Category Archives: Slice of Life

Tiny Celebrations

It’s easy to get involved in all the chores and duties of life and leave the actual living behind.  Loads of laundry, stacks of dishes, the carpet that needs vacuuming, stopping by the gas station after work, the quick trip to Trader Joe’s for cat food and yogurt…  In that blur of activity, a focus on what matters most can easily slip.

For me, that’s where my camera comes in.  When I head out with my camera, even if it is only out into the backyard, I start to pay attention to the beauty and life around me.  I find an appreciation that might otherwise be overlooked.

Today, instead of a walk after work, I headed home.  But even though time was short, I knew I needed time outdoors, so to the backyard I went. The ground was pretty muddy from all the rain, weeds sprouting where grass used to grow.  Plants in pots have gone crazy, with succulents growing large and lavender beginning to blossom.  I leaned in, zooming close with my macro lens.  I love the way that this close up shot brings the lavender into focus, blurring the background into a beautiful abstract painting.  And I was delighted by the bokeh effect, scattering the light behind the lavender without using any special effects.

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As I walked along the fence line, I noticed some blossoms on the pear tree that we thought had died.  The drought has taken a toll on our yard, killing most of the lawn and any other plants that were not well established.  This young tree is showing some signs of life…but is certainly neither robust or likely to bear fruit any time soon.  But the blossoms are delicate and dainty–reminders that spring is on the way.  Time outside helps me find focus and reminds me that there is more to life than daily chores.  Tiny celebrations make all the difference!

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I read an article I found on Twitter the other day about the power of five post-it notes to make you happy, confident and successful.  I feel like I can achieve the same effects with my camera.  Look closely and find something beautiful, something unusual, something funny (like this photo of the little girl hula hooping in her tiara and long pageant gloves)

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…all reminders of what life has to offer when you make time everyday to appreciate the world around you.

Waiting

We do it every day in lots of ways.  In the line at the grocery store or as the barista prepares that perfect latte.  In the dentist’s office or in that line of cars on the metered freeway onramp.  For the ladies room during that oh-so-short recess break or that important phone call you were expecting half an hour ago.  Waiting…

As I walked the beach the other day I noticed a bunch of surfers out on their boards on the waves…waiting.  Or were they?  Does it only count as waiting if it feels like time is slipping away?  That you could be doing something more important or more productive (or more fun)?  As I’ve watched surfers over the years, I notice that surfing involves spending quite a bit of time sitting on the board, watching the waves develop, visiting with other surfers, perhaps even enjoying the sun (or rain or fog or even cold) in the time between actually paddling into a wave and standing up.  Do surfers see that time as waiting?

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When I know I am going to wait, I come prepared.  I carry my book or some work I need to get done, I pull out my phone, flip through social media, news, photos.  If it’s a long wait–like an airplane ride, I bring an assortment of activities and hope for access to a movie or TV shows to help pass the time.  The worst waiting for me is the kind of waiting when you can’t do anything but wait–like sitting in rush hour traffic.  My only options then are to listen to the radio or maybe squeeze in a phone call (hands free, of course!).  But sometimes, waiting leaves you with only you to spend time with.  Time for thinking and reflection…alone with your own thoughts.

So maybe waiting is about your frame of mind.  When it is part of an activity you enjoy–like surfing, waiting isn’t waiting, it’s just what you do.  So what about those lines at the grocery store? Can we make them more enjoyable, time spent in thought, perusing tabloid papers, visiting with the stranger in line in front or behind you?  Maybe we need names for the different kinds of waiting–like the names for snow in those really cold places–to express the nuanced differences between them.  I’ll be thinking about that as I sit in traffic tomorrow…

 

#haikuforhealing

It’s so easy to break a good habit, even after it has been well established. When I started this blog, I wrote daily for months on end.  Of course, I did it because I knew if I stopped (and I was afraid to stop for even one day), I would have a hard time getting back on track.

I guess I was right.

This week, my friend and colleague Kevin posted a prompt on the NWP iAnthology, inviting some short-form writing in the form of Haiku, 3 line poems, for the purpose of healing the spirit.  #haikuforhealing is a hashtag where people are sharing these poems meant to raise spirits.  I noticed Kevin writing them in December, making posters of them with inspirational images as their backdrop.  I enjoyed them…and thought about writing some of my own.

So when the prompt came up on Saturday, I decided to try my hand at it. I started with a photo I had taken and posted on Instagram.  I imported it into Canva and added my words. My first #haikuforhealing was born.

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On Sunday my schedule didn’t allow for a long photo-taking walk. Instead, I snapped a shot of the moon through the trees in the Trader Joe’s parking lot.  I messed with it a bit in prisma, amping up the color. Hmmm…a Haiku about the moon?  I could do that.

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It rained quite a bit on Monday, but it had stopped by the time I left work. Knowing rain was in the forecast later in the week, I decided to take a walk on the beach on the way home.  The clouds were sitting low, hugging the horizon, as the sun tried its best to peek through.  Inspiration for another #haikuforhealing?  Why not?

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Should I go for four days in a row?  One of the things I love about living near the coast is the proximity to the trains. I hear them as I walk on the beach, I hear them as I teach, and they frequently hold me up at intersections as the guards lower, the lights flash, and the train barrels past.Today I was walking toward my car when the rail guards dropped, giving me just enough time to snap a few shots…and think about a Haiku…

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I don’t know if I have re-established a habit of daily writing, but I am four days into daily #haikuforhealing writing.  I’m enjoying it.  I like creating the poster with my photograph and words…and sharing it on Twitter (@kd062) makes me feel accountable (at least to myself).

Join in the healing, let Haiku shift your perspective and help you find inspiration, beauty, meaning…  And if you have other ideas to keep the daily writing fresh and doable, I’d love to hear about them!

 

Walking

I’ve been out walking this week.  Not in exotic locales or even for exercise (although I know I should), but just to walk.  And as I walk on the well worn paths, places where my bare feet already know the way and the waves toss rocks until they are smooth and round, my thoughts wander and the muscles in my shoulders relax.

There is something indefinable that happens when my feet move, my arms swing, the wind brushes my hair away from my face, and the sun warms my shoulders. This movement–not aimed at getting me from one place to another or to raise my heart rate–engages my body and lets my brain disconnect from the worries and demands of everyday life. I start to notice details of the world around me, details that I miss when I’m focused on getting there for a meeting or staying here to complete this paperwork.

Today I noticed all the children on the beach who are attending camps: volleyball camps, surf camps, and the local staple–junior lifeguards. I found myself thinking about the job opportunities for young people that are available because of those camps as I watched young adults (or almost adults) mentoring younger children.  I also wondered about the kids who don’t have access to these camps and who may not see this public beach as their place. What does summer look like for kids whose parents can’t afford camps like these or who don’t have the luxury of dropping their kids off at 9 and picking them up at noon?

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And I thought about privilege as I looked up at the sea cliffs above this magnificent beach where I walk.  Perched at the top are multimillion dollar homes with expanses of windows facing the sea. If you look closely, you’ll notice the stairs criss-crossing the cliff face.  Exclusive access to the public beach below.  I am grateful that the beach is public, regardless of who lives on the cliff above.

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There were lots of seabirds today.  The seagulls are regulars, they hang out at the beach all the time. (I’ve written about them a lot, see this post.) Feeling a shadow overhead, I looked up to see graceful pelicans flying in formation.  My husband calls them bombardiers, they remind him of our military aircraft in precision flight.  These birds are huge, but in flight they are agile and delicate. At one point I looked up and caught sight of a white and gray bird overhead.  It took me a moment to realize that this bird was not a seagull.  It was an osprey–also known as a sea eagle, with a whole fish in its talons, racing through the sky.  I was riveted watching this elegant bird of prey, feeling fortunate that I had the opportunity to see it in action.  I didn’t snap a photo, but I did enjoy the moment.  And there are my friends–the sandpipers.  I love their curved bills and high pitched whistles. They’re a bit shy and wary, making me appreciate them even more.

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I walked for miles.  And like this post, my thoughts meandered, pausing on a bird, on a child squealing with delight, on a surfer shredding through the break of the wave. The cool water contrasted with the warmth of the sun on my cheeks just like my observations of the seabirds contrasted with my awareness of issues of privilege and access present on this beach that I love. And even though I don’t have any ready answers, I left the beach with a clear head and sandy feet, refreshed and renewed ready to tackle whatever life throws my way.

I wonder what tomorrow’s walk will bring?

 

 

I Used to Be…

Summer is the time for the San Diego Area Writing Project (SDAWP) Summer Institute (SI), a place where a group of teachers (K-16) dives deeply into the teaching of writing.  Part of that experience means sharing an aspect of your own teaching practice through a demo lesson.  Today’s lesson, presented by Nicole, invited the group to consider the idea of change…I used to be, but now I am.  As I considered that prompt I was reminded of an experience a few weeks ago during our visit to the Pacific Northwest.

My eyes scanned the horizon, I was hoping against hope that I would spy a whale out on the Puget Sound. Would I see an orca breaching or a humpback emerging for one of those infrequent breaths? That endless blue remained endless, unbroken by emerging whales.

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As we neared Victoria by ferry, my attention was drawn to the sky. I heard that familiar buzzing that I recognize as an airplane. But wait! This wasn’t the usual biplane or other small plane I am accustomed to seeing off the coast at home. The plane clearly had something on the bottom of it…pontoons. This was a seaplane and I watched it bank and turn, get lower and lower until it was right above the water and at that moment transformed from a plane to a boat.

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Walking around Victoria after leaving the ferry, I kept noticing these seaplanes taking off and landing. Standing on a bridge, I noticed one land nearby and braved the conversation with my husband. “How much do you think they charge for a ride in a seaplane?” He replied in his typical, “It’s probably more than $250 a person” fashion. And then made a comment that I continue to think about. “Why do you ask? You wouldn’t want to ride in one anyway.” I pursued the idea, “Let’s go find out!” A walk down onto the pier led to a miniature airport where we found a seaplane airline offering flights into Seattle and Vancouver…and tours of Victoria. It wasn’t long before we had our boarding passes and a boarding time.

So why did he think I wouldn’t want to tour the island in a seaplane? I do admit to a fierce fear of heights. I’m reluctant to walk to the edge of a railing, to look over the edge of a cliff, even to watch someone else do those things. My hands sweat watching people scale heights on TV! But in spite of that fear, I have been climbing higher and working to endure the discomfort in order to appreciate the thrill and view that heights have to offer. Last summer I stood 103 stories up on a clear plexiglass platform in the building formerly known as Sears Tower in Chicago…and that was after a Ferris wheel ride view of the city from Navy Pier the day before. I’ve been hiking up mountainsides and inching closer to the edges of railings on rooftops and bridges.

And I’ve taken a seaplane tour of Victoria! Seatbelted in the plane wasn’t fear invoking at all—it felt much like a commercial airline flight, only better. The small plane meant I had both a window and aisle seat—and plenty of opportunity to see the island from a variety of angles.

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From the plane I had a breathtaking view of the beauty and variety that Victoria has to offer.

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I’m working to change my narrative from fearful to risk-taking. I’ve even been toying with the idea of skydiving…just once, for the experience, inspired by Esther who skydived for her 80th birthday. But for now I’ll just keep inching closer to the edge (and carry a small towel to wipe those telltale sweaty hands!).  So…I used to be afraid of heights, but now, even though I’m still afraid, I’ll keep climbing!

 

The Path Not Taken

Sometimes I find myself in a rut–stuck in the mud, sinking lower and lower so that it seems that all I see are shoe tops.  Instead of appreciating the beauty around me, I get mired in the minutia of everyday–dishes and laundry, report cards and meetings, and traffic!

When I’m in that rut I don’t always see the possibilities.  I find myself traveling the same paths, butting up against the same barriers…and even thinking the same not-so-inspiring thoughts!

And I know that I am lucky.  I enjoy my work–most of the time–and all it entails.  My students are a source of energy, my colleagues keep me learning and growing, and the end of the school year means my work will change–adding variety and new stimulation to the mix.  But…there’s that rut…and at this time of the year lots of others are in it too.

Yesterday, after a long work day I was heading to a planning meeting with some colleagues.  And instead of the provocative thinking I knew I would experience when I got there, my mind was on the traffic and the frustration of the snail’s pace I would experience as I got on the freeway.

So I ventured out in another direction.  There was some traffic as I set off, but as I crossed the intersection that could have taken me to the freeway, I headed into the hills. The road was narrow and steep as it curved through neighborhoods with breathtaking views.  As I reached the top I pulled off into a park–well known in these parts.  A place I had been before, but never think to visit.  It’s off the usual path, less direct, with a lower speed limit.

And this path not taken led me to wonder and inspiration…and jubilation!

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I was treated to amazing views of my city.  I could look north to La Jolla shores and the Scripps pier, east toward the mountains and the communities between.  As I looked south I saw the iconic structures of our downtown and the bays and ocean that frame it.

I felt like I could touch the clouds from this place on the hill.  And in spite of the clouds I could see forever in all directions.  The sky was clear and the sun peeked through, brightening my outlook and my attitude.

I don’t have to stay in the rut, mired by routine and overwhelmed by the demands of the end of the school year.  But I do have to find the spaces of inspiration, make time for moments of vacation and renewal even when time is in short supply.

This is one of those lessons that I need to remind myself of over and over again.  It’s easy to stay in the rut, to do the same thing, travel the same roads, talk to the same people, see the same sights.  I’m already thinking about other ways I can shake up my ordinary and pull myself out of the rut…the view is so much better here!

A Love Story

Last Tuesday morning I fell in love.  Head over heels, irrevocably, intensely, impossibly, and wonderfully in love.  I expected it…and yet, the depth and utter wonder was unexpected and emotional.

I felt my heart expand when I laid eyes on him.  I looked closely and realized I knew him, maybe I’ve always known him. It was truly love at first sight.

How could this tiny being have so much power over me? And all of the those feelings were magnified this weekend when I met him in person.

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I am a grandma and I want to shout from the rooftops!  My baby boy now has a baby boy of his own…a tiny little boy who takes me back in time to when his father was a baby. But…it’s also so different. I get the delight of cuddling that sweet baby, smelling that incredible newborn baby smell, but I also get to hand him back to his capable mom and dad when he needs to be fed and I get to sleep when he is fussy in the middle of the night. I get to be helpful (I hope) and supportive, but the big decisions are not mine.  I can worry–but he has parents to worry for him too.

It was hard to say goodbye and go home last night, leaving that beautiful boy and his amazing parents to their new lives together as we returned home to our everyday lives. But everything has changed too, enriched by a new life and new possibility.  The world is just a bit better with that little guy in it and my world has expanded–just like my heart, and I have new things to think about, learn about, and plan for.  (And yes, the next trip to see him is already planned!)

And this is just the beginning…I will be a grandma again in the next week or so when my other son also becomes a dad.  There’s plenty of room in my heart and in my world–and I am sure that I will be falling in love again and again.  I am a grandma, it’s an incredible state of mind!