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My brother’s mother-in-love Lorraine directed me toward a 30 day writing project that takes its inspiration from the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Without a single pause to wonder how or when I would respond to all the daily prompts, I immediately signed up and committed myself to a month of introspection and celebration of self.

One perk, of course, is that “Ralph Waldo Emerson” now appears as a sender in my inbox, and come on, what English teacher doesn’t love that?

Before I go any further, if you want to check this out, here is the link to the project.

Okay, here we go…

Prompt #1:

We are afraid of truth, afraid of fortune, afraid of death, and afraid of each other. Our age yields no great and perfect persons. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

You just discovered you have fifteen minutes to live.

1. Set a timer for fifteen minutes.
2. Write the story that has to be written.

If you look for me when I am gone, know that part of me will be in every blade of grass between your bare toes, in the wild rolling tides that break against the lighthouse shore, in the songs you sing most loudly when no one can hear, in your lips wet with rain, in soft moonlight glowing on the floor beside your bed, and in the words I leave behind. My life was all the better because you were here. I never knew what a miracle was, until there was you. For all the times I told you that I loved you, no words could ever really express how deep and timeless that love really was. It goes on now. It always goes on, even now, even when you are reading these words curled up in a soft place inside of yourself, even with my spirit already gone on the wind. In a world of dodging tragedy with flair, your smile was my joy. That joy ripples outward, it has no end, it never will, never stopping, always going going even against the tides that would pull it away…until that joy will find you again and wrap you tenderly in its gentle warmth.

I wish I had more time. I am not ready to go.

Give yourself the praise that you deserve. When you look for me, I will be with you. Find your passion, and live it every day of your life…but know that some days you can live it for five hours and some days, just for five minutes. Be in the moment, celebrate the present. Try not to worry about the fear. Laugh as often as you can. Make magic. Sing wherever you are. The time we have is never enough, and in the end, we only want more with those we love. Make memories. Run through sprinklers on a football field at night. Join a chorus. Speak and write your truth. Collect mementos from your travels.

Be thankful. I was thankful, above all, for you.

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My cousin Jed and I are so fortunate to have had our children each within a few months of each other. Our girls are nearly the same age, and so are our boys. I want so much for our children to be connected the way we were growing up and to keep the family legacy of cousins-like-siblings if we can. All week Katie looked forward to seeing Violet and she asked each morning if it was time for the party yet. This morning she woke up and asked, “What day is it today?”

When I said, “It’s the day of Violet’s birthday!” Katie exclaimed and smiled ear to ear.

I wish we all lived so much closer together than we do…

I have about a trillion pictures (and yes, that is a precise count), but here are just a few highlights:

Eric liked wearing his party hat!

The girls had fun jumping on Violet’s bed!

Lovely cousins in the fort

My brother and sister-in-law

Eric’s favorite party activity: he wanted to slide over and over and over again!

Grandmothers and granddaughters

The kiddos during present time

Katie made the wrapping paper, and we made the violet gift tag (the violet for Violet) together.

Having lunch! Katie got to take home her princess plate, bowl, and cup and wanted her dinner served in them. The day meant so much to her! We love our cousins. I wish we were all neighbors somehow!

Happy birthday, Violet!

These have been the days of By the Shores of Silver Lake, working on (and finishing) Eric’s blanket, making a fairy terrarium with Katie (with plants designed to attract fairies—imagination play fun!), handmade angel hair dressed simply with lemon and butter and Romano cheese, roasted asparagus, blueberry picking, baking Prince William’s biscuit cake with my mom and kiddos, a John Wayne movie, and a thousand other happy little moments like waking up briefly to the morning rain, greeting the morning with my children, working on our Lego castle, and more.

Today Eric took a loooooooooong nap, and I had time to finish his quilt:

 

It is difficult to tell from the picture, but several of the prints are cowboy-themed. The quilt store in Old Town Temecula has some fabrics grouped by decade (or, at least, the decade on which the aesthetic of the fabric is modeled). I tried to choose 50s types of prints for both of the kiddos’ quilts.

Holding up the quilt. When Eric first saw it, he snuggled right into it.

I had several scraps of muslin left over from the backing of the quilt. Katie and I love old-fashioned things, and we have read a few times about how Ma Ingalls would curl Laura’s hair with rags. We have a birthday party for our cousin tomorrow, so what better time to make hair extra fancy and special?Instead of using the curling iron tomorrow, we decided to opt for a slower experiment, savoring the time it took. Lingering is an important part of joy, I believe. Likewise, novelty is an important part of developing brain connections in children.

We took the extra muslin, and I cut the muslin into strips.

We wet her hair, and soon we had a head full of rag curls!

She really loved this. Every minute of it captivated her imagination.

Like Little House in the Big Woods the night before Laura and Mary see town for the first time…

We’ll see if this works, yes? What fun!

Five years ago:

 

Today, our 5th anniversary:

 

Five years ago:

 

Today:

 

Five years ago:

 

Today:

 

Happy Anniversary to my Oneness.

“And now I tell you openly,/You have my heart so don’t hurt me./You’re what I couldn’t find:/A totally amazing mind/So understanding and so kind/You’re everything to me…” (The Cranberries)

“You fill up my senses/Like a night in the forest/Like the mountains in springtime/Like a walk in the rain…” (John Denver)

“Close your eyes/Give me your hand, darling/Do you feel my heart beating?/Do you understand?…” (The Bangles)

And hundreds more…

Happy 5th marriage anniversary, my Bill, my truest true. I love you and am excited to celebrate with you. You are such a loving husband, and your mind, body, and heart are my treasures. Five years already? I wish we could have five raised to infinity more!

After months of writing, playing, and thinking with author and psychiatrist Dr. Sana Johnson-Quijada, I find myself finally understanding at a deeper and more significant level what she truly advocates when she talks about being friendly to ourselves. Self-care has several pieces—moving parts that are different for everyone, depending on the specific need—but her basic message is simple: work on loving and appreciating the unique individual you were born to be, and everything good in life will follow as a matter of course.

I had the opportunity to hear Sana speak at her three-part workshop series this past Tuesday, where she asked me to share with fellow participants about my journey of self-care and what I have been learning from our reading/writing process as she delves into questions like: Where do emotions and behaviors come from? I found her workshop to be a time of reflection and learning. Although as an editor I can hear her speaking voice often in her writing, I believe her greatest gift resides in the quality of her actual voice, the warm voice of a Healer. When she speaks, her voice adds nuance to her message; something about the tonal quality leads the listener deeper into self-reflection.

Sana uses Meyers-Briggs temperament typologies as a way into discussions of temperament and biological influences on our perceptions. She teaches that self-care is not a moral issue; even more importantly, she advocates that differences in temperaments are not a basis for moralization. We can use an understanding of temperament (and its biological origins) to choose to put aside guilt, blame, shame, and feelings of ownership over spouses and children, or over anyone. When we focus on owning ourselves fully for the people we were born to be, we do not have to catch ourselves up in conflict over trying to mold, own, or shape others. Letting go of this conflict is friendly to ourselves primarily, and of course, also friendly to others secondarily.

You can take the Meyers-Briggs/Jungian typology test here.

Okay, that is the intellectual side of what I heard… But I also had a true epiphany on Tuesday night:

So often as a mother I have been caught up in the task of shaping my children. But what for? Or, better to ask: for whom? Katie and Eric are who they were born to be. Already. Yup! Using their individual temperament typologies as a basis for moralizing their behaviors  is not appropriate. Whew. Letting go of shame and blame already. I am not talking about safety behaviors, or letting them lie, cheat, or steal. I am talking about behaviors of TEMPERAMENT. Say that I am a person who, by temperament, looks at everything as part of an intuitive big picture (the forest instead of the trees). Say that one of my children is a person who looks at the small parts as each in and of themselves as a sensory experience (a tree, not a forest). One of those is not more right than another; however, we have to realize that we are using a different emotional language to look at the world, to make decisions, to experience life. As a mother, I do not need to moralize this issue, conduct fruitless attempts at transformation, or frustrate myself with a battle.

I can choose to let it be.

I can choose to accept the people I love for whom they are.

Suddenly it seemed clear, listening to Sana. And I began to think: my purpose as a mother is to be a guide, a helper. My purpose is not to put asunder what nature has made in my children, or to worry about it. Of course I think that my way of looking at the world is something I want them to emulate—I mean, don’t we all? We all have an intrinsic and somewhat inescapable bias toward our own temperament—how can we not? And right at this point is when we need to use our metacognition to realize that bias is there, and back away. Let our bias be there, but back away.

So I went home and went bananas-obsessive with the Meyers-Briggs test. I took the test answering for myself several times. Then I took the test as Katie, as Bill, as many other people in my extended family. Each time I was floored when I read descriptions of the temperament typologies. I recognized my family in the descriptions. Even people that have been more of a mystery to me, or with whom I’ve not been on the same wavelength… I thought, hey! I’m onto something here! So much of the time miscommunication is simply a different style in which we see the world.

We can choose to try to learn each others’ languages and lenses of perception. As Sana would likely say, that choice would be friendlier to everyone.

It turns out that Katie and I, for example, have some key differences in our perception styles. We actually talked about this yesterday. I told her I love her for who she is, period. I told her that when we disagree, we can choose to think about acknowledge and celebrate our differences instead of having a conflict. It empowered her, and I could see some of the pressure lift off her shoulders. Releasing pressure on myself to make her speak my language released pressure on her. We’re in this life together, co-existing. My greatest gift to her is to give her the tools for her self-discovery, not telling her who she is or will be.

I am an INFJ (the Idealist Counselor). For a long time in life, I tested as INTJ (the Rational Mastermind, which is what Bill actually is). My feeler-thinker expression varies, and neither is my dominant expression. I get my energy from being alone (Introverted), but I love to use that energy to be with people. My most distinctively, most highly expressed traits are iNtuit and Judge. Naturally enough, the careers recommended for me include English Teacher and…Editor/Writer. Glad I’m on the right track there.

Are you into this? If so, there is so much to read about each temperament. All I can say is that everything I read about (on various sites) INFJ makes me nod my head in agreement.

What is the punchline in all this? It’s kind of like this:

Understanding biological factors such as temperament —> celebration of self —> celebration of others —> less need for conflict —> more loving world

Great message, no? What temperament type are you?

Shil Patel has been one of my longest friends. We first met in sixth grade, not too long after my family moved to Temecula, though we really became friends in seventh grade when we competed in Language Arts Field Day together. Nearly now for twenty years, he has been a treasure to me.

We competed in Mock Trial together, and with our friends, shared the memory of competing in the state championship during our senior year in high school. He was my date to prom in our junior year, and I will never forget singing to the Spice Girls all the way across the bridge to the Hotel Del Coronado. All the week leading up to prom, we brought each other gifts to represent the number of days remaining. He was the best prom date any girl ever could have asked for, and I always consider myself lucky to have gone with him.

We shared birthday parties, scavenger hunts, working on projects for AP Government and Econ (an infamous toothpaste commercial). There was the play in Fallbrook we went to in order to see one of our friends, Amber. Football games with confetti…blasting “Tub Thumping” in the car…a million other little memories of our high school days.

In college, he and one of my other best friends Steve were across the bay at Berkeley. On the weekend that my high school boyfriend broke up with me, I boarded the Cal Train at Stanford, caught the BART in San Francisco, and Shil and Steve met me at the Berkeley station. I spent the weekend watching Shil perform in the Indian dance festival, sleeping on his bed while he slept on his floor, and going to absolutely the best party I’ve ever been to—the after party in on the Berkeley campus where we danced ALL night. Shil taught me the Bhangra, and it has been party of my essence ever since. I always credit Shil and Steve for jumpstarting the recovery of my heartbreak that weekend. They have always been two true gentlemen. When I came to see him perform the second year, he took me to one of the most memorable meals of my life, Indian food at Vik’s Chaat House in Berkeley in an unidentified warehouse. This started my love affair with Indian cuisine that continues to this day…well that, and his dad’s amazing cooking!

Later Shil celebrated at my marriage to Bill. He also came to my classroom and taught my AP English students how to practice sutures on a raw piece of chicken during our end of the year Curious Project.

It will be almost 14 years since Shil has lived in Temecula when he finishes his fellowship in Arizona. He has always known two things in life, since early high school: 1) He loves his family and wants to practice near them, and 2) That would be in the medical profession (he is an eye surgeon, specializing in retinas).

I, for one, am eager for the day that he comes home. He brings with him both an effervescence and tranquility. At times we have not been as much in contact as we might intend, but we know that we are forever friends no matter the phases of our lives. What a gift he is!

Today I was able to spend the afternoon with Shil, and Eric was able to meet him for the first time.


True friends are a goodness And how old am I that I now have friendships that have lasted twenty years? 🙂

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

There always seems to be something fun happening in Temecula! Our local blueberry patch opened for picking last Wednesday, and this weekend is the annual “Western Days” in Old Town. So much to do, see, feel, and experience to let our imaginations soar!

Ready for our first blueberry picking of the season! I am so excited that blueberry season is here! I was not a fan at all of the fruit until I first picked them at Temecula Blueberry Company four years ago. In fact, I still don’t eat them much of the year because I find most blueberries in the store do not taste the same to me. So these next months are blueberry days and recipes and eating for us!

A beautiful morning at the farm. Birds were chirping, a cool breeze eased our work, and we could hear the vastness and wildlife around us. One of the reasons I adore Temecula is that we have urban areas to play and work in, and yet there are still rural parts to which to retreat.

Katie was an awesome picker this year! She filled her bucket! This is her fourth year at the patch; our first pick her was when she was seven months old. Returning each year reminds me so much of her infant days, and it has a special feel to me for that reason.

The crop looks really good this year! This land is a place of serenity and meditation.

Eric was able to pick some berries, too. Last year, I came while he was growing in my womb; this year, he is here. Life is so magical sometimes. I also cannot believe that a whole year has passed. I remember so clearly the feel of being pregnant with him, picking in the berry patch. Now I can hold him and kiss him and smell his delicious neck and hair.

His nimble fingers liked this activity!

Sweet boy, looking at the berry he plunked in our bucket.

Next up: Western Days in Old Town Temecula. Katie and I were especially excited about Western Days this year, in part because so much of it fits in well with some of our Laura Ingalls Wilder reading and The Lone Ranger and parts of old west history we’ve been discussing.

Amie and Katie wait by the sheriff for the gunfight at The Bank. The gunfighters were reenacting the old shootout at the original Temecula bank. We have such a history in this city, and it is so much fun to share with children.

Outlaws and onlookers at The Bank.

Eric watches another skit at another venue. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I think it is funny that I happened to catch a “dead” cowboy in this frame, too. Cheery, I know. 😉 Both Katie and Eric were interested in the skits, yet Katie in particular begged to stay longer and keep watching.

A stagecoach! This was modeled on the original Butterfield Stagecoach that helped to carry mail to old Temecula.

Katie and I took a stagecoach ride. We elected to sit inside of it (instead of on top), so I propped her a little out of the window so she could see the horses. She was smiling and excited the entire ride. We talked about hearing and feeling the clip-clop of the horses. She loved it.

It turns out that I knew a couple of the gunfighters from teaching, so I had fun catching up with them and watching them perform. I have a little bit of an urge to join up… How much fun to dress up in period costumes and write and put on skits of another era!

We ate lunch at Rosa’s Cantina, and one of the “robbers” came in for lunch. To Katie, he really was a robber—standing in line in front of us for the bathroom. I explained that I knew him from school and that he was just pretending.  A good guy also came in… I was fascinated by how real the roles seemed to her. She expressed in the car on the way home that she was glad her jewelry was at home, and that if any robbers came and took it, she was going “…to walk downtown and get the sheriff to make them give it back.” That sounds like a fine plan, to me! Although I also reassured her that none of the robbers know where we live…

I love days that activate the imagination! Summertime is grand in Temecula!

After a probing and far-reaching conversation with friend, client, and self-care expert Dr. Sana Johnson-Quijada (who writes friendtoyourself.com and who is hosting a workshop series this month to bring her work to a greater portion of the local community), I found myself inspired…to dig through my trashcan.

This is probably not what she meant exactly when she said I should head toward the parts of life that I find painful, to confront those parts, and then to give myself time to embrace my passion for words, coaching, and yes, even judgment, as an Editor (I could hear her say that with a capital “E”).  How many times do we meet someone who encourages us really to be all that we are? And to celebrate that Self, to look at the parts we conceal more often than reveal and to fly the flag of our selfhood?

I found part of that self this afternoon covered with coffee grounds and moist with any number of possible substances.

Because the truth is…

…. that I can’t enjoy even the last little bit of dark chocolate gelato without getting freaky about the grammar.

Wait, scratch that. It wasn’t just the last bit: I noticed this mistake the first time I ever took the carton out of the freezer and had time to read it. “A chocolate lovers dream.” Why? WHY? Must we desecrate the carton of glorious dark chocolate gelato, smooth and thick on the tongue, simply because we couldn’t run it by an editor?

“A chocolate lover’s dream.”

A few days ago I wrote a post about gathering my joy while eating the last bit of that gelato with my daughter, Katie. Spending time with her and looking for the good in life are two of my passions, too. Writing about what is good and joyful in the day keeps me sane. No joke. Periods in which I have stopped writing/not had time to write are dark periods for me. Everyone needs a cathartic outlet. Often when I write, I edit out the poorly constructed parts of my day, much like I would edit a poorly constructed sentence. We don’t need to focus on the headache from being tired or the nail polish that spilled on the floor—not if it is not edifying. I usually only write about those types of issues when something positive is to be gained by lingering upon them.

The beautiful quality about grammar, though, is that pointing out and fixing an error is almost always useful. Clean and proper grammar is accessible to everyone—democratic—either through learning a set of fixed grammar rules and more fluid construction conventions, or by hiring wordy-nerdy people like me who were born with a passion for that sort of system. Did the gelato taste delicious? Yes! Did I love that moment with my daughter? Of course. It is my belief, however, that Gelato Classico would have more credibility as a brand if the grammar were clean. Okay, more credibility maybe just with me… Still, taking the time to clean up grammar—or to hire someone to do it—is a sign that a company takes itself seriously enough to want its image and brand to be pristine. It means the company cares about its productenough to get it right.

Reading too much into a simple grammar blunder? Maybe. Right about now the ever-present question comes up: Wow, Sarah is going bananas about a gelato carton! What must she think about my e-mail/text/Facebook status/etc? Or better, the juggernaut that barrels down the necks of editors everywhere: Eat the gelato, and be quiet already. I hope YOU never make a mistake when you write, Sarah, because then you’ll get what you deserve.

The out-of-the-closet truth in my world is this: I do not get through the day—any day—without noticing grammar errors. Yet while I determine and pronounce the error, I do not judge you. In our more informal world, we are more casual about our grammar. I have been known to play free and loose with grammar, too—okay, not really. Yet I do make mistakes. I go back sometimes and read past entries and just cringe…and hope to hope that no one has noticed.

The beauty of having an editor is that someone like me can do all the obsessive caring FOR you. And it is an obsession. I was re-reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, and one of his arguments is that it takes 10,000 hours (or thereabouts) of practice and study to be truly at the top of the field at any such thing. It is probably not possible to study grammar and all manner of word-related trivia for 10,000 hours without having an obsession about it. It’s so boring—except, that it’s not. 😉

And so I present the mangled, trashed, rinsed, and photographed dark chocolate gelato carton: the symbol of my obsession, which I sometimes relegate to the hidden places next to all things gooey and sticky and sometimes redolent of musty earth. I don’t often trot it out, because that sort of obsession can get looks in the schoolyard you know.

Here’s a new goal: to post something editor-or-word-related at least once a week, stay away from the preachy tone of a marm, and pay homage to the trials and tribulations of the English language.

What is your secret obsession?

It just so happened that we had both an empty Cheerio box and an empty family size graham cracker box from this weekend—so why not make a balalaika?

One of our Music Together songs from the “flute” semester is called “Tum Balalaika” so we put it on our iPod, made some cuts with the scissors, and got out the paints:


Katie painted while I put away a few groceries and made lunch. Our kiddos are on a smoothie kick—today I blended up a soft banana, orange juice, some strawberries from the garden, strawberry Greek yogurt, milk, and ice. Katie and Eric devoured it. I taught Eric to drink through a straw, and he thinks that is quite fun!

We worked on our balalaika throughout the day, letting the paint dry and gathering our other supplies: an old paint stirring stick, rubber bands, and pencils.


Katie plays with the finished balalaika. The balalaika is a Russian instrument first made by peasants centuries ago. I know that real balalaikas are made with three strings, but we put four on ours because…well, because we wanted to. Katie really loved this craft/project, and she played with it throughout the afternoon and evening, showing it to Bill first thing when he got home. She said that it is fun to make instruments.


Katie with her balalaika…


After balalaika-ing, playing a bit outside, and starting dinner prep (ground sirloin burgers stuffed with lemon butter and topped with Havarti, a lemon pepper aioli, and caramelized onions, with sweet potato fries), we all cuddled on the couch, and I sang Katie and Eric to sleep. Rarely do they nap on the same schedule, and it was so cute that they fell asleep like this together. Sweet little babies…

When Katie naps, she earns the privilege to stay up between 20-30 minutes past her bedtime for something special with me. Tonight we shared the rest of some dark chocolate gelato out of the carton and went out briefly to make moonlit shadows on the shed Boppa is building in the backyard.

A joyful day!

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