Saturday, August 25, 2007

Back To School, Biggie Style


I'm at one of those big box office supply stores today replacing an ink cartridge…


Why is it you always run out of ink in the middle of an important print run of say, monthly bills, invoices, or timely application forms, but never when you're printing out jokes, or recipes from the internet, or dream kitchen layouts…

And I'm not even going to say which office supply chain I'm talking about here, except to clue you in that the exterior had a lot of red on it…

When to my surprise, (really a mixture of shock and delight at the instant "material" it provided me), I spy a kiosk with back-to-school "suggested supply list" print-outs by the entrance door, neatly copied on different colored paper, broken down by grade beginning with Pre K & Kindergarten on up, ostensibly to organize your shopping experience and help you remember what you need.

Looking more like a grocery list than anything else, I quickly scan the Pre K and Kinder supply list since that's where we're headed this fall. I count 18 "suggested" back-to-school items.

For 4 and 5 year olds.


Of the office /art supply /personal hygiene variety.

18 items?

For Pre K or K??


As you can imagine, the next list for 1st, 2nd & 3rd graders jumps to 28 items with a quantity count totaling 44.

I can't even bring myself to look at middle school at this moment, but I'm sure by then they've got you on a 2-page list with an added assortment of handheld electronics and computers.


You do the math.


Ok, I get it with the uber-competitive, over-scheduled, hyper-vigilant parent types who don't wish Little Junior to be un-provided for come the first day of school, and I do love a good organizational tip here and there to streamline our wonderfully full and unruly family lives, so that's not what's bothering me...


And, living in this town, the entertainment capitol of the world, the town that put spin and marketing on the map, not to mention cross-platforming and product placement…I mean whole careers have been made out of merchandising and
ancillary rights

I don't begrudge the effect of a smart business marketing campaign, or a strategically targeted ad, so that's not really it…


But come on, does my 5 year-old Kinderkid NEED 18 items in his backpack on the first day of school?!

Ok, I get the lunchbox and the backpack part, but will the rest of it even fit into his backpack? Or into his little mousehole-sized kindergarten cubby? I guarantee it wouldn't fit in the overhead bin of a Southwest airlines flight let alone inside one of those little wooden school desks.

I feel a bit like a party-pooper, but what will the teacher say when several of the class show up with their very own set of personal paintsets, colored markers and glue sticks, and begin their version of art anarchy, despite the rest of the class?

Speaking of the rest of the class, doesn't the school supply anything anymore?

No?

Then what do they do with our tuition, or our tax dollars?


And furthermore, does each little 5-year old really NEED to bring 2 pocket folders, a handheld pencil sharpener with two hole sizes to Kindergarten, in addition to his own tissues, paper towels, antibacterial soap, hand sanitizer gel and hand sanitizer wipes, as this list suggests?

What, will they be setting up an emergency triage?

Or is this the beginning of some Howard Hughes-style, Michael Jackson boy-in-the-bubble-type germ-o-phobic training?


Besides, didn't we determine that all that antibacterial stuff was actually dangerous and should be taken off the market? Did we forget that hand sanitizer gel if ingested in large doses contains enough alcohol to make a small child dangerously toxic? Should we really be dispensing it so freely to youngsters, or are we falling victim to blatant marketing?

Do they really need all this stuff? And more importantly, should they HAVE all this stuff?


Hey, I'm not here to begrudge the inalienable all-American right to entrepreneurialism, or our right as individuals to load up and hoard warehouse-quantity supplies on the backs of our lower-class third-world citizens. That's what this country was founded on, right? It's capitalism at its very best, survival of the fittest, kill or be killed or make a killing, I'm not sure which. But c'mon folks, from one doting parent to another, I ask you, does little Timmy really NEED all this stuff on his back too? At age 5?


Is it just me, or is this blatant consumerism starting younger and younger and getting way out of hand?


(Don't even get me started on the baby marketing plan that tags you
in utero.)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Look Who Made The News?

The LA Daily News, Sunday Edition to be exact.

It's an article about the recent proliferation of "school consultants" to help frenzied parents navigate the often difficult and confusing school choices in LA, but also does a nice feature on my Guidebook in the 2nd half of the piece.

Here's a clip of it:

With so many school options, confused parents now are hiring consultants to help them pick the right educational answer for their children


Mania over schools

"...Opting to go public doesn't exactly simplify the process. With charters, magnets, lotteries and permits, L.A.'s public system is downright Byzantine. It has become so complex that Tanya Anton, a mother and musician in Mar Vista, decided to write a book explaining it after getting involved at her daughter's preschool.

The handbook, "Westside Guide to Public Elementary Schools: Navigating Magnets, Charters, Permits & More," is a nuts-and-bolts guide to public school options. It grew out of Anton's observation that parents were filled with questions but had no good source to answer them all..."

But the best part is I get the final word at the end of the piece:

"...Whatever its philosophy, the point is that public school quality soars when parents get deeply involved, and vice versa. Anton said she would love to see Angelenos return to their neighborhood public schools. Of course, that might put the educational consultants out of business, a prospect that doesn't seem likely any time soon.

"So much can change when parents get involved and local businesses get involved ...," she said. "That's what I would love to see happen."


For more scroll down to the 2nd half of the article.
www.dailynews.com/

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Mamawriters Unite!



Look who gathered for coffee and company yesterday?

Why, it's our very own RiversGrace, Jumping In, and yours truly with our offspring. Mamawriters and Bloggerkids unite.
(To be fair, Holly's kids were away with Dad, and mine looks a bit grumpy in this pic even though I assure you she was well-behaved.)

Seems Prema and I might be starting an on-the-way-to-the-airport coffee tradition although it'd be just grand to do longer visits with her, and it was great to meet up with Holly for the first time and put a face to the words.

As the circle grows, shouldn't there be our first annual Writers Life reunion?

Even though we don't know each other, we really (kind of) do.

One giant heart connected in space and time....

Thanks ladies.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Observations

It's been months, yes months since I've been able to go running. Life always seems to get in the way. But today as my body woke from its half-slumber, the following thoughts occurred to me...thoughts so vast and frequent they came two by two, as if cramming to get in the door before the opportunity would be lost.

Sometimes it feels as if I've been tied to other obligations for so long I will never get back to what I yearn I might be capable of. Still, it's all in the becoming.

As my legs push off against the pavement, and when it feels so hard, I am suddenly awash in gratitude:

I have legs!
I have hands!
I have thoughts I can speak out loud!
Thoughts spill into action
Unlimited possibilities
All in one moment
Released from captivity

Observing the path in front of me, dodging fallen branches, stones, or avoiding a muddy pit, I carefully pick my way across the scratchy brown earth.

Then grass, as soft and squishy as my thighs have grown waiting their turn. Not much resistance to push against. Cush makes any rhythm feel sluggish.

When I get to the concrete pavement, my body relishes pushing off something hard, solid, difficult. It's a challenge, but like all challenges I like that it wakes up my muscles after soft or picking. The challenge feels good. I feel my power. I feel capable. I feel fully alive. And I am. I am awake.

The path changes again and my legs adjust, just as we do in life when life happens. Grateful for the hard, grateful for the soft, grateful not to be in a pit, grateful to just to be here and be free to move.

I breathe deeply and expand my consciousness forward, backward, yesterday, tomorrow, and to all the hearts seen and unseen.

In every moment, possibility. In every moment, expansion, or contraction. And the awareness that when we are moved, even if we don't know how or why, open hearts rush in. And they do.

I think of a friend. A friend in the midst of change. A friend whose finely tuned words have both recognized and soothed me. Her words are music, medicine. I send love and hope the sadness has been washed away at least a bit.

There are words that come for her. May they be medicine too:


Nothing was taken away from you.
You created this abundance.
You can create it again, anywhere.
That's what being a Creator is: filling your life with beauty and abundance and wonder wherever you are, in any moment, in any place.

I am here to remind you, my dear Prema,
that you can create whole universes in a blade of grass.
I believe that and know it to be so.


Breathe in fullness
Breathe out anything that isn't love.
Your very breath is an act of love.
All you touch is love.
All you release returns to love
And opens a space for more love…

Let the tears cleanse your eyes so that you may see again.

Let go and let the river carry you on its journey…for ahead lie vistas unimaginable.

Trust that it may be so.


With disagreements, altercations, separations, culminations, physically and environmentally I see upheaval and change all around me right now. It can be perceived as great loss and frustration, or transition and great transformation. I am filled with compassion, for I have been in the sadness, in the wanting too, and it is a mighty current.

And, at the same time, there is always so much to be grateful for, and worlds to create.

Though not always on it, that is the current I will do my best to surf.


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Still Peachy


You don't have to go to Georgia to enjoy a fresh peach. No, in LA you just need a little patch of dirt, some sunshine, a baby sapling, and about 8 or 9 years. Oh, and the right amount of "chill hours" each winter to set the fruit.

Luxuriating in the peachy bounty our little tree has offered us of late, may I suggest we raise our Bellini glasses in a hearty cheers. The Bellini--a signature drink made from a combination of fresh white peach puree and Prosecco--is the creation of Giuseppi Cipriani at his infamous Harry's Bar in Venice, Italy, where white peaches were fragrant and plentiful. Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles were said to have held court among others sipping this delightful nectar, finding inspiration in its bounty amidst the grandeur of the canals.



Our homegrown yellow peaches make a delightful version. Sweet and perfumey, slightly tart and effervescent, the Bellini is a delightful summer sipper. And with one of those handheld stick blender gizmos, fresh peach puree is a snap to make. Just don't forget to skin the peaches first.

But another amazing discovery is the Peachy Chicken I referenced a post ago.


Take one whole chicken roaster, rinsed and patted dry. Place in a roasting pan. Slide a few pats of butter under the breast skin and slather with a good dose of (homemade) peach jam or preserves. Season with salt and fresh ground black pepper.

Then, chop up 3 or 4 celery stalks and a red onion in large chunks and add to the pan, scatter in a handful of garlic cloves in their skins, and finish with a few sprigs of fresh thyme and/or Italian parsley.

Slide the sucker into a 375 degree oven and roast for about an hour and a half, basting frequently.
The skin deepens and caramelizes from the peach sugars, but as the veggies break down and give off their juices, their aromatic flavors tame everything to a mellow roasty balance of sweet and savory.


Served hot or cold, this one is a winner. And don't toss those veggies. I eat them straight out of the pan standing over the stove as a "cook's treat." In fact, next time I think I'll add 2 red onions and more cloves of garlic to serve on the side of the sliced chicken.

Bon app├ętit.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Just Peachy

Summer's here. I've had a few weeks to slow down from the crazy-making pace of our May-June year-end schedule. I am trying my best to temper the "why am I not more productive" urgings with some "relax a bit, it's summer, enjoy some down time already."

Staring at the intersection of my life at this moment, I see a handful of potential paths in front of me. All contain a certain allure. All require more effort and self-discipline than I can muster at the moment. All require a decisiveness that seems to have packed up and left town. As I contemplate next steps, my "role," and what is essential to me, my family, and our future, things begin to get fuzzy. It must not be time to act right now. I am tired and need nourishment.

Honoring the part of me that is learning to relax into motherhood and by extension my life, I notice I have surrendered a bit of my chomping at the bit to get somewhere, anywhere. Right now I am practicing a quiet enjoyment of simple pleasures of my homelife.

I am finding joy in picking my daughter up from camp earlier than expected and spending time with her in the garden or teaching her how to cut her own hardboiled egg with a paring knife or discovering water balloons or allowing her to take her own shower and not worry about spillage. I have enjoyed re-reading Ramona The Pest with her nightly as they both prepare to go to Kindergarten. I have enjoyed watching her swimming improve almost as much as the times we spend curled up on the Big Bed talking about anything that comes into her little inquisitive mind.

Not trying to be either the perfect mother or the perfect achiever, I am instead trying to find the perfection in the moments and soak them up. They fall away so fast...especially if we're always dashing here or there.

* * *

Speaking of jam, I harvested basketfuls of fuzzy rose-blushed peaches from my tree today, (yes, peaches DO grow in Los Angeles and you're lookin' at a shot of 'em above), and made a batch of peach jam. Hooweee.

And, as if that weren't enough yummy goodness, I also made a cache of fresh peach ice cream that I think we all agreed came out most light and flavorful and delish!

I think tomorrow I shall rub some of that jam all over a chicken and roast it with a few savory items and serve it sliced over a tart green salad.

Now that's some simple pleasures.

YUM! Love the summer. Abundance everywhere.