Sunday, November 29, 2009

Holiday Letters and Snarky Advice

The Spin Cycle this week is holiday newsletters. I know Jen had in mind for us to write our own (cause she mentioned that), but with one more day of nanowrino left.... Well, I'm recycling this snarky post from last year. Based on a true story...

I’m hoping not to ruffle the wrong feathers, but I just can’t get this post to stop trying to write itself in my head. So, better here than there I say.

Plus, since New Years is around the corner. I’ll be making some moves towards continued positiviality. (Just wait, that will be a new word someday). Might as well get snarky, mean, negative, judgmental thoughts out now before the regimens of healthy living get a revival treatment.

Anywhos, we get Christmas newsletters from family and friends and we love catching up on what is going on with those we don’t see often, or have lost track of somewhat. Cos, let’s face it. The people we communicate with on a regular basis – we already know most of what they would put in a newsletter.

One of the newsletters we receive gets a special kind of attention from my daughter and me. It’s like, “OMG. THE Braggerbooter’s letter came in!! Break out the tea kettle and let’s have a sit.” My husband gets REALLY PISSED OFF at us. He thinks that my daughter and I are being horribly catty and bitchy and not at all Christmas like.

Ah. Well. Here’s some bitchiness thinly veiled as advice to the Braggerbooter family.

Keep to the highlights. Four pages, single spaced, eleven point font is getting close to becoming a periodical.

Unless you want other people’s kids to not like your kids, have a little balance in the bragging arena. For instance, each kid’s paragraph should probably not be ¾ of a page long, single spaced. Try to make your kids a little bit human.

When listing the athletic accomplishments of your oldest child, even if HE IS an eventual Heisman trophy sure bet, maybe don’t mention every single award. Pick your favorite five.
If your son is so athletically competent that he can play any baseball position well, that might be enough information right there. You probably don’t need to go on and say how he usually is put in as pitcher, 1st baseman, or short stop. And then detail the highlights in each.

Just say you are proud of how well your son is doing academically while balancing it with all those athletics. Don’t give his GPA for every quarter.

Your son may be the most popular boy in his senior class and the phone may be ringing off the wall with girls calling him. It’s just not that cool for a mom to make it a part of the holiday letter.
When introducing your daughter’s paragraph, maybe a more humble beginning than “Son may be a hard act to follow, what with so many accomplishments, but daughter rises to this challenge and even surpasses her brother with her own accomplishments.

You may not want to call your daughter a “typical teen” and then detail that she:

Is the most popular girl in her class.

Played two sports and was voted MVP for both.

Detail a list of awards athletically and academically, describing the honor and importance of each award.

Say how amazed you are that she is an excellent dancer in jazz, hip-hop, AND ballet and finish this off by saying she is so talented that at her ballet performance they “saved her for the closing number.”

Hands down, my all time favorite in your daughter’s paragraph was when you equated your daughter’s “stunning and sophisticated beauty” with a popular young celebrity. It got even better when you proved your point with the anecdotal story of the family vacation to Disneyland and how preteens were asking for your daughter’s autograph (thinking she was the celeb). It was a little over the top when you finished this part with, “it was a fun preview of her future and what it’s like to be rich and famous.”

I could say more, like perhaps you need not detail your home renovations with the exact colors and types of hardwood flooring and granite countertops. But, my snark meter is having a fit and so I should end this fun.

A couple ideas to improve on the ol’ newsletter.

One. Funny works. Add a little humor.

Two. Be gracious. Balance out what might come off as bragging with a little humility thrown in.

One last thing. When you write that paragraph about your vacation home to Hawaii. Detailing all the fun you had. And isn’t it fortunate that you got to come for three weeks? How the highlight was spending time with family and friends who are so dear… Maybe you might word it in a way so those of us that you did not call while you were here don’t go,


Yeah, yeah, I know. I’m probably going to hell for this. But we do have a load of fun reading the Braggerbooter's letter every year.

For more spins, head on over to Sprite's Keeper.

Update. New links to bloggers in the sidebar. Check out the post under the sunset, you won't be sorry.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Travels Meet Gratitude…

I’m combining traveling with thankfulness; Spin Cycle with Travel Tip Thursday.

I’m thankful for my health. Thankful that, at 52, I can walk on the beach, jog a bit, lift more than your average bear, duck, stoop, stretch, swim, and body board.

I’m thankful for my family. My husband and children. My mom (82) and aunt (87). My sisters, brothers-in-laws, niece, and nephews. My friends who are like family and my girlfriends who are like sisters. My relatives who have passed and all that they taught me while here.

I’m thankful for my job. That I can come home from work each day feeling a bit worn out, yes, but also energized.

I’m thankful for my students, all of them. Those that make me laugh, and those that wear me out and teach me tolerance and patience. I’m thankful to be able to provide a steady income for my family.

I’m thankful for the bloggy world and all of you who have entered my life these last 18 months. For the times I felt support when I was down, for the encouragement in my challenges and in my writing. For all the posts I have read out there that have taken me to so many wonderful moments in all of your lives; for making me think a bit differently and for widening my perspectives.

I’m thankful for all the places I have been and all the places I still might see.

I’m thankful for the laughter, the tears, the excitement, and the peace of each different moment that life has given to me.

Wishing all of you the Thanksgiving that is right for you today.

For more spins on Thankfulness, head on over to Sprite’s Keeper.

If you would like to link your Thanksgiving Travels, or any Travels, this post will remain up through Sunday. Have a wonderful holiday weekend everyone.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Three Year Old Random Thoughts

What? Yes, I do realize it is Monday...

Between grading and nanowrimo (14,494 words, hopelessly under the goal - yet 14,494 words more than if I wasn't participating) blogging has taken a definate back seat this month.

While organizing my writing folders I came across some random notes/ideas I jotted down during my breast cancer ordeal. So I thought I would take Monday morning off from nano and post them.

The following are excerpts from a random brain dealing with breast cancer circa 2006....

* * * * *

The anticipation/anxiety at the beginning. How the adrenaline rushes the day of a doctor’s appointment was the same chemical imbalance one gets when excited about something good yet scary. Or like anticipating having to get up in front of an audience of one’s peers and speak. My heart raced. Light-headed. Butterflies in the stomach. Wasn’t a feeling of dread or sadness or foreboding. On the one hand, this might be a good sign. If my body and emotions felt an anticipatory high, any news coming that day must not be bad. The lymph nodes would all be negative. The margins would be negative. On the other hand, it could be wishful thinking gone amuck. A reckless clinging, or was it bracing, against another round of bad news.

* * * * *

Is all this necessary, or am I just a big cash cow? When I walk in the oncologist’s office does she see me, the person, or am I a giant walking dollar sign? A new car? A few months tuition to one of her kid’s swanky private schools? Probably the one my own son wanted to go to that we cannot afford. Perhaps the one my daughter attended but we pulled her out of because of the huge debt we were falling into trying to pay for it. It didn’t help when the chemo nurses continually dropped little morsels of information. “Your doctor always orders that shot.” At $6,613 a visit, chemotherapy seemed a fortune for someone, many someones. Huge debts for me, but I couldn’t help wondering if the only reason I succumbed was superstition. Going against the doctors advice would mean if it came back everyone could nod their heads at me as if to say, “it’s your fault, should have had the chemo.”


Is it so hard to see me as a person? Read my chart before you come in the room? Jot down a note of my wishes and objections so you remember, or can at least remind yourself, the next time? And by the way, since we are here on my dollar, maybe we could talk about me; I know way more about you, your family, and your problems than I need to Doc.


Hunkering down and weathering the storm.


Finding the root cause, because maybe it’s still going on around me. Inside me...


People say, “oh, I don’t want to burden you when you are going through cancer and chemo,” and they then proceed to tell me all their problems.


The problem with being positive and trying not to appear sick – people start making demands of you instead of appreciating you not being a burden.


I miss visiting you all, hope to catch up in bits and most definately after November 30th.

For more Randomness, head on over to Keely at The Unmom's.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

My travels today involve a sleepover in town... last night I went to the University of Hawaii and watched the Music Department's musical theatre class workshop style performances.

Here's one my daughter was in.

Travel tip today is when visiting not just Honolulu, but any town, check out what is going on at the college(s). There are often concerts, art exhibits, lectures, that are inexpensive and wonderful

Hope you can join in with a link to your own post about something special in your area, or perhaps somewhere you have been.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Of Heroes, Uncles, and Grandmothers...

I worked teaching in a high risk youth program for a few years. During that time, I attended several conferences /classes /seminars on working with high risk youth. Something that always stuck out was the resiliency factor. What makes one youth resilient and another not so much? Could be a lot of different things, some internal, some external. A factor that came up repeatedly was the mentor factor.

All it takes is one person who cares, who gets in, who gets it, who makes a connection. Of course, at the time, the point was being made to those of us attending the classes that we (the students’ teachers) could and might very well be that one person.

With hindsight, it made me think about who those people had been in my own life.

I knew in an instant.

Bahquine and Uncle Kent.

Bahquine was what we called my paternal grandmother. Uncle Kent was her oldest son, my father’s older brother.

My paternal grandfather I know only by reputation. He was a drunk, a womanizer. He was someone who was hit hard by the Depression. He left my grandmother and his four children right in the middle of it all. My Uncle Kent, who was in high school at the time, became the provider of the family. He worked two jobs while he finished school, getting up at 4 AM and working one job for two hours before school started. Then, after school, he worked full shifts in a corner market, sweeping up and stocking.

My dad was the baby of the family and nine years younger than my Uncle Kent. By the time my dad was in high school my Uncle was working full time to support their mother and his three younger siblings. He would not let my dad work as he wanted my dad to be able to have a full high school experience. He wanted my dad to be able to play football and he did, becoming quite the football star in high school.

When the United States entered WWII, my Uncle Kent who was nearly deaf since birth, joined the Merchant Marines and served his country. The house he bought in Los Angeles provided a home for his mother, his two sisters, and their two infants (their husbands were also off to war).

When he returned from the war, my Uncle never married. He continued to provide a home for his mother while his younger siblings all moved out and started their own families.

While I was growing up, staying with Bahquine and Uncle Kent for weekends during the school year, or whole weeks during the summer, was a comforting ritual. A forgiving contrast to the escalating drama of home.

My Uncle had a woodshop under the house and would teach me how to use C-clamps, saws, hammers, levels and screwdrivers. I was allowed to make projects at will.

Upon our arrival, Uncle Kent put up a card table in the living room and afternoons and evenings were spent playing board games and card games.

While my father was coming home later and later and was growing more emotionally absent from the family, my Uncle stepped in and talked to me about school, college, life…

Uncle Kent was my Atticus, never talking down to us and always making time for us.

My Bahquine was a sweeter version of Calpurnia. My own comfort station. She taught me to knit, to crochet, read to me, and most importantly, listened to me.

While my mother became addicted to Valium, drank herself into a fit, and spent more evenings than not detailing out loud to her children the ways she planned to commit suicide; my Bahquine admonished my fears of academic success in college and told me I was smart enough to accomplish anything I set my mind to.

While my parents fought and drank and became entrenched in their battles, Bahquine and Uncle Kent provided shelter and emotional safety.

My Uncle and my Bahquine were my resiliency factors. They are my heroes, my role models, and the people I owe for surviving my childhood.

For more spins on heroes, head on over to Sprite's Keeper.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Bucking Horse is Winning, But I'm Still at the Rodeo

A week ago I was within 1,500 words of my goal. Today, at 12,294 words, I'm 50% behind.


A weekend full of grading and prepping, combined with family obligations kept me from writing.

Miss visiting all of you. Trying to pop around when I get a few minutes here and there.



Friday, November 13, 2009

Pink Princess Birthday

The sunset link has been updated, go visit Beth for a heartfelt story...

Jen over at Sprite's Keeper gave us a free spin this week while she is busy preparing for Sprite's 3rd birthday party. I thought I'd use the free spin as an excuse to bring out vintage photos of my now 20 year old daughter and 17 year old son, along with some of their friends. They came out to wish Sprite a very Happy Birthday, whether it is a pink or yellow or princess or Snow White or Jasmine party. Happy Birthday Sprite!

May you enjoy those candles and make a good wish.

My Princess (on the right) says to make sure you get to lick the spoon and the bowl when making cake.

May you be thrilled with your gifts and the fun of package unwrapping.

If there are games involved, may they be exciting.

Cheers to you from the kids Sprite!

For more spins, head on over to Sprite's Keeper.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Traveling Thursday: Going to Hana Maui

We're heading outer island today...

Remember my friend I wrote about last week, the cool friend who can sing and dance...

Well, she lives in Hana Maui and I asked her to share the wonderful place that she is lucky enough to call home. She says it would take two or three posts, so she will be back for another Traveling Thursday sometime soon.

The captions under the photos are my friend's...

Shore break at Hamoa beach with my son and his cousin.

Historic first Hokule'a canoe arriving in Hana Bay to honor the passing of Samuel Kalalau, one of it's original members from the 70's.

Sunrise through the vog from my lanai.

Alau Island from the Loko (fish pond) of Hane'o'o. The largest in Maui. Fish ponds like these were used throughout the islands to trap, raise, and harvest fish for the village.

Tsunami of 1946 generated from the Aleutian Island earthquake wiped out my husband grandmother's home, taking the lives of Tutu (great grandmother), 3 siblings of my mother in-law, and an uncle. Seven other lives were lost in Hana and scores more on the Island of Hawai'i from this devasting tidal wave.

It's back to me, Pseudo here. I have to chime in and say that this last photo is the location of my friend's wedding. I was a bridesmaid and it was one of the most beautiful weddings ever.

If you go to Maui, not only should you experience the Hana Highway and Hana town; my tip is to stay up there for a few days. Rent a house or stay at the Hana Hotel. It is the most beautiful place in the islands, if you ask me.

Leaving you with a video of an aerial view of Hamoa Beach.

Link up your post to take us virtual traveling this Thursday, just use Mr. Linky.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Winners, Whiners, and Wisecracks

Yesterday my students were turning in a big project. While I called the tables up one at a time (can you tell I have been to a lot of wedding banquets) the other students were enjoying sharing their hard work at their tables with their peers. Although they had a new assignment they could have gotten started on...

I told them I did not mind their sharing instead of working, but to please keep the noise down.

I have one student who is just a very loud girl. A nice girl. A fun girl with a load pf personality. But VERY LOUD.

"Hey Gertrude," I yelled out towards her table, "bring it down a couple of notches."

"What Ms??? Why do you always pick on ME? Everyone is talking..."

"Yes. But I can only hear you and you are so loud I cannot hear myself think."

"Hoooo Mssssss. That's harsh. I think you hurt my feelings."

Her friend Stephanie smiled softly and poked her, whispered something I could not hear that made Gertrude whine even louder.


* * *

Gertrude's table is called up to turn in their projects. Two of them sign in their projects and I am left with Gertrude on my left and Stephanie on my right. Gertrude wants to show me some of the details of her work, but she is talking so loud that my left ear is ringing a tune that sings something like, MIGRAINE, MIGRAINE, WHERE OH WHERE ARE YOU MIGRAINE!!!

"Gertrude, seriously, can you please tone it down? My left ear is ringing and it's making my head totally out of balance."

I don't see it coming.

Quiet, sweet Stephanie has leaned in towards my right ear. And shouts to the heavens,

"DOES THIS HELP MISS!!! Are you evened up now!"

The look of shock on my face made their day, especially, I do believe, Stephanie. I've got a new eye peeled on that girl.

* * *

One of the best things about birthdays in middle age is the cards you get...

I love my sister Shaunna. Ever noticed I don't put up photos of myself? Shaunna has one up of us for my birthday post. Want to go check us out?

Hehehe. Like I look anything like that at 52.

* * *

The first winner is..... Erin from The Locals Love It

True Random Number Generator
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The second winner is...Brian Miller from Waystaytionone

True Random Number Generator
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The third winner is...Debbie from Suburb Sanity

True Random Number Generator
Min: 1
Max: 86
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Thank-you everyone who played along. I wish I could send you all a goodie box. You three winners, please email me a mailing address and I'll send out your packages next week.

My nanowrino is 11,584. I am taking this morning off to catch up on a little blogging, but I might not be around to visit too much this month.

For more Random Fun, head on over to The Unmom's.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Today I am 52.

I am a three year cancer survivor.

I am working on being a survivor (so far so good) of unbloggableness...

I am thankful for many things...

I am thankful I live in a place where on a walk on a beach like this is only a 30 minute drive from my home.

Where my children and my friends' children can bond on days like this, which can occur year round.

I am thankful that these two wonderful people were put into my life. Same goes for hubs, who does not like his photo on the internet.

My birthday wishes include wanting my children to always pursue their lives with passion and a moderate sense of abandonment.

But that they have the sense to seek shelter when a storm is coming.

For my birthday indulgence, I would like to share a prayer from a book that brings me inspiration. I know the power of postive thought and prayer, as I have experienced the effects from all of you who have sent yours my way during the difficulties of the last couple of months.

Dear God,

We pray for the leaders of this country and
every other.
May they not be swayed by false politics but
listen instead to the spirit of truth.
May they not harken to the false and bitter
voices of a frightened world, but instead hear
the angels who minister unto them.
May the world make room for their leadership
and resist not more their growth into greatness.
May their virtue sheild them.
May their lack of virute be forgiven and corrected.
May their words be true.
May their strength go before them
to cut like a sword
through all illusion.
May they see the innocence and brotherhood
in those who oppose them.
May they grow beyond a shallow fight.
And thus may we all be taken with them
into new light
new peace
new politics
new hope for allthe world.

From Illuminata, A Return to Prayer by Marianne Williamson

After one week of nonowrimo, I am at 10,582 words. Only 1,500 behind my goal.

If I am not around or not posting much this month, nanowrimo is why.

Everyone has until tonight to enter for a birthday giveaway. If you like what you read here, I appreciate your vote. I'm hoping to pull into second place. First place right now is Dingo and she is so far head there's no stopping her. Which she deserves as she is an amazing and witty writer.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Manson Murders and Matching VW's Part Three

Also known as another perspective...

If you missed part one and/or part two, you might want to read them first...
I had to call my sister up to confirm my memories. I'd been working on the first post, but was not sure at all if reading about the Tate murders and running into the Schnitzler's had actually occured on the same day, or if I only remembered it like that. A telescoping of events in my mind after forty years.

When Sis and I got to talking, I enjoyed hearing her version, her perspective of the trip. She was a month away from her 16th birthday at the time. I'm sending you over to my sister's blog for a blast into into the past of '60's rock; and part three of this little family story.

If you missed the birthday giveaway post, you have until Sunday to enter.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Traveling Thursday Equals Hana Promise

If you did not enter for a Hawaii goodie box giveaway you have until Sunday night.

I was planning on featuring Hana Maui today. One of my closest and dearest friends has made Hana her home for many years now. We met in 1982 when we both cocktailed at Bobby McGee's in Waikiki. She was a music major. After she graduated she moved to LA for a few years and whenever I would go home to visit family we would hook up.

Eventually she moved back and our friendship has morphed through many phases.

She was in a Flashback Show in Waikiki back in the early 90's. She was a back up singer and dancer for Elvis and she also played Judy Garland. I used to hang out at her house sometimes when she got ready. Daughter was a toddler and would sing on my friend's karaoke machine, pound the piano keys, and play make-up at the vanity. Not to mention sometimes Daughter and I would tag along and see the show. I credit my friend's influence for my daughter's musical theatre passion.

Serendipity? My daughter's voice instructor at UH is the daughter of my friend's voice coach from her UH days...

My friend is the musical director for Hana Performing Arts. A non-profit. They had a huge fundraiser on a Halloween theme. I don't know much more because I have been sick the last few days. But I do know they had Thriller rehearsals for weeks and my friend worked her butt off. There was a fundraiser the night before Halloween and Halloween night itself there was Thriller zombie march.

I am so proud to say the zombie front and center is my friend.

Enjoy the video and come back next week when I will feature Hana with my very special guide.

Meet cool zombie woman.

Link your Travel post on up through Mr Linky. There are no rules as to the definition of Travel. So take us away!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Random Number Generator Action

Ah Scorpio time. Fall is my favorite season and next to October, November is my favorite month. My birthday is coming up this weekend... I'll be 52. Can I get a WOOO HOOO? There might have been a time when I'd be lamenting the advancement of age, but I'm still happy to be a breast cancer survivor and grateful to be here.

And on the note of gratefulness, I'd like to celebrate my birthday by giving back a little to all the amazing, rocking bloggers who have supported my dive into the blogging world. There is so much I have gotten out of blogging the last year and a half, but the support and friendship and connection with all of you is truly a blessing.

The Hawaii goodie boxes seem to have been well liked by those who have won in them in the past. Some food yummies, some coffee, some exotic cooking ingredients that you get to figure out, with swap meet stuff thrown in for good measure. Since I am a three year survivor and since I am nearing my 300th post, I'm going to give away three goodie box prizes.

Leave a comment for an entry.

Leave another comment if you are a follower for another entry.

Leave another comment if you voted for me in the Blogger's Choice awards. You can only vote once, but I was winning over Dooce for, like, a day... It was blogtastic. If you want to vote follow the badge. You will have to register and it takes a few minutes, but thank-you if you do.

My site was nominated for The Blogitzer!

Speaking of thankfulness, EM from Life and Liberty has a great post over at Mom's without Blogs.

Another blogger friend of mine, someone who I have been reading since I began this adventure, has a birthday this week too. Today. Twenty-four at Heart is having an amazing giveaway for her birthday, Amazon gift cards, $240 worth. Go on over and wish her a happy birthday and enter her contest.

Because I am totally insane I signed up for NaNoWriMo. National novel writing month. We are supposed to write 2,000 words a day. It is only the second day and I am not only 1,000 words short, I'm writing a blog post. Oops. Another of my regular reads since I began blogging is Kristan Hoffman. An adorable and sweet young writer in Ohio (wonder if she knows Jan?). She called me out on her blog and I decided WTF. Over at NaNoWriMo they mention that we should tell people we are doing it so we will be less likely to quit. So I'm telling the entire internet -we'll see if this lights a fire under my arse.

I said I would write the bulk of the book last summer and spent 98% of the time doing research or blogging...

Hawaii goodie box birthday contest is on all week. I'll do the random number thing on Monday. I was going to say Sunday, but I might get lucky and actually go somewhere for my birthday.

For more randomness, head on over to The Unmom's.