Category Archives: parenting

Aging & The sweetest thing said to me this week.

Lately, I’ve been taking time to exercise more, and I have lost over 15 pounds in a little over a month (conspicuously, I guess, because my family keeps remarking on it.) It’s Summertime, and being a teacher, I’m soaking up all of this time away from the classroom to catch up on family and improving “Me.”

I also last week took just an hour away from my errand run and, after dropping my eldest daughter at work, diverted my path to a neighborhood salon and had my hair cut, radically by my family’s standards. It was just an hour’s diversion, but it’s notable that my family commented on my being late getting back to the house. I downloaded a handful of images off the internet, walked into an unfamiliar Supercuts, said a prayer, and got a cute, asymmetrical cut that my mother says takes years off my appearance, and which matches my upbeat attitude and go-go lifestyle.

On top of everything, one month ago today my second grandson was born, a beautiful bundle of long fingers and toes, pink cheeks and jet-black hair, and pictures of him dot Facebook posing with his elder brother, his sundry doting aunts, some still in elementary school, and his 12-year-old uncle. I am officially, proudly and loudly a “Grandmother.” And one who by all accounts still looks like she’s in her 30s evidently, since I’m told that all the time, although I generally don’t care about that. Much.

Oh! And my 49th birthday was this past week, kicking off my one year countdown (count-up!) to my Big 50th, which I’m plotting to spend on some far-away beach with people I love and who love me. Plans are underfoot.

Which brings me back to the first two paragraphs – about my body improvements and snazzy haircut:

My young son – the 12-year-old uncle of my grandsons who towers over me now and gives off the shadow of a man these days when he passes in the kitchen – my son was riding shotgun with me a few days ago, and as we waited leisurely in the parking lot for my daughter to get off work, I leaned out of the driver’s side window into the sun and looked at my hair in the side-view mirror, remarking absently, “Look at all this silver that’s popped up in my hair.”

To which my son replied quietly, “You know, Mom, it’s OK to get old.”

I gasped, a little shocked, and then got the sweetest feeling, whereby I asked him, “Why do you think I’m worried about getting old?”

“Well, you’ve lost all this weight, you’ve cut your hair, and now you’re talking about the silver in it.”

I smiled broadly, thinking that was the sweetest thing I had heard lately, feeling all warm inside that my son would try to reassure and comfort me.

Then I reassured him, saying I LOVE my new silver and especially the white, wanting it to be as white as Storm’s in X-Men, and that I was eating healthier and losing weight because, in our family, we often live into our 90s and 100s, and I wanted to be as active as I could, avoiding wheelchairs and hospital beds and continuing to make myself a cup of tea, and being that I had only just turned 49, I have a long ways to go, God willing. I can do some preventative work. Forty-Nine is barely out of our youth in my family. I said so with a laugh, and a glance at him in the rear-view mirror.

Well, he said, “Oh!” and was again content, and we continued to blast music and wait in the sunshine for my eldest daughter to be done with the day.

I thought that was the sweetest thing: Comforting me because he knew some people have a hard time “getting old.”

Do you?


[Re-printed from my Sidelines writing.]


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I’ll Be Just Grandma, Thank You.

We either love or hate our Grandmas, for the most part. I’ve found that most people I know love them, and love them deeply and intrinsically.

Whether it’s for their hugs or their absences, their cookies or their phone calls, their adventures away or together with us at their sides, their words of encouragement or the acerbity with which they castigate our mothers or our fathers, or even for their kisses when we’re hurt, there are not many I know who hold a neutral view of “Grandmother.” It’s one passion or the other, and grandmothers get to have a special place in our hearts.

My nine-year-old daughter asked me a few days ago as I held my newest one-week-old grandbaby in my arms, having shushed him easily into a contented twilight sleep in less than two minutes, “Mom, how do they know you’re Grandma so fast?” I don’t know. I just love them.

Especially since I’m often lately the “always running, busy, throw advice at my kids as I’m running to the laundry or out the door” kind of mother/grandmother lately, I sometimes wonder why my older grandson has such a deep connection to me. When it’s time for me to go anywhere, he doesn’t care that he has five aunts, one uncle, his mom, dad and grandpop in the house ready to play with him as Grandmom’s running to the door! He wants to go with me! His cries inevitably stop me dead in my tracks, car keys in hand, and make me sit for a few minutes more with him on my lap, having to explain where I’m going, that I’ll be back quickly, and that, yes, Grandmom loves him. It also causes me to have to make one more round of kisses to my children, including his married mother, just so they also know this. Then I run. As usual.

I often dream of my grandmother now long gone from this earth. Even when she was here, I felt deeply connected to her, and to my great-grandmother, and by extension, to my countless great-greats through story and spirit and imagined parallels in life. They were my mother’s mothers’ mother. I imagined them here in the Americas, on pre-Virginian green hills and forests where I was much later born, on African plains in villages telling stories and feeding children as I do now, on the banks of Irish rivers washing clothes and drinking tea on Russian stoops. All waiting for me to join them decades from now, hopefully in my nineties or hundreds like most of mine before me, to join them in their reminiscing and to be the grandmother often dreamed about, waiting for my children and grands to join me when they tire of this earth.

Back to now, running errands as usual, chatting at the grocery store and drinking summertime coffee on the front porch with my nine-year-old right beside me, I wonder at the women growing older around me who choose some other name to be called by their grandchildren, anything other than “Grandma.” I don’t mind the ones who teach the babies to call them “Nana” or “G” or “Minga” or some sort because they have fond memories of calling their own grandmothers such. I don’t mind anyone’s choices, really. I’m just a little worried about those women who feel that becoming a “grandmother” somehow diminishes them, makes them “old” (as if that’s a dirty word.) What a beautiful “old” we can be, if we play this time right.

As for me, I don’t want a substitute name. I am happily just “Grandma,” and it makes me smile.

[Another of my posts from  I’d love your comments!]


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Being American: Ripping Up the Roots of Racial Hatred

This week, while sitting in the early morning hours on my porch with my computer and morning coffee, catching the faint breeze and enjoying solitude before my children and grandchildren woke up, my peace of heart and mind were jarred by a website that popped up, the title of which I will not mention here.  It proceeded to explain and provide “testimonials” to the world of why the author felt no one should ever do business with African-Americans, why even giving them a chance to prove they are decent is dangerous for your well-being, and how black people are less than human as compared to every other “race” on the planet, even to the point of making fun of pictures of starving babies in Africa.

I was as mesmerized as I was horrified, the sickened look on my face drawing my children around me (and I had to shoo most away, although I allowed my 16 year old to hover beside me awhile and read, intending to try to mitigate the equally-disturbed spirit that was starting to close in on her as well.)  We are aware even more acutely than most that racism lives, being mostly African-American and Native American, with other heritages in our bloodline and married into our family.  Racism itself isn’t new.  It was just the detail with which this website described its hate, the mixing of superficial observation with close-minded tunnel vision and hatred.  It almost paralyzed me with the question: They hate us that much??

In light of what has been happening so publicly lately, with multiple shootings and unwarranted violence, fear, and anger, the answer would seem to be “Yes, they hate us that much.”  That answer, however, needs deeper thought and a rectified reasoning.  It’s not so open and shut.  It’s not so black and white.

The morning after reading such venom, to alleviate our heavy spirits it took an hour or so of family discussion, of remembering all of the normal and good people of all races and backgrounds in our lives, people within our family and outside, people who know and care about us within the United States and abroad.  It took counting our blessings and remembering ourselves and how we didn’t fit anything the website described about chronic lack of responsibility or bad hygiene or rudeness or any of it, even though we knew people who did, but these people are of all races.  (It also took my sending a quick note and link to CNN for investigation.)  After a while, we got our good moods and bearings back, and then life continued.

Life isn’t continuing, however, for the too many victims that have lost their lives because of the twisted mindsets of some Americans exposed to the hatred expressed in these websites. A sense of security isn’t continuing, however, for us parents who believed that our sons and daughters were safe going up to the corner store, going to that pool party, going to that church event, that the days of mysterious disappearances, of lynchings and of police brutality were long gone. They are not.  Emmitt Till’s story could just as well have been last week.

We teach our children to be respectful and compassionate, but we also teach them to stand up for themselves and to claim an equal place in the community, that their dreams and playfulness are just as legitimate as those of other races, because “we are all the same.”  They are learning a different lesson by the events of the past days, weeks and months, however.  Something must be done.  Something must be done about the attitudes, and the stereotypes, and the hatred, and the chips on the shoulders.

Well, I woke up this morning, and I’m in my customary place on the porch with a few of my offspring stirring happily inside the house, and I’m looking again for solutions.  I keep faith that, for every seething racist who paints black people with that toxic brush due to past experiences with a few bad apples, or due to racist upbringing or surroundings, that there are at least three who are not.  I pray this is true.

Meanwhile, if you are an educator or a parent who worries your child doesn’t get enough objective information about black culture beyond historical references to Harriet Tubman or current hip-hop culture (which is only a conspicuous piece of pop culture and black artistic creativity), and you are not of any African-American heritage, I have a few links for you.

Or if you are a person who has had one too many negative encounters with African-Americans, and you are looking for a way to stay human and objective, I am sending you a virtual welcome and tour of real Black people’s lives beyond the normal newscasts and “reality show” choreography and hard facades some may put up because they don’t know you either, and some of your behaviors may be interpreted through a lens you don’t have or even know exists.

These links are just one mom’s virtual hug of reconciliation and calculated steps in trying to ensure a fairer and safer America for her own children and the children of our nation, steps calculated to enlighten and to educate.  Please recognize that there is no One Black Culture, just as there is no One White Culture, due to the fact that black people like all people in America are often of many different heritages, regions, languages and lingos, and even races, if you want to believe in “race” as we currently define it.  There is a shared cultural experience of life in the United States, including a shared “Black” experience, however, plus shared historical challenges, etc.  Think American Salad vs. Melting Pot.  These commonalities have flavored our foods, our traditions, our perceptions and our behaviors in certain circumstances, and these are what I looked for in daring to assemble some websites to introduce them to you.

So, here are several websites with articles, videos or links to get you started:

They should open a window that will cause you to ask more informed questions, to see why things are not quite what they seem.

Anything to contribute? Welcome.

[Reprinted from my post at Sidelines. View additional comments there at]

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Posted by on June 22, 2015 in culture, education, parenting


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Marriage and Re-Igniting Excellence: Tending the Flame

[Another reprint from my Sidelines writing.  Enjoy!]

It was my extraordinary beauty that attracted my husband to me all those years ago, and me to him, beauty that, in our eyes, was excellent, or we would not have married each other.

I am not bragging. It is the same with any woman and any man who is married not by coercion or as a matter of convenience. Something beautiful therein lies. Something magnetic and excellent enough that either you or your spouse caused the dating wheel to stop, and you both began to play the game where it lay.

Are you still beautiful? What was his beauty? What was her beauty? What was your beauty, and is it still there? Was it your cooking? Was it the way you walked, or the way your eyes showed deep appreciation? Was it your sharp insight, or your endless patience that clothed him in an acceptance that never ended?

Again, what is your beauty? You need to know, and to keep tabs on it as it evolves, and perhaps as it changes. It probably will.

Marriage is a journey, an obstacle course of sandpits and steeple chases. Occasionally looking in the mirror, even gazing into one’s navel, is sometimes required in order to right a wrong course.

In my eyes, my own beauty lie not just in the shape of my eyes or the curve of my hips, although those are also where it lies for him. My beauty lies in the timber of my heart, the fierceness of my drive, the quality of my art and life as I greet life every day. I think he likes that, too. My smile doesn’t hurt, even though I’ve broken a tooth recently. Your broken tooth can be fixed, if need be.

I’ve learned, however, to recognize the times when I need to re-set the sails, to pull out the stilettos, to quiet the storm, or to make his heart beat stronger. Sometimes that knowledge sneaks up on me, instead of coming naturally to the fore. It hits me over the head after a particularly momentous storm has passed, a storm where neither one of us saw the clouds before they raged and blew us far from our course. After they’ve passed, we usually need to shelter a while to breathe easily together again.

Do you always see when the clouds are on the horizon? Do you know how to batten down the hatches? Can you learn?

So I’m going to ask you: Do you still make your woman’s heart flutter? Do you still go to work with a drive that is only replenished when you come home at night and plug yourself into her energy, your spouse’s welcoming arms? If not, is it that you are now on that plateau of busy-ness and disconnectedness that makes you aware that it is past time to re-spark the wire and add new spices to your marital agreement, lest you neglect it to a point of no-return? That’s an OK place to be as well: Aware.

So are you still excellent? Were you ever? Are you your best self? If not, it’s OK, because we are not always our best selves, and marriage is supposed to withstand those times, as long as you aim to be your best again some time in the (near) future.

So, where are you?

More importantly, share what you do to re-ignite that spark and keep it going.


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Impressionism & Ice Cream: When Kindergartners meet Claude Monet

[Reprinted from this week’s post of mine on at You can join the conversation.]

Like the crazy, eccentric art teacher I am, instead of greeting these last days of elementary school by closing up shop and giving every kid that comes into my art room free access to leftover crayons, paper scraps, and the broom, I decided this week to introduce my kindergartners and 1st graders to Claude Monet and the Impressionists. On a whim. On a lark. In a fit of madness. It’s Wednesday evening now, and I can reflect and say: It’s becoming a beautiful experience.

I first found a 10-minute video on Youtube of a nine or ten year old girl going on a “treasure hunt” for light and color, relating Monet’s ennui with the idea of copying the “Masters” in the Louvre to his desire to chase light and to freely paint what he could see around him.

This little girl, with her pageboy haircut and little girl lilt, a sound with which they identify, took my little students on a tour of golden haystacks and myriad irises in and near Giverny, France. She showed them the pond behind her school which reminded her of Monet’s painting, “The Japanese Bridge”, and she regaled them with painting after painting of flowers, flowers and more flowers.

For my second-language learners (most of them), I pulled up Google images of different kinds of haystacks, because ours here in Colorado are mostly rolled like a jelly roll versus stacked like the huts in Monet’s neighboring fields. I also showed my girls and boys, just for good measure, photos of purple and blue irises, choosing one painting, “Irises in Monet’s Garden” to start them on a little oil pastel drawing of their own, letting them experiment with all of the colors, the dots, bright speckles and lines that could be found in their own impression of a garden of flowers Monet-style.

My children are not finished, but they are having fun, and the results are telling. For teachers, these last dog days of wrapping up and report cards and boxes and wired-tired schoolchildren are all summarized in a cute picture that’s circulating on the internet now: It shows a neat, trim and smiling owl professor at the beginning of a school year giving way to a scraggly, worn-down version that looks like the raggediest owl from that 2010 movie, “Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole.” You know which one I’m talking about, with his crossed-eyed self.

Yes, we teachers feel like that now. Each day is excruciating. But, for the best of us, each day also presents us with children who in some way need something we have, and in my art room, that is the freedom to be creative, to be exposed to beauty and to new ideas, to have some freedom that other, more necessarily regimented classes cannot provide in a normal school setting. (Even today, a veteran English teacher dropped off some end-of-the-school-year recyclables in my room as kindergartners were leaving, and I could hear her murmuring “Bless you, bless you” to me as she hurried out of my paint-splattered, clay encrusted art space. Better you than me, is how most teachers feel about an active art room where kids can create freely.) Better me than you.

Well, tomorrow’s Thursday, some of them are going on a last-ditch try at a field trip to a farm, re-scheduled several times due to our eclectic Colorado weather. Unless it snows tomorrow (and it’s still May so, here in Colorado, it’s a possibility), my children will wait until Friday to finish their gardens. Some of their oil pastels look amazingly close to Monet’s work at Giverny, some have superheroes sitting amongst the flowers, a few have tomatoes growing and rainbows sprouting, but here, at the end of this school year, days left in my art room, creativity and inspiration lives!

My nine-year-old just asked me, “Mom, where does the ice cream come in?” My answer: Creativity and ice cream go hand in hand in my book!

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Posted by on May 29, 2015 in education, parenting


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10 Reasons Why Teachers Deserve More Money

[Re-posted from my Sidelines writing at]


1. Because they teach content AND wipe your child’s noses at the same time.

2. Because they spend hours outside of the classroom designing lessons and correcting your child’s work.

3. Because they stand in harm’s way to keep your child safe and alive in your absence, and sometimes die doing so.

4. Because they wipe your child’s tears almost as much as you do.

5. Because when you were in too much of a hurry to get breakfast or snack, they made sure your child ate.

6. Because they put up with parent bullies as much as child bullies.

7. Because they form a tight professional community to make sure creeps and perverts are quickly weeded out of the teaching profession.

8. Because administrators often develop amnesia when they leave the classroom and forget that classroom teachers are on the front line.

9. Because most teachers are degreed, highly-educated, and have a lot of experience.

10. Because we pay for what we value, and if we value education, we should value educators.

Your thoughts?

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Posted by on February 22, 2015 in education, parenting


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Word of the Year: FORGIVENESS

The Word of the Year is FORGIVENESS.

Of self for not being perfect, and of those who’ve hurt you because they aren’t either!

As noted previously, ‘UNforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.”

Forgiveness doesn’t make you weak. It also doesn’t mean you forget, or that you have to stay around the person who hurt you.


Forgive me if I’ve hurt or offended you before. I forgive you if you’ve done the same.

– Jenny. Happy 2015.



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