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Monday, March 30, 2015

Happy Tree

Easter is obviously about a lot more than plastic eggs. But this lady loves to decorate the tree out front for whichever holiday is coming, and on Saturday I found myself in a familiar position: armed with hot glue gun, decorations and happily avoiding the housework I’d told myself must be done over the weekend.
Decorating is fun, period. But spring colors make the effect even more cheerful. How can you not be in a good mood when walking past a tree wrapped in pink and yellow crepe paper, and decorated with 30+ eggs in bright shades of turquoise, pink, purple and yellow? I rest my case.
In the garage I found the grocery bag holding lots of plastic eggs. Some had two halves stuck together to form a whole egg, and others were half eggs. Once I’d separated the wholes from the halves, I was left with quite a large collection of halves. Where could the other halves be? I almost checked the dryer to see if the half eggs were hanging out with missing socks. (Missing egg halves and missing socks are some of the greatest mysteries on earth.)
So what to do with a whole bunch of egg halves? Make something, of course.

I think the effect is cute. I hot glued a string through the hole on the end of each half and it looks like one of those rain chains people have near their gutters. Here in San Diego those things are purely decorative since we only get three drops of rain each year. Voila!

Decorations aside, spring is in full swing here. Baby birds are squawking loudly from their nests. Buds and flowers are everywhere. Our grape vine came to life overnight and has dozens of bright green leaves fanning out from the vine.

Happy Easter, y’all. Whatever or however you celebrate this spring, enjoy this amazing season!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


A funny thing happened on the way to the music forum. (Someone should write a musical about that.)

Well, I’m using artistic license. (After all, we artists should be able to do that.) The funny thing that happened occurred on the way to a music gig. But close enough.

Background: I went out tonight, to listen to my musician friend Ed play drums behind some of his songwriting buddies. I was setting up the camera to record the show when I heard someone say a woman’s name. I froze. There can’t be that many people here in town—or anywhere!—with the name Unison. For a minute or two I studied her. Could it be the same Unison I sang with, twenty years ago? Her hair was a different color. But her face looked familiar. She came closer and I realized it was the same Unison! We sang together in college, in an all-women’s a cappella group (before shows like Glee made that popular). She actually recognized me instantly--by name! (She gets the prize tonight because there are a lot more Sarahs floating around than there are Unisons.) We had a very happy, fun-filled mini reunion before the show began. We got on stage and pretended to sing together. It rocked!

I have to say: it was really fun using a microphone again. It’s been so long since I’ve been on stage with a microphone. But it felt great! It has been almost 19 years since Unison and I last saw each other and sang together. I still love singing, and in the last year or so I’ve toyed with the idea of making singing a bigger part of my life again. Song brought back together two people once united by music, after nineteen years. I’m giddy about it!

Ed and Unison are both part of a Meetup group for singers and songwriters. So in some ways it’s not the craziest thing that Ed and singing reunited Unison and me. But still, I had no idea where most of the group’s members ended up—probably not in San Diego, I’d guessed, since so many of them moved away after school. So it was a giant surprise to run into someone from those days. I absolutely loved being part of that group and I was quite sad when things ended. Tonight’s surprise puts a happier ending on that chapter.

There’s something about singing that makes life better. It feels great. It is both calming and invigorating. Our a cappella group actually recorded a cd in a sound studio before everyone went their separate ways. I still have it, and I still have the sheet music from our college group. I was so proud to be part of the group. We performed around town and we sang the National Anthem at Qualcomm Stadium before several Padres baseball games. That group was such a special part of my life.

Ed and his friends put on a fun show tonight. It’s live music, and it’s original music, and they rocked. That’s what music is supposed to do: bring people together, and lift the spirit. Who knew that tonight’s show also would bring together two people who used to sing together in the ‘90s? I think it won’t be the last time we sing together. As I drove away from the show tonight, a song popped into my mind: “Reunited, and it feels so good.”

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Running a Fever

I must be among the 1% of parents who has avoided a major ritual of parenthood. Until now. Every parent I know has succumbed to this force—except us. I secretly felt relieved that I was in such a small club. Today changed all that, and it seems monumental. Here I am—eleven years into my role as mom—and only now have I finally spent the better part of a Saturday watching kids’ sports.

Our son ran in his first track meet today. I always felt relieved that our kids didn’t beg and plead to do organized sports. That probably sounds pretty bad, but I like to keep it real here on my blog. Most parents I know spend Saturdays the way they spend weekdays: waking up to a squawking alarm clock, scrambling to get out the door, racing to a destination (or a series of them) on time, and much later, collapsing in a heap in the late afternoon and wondering where the day went. That’s what weekdays are like: exhausting and full of deadlines. I wasn’t interested in turning Saturday into a weekday. Weekends are for recuperating from the exhaustion of the school week—not extending it.

But my son decided to try track this year. I thought it was great that he wanted to try something new. It also seemed like a good way to test drive this whole sports thing without having to sign an iron-clad contract for every Saturday morning for the rest of my life. I sound like a time miser but it’s how I feel!

Some parents can’t wait for their toddlers to be old enough to sign up for pee-wee soccer. The moment these kids stop crawling and get vertical, their parents sign them up for soccer. That just isn’t me. I’ve never been too excited about sports. I like to create. I’m not ultra-competitive with others. I’m a first-born: I’m far too busy reaching my high self-expectations to worry about competing with others.

We weren’t really sure what to expect at the meet. It was my son’s first meet and it was mine, too. The meet was at a giant school I’d never been to before. We arrived ten minutes later than we were told to and I was panicked. Had our son missed his first event? Nope. The coach wisely had given us a lot of wiggle room. We arrived at least forty-five minutes before his first event. That was a relief but there was still a lot to take in once we arrived. There were plenty of people there, which made my son nervous. It’s hard to do something new, something you’re not yet confident about, in front of a crowd. I understood that 100%, not because we talk incessantly about winning at home but because--like my son--I find it hard to have people watch me when I’m not yet good at something. As we made our way through the throng I reminded him to try to have fun. Kids were milling everywhere, like busy ants hustling around an ant hill, industrious and full of energy. A mini city had been created at the track: a rainbow of colorful pop-up tents on the field and over the tiered seating. Our family may have been new to all this but for most of the crowd, it wasn’t their first rodeo. I took notes.

I agreed to help on the field, gathering the students before each event (and there were nearly thirty events just in his age group). I’d asked the coach ahead of time if I had to understand sports and track to volunteer. Did I need to have run track? Should I know anything about batons? Did I have to have a prescription to Runners World Magazine? No. I think she needed an adult with a heartbeat. Yep, I qualified.

Of course, I did find myself in new territory when the coach handed me her clipboard, which held a multi-page handout detailing all the day’s events. She asked me to gather the kids for the next event. I wasn’t sure if I was reading English! My eyes bugged out a little as I tried to determine exactly which event was currently happening. Short runs. Long runs. Boys only. Girls only. Co-ed. Relays. Older kids. Younger kids. Things coded in gold. Events coded in blue. I might as well has been reading Swahili for all I understood! Reading the printout was like deciphering a voting pamphlet: there’s too much information all at once. Too many names! Lots of numbers. I did my best with the lists. I do like to help, which makes me a good match for school events because there has never been a school event—in the history of schools—that has not involved the following phrase: we need adult volunteers. These days this plea is delivered via email. It used to be done using photocopied fliers sent home. If the cave men and women had schools they probably sent requests for volunteers on stone tablets. There’s just something in me that can’t seem to say no to an emailed plea for volunteers. (Occasionally I ignore emails of that type, but mostly I say yes.) I figured I could help shepherd kids to and fro. (And actually, I even did a little running while there—there was a moment when the coach sent me sprinting up a hill to get the kids at the shot put because their running event was about to start. I’m no track coach. I’m not a runner. But this volunteer did her share of running and walking today. I stood for hours. My legs feel it. Where’s Hubby? I need a massage!)

Still, helping out felt like a good way to pass the time. I knew we would be there for hours, and being on the field, participating, appealed to me more than being a spectator. I knew I wouldn’t get too excited about the events. I’m not a sports nut. I don’t care who is drafted or who wins the Super Bowl. I was there to support my son.

But something unexpected happened today. I caught a bit of a fever on that field. Being at a live sports event engaged me much more than it does when I watch a few seconds of sports on tv. I cheered and hollered and felt my heart race as I watched those kids go. Some were amazingly fast. I held my breath as runners gained on their opponents and overtook them. I watched, transfixed, as our team competed. I felt the thrill of competition! I caught the fever. Maybe not a full-blown fever but I caught it. Who knew?!

It was fun watching kids do something they have practiced. Some of the kids are beginners but some are experienced runners. It’s always interesting to watch people do something they do well. But it also felt good to watch the beginners. There’s room for them, too. Some students were willowy long-distance types and others were more compact and muscled. I liked watching them challenge themselves. I liked watching their drive.

My son did four events today. He survived his first track meet. I’m delighted that he decided to try something new. After his first event I told him how proud I was of him. To this he responded, “Okay. But just don’t cry.” Who, me? The emotional artist who cries while watching commercials? Never! I swallowed the lump in my throat and squeaked out, “Of course not.”

Nearly thirty events later, we packed up our tent and trudged across the campus toward the parking lot. We’d been outdoors for hours. I’d worn my hat and sunscreen but still, the sun had sapped our energy. It had been a full day.

There’s one more meet this season. Two Saturdays of sports per year seems manageable. I’m not ready to hand over all my Saturdays to sports but I surprised myself today and caught the fever a little bit. Watching these young kids push themselves was inspiring. It made me want to sprint, too! I think I’ll try to improve my time with my workouts. It feels good to challenge yourself. I’ll start this weekend. Right after my nap.

Friday, March 20, 2015

What’s Growing? The Garden is Waking Up.

It’s the first day of Spring, y’all. (I love saying “y’all.” I think I’m secretly a Southerner.)

Here in Southern California there have been buds on trees for weeks. Flowers have begun blooming and fresh leaves are popping out everywhere. Spring rocks!
Here are a few photos I’ve taken in the last week or two. I love how nature packages new leaves. They arrive tightly rolled, like this leaf. Only when they’re truly ready do they open up. They grow and then it’s then it’s someone else’s turn to open up.

The colors in our home garden have been turned up a notch. There are tiny new blossoms everywhere and it’s an amazing sight: all of nature’s players have arrived to collaborate for a bright and beautiful show.


Thanks for showing up, spring. We’re excited to see you!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Greensleeves (and Green Shirt and Green Skirt!)

Sunday nights might be relaxing for some people. But if you have school-aged kids, Sunday nights can be a whirlwind of lunch-packing, clothes choosing, and mental preparation for the school week. At our house this was true two days ago, on Sunday night. And things really were turned up a notch when one of the kids made an announcement. It was 8 o’clock and I was washing dinner dishes when she said, “I need a leprechaun trap. For tomorrow.” My sudsy hands stopped scrubbing. “You need a homemade leprechaun trap for school—in twelve hours?” She nodded. She may have mentioned it earlier than that but like many things mentioned in our household, it didn’t really stick. My brain is quite selective these days—if something mentioned does not need urgent attention in the next hour or two, it often is put aside into the labyrinth of my brain—possibly never to be seen again. Another one of our kids needed a leprechaun trap for Tuesday, St. Patrick’s Day. But this one needed to be finished by Monday? What’s this nonsense about bringing things in early? It completely butts heads with my preferred method of waiting until the day before something is due. These teachers—always wanting us to start early. Humph.

Nobody loves a craft project more than I do. But when it’s Sunday night and I’m on my last little bit of energy, this is not when I do my best creative thinking—or my best thinking of any variety. I sighed. But I reminded myself that leprechauns were counting on me to build traps for them. So I finished the dishes and busted out my hot glue gun and some paper plates. I found a plastic “clamshell” container holding some strawberries, and cut that up. Got some crayons and markers. Painted some balsa wood pieces gold. Had my daughter color a rainbow. And this is what we came up with:
Trap open:
Trap closed:
When the leprechaun is lured by the gold into the trap, the front of the trap will come down and trap him.

St. Patrick’s Day kind of snuck up on me this year. I’m not sure how I can say that, given that (unlike other holidays whose dates are not fixed) St. Patrick’s Day is always on March 17. I think I’ll blame my lack of focus on the fact that I was in full-on Quilt Mode until a couple of weeks ago. I did manage to throw a few St. Patrick’s Day decorations onto the front of the house a few days ago. And I do have an outfit I get out of the closet each March. It’s from St. P’s day three years ago and it’s still in great shape—after all, when you wear an outfit only once a year it lasts a long time! I have the green skirt, and a shamrock-embellished shirt. This year I made shamrock earrings out of felt, just to complete the look. Can you even see me in the photo below? I’m camouflaged:

My youngest child’s teacher had a green feather boa on this morning (I love her gusto!). It’s been fun to see how others acknowledged today’s color scheme. Of course, there have been a lot of rebels out there who were not wearing even a hint of green. I’ve already pinched two of them for not participating. I think I’ll go rest my pinching/typing hand now. After all, the day isn’t over yet—and there may be more pinching to do!  

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Life’s a Beach (unless you go with kids!)

Hubby away on a work trip + 90-degree weather in March + weekend = ???

A tricky equation to solve. How would I keep my three kiddos busy and entertained and happy while on my own for the weekend? Was there an activity—somewhere on earth—on which the three kids could agree? We’d rarely hit upon a combination all three wanted to do (at the same time). I was facing odds that rivaled the frequency of seeing Halley’s Comet (once per 75-76 years). I wanted to do something that would cool us off. Free activities are always nice. Could I hit upon one that they’d all like? I gave it a try.

The first day I dragged them to a beach where I knew there were great tide pools. We were rewarded with lots to look at in the pools and tons of intact shells to examine on the shore. Found a decent parking spot (wow!). The only hiccup was that I somehow forgot to bring towels. Because who even thinks of towels when going to the beach? But still, we made do. The kids (miraculously) agreed that it was a fun idea. Score one for Mom.

The second day I informed them that we were going to the bay for more water fun and shell searching. Oh, there were many arguments among all members of this gang. No shortage there. I must have broken up twenty arguments in the two hours we were gone. Sand-throwing. Throwing mud at faces. Splashing too aggressively (“He started it!” “I did not! She wanted to play!”). Drama.

One particularly memorable tantrum was thrown by a certain child (who shall remain nameless)—a child going through a major tights phase. She wants to wear tights every single day, even though the temps have been in the 80s lately. She wanted to wear them into the water at the bay. I’d thought she might forget about the tights once we arrived. (What was I thinking?) No, she threw a fit because she didn’t have them on. Back to the car I marched to retrieve the tights. (Happily, I’d found a parking spot a mere half block away, so Operation Tights Recovery was quick). Put the tights on the fashionista. The skirt too, she informed me. Sure, okay. She waded into the water. Three minutes later I helped the same sandy child out of the tights and skirt and she happily splashed in her swimsuit for the next hour. Until she decided the underpants under her swimsuit (don’t ask) were bothering her. She tried to remove the undies while still wearing the swimsuit. Another screaming fit. Brief visit to the bathroom. Problem solved. Not quietly, but solved.

Beaching with kids isn’t relaxing. It just isn’t. Even though I went minimalist with the gear, you still have to lug a few things. They don’t want sunscreen on. “I’m bored.” “I want to leave!” “I want to stay!”

But I tried to capture a few moments of peace even while spinning the plates I spin and refereeing fights and dealing with soggy, sandy tights. I studied the broken shells at the shore, scattered like thousands of pieces of white and peach-colored confetti. Nearby, toddlers waded and laughed and people built sand castles. I enjoyed the breeze and breathed. I noticed the sun shining through palm fronds as sunset approached. Boats bobbed in the bay, paragliders floated overhead and a WaveRunner zoomed around. I eavesdropped on snippets of conversations by people from another part of the world. We cooled down. We played. The kids managed to have fun, even without the aid of technology!

There are wet towels, sandy kids, and extra laundry after a visit to the beach, yes. But sometimes it’s just worth it to get them out of the house. So I’m chalking it up as another victory. A sandy, soggy one, but still, it’s a victory. I’ll take it.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Mind the Gap

This is an open letter to those designing public restrooms. Hello there, I’m Sarah, and I’m very experienced in using public restrooms. After all, I’m a woman, which means I have a teeny, tiny bladder because other stuff (uterus, tubes, etc) are taking up the real estate in my lower abdomen. This means I’ve used almost every public restroom there is in San Diego, where I live. Yep, I’m an expert.

Which leads me to this point: why are public restrooms designed with one very annoying feature? Sometimes (not always, but often enough) there is a sizeable gap between the wall of the restroom and the edge of the stall. Sometimes it’s an entire inch wide.

Most women aren’t peering into the gap to gape at whoever is peeing, but my point is, can’t we design these things so there isn’t a huge gap? We’ve sent people to the moon. Doctors can perform surgery on babies in utero. And we can’t figure out how to minimize the gap? Really?

As a side note: the title of today’s post has a back story, and like me, I know you always want to know the back story. When Hubby and I visited England in 2002, within minutes of landing we were at the subway station. Wait—there must be a fancier, more highbrow name for subway there—after all, it is England! Let me go research this. Okay, I’m back. It is called the Underground. And it should be pronounced with excellent enunciation. Zero mumbling. “Unduh. Ground.” Jolly good. Anyway, while waiting for the underground—despite my jet-lagged stupor--I noticed that every few seconds a fancy English voice announced the following: Mind. The. Gap. Remember that we are enunciating. Even their electronic messages In England have impeccable delivery and poise. English stuff is always quite formal. In New York, the subway—if it provides such a warning—probably has a crackly recording blast out this message (in a strong NY accent), “Yo, idiot. Don’t be a lose-uh (loser) and fawwwl (fall) in the pit. But if ya do, don’t come a’cryin’ to me. Suckah!” Not so in England. They politely caution you to Mind. The. Gap.

Anyway, back to bathroom gaps. I took this photo in a public restroom yesterday. Before busting out my camera in a restroom (which is odd behavior—and not the charming variety of weirdness I embrace) I made sure that there was no one else around. People probably don’t want photos taken of the in restrooms. As a general rule.
Check out this gap! It’s BIG! If someone wanted to, they could see a lot through that crack. Even if you aren’t trying to spy on someone in the stall, if your eye roams around as you wait in line (remember, this is a public restroom we’re talking about, and we women always have to pee so there will be a line), you might accidentally glimpse something.

So please, manufacturers and installers of stalls in public restrooms, can we close the gap? Please? Can we make it slightly less of a gaping gap? Why even bother with doors in the stalls if the side gaps are substantial enough to require an NC-17 rating?

I know gaps happen. I get it. I get gaps. But I do mind this gap.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Wacky Wednesday #2: Give me a "P!"

Oh, I’ve been having such a fun Wacky Wednesday today...

I’ve been in disguise all day, wearing my Halloween costume from four years ago.

I’ve visited all the places I go in a typical day, plus a few extra places. At my usual haunts my friends recognized me and got a good laugh from my costume. When I went somewhere where I didn’t know people, they thought I was the real Flo! In a parking lot a woman said, “Aren’t you in that commercial?” I just smiled and winked. Two teenaged girls asked to take photos with me earlier today (I obliged) and some guys asked for a photo as I walked to get my youngest from school. One said, “My wife is not going to believe this!” I didn’t want to ruin their fun so I didn’t tell them that I’m not the real Flo. (Hey, if they think the real Flo is walking around in the suburbs of San Diego, who am I to ruin their fun?!) I was kind of surprised that people thought I was really Flo—my hair is at least 3-4” shorter than hers. But we have similar coloring and builds and I did have the costume and makeup on, which helps the effect. Hubby asked why I was channeling Flo today. (A reasonable question, I suppose, given that it’s not Halloween. But on the other hand, he should know me well enough by now—do I ever need a reason to wear a costume?) My motivation was bringing some laughs to my community. I adore making people laugh. It makes them happy and it makes me happy. Win-win.

It’s been a full day, and it’s not over yet.

Flo started her day off helping the kids at the elementary school make deposits to their checking accounts. It’s so cute--sometimes they bring in a few dollars—entirely in coins—so I make sets of five pennies and try to concentrate as I count.

Next, Flo visited the community garden and made sure the plants were hydrated.

Flo needs her strength and energy so she hit the gym after the garden.

Today was Flo’s monthly (ish) Lunch ‘n Laugh with Roxie. We had lotsa laughs. (This is where the teen-aged girls spotted us in the parking lot and wanted photos.)

Flo also visited the local fire department—three cheers for the hard-working men and women who keep our community safe! I gave them all a high five...

Soon it’ll be time for the most glamorous time of Flo’s day: helping with homework, making dinner, doing dishes, breaking up the kids’ arguments, cleaning up messes and hopefully not losing her temper.

And then I’ll stagger toward my bed (white with blue accents, just like Flo’s entire life is, right?) and dream up some new variety of fun for next Wacky Wednesday. Stay tuned…

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Little Hands Can Make a Big Difference

If you’ve read this blog before you know that I often share funny moments here—the wacky things I do and the silly circumstances that I find myself in on a regular basis. But I also love to share triumphant moments and creative projects, and this post is about something I've helped to create.

For the last couple of weeks I have been working on a quilt. I’m no expert—it’s only my third quilt--but I had a great time making it and I’m proud of how it turned out. It is called “Little Hands Can Make a Big Difference.” I made it with my daughter's second grade class for the silent auction at the school’s fundraiser this month. It’s somewhat based on the “Around the World” pattern I used for my first quilt, although I decided to take a few liberties and try mixing things up a little. It’s not intended to be completely symmetrical, but for me that makes it even more appealing.

There is evidence here and there that a human being (yep, flaws and all!) made this quilt, not a robot. But I’m okay with that. In fact, I like it. Once upon a time I thought I had to be perfect. I thought that everything I did needed to be impeccable. I felt ashamed if my results didn’t pan out perfectly. (That’s a pretty tough way to live, but it was also hard to unlearn.) It has taken many years to learn new ways to look at the world and at myself, but these days I embrace imperfections. I like that I can see the human touch in this quilt. And I like that I can enjoy the process without needing the result to be perfect (whatever that is!).

Here's my Betsy Ross moment:

The colors choices: the fabric store I visited had dozens and dozens of wonderful fabrics. So how did I end up with the seven choices (plus white) that I used? Well, I started off with a medium blue. I chose a darker blue as an accent. (A quilt—like any piece of art—looks more visually interesting when there is contrast). For my darker accent I found a batik print I adored because a) I love batik and b) within the fabric there were many shades of blue (some light, some grayish, some dark and even some purpley-blue shades). I knew this would give the quilt more interest than a solid color would. I chose a bright turquoise to add pizazz within my blue color scheme, and a beautiful red as contrast. The polka dot fabric and the stars fabric both meshed with my color scheme but also added more fun and more visual texture to the combination of fabrics. Here is a sketch I did as I went along, to block out the colors and patterns:

So how did I decide what this quilt would look like? Good question! There are countless ways to make a quilt, just as there are infinite ways to make any piece of art. I started at the center, literally, with a diamond with the name of the school and “Class of 2021.” From there, I built the quilt outward. I liked how the red fabric contrasted with the white of the center piece. I wanted each row to contrast with the one next to it, but I love that the whole piece is harmonious, too. I purposely did not make the quilt symmetrical, although it is visually balanced. The fun accents at the corners were done because I ran out of fabric and challenged myself to piece together squares from smaller scraps of fabric. The effect is quite fun! I love that there is an accent at each corner.

Building a quilt is such an interesting process. It starts with an idea, and gathers steam when you choose fabric. This quilt was meaningful to make because I know my daughter’s classmates and their handprints are personal. As I sit here I have mixed feelings about this quilt. Part of me wants to keep working on the quilt—I’m attached to it and making it satisfies my creative urge. The other part of me is ready to hand it over for the school’s silent auction. I will be excited to learn which family takes it home. There are so many creative projects banging around in my brain—I’m ready for the next one. (And there are many projects partially completed that I want to work on. Doing this quilt has reminded me how satisfying it is to finish a project. Hopefully I’ll buckle down and finish some of them soon!)

By the way, I just want to put this out there: if anyone is reading this and is considering trying to learn to sew or trying something new, go for it. Don’t worry about not having the fanciest gear out there. Just try it and have fun. I made this quilt using a Kenmore sewing machine from 1976 (that I found in an alley!). It’s your interest in something that makes it satisfying, not top-of-the-line gadgets. The enthusiasm you bring to an activity is what makes it meaningful…

As a final note, a word about the title: I usually don’t give titles to my paintings but giving a piece of art a name can be a nice touch. This title came to me immediately. I do believe that kids can make a difference. Small hands (like small acts) can do more than we can imagine...