’m alright, I’m alright.
Say I’m alright, I’m alright.

It’s okay to fear, everything is real.
Nothing left to steal ’cause we’re alright.
We’re alright.

Tell me not to trip or to lose sight.
You are walking in my guided light.
Take my hand and help me not to shake.
Say I’m alright, I’m alright.
Say I’m alright, I’m alright.
Say I’m alright, I’m alright.

Until next Friday.  Love you loves.


Gastric Bypass Update:

I’ve been eating too much candy this week.   Fear will grip me occasionally when I think I might start down the path of binge eating or stepping off the exercise train.  I can’t worry about the future and all the things that might happen.  Those what-ifs just take me down a rabbit trail that I’ve been down too many times.

So, I just do the next right thing and try not to stress about the candy.

Try not to stress about the candy.  That’s my latest piece of advice.  Take it or leave it. 😉




After weeks of coding with my students, we are finally almost ready to showcase our epic build projects in Scratch, a computer programming language that is more kid-friendly.  My brain is about to explode.  (Can I just say, if I had $1 for the times children have said, Mrs. Guiles! and mom!, I’d be a millionaire twice over.  Can I get an Amen from my teacher mamas?)

Anytime teachers have a deadline, like an Open House type event, there are always students in our classes that literally make us want to pull our hair out and go home screamin’ and runnin’ for the hills.  I mean, that wouldn’t actually happen, but that’s how we FEEL.  There are always at least 5 students sometimes 10-15 at any given moment, who ARE NOT paying attention to directions.  Their sense of urgency is practically non-existent and mine is well, on steroids, or to be honest, my sense of urgency is facilitated by a boatload of caffeine.  (I know I’m stressed when I start making more frequent visits to Starbucks. Oh, and also, I have this throbbing knot on the right side of my neck, where my shoulder and back meet.  It’s a lovely little rock that reminds me that, uh, Joy, you’ve been spending too much time staring at your computer and the computers of your students.)  What’s a girl to do?

Anyway, back to that sense of urgency.  I know how much time we have to complete our projects.  I know when the parents and community members are going to come and view these projects. And yet, though they’ve all been informed of this deadline, a few of my little darlins just decide they’re gonna chillax and pretend it’s a day on the beach.  They’ll just relax and take their time. I swear some of them look like they’re loungin’ in their beach chair, cold beverage in hand, staring at the ocean.  (Hey, maybe that’s not such a bad idea kid.  I’ll go with ya.) Then there are those that would rather do anything but the directions I’ve given, because their projects will be different and SO much better than the instructions I’ve given.  Both of these scenarios have crawled up my feisty fast typin’ fingertips and embedded themselves in my neck.  (Now I know where the phrase pain-in-the-neck comes from.)

In spite of all of this, the lack of urgency and neck pain, I am grateful that my students are able to learn about coding at a young age.  It’s hard to believe that I am teaching them how to code.  It’s complex and exhausting teaching it, but when their projects work, and their faces light up, boy, that sure is rewarding.  So, this teaching thing, as I’ve learned over the pasresiliencet 18 years, is all about resilience.  You gotta keep rising up and facing what seems like daunting obstacles for students, academically and personally.  But it’s all worth it.  I don’t feel like that every day, especially in those pain-in-the-neck moments, but I can see the forest through trees, today.

The Baby, Vaping Daddy, and Rice and Beans

So, tonight, I’m a-thinkin’ this tired mama ain’t no way, no how, gonna make no dinner. So, what’s a tired mama to do?  Buy beans and rice.  Yup.  Family favorite.

My oldest was waiting in the car as I went in the strip mall Mexican food stop, which I normally never go to, but it was right on the corner when I was driving and this was a spontaneous and desperate idea.  Right at dusk as the sky was turning dark and the temperatures started to drop, I returned to my van, rice and beans in hand.  As I returned, I noticed a Crown Victoria parked on my driver’s side.  All the windows were rolled down and when I looked in the backseat I saw a what looked like 6-month-old baby in the car seat, alone.

I said to my Boy, “Uh, there’s a baby in that car.”  Boy: “Yeah, one of the guys seemed kinda mad and he kept looking in the car at me before he went in the Vape shop.”  Me: “Uh, he’s not supposed to leave a baby in the car.”

Then as I thought for another 30 seconds, the welfare of that little baby getting to me, I decided to call the San Dimas Sheriff.  Just as I found their number, neck tatted Vaping Daddy walked out of the shop.

I rolled down my window, “Dooooddddde, you can’t leave your baby in the car like that.”

Vaping Daddy: “I just went in for a few minutes.”

Me: “Next time, take your baby in with you.”

Vaping Daddy, exasperated: “I can’t do that, it’s a Vaping Shop!”

Me: “Well then, maybe you shouldn’t bring your baby to a f__ing Vape Shop.” (Yup, I said that.)

Vaping Daddy: “It’s none of your f__ing business.”

Me: “When you leave your baby in the car, someone is going to call the police.”

Vaping Daddy: “I’ll be gone by the time they get here.”

Nice, dude, nice.  It sounded to me like, he’d had a little practice at conveniently leaving when the police were around.  And there it ended.  I verbally spanked him.  He needed a spankin’.  As I left, he stayed outside near the car and his friend handed him the loot at the door.  Later, I explained to my Boy, my audience, that it wasn’t okay to leave his baby in the car.  Boy didn’t want me to get involved, mostly because Vaping Daddy had seemed so aggressive and angry as he entered the shop.  We talked about how it went okay even though the words were aggressive.  At least he didn’t pull out a gun or knife or get physically violent.  (I was trying to look at the bright side.)

imagesSo, what do I do with this story?  I’m thinking about how I made a lot of judgments based on his behavior, his demeanor, his looks, and his words.  He was a 20-something white male, tatted heavily on his neck, and his vaping habit seemed more important than his baby.  I don’t have issues with the tats or the vaping, but I do have issues with leaving a baby in the car while he went in the shop.  Then I thought about that baby, how that baby is learning from the adults in his or her life.  I’m not sure what to think or do with that.  One thing I do know is, that I hope that baby has a lot of resilience.  I hope that baby can grow and love and be productive in this crazy world.  I hope Vaping Daddy gets his shit together and can become more resilient.  Hopefully he’ll just let his friend go in the shop next time and stay in the car with his baby.  But sometimes common sense doesn’t occur to people.  Can I get another Amen?

imgres-1Be resilient this week.

Until next Friday.  Love you loves.


Gastric bypass update:

I’ve managed to continue walking even though I’m super stressed and exhausted right now.  In the past, I might not have bounced back as easily.  I think that might be resilience. 🙂







NYC My Heart Got Caught on Your Sleeve Part 2

New York City- Street Art and Color

Bubby’s in Tribeca


A moment of silence in the Big Apple

I wish I could take him home with me.

Down the street from Moe’s Butcher Shop.  Referencing the election results.

Anny’s Food Tour was amazing.  We toured NoHo and Nolita.  That’s me in a food coma at the end of the day.

Yeah, this really happened:

So New York, My Heart Got Caught on Your Sleeve.  I so much loved getting to have a taste of your life in NYC, Anny.  It hasn’t been easy.  You’ve foraged a life for yourself in one of the busiest chaotic places in the world.  Thank you for sharing this place with me.  I love your heart and I loved that you shared this quote with me.  Keepin’ that quote and sharin’ it out because I’ve shared plenty of uncool moments with you over the years, Anny.

“The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.”

My final adventure on my way home, suitcase rolling down Bleeker Street, waiting for Amy’s Bread to open so I could get a cup of coffee before I hailed a cab.  As I’m standing there waiting for the employees that were hustling inside, the sign read, “Hours Open 7:30” and it was already 8:00am.  A woman out for her morning walk, stops at the door of Amy’s Bread and tries to open it.  She sees the women inside moving about and makes eye contact with one of them.  “Are they open?”  She says to me. “Uh, I don’t know, it says they open at 7:30.”  After waiting like 15 seconds and getting the clear blow off from the employee inside, she says in authentic New York form, “Well, fuck you then, I’ll get my coffee somewhere else!”  Then she stormed away and continued her walk.  So there ya go.  That was one of my last interactions in the Big Apple.  I traipsed across the street with my suitcase in tow and stopped at Rocco’s for a Cafe Au Lait.  Good choice.

New York City is like a lover, as the song below describes.  If you live there, NYC is more than a city, it’s a relationship.

Until next Friday.  Love you loves.

Gastric Bypass Update:

I made it to 20,000 steps for the first time in NYC.

NYC- Food, Friends, and Fun: Part 1

So, once we were on the my dear friend’s street in Greenwich Village, the cabbie said, “Are we here?” when he thought we’d arrived at the proper address.

I said, “I don’t know if this is it, it’s my first time here.”

He said, “Oh, I thought you lived here.”

“Uh, no, I’m just a really good faker.”

We both had a giggle.

I arrived here last night to visit with my dear friend, Anny. It’s so good to love on the people you love, people.  Do it.  Life is too short not to.

This morning, she made me a lovely decadent egg scrambled magical goodness extravaganza with artichoke truffle paste, Portobello mushrooms, and zucchini.   Meanwhile, I complained about how freakin’ hot it is in her 6th floor walk up apartment and how I can’t imagine not controlling the heat in my own house.  You’ve heard before how I have issues with heat.  Now, back to the egg extravaganza (Um, can you say delish? I had seconds. Did I mention that I’m in NYC because Anny bought me a flight, but I’m also here to eat something naughty whenever I’m hungry and not feel a bit of guilt.)  

We headed off shortly after 11am, and popped into Amy’s Bread in GV for a cup of coffee and a pistachio twist.  (GV- Now we’re on initial terms because writing out Greenwich Village is too much work to spell out over and over.)  We hoofed it to the Subway headed to Central Park. CP in autumn has to be one of God’s favorite places on earth.  (Really, God, yes? I wouldn’t mind if heaven was just like this place, with a constant temperature regulated at 60 degrees.  Are you taking notes?)    

Central Park has such gorgeous fall colors and we dressed just perfectly.  Anny gifted me this fanTAStic sweater that complimented this enchanting day.  I was camouflaged.   I Spy with my little eye, something, orange.  Ah, oranges, and reds, and yellows and rustic browns.  Did I mention that fall is my favorite?   Hover over the pictures to see little snippets of my adventures today.  What a lovely day.  I get to do this again tomorrow.  Don’t hate.

(Oh, and God has told me there will be cannolis and NYC pizza in heaven, because all the streets aren’t made of gold, in the literal, like, gold-chain sense of the word, nah, the streets of gold are really streets of dough.  Golden luscious wheat dough of all shapes and sizes.  Savory and sweet. Pure Heaven.  There will be no calories or badness associated with this golden dough.  The pot at the end of the rainbow in heaven will be filled with golden dough. Can I get an amen?)

Until next Friday.  Love you loves.

Gastric Bypass Update:

I ate tons today.  I also walked a whole lotta steps.  That evens things out, right?

I had a few moments where I realized that I would have really struggled with this trip a year ago.  The walking and the climbing of stairs would have been terribly hard for me.  I’m enjoying this so much more, with 75 less poundage.  That’s like almost 2 of the suitcases I carried up the 6 floor walkup, except that weight was on my body.  Yeah, on my body.  (I just have to say, Anny, you rock those stairs every day.  You kick sass.  For realz.)

Here’s me, huffin’ and puffin’ up those stairs carrying my 39-pound suitcase.  The video quality is poor, but my commentary is pretty funny.  Enjoy.


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.


rage, racism, and risotto

So, the title basically sums up my week.  I decided that instead of focusing on the rage and racism, I’d focus on the risotto.

First I’ll tell you where the first r words in the alliteration came from.  I’ve been raging all week after an encounter I had with another human who thought I was racist.  Yes. Me. Racist.  Really?  “Uh, you don’t know me, and you haven’t seen me interact with anyone for more than 5 minutes.”

This was a HUGE trigger for me.  Judgement and being misunderstood make me rage inside.

The title of my blog is ‘why you keep judging me’ for a reason.  I’ve often thought that I’m my own worst critic.  After this week, just as I thought maybe I had made it through to the other side– to Freedomsville, I found that Judgementsville still exists in my head.  For the sake of being discreet, I won’t say what context this encounter occurred, but I will say that I was judged on my status as an educator and my whiteness.  This attack was completely unwarranted and unexpected.  It rocked me more than an encounter should have.  Why?

I was judged. Later, I cried. I thought, ‘Why is this person misunderstanding where I am coming from, and why do I feel so terrible?’ If I told you how the conversation started, you’d laugh.

When people are hell-bent on seeing the world through foggy-bent glasses, you really can’t change their perspective.  I knew this intuitively, but I didn’t want to be proselytized into their foggy view of the world. And I didn’t.  Wrong move.

So, as a result, I decided to… make risotto.  Isn’t this what everyone does when they’re raging, make risotto?

Yes, that’s what I said, you heard me right, RISOTTO.

I’ve been wanting to conquer my first pot (of risotto, I know what you were thinking) for a long time.  I’ve been afraid.  Risotto has always been scary to me.  Maybe it’s the stirring, the timing, the texturing, the high maintenance of it, but I just couldn’t make it happen, UNTIL TODAY.

In Shauna Neiquist’s book, Bread and Wine, she encouraged me to cook and love it.  You don’t have to tell me twice Shauna.  To love family and friends is a joyful and fulfilling part of life.  So that’s what I did today as I made the risotto. I made it and loved on my family for a few minutes.

Here’s the process.

It’s a lot like LIFE.

I’m not sure if it turned out good. I’m not sure if it’s what everyone expected. I’m not sure if it was the right texture.


I made it.

The dutch oven is now completely empty, tummies are full and I can say I made it with my own energy and sweat.

**If you’re not planning to ever make risotto, skip to the last 2 videos.  You can definitely skip over all my how-to videos in between.  Also, excuse my poor camera quality.  I had garlicky fingertips and I was filming from my cell phone.

Here’s how it started:

The Partners in Crime


Get the grapeseed or EVOO going in the dutch oven and the broth in a separate pot.
Pour this for yourself
Onion chunked not finely chopped

So how is it that something so simple can turn into a glorious assault to the tastebuds?  This is what food should be.  I know many of us don’t have the time or the confidence to cook, but it’s so satisfying when you make a pot of deliciousness for your family.

If you haven’t read Bread and Wine I highly recommend it.  The book will make you want to cook and entertain and love.

Now, who wants to come over for my next pot of risotto?

Until next Friday.  Love you loves.

Gastric Bypass Update:

This week I had my 6 month post surgery visit with Dr. Lamar.  He was impressed with my weight loss.

I told him of my concerns about hair loss and he said it’s completely normal for anyone who has rapid weight loss (not just weight loss surgery) to lose hair, but it will come back.

I have to go in and do blood work to make sure I’m getting the proper nutrients.

Weight loss has slowed.

I’d like to lose 100 pounds, just to say I did it, but I’m reevaluating whether or not that’s the best goal for me.  I’d have to lose 30 more pounds and well, I just don’t want to get into that obsessive, I MUST LOSE MORE mentality.  I’m striving to be content where I am.  And, this is no easy task.




A Reflection on Teaching

I’ve been teaching 2nd and 3rd grade since 1998.  Back then…

Bright eyed and bushy tailed (that’s me in the beginning teaching years, back when I used film and had to develop the selfie), I thought, “I’ll give myself a couple years, and then I’ll have my system down.  My file cabinet will be stocked with all the ditto masters I need.  I’ll pull out a file and make copies once a month, and I’ll know exactly what I’m doing every day of the year.  Teaching will be a breeze.”  (Oh boy was I in for a rude awakening.  This was a naive fantasy and frankly, not very good teaching practice.)

For 18 years, the only constant has been change.  During these years, there have been so many new conflicts to navigate: parent complaints, students unable to read, students whose language isn’t English, poor family support, lack of support from administration, and many high stakes testing scenarios.

However, if I felt like public education in the United States wasn’t looking up, I wouldn’t be writing this post.  (I’m generalizing here to the whole of the US because I think Common Core is moving us in the right direction.  There I said it.  I know people don’t agree.  It’s okay, we can agree to disagree. This is my perspective as a teacher.) I can actually say that my district is truly working to bring our students into the 21st century to prepare them to compete and have skills for careers they’ll encounter in their futures.  We aren’t looking back. But it hasn’t always been this way.

During the No Child Left Behind years, we reduced children to a number, something that could be evaluated statistically and compared formulaically.  In efforts to group and categorize using the latest data, we sucked the joy and creativity out of the learning process over the past decade. I will rant in this post, because I feel it’s necessary to express what it’s been like being in the teaching trenches over the past 18 years.  This is my firsthand point of view; that of a dedicated public school teacher who feels it is her mission to stay put.  As I’ve said before, ‘staying put’ is sacred to me.

In 2010, I wanted to quit the teaching profession because it had become incongruent with my beliefs.  Children grow at different rates and should be molded and encouraged, but the environment of high stakes testing was making it so that all we ‘had time to teach’ was language arts and math because these were the only subjects tested.  ‘Drill and kill’ and prepare them for the CST became the overarching drive in our classrooms; primarily because at the beginning of the next school year we would be told how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ we were as teachers based on our students’ previous spring test scores.  Test prep had become the chokehold on our existence as teachers.

It was almost always bad news. Our school was ranked against other schools based on similar demographics.  We were ranked a 1, yes, we were the lowest.  In an effort to shine a light on how disheartening it is to hear this, I will say that I stayed in the trenches because I believe that we were more than a 1 out of 10.  (I always root for the underdog, every time. Since I’m not a loyal sports fan, I always root for the team that has come through the biggest hardship. I’m a sucker for a come-back kid.)  We rolled up our sleeves and decided, hey, we’re going to keep on going.  We love our students.  We’d been through a lot, and we had a lot of GRIT as a staff, but no one could see that, based on our test scores.

This is the main problem for me.  School atmosphere cannot simply be measured in terms of statistics but this was the only way we were measured.  The only way. Our love for our students and their struggles cannot simply be measured mathematically. There were and continue to be, so many variables we cannot control.  What we can control is fostering an environment that encourages students to learn in spite of the ‘school of hard knocks’ that many of our students’ families deal with on a daily basis.

We are a Title 1 school.  Because of our low performance on the high stakes tests, we were labeled a Program Improvement school as determined by No Child Left Behind (more about NCLB and why it didn’t work), all the teachers at our school were given more professional development to increase our expertise as teachers. Read Susan Neuman’s critique of NCLB here.  Almost the entire staff has their master’s degrees.  The assumption was that we were doing something wrong and were sent to rigorous professional development meetings, including Effective First Instruction lesson design, Thinking Maps, GLAD strategies, Write from the Beginning and Beyond, GATE, & HB somethin’ somethin’ somethin’ -a mandatory state math training and I’m sure I’m missing some…but I’ve selectively forgotten what they were.  Some of these trainings were wonderful and some were just, hoop jumping exercises to soothe the powers that be at the state and federal level.

After making it through the tunnel of high stakes testing, I can see the light at the end. My outlook is ‘hopefully optimistic’ (to throw in an overly used phrase).  Education from my perspective is moving in the right direction in my neck of the woods on Cypress in Covina.  We are beginning to NAME children again and value their natural strengths and abilities.  We are encouraging creativity in the teachers and as a result, creativity in our students.

I’ve been reading the book, Running with the Horses, by Eugene Peterson, and he has similar ideas about the idea of Naming:

Every time that we go along with this movement from the personal to the impersonal, from the immediate to the remote, from the concrete to the abstract, we are diminished, we are less. Resistance is required if we will retain our humanity (27).

…if I am frequently and authoritatively treated impersonally, I begin to think of myself the same way.  I consider myself in terms of how I fit into the statistical norms; I evaluate myself in terms of my usefulness; I assess my worth in response to how much others want me or don’t want me. In the process of going along with such procedures I find myself defined by a label, squeezed into a role, functioning at the level of my social security number (28). 

Naming is a way of hoping (29).

I am putting hope in my students daily by naming them.  I refuse to simplify them down to whether or not they are far below basic or proficient on a circle graph.

The movement forward to name our students again has begun by valuing creativity and looking students in the eye and believing in them.  It’s not complicated when you think of teaching this way.  Teaching is a natural connection.  

This is why I continue to push back from the status quo and push my students to think outside the box.  This is why I try to keep things simple in many ways in my classroom, they’re 8 years old for God’s sakes! My primary focus is to create an environment where they want to be at school and naturally, learning will follow.

Don’t we all want our children to have sense of belonging and develop a love of learning? We want them to explore the world around them by tapping into their natural curiosity. This got lost over the past 10 years in many classrooms, but the joy of learning has been found again.  The Joy of Teaching is back.  This is good news.  I am a Teacher Artist, one who has focused on her individual craft.  Teaching is Art.

This blog post feels almost completely plagiarized but there were so many wonderful quotes from these books, I had to share them. 

Madeleine L’Engle, in her book Walking on Water, expresses so much of what I often think about art, faith, and creativity.  This is infused into my philosophy of teaching.  I read this book 20 years ago, and I still return to it.  As I was reading Running with the Horses, I remembered L’Engle’s reference to Naming.  There are so many timeless truthful nuggets in it.  Here are some of my favorites:

The artist is a servant who is willing to be a birthgiver (18).

Art is communication, and if there is no communication it is as though the work had been still-born (34).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Stories are able to help us become more whole, to become Named.  And Naming is one of the impulses behind all art; to give a name to the cosmos we see despite all the chaos (45).

Remembering the lovely things that we have forgotten is one of the reasons for all art (107).

To write a story is an act of Naming; in reading about a protagonist I can grow along with, I myself am more named.  And we live in a world which would reduce us to our social security numbers (110).  

But we, the creatures, are named, and our names are part of our wholeness (111).

It seems that more than ever the compulsion today is to identify, to reduce someone to what is on the label.  To identify is to control, to limit.  To love is to call by name, and so open the wide gates of creativity (112).  

If we are pigeon holed and labeled we are un-named (113).  

She speaks so much of the importance of stories shaping and forming us.  “Stories are able to help us become more whole, to become Named.” I love to read excitedly to my children and my students.  We learn through story.  We grow.  We connect.  We create community. In an interview, Jean Rhys said, “Listen to me.  All of writing is a huge lake.  There are great rivers that feed the lake, like Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky.  And there are mere trickles, like Jean Rhys.  All that matters is feeding the lake. I don’t matter.  The lake matters.  You must keep feeding the lake.”e2db4ca119.jpg

Isn’t that good?  When I started blogging, I didn’t think I had ANYTHING significant to say.  But, I am feeding the lake at a trickle’s pace each Friday, and hopefully, in turn, someone is connecting and becoming more whole.  I have no idea how it’s all going to come together from week to week, and I often fear that it won’t be worth reading.  But somehow cosmos comes out of the chaos.  I’m gradually beginning to figure out what it means to be Named and in this process, and I am becoming more whole.

Teaching in Room 29 is a wonderful place that I show love to my students.  If we truly love, truly, the world will change.  We can often focus on all the terrible things in the world that we can’t really control.  So, how about we all just focus on making our corners of the world better and be a servant to the work of living creatively and joyfully? This may seem like a pipe dream, but it’s working for me.  I am more fulfilled. 18 years in, and I’m still excited when I see that spark of learning in my students’ eyes.  The Art of Teaching is a wonderful gift to me.

Where you invest your love, you invest your life… 

Here’s one more memorable quote referred to in L’Engle’s book, “We must dare to love in a world that does not know how to love (112).” -French priest

An unexamined life is not worth living. -Socrates (As they say in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, So-CRATES. That’s what I hear when I say his name.)

Love and examine your lives friends and if you can add a trickle to the lake, do it.

Until next Friday…Love you loves.


Gastric bypass update:

I didn’t lose this week & I’m trying not to freak about it.  I did more exercise this week. (Oh, the irony).  So maybe I should just not exercise, and then I’ll lose weight?  Weird, right?

This week, I had THE WORST protein shake ever, don’t buy this brand, Designer Whey Double Chocolate, you’ll hate it….bleh..yuck, yuck, yuck.

So far my favorite has been the Low Carb Isopure Dutch Chocolate, so take that Designer Whey and move on your way (most likely into the trash bin).