Friday, January 23, 2009

Bittersweet Ending

As some of you may know, last April my daughter Jillian tried out for the "Arsenal" soccer team here in Benicia. I remember how nervous she was for the tryouts--she was even contemplating what to wear. She was pretty convinced that she had not done well at the tryouts and made sure her hopes were not too high. When she got the call from her coach, Brian Chase, telling her she had made the U14 Class 3 team, she was ecstatic. I think she might have damaged his hearing with her joyful scream. They almost immediately began training and conditioning. At first, they were not so good. They were a newly formed and were still getting used to eachother's habits, abilities, things that just come with time. Their coaches made sure that every lost game was not a lost game, but a learning experience. I think this approach greatly helped the girls understand what they had to do to improve. As the season went on, something began to change in the girls. They basically began to understand how to work together and get those goals. They achieved their first win at a tournament in Sacramento. From then on, they won almost every game. One of the team's greatest games was one at the Benicia tournament. It was the first half and they were down by two. In the first 5 minutes of the second half, they had three goals. All of the parents including myself were beaming with pride. This Arsenal process has been extremely rigorous; for most of the season they had 3 practices a week, a game on Saturday, and occasionnaly a Sunday game or Indoor soccer game. I had officially earned the nickname "taxi". After a plethora of blood, sweat, tears, and stinky shinguards, the season was over. Ha! Not for these girls! They had won their League and qualified for Association Cup and planned to go in January. They practiced and scrimmaged right up until a couple weekends ago. We went to a freezing Association cup, and dissapointingly lost all the games. I was surprised to find that the girls had an amazingly positive attitude. Jill told me one day that all she cared about was the wonderful friends she acquired, and the experiences she had with them that she will cherish forever. Now, in a few weeks, I will be driving that same nervous girl to tryouts. This time, though, she will know what to wear :).

Friday, January 16, 2009

My Grandma

This is a photo of my grandma. She was a remarkable woman. As with many women of her generation, "the greatest generation", she was incredibly strong. This was our last Christmas together.

No frills, no fuss - just pure, honest beauty. She was a WWII vet, retired from Mare Island, the mother of three boys, the step-mother of one girl, grandmother to 6 and great-grandmother to 10. It's impossible to list the countless "strays" she helped raise, animal and human alike.

I wasn't a stray, but she certainly helped raise me. I grew up only a couple of blocks from her house and could basically see her anytime I wanted. Then, when my marriage broke up, I returned to Vallejo and lived in a house less than a block up the same street as her. She always meant safety to me - even as an adult. I lost her last November and I just can't seem to find a way to feel anchored anymore.

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I'd love it if you all would tell me about your grandmas too...

Saturday, January 3, 2009

New Year's Resolutions 'n Stuff

Does anybody know where this custom comes from? Why do we make resolutions at the start of each new year? Why do they almost always revolve around weight loss? I'm curious... Shouldn't we be vigorously working on self-improvement all year round?

Another random thought, my parents live in Vacaville, CA. As you enter this lovely city that snuggles itself up to I-80, you see that they have every available retail store known to man. The city is defined not by its culture or proximity to some gorgeous geography, but its shopping. With this in mind, one of the first retail establishments you see after crossing the city limit sign is a little shop called "Guns 'n Stuff." Yeeehaw! You are in Vacaville now my friends!

I miss you guys and hope everyone had a great break...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Then and Now

I don't know if any of my Touro friends have noticed that I have a couple of followers who are not members of our esteemed Master's classes. These two ladies in question are dear, dear friends from college. They are both so precious to me, I couldn't possibly put it into words.

What I can tell you is that in the photo on the top we are all 20ish years old. The girl in the middle, DeDe, is now in Iraq (well, on her way home for some R and R) and married to this really cool guy named Ray who is a career military person. They live near D.C. If you ever have a chance to meet DeDe, you will be immediately struck by how friendly and open she is - a truly loving soul.

The girl on the left is Krissy, a Montessori school teacher and mother of Tommy Lee. She too is married to one of the kindest, friendliest men on the planet, Tony. They live in Sacramento. You'll never meet a more loving human being. Krissy is the definition of "friend." I know she'll always care for me, no matter what. How rare is unconditional love in this day and age?

The picture on the bottom was taken a couple of years ago, we hadn't seen each other in a while and had a gathering at Krissy's new house to catch up and celebrate the holidays. Instinctively, we lined up for this photo just as we had 15 years earlier when we were roommates in college.

What a treasure it is to have lifelong friends!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Mrs. Sessler

Today, Mrs. Sessler came and spoke to my 8th grade students. Mrs. Sessler is a remarkable woman in many ways, but in particular she comes to speak to the kids about her experience as a Holocaust survivor. She has done this, at my request, the last 8 years running. I feel like I know her story so well I could almost write a book about her. Well, today she asked me if I'd help her write a book, her book, her story. I don't think I've ever felt more honored. Here is a woman that I love so much I act like a giddy groupie when she is around and she wants my help. Needless to say, I told her I'd be honored. The mere thought of it has my insides swirling like goo.

Isn't it funny how the world works? To make a long story incredibly short, 107,000 Dutch Jews were taken into custody by the Nazis. 5,000 of those individuals survived. She is one of them. How amazing is that? How amazing is it that her grand-daughter, Julia Benner, came through the middle school and mentioned to Edward Coyne who mentioned to me she was a survivor and might be willing to talk to my kids? How amazing is it that she wants me to help her tell a story so profound? After all, she gives voice to almost 6 million people who cannot tell their tale. At 81 years old, I think she understands how important it is to get it recorded for perpetuity.

I think I might be the luckiest girl alive!

Friday, November 28, 2008


Jillian got "straight across" bangs on Wednesday. I had to make her sit on her hands for 10 minutes because she would not stop futzing with them. On the car ride back from the salon, she kept looking in the side mirror and saying things like, "I am so cute!" She has terrible self-esteem problems - can't you tell! She stares at herself in the mirror at every possible opportunity. Was I once a vain teenage girl myself? No, it's simply not possible.

She'll be 13 in two weeks. How did time pass so quickly? I remember her strutting around in a diaper and my high heels. Now, we fight over whether or not she can wear eyeliner and how much make up is too much make up. I'm so grateful she still works hard to keep good grades and is respectful and kind to her teachers and friends. I hope that doesn't change. I hope she gets in to Cal like she talks about. I hope I can afford it.

When she was young, I dreamt about her potential. Now that she is teen aged, I am saying daily prayers that she won't waste it. I wonder what the next phase is?

In case you don't know her, or like Wendy, haven't seen her in a while, I've posted a recent photo of her all dressed up at my sister's wedding.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

My eyes burn from reading short stories all day. I've got some kind of sinus thing going that has resulted in a three day long headache that won't go away and all I want to do is get to class tonight to see everybody. I really enjoy seeing you all each Thursday and will miss everyone next week when we have the time off. So, in the spirit of the season, I decided to post why I am thankful for each of you...

Heidi - You keep me laughing. I love your razor sharp wit and wish I had the intellect that is required to be as funny as you. You are a great source of support too. What would I do without you.

Alex - Whenever I'm wracked with worry I think of you. Not because you worry me, but because you are a model of peace and calmness. You have an amazing way of keeping things in perspective - something I deeply admire.

Brad - So quiet and unassuming. You exude confidence. I love the well placed humor you infuse into our class. Thank you.

Wendy - You are always so bright and positive. I look forward to seeing your genuinely warm smile. Plus, you love my kid and remember her after two years. That's incredible.

Joe - It's always nice to know that there is another English teacher slogging away out there. I enjoy hearing your perspectives on teaching and learning. I need to poke my head out of my middle school cave once in a while.

Carleen - You have a natural and easy kindness that I think people are really drawn to. Combined that with the logical math teacher side of you, and you are that rare person who sees things as a whole. We are lucky to have you working for our union. You get the big picture.

Roger - Gourmet snacks and endless scientific wisdom! Now there is a combination that can't be beat. You are always willing to listen to me and I appreciate that. I know I can be a whiny baby sometimes. Thank you.

Sarah - I feel like if we were soldiers you would be the exact girl I'd want in the trenches with me. You are infinitely trustworthy and honorable. I'm glad we're friends.

Mellissa - You are the spice in my life. You are the rock star I want to be. You are bold and fun and make me realize what it means to really live one's life. And, I can't forget to thank you for Aidan. She's a one in a million kid.

Andy - I can't think of another man I know who is more nurturing and thoughtful and intelligent. The kids at Semple are so lucky to have a teacher like you to look up to. We have some great laughs too.

Karen - A woman with the rare combination of intellect and artistic heart. It is so reassuring to know you're in this class with me. I hope I don't drive you nuts with questions and queries. You just know so much. Thank you for putting up with me!

Hale - You seem to be good at everything you do. You are honest and candid - two great qualities in any human being. Like Andy, you too are the perfect role model for your students. I hope they have some small understanding of that. Hopefully they say thanks once in a while.

Steve - I can't express enough how much I appreciate your flexibility and patience with me. This process of coming back into the world of being a student hasn't been easy for me. Thank you. Some day, when I grow up, I want to be as easy going and well versed in all things technological -like you!

Have a great Thanksgiving holiday everyone. Your friendships will be among the many things I am thankful for this year.