Thursday, May 26, 2011

It's So Hard to Say Goodbye...

The end has arrived; after 25 years, the final Oprah Winfrey Show has aired. I'm only half kidding when I say that I don't know what I'm going to do without regular Oprah fixes... 

Now, lest anyone accuse me of bias, let me begin by saying that I am well aware of the criticisms leveled at Ms. Winfrey. Sure, she can come across as a teensy bit self-absorbed (See figs. 1, 2, and 3), but dammit, I love Oprah.

Fig. 1
{Oprah wearing what appears to be a wedding dress to Bob Greene's wedding! For shame, O.}

Fig. 2
{Question: Who's on the cover of O this month? Answer: Oprah, Oprah plus puppies, Oprah times two.}
Fig. 3
{Did you know that she was in a little film called The Color Purple? Did you know that said film was directed by Spielberg?}
Ok, so humility may not be one of Ms. Winfrey's many virtues, but if my life were as cool as hers, I'd probably talk about it all the time too...

I realize that I sound like a total cliche cheeseball, but I really do feel that her show enriched my life. There is so much garbage on TV (I should know, I watch a decent amount of it), but the Oprah show was different. It generally operated on a higher plane, adding something to the conversation by teaching us, making us feel, or making us think. Don't get me wrong, sometimes it was pure escapism - I didn't learn shit from the Octomom episode, but I enjoyed the heck out of it. For the most part, however, Oprah and her team avoided sensationalism and rose above.

So here without further ado, in no particular order, are some of the things I have learned during the many hours of my life that I have spent with O.

1.  The world is full of amazing and inspiring people who have persevered through unimaginable challenges with smiles on their faces. (In other words, I have no business complaining about anything.)

*There was poet and peacemaker, Mattie Stepanek.
I remember my mom and I sniffling through an episode of Oprah where she was interviewing Mattie and his mother. Ms. Stepanek had muscular dystrophy and had passed it on to all four of her children, Mattie was the only one to live past age four. Despite his debilitating disease, Mattie had a palpable and contagious spirit of joy that I have always remembered. Mattie believed he was put on earth  to teach people that "we must remember to play after every storm and to celebrate the gift of life as we have it, or else life becomes a task, rather than a gift. We must always listen to the song in our heart, and share that song with others.”

*There was Monica, the mother who contracted necrotizing fasciitis after a C-section and had to have both arms and both legs amputated.
This woman was so impressive, I vividly remember when she said that she never had a why me? moment, saying only, "I did have moments of 'If God just left me one arm or one leg, life would be a little bit easier,' but that's not the way it went. You make do with what you have. I could still love my girls. The bottom line was I am still here."

*There was Tererai Trent, the Zimbabwean woman who was recently crowned Oprah's favorite guest because of her determined pursuit of an education.

This woman grew up, without running water or electricity, in a tiny village in Zimbabwe where school was a privilege reserved only for boys. By age eleven, Tererai was married to a man who beat her at the mere whisper of a desire for an education, and by age eighteen, she was a mother of three. Although the odds were stacked overwhelmingly against her, Tererai set out to achieve her dream of an American education. You can probably guess where this is going... If you have four minutes, watch the video to see how amazing her journey really is; this is now going to be required viewing in my class. If you have four more minutes, watch Oprah pull off her last big surprise.

*There was also Jacqui Saburido, survivor of a horrific accident caused by a drunk driver; Randy Pausch, the college professor who decided to live life as Tigger when everyone would have understood if he had more of an Eeyore vibe; and even Faith the two-legged dog.

Thanks, Oprah for introducing me to all of these stories that I might not otherwise have known. They have given me pause, reminded me to stay in the moment, and helped me to appreciate all I have.

2. The right bra can make you look ten pounds thinner. Also, Spanx are a gift    from God.
Ever since Oprah had the bra whisperer on, I have been obsessed with going to her store to get measured and find out if I'm wearing the right bra. Thanks to my observant and thoughtful sister, I am sitting on a gift card to Intimacy, the bra whisperer's very own bra boutique. So thanks to O and Mo on that one!

3. If you're ever attacked, you should never let them take you to a second location. 
I clearly remember watching this episode when it first aired in 1991. At that time, I was fairly certain that danger lurked around every corner (I did grow up in the tough neighborhood of Shelburne, Vermont), and I was eager for tips on how to escape death. Anyway, I have always remembered that Oprah's expert said that we must do everything we can to avoid being taken to a secondary location that is isolated and likely to become the site of our demise. When the moment of truth arrives and you are being mugged, carjacked, etc., you should throw your wallet and car keys as far as you can and run in the opposite direction. According to retired police sergeant Sanford Strong, the would-be kidnapper will be taken by surprise and will likely choose your cash and car over you. Watch out muggers, rapists, carjackers, assorted hoodlums, I've got your number.

4. Gratitude is important.

{Source: honor the gift}
"Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough." - Oprah Winfrey
 I think that I was in high school when I first heard Oprah talk about her gratitude journal. I have always known that gratitude is important, but Oprah really drove the point home. I don't always write it down, but every night I at least make a mental list of the many things I have to be thankful for. Apparently it was Meister Eckhart who first said, "If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough," but I first heard it from Oprah.

5. Education is power, and if you empower women, you can change the world.

Pretty self-explanatory...I have always admired Oprah's commitment to (and willingness to fund) schools, particularly those that serve girls. This also seems an appropriate juncture at which to give Ms. Winfrey a big shout out for her book club. On her recommendation, I have read and enjoyed: Where the Heart Is, White Oleander, The Poisonwood Bible, The Heart of a Woman, The Bluest Eye, A New Earth, Great Expectations (actually, that was more so on Mrs. Donoghues recommendation and it wasn't really a recommendation so much as it was  demand), Night, and The Secret Life of Edgar Sawtelle.

6. "When you know better, you do better."

{They were laughing at the hilarious joke I just told them. You know, because they're my best friends and we hang out all the time.}
This quote originally came from Maya, but it is one of my and O's faves.  I remind myself and my students of this idea regularly.

Friday, May 20, 2011


Things to be happy about:

*family fun time
My brother and his fiancee Erin arrived in San Diego on Tuesday night. Having the whole family together is cause enough for celebration, but having the family together while also enjoying Mexican food and a Padres game that the Padres actually win? Perfection. Michael and Erin have remained rather elusive, but I will be sure to capture them on film before the weekend is over.

{chips and queso at Miguel's}
{What the hell? Mo and Buckley - super weird, as per usual.}

* flowering trees
You have to pay attention in order to appreciate the seasons in Southern California, but it's really worth it when you do. All of San Diego's streets are lined in purple right now thanks to the Jacaranda trees.

*live music, specifically Melly Frances and the Distilled Spirits
I always enjoy watching Tom do what he, they're damn good.

*sincere apologies
The other day one of my students was being particularly challenging (that's the nice way of saying that he was acting like an ass), and among other things, he intentionally broke one of my colored pencils. In the moment, he expressed no remorse. I asked him why he thought it was okay to destroy my belongings, and he answered, "Whatever, it's only a pencil!" I was furious, but the next day he sheepishly handed me the following note.

{Clearly, we need to do some more work on verb tense.}

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Seriously, Arnold? Seriously?

I am deeply ashamed that I am about to publicly comment on this, but I just came across this picture of the Governator's baby mama and no one is here for me to gossip with.

You stepped out on this, 

so that you could have a shot at this?


Monday, May 16, 2011

Dog Beach - Coronado, California

If regular Lucy hangout time is Puppy Prozac, taking her to Dog Beach is like a puppy a good way. Hanging out with my dad and Midge was a pretty good mood lift too...

Dad and Lucy are besties...

Lucy did, however, attempt to expand her circle of friends to include some of the canine variety.

It was scary at first...

But then she got the hang of it.

Some of the other dogs were slightly less elegant than darling Lucy.

Lucy is not quite sure enough of her place in the social hierarchy of Dog Beach to go making friends with the weird kid in the life vest....
{Poor little bulldog.}

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Things to be happy about:

*free flowers  
Flowers are good; free flowers are better.
{Thanks, Storm Florist!}
 *Michael's     Oh, the possibilities in a trip to Micheal's... Like a loser, I went to Michael's on Friday night looking for inspiration for some crafty fun. The problem is that trips to Michael's give me an inflated sense of my crafting abilities and thereby a distorted conception of my craft supply needs. 

Of course I should have a rainbow collection of grosgrain ribbon for all my gift wrapping needs. 

 The glitter gets me every time. Glitter plus Martha Stewart's seal of approval? Yes, please.
 Embroidery floss? Maybe it's time that friendship bracelets make a comeback.
The stamp aisle is particularly dangerous because I have absolutely no need for stamps, but they're so pretty...

This fact is probably something to be sad about, but these storage containers make me ridiculously happy. After my super cool Friday night trip to Michael's, I came home and organized my pantry. I am a loser.

 *homemade cookies
In typical Katie fashion, I came home from Michael's with the necessary craft supplies for a new project and then promptly got distracted and decided to bake cookies. Sometimes my ADD is delicious...  This recipe for whole wheat oatmeal chocolate chip cookies is my new favorite.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Gift of the Word

{When I sat down to write this, I intended to just list George Dawson's story as one of my things to be happy about, but I got a little carried away with researching and retelling his story... Plus, he deserves his own post. I'll finish up this week's list of happy things at some point this weekend.}

 Ok, so I was watching Oprah today; that is not, however, what I want to talk about because she's leaving me soon, and that makes me sad, not happy... Anyway, in typical Oprah fashion, she presented one of those heartwarming, inspirational segments that renews my hope for and faith in humanity just at the moment when I need it most.

This is George Dawson:
George Dawson was born in Marshall, Texas in 1898. The grandson of a slave, one of his earliest memories was witnessing the lynching of 17-year old black man who was accused of getting a white girl pregnant. George was the eldest of five children and he started working on the family farm almost as soon as he could walk; by the time he was eight years old he was working full-time in the fields. When his aunt and uncle died, George's parents took in his nine cousins, so in an effort to help feed the now enormous family, George went to work on a neighboring farm when he was just twelve.  Mr. Dawson eventually ended up at Oak Farms Dairy where, in 1944, his boss recognized his skill and dedication and offered him a promotion; all he had to was fill out an application and the new title and a raise would be his. Ashamed to admit that he couldn't even write his own name, let alone fill out an application, Dawson demurred, claiming that he was happy in his current position. 

Dawson continued working at Oak Farms until they forced him to retire at 65. He continued to garden and do yard work for his neighbors until he decided to fully retire at ninety. When he was 98, an education recruiter knocked on his door and handed him some information about adult education classes. As Dawson remembers it, he looked at the young man, looked at the paper, decided he no longer cared if his secret came out, and said, "Hang on a minute while I get my hat!"
    He hopped in the recruiter's car and drove to the adult education center, which happened to be in the same building where his seven children, now all college graduates, had gone to school. There he met Carl Henry, the retired teacher who would become his instructor. Dawson had a brief moment of doubt when he realized that he was half a century older than the average student at the center, but he decided that he wouldn't let his pride keep him from doing the thing he had wanted to do all his life - learn to read.  

    {George and Carl - Source}
    Despite his initial hesitation, Dawson returned to the adult education center again and again. He had to start at the very beginning - with the alphabet, but in three months, he was reading. The first book that he chose to read on his own was the Bible. "There's a verse I love: 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.' Now the Word is with me. If there's anything worth being proud of, it's that" (
    {If that doesn't melt your heart, you are dead inside. Source}

    He didn't stop there; he continued attending school and started working on his GED. By the time he was 102, George Dawson was the bestselling co-author of his autobiography, Life is So Good. By the time he passed away in 2001 at 103, he had also received two honorary doctorates. A year after his death, the George Dawson Middle School opened in Southlake, Texas. 

     I want to be more like George Dawson.

    Sunday, May 8, 2011


    {While Friday Felicities has an appealingly alliterative ring to it, I seem to have some difficulty meeting that otherwise arbitrary deadline.}

    Things to Be Happy About:
    *my mom
    It's hard to put into words how amazing my mom is. I don't know anyone who is kinder, more generous, or more loving than my mom.  She is the most positive person I have ever met; this woman literally never complains. She's also smart and strong and brave and she can sing old, Lebanese beer commercials like no one's business.
    Thanks to my mom, our whole family got the travel bug, and thanks to her planning and scheduling wizardry, we have had some amazing adventures. Thanks to my mom, I think getting lost can be fun. Thanks to my mom, I leave lengthy, highly informative voice mail messages. Thanks to my mom, I celebrate small things. Thanks to my mom, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt and I try to have patience with the rude, the ignorant, and the incompetent. Although, my mom would never be so judgey as to label people as rude, ignorant, or incompetent. 

    My mom is also a big part of the reason that I believe so strongly in trying to somehow be of service to others. I've mentioned it before, but a big part of my childhood memories of my mom involve her being of service to others. I remember her spending weekday mornings helping with the therapeutic massage treatments of a friend's injured child. I remember my siblings and I riding around town with her, picking up leftover pastries from local restaurants and delivering them to the food shelf. And, how could I forget Carol, the developmentally disabled woman whom my mother took shopping, drove to bingo, and basically adopted. My mom didn't have to preach or lecture to teach her children the importance of service and selflessness; all we had to do was spend a day with her.  

    So many women joke about being afraid of turning into their mothers; I, however, am afraid that I won't.
    Happy Mother's Day, Mama!

    *my 'hood
    I miss living in Coronado, but I do love Hillcrest. I am proud to live in a diverse neighborhood where everyone is welcome.

    I also love that I can walk just about anywhere including: the farmer's market, a gourmet cheese shop, and outdoor movie theater, and a novelty store that sells tasteless t-shirts and Albert Einstein action figures.

    {The Maltese Falcon at the Starlight Theater}

    *discovering random weirdness
    I was walking home from the library earlier this week when I discovered this ridiculous sign. Actually, discovered isn't the right word since I drive past it every day and had taken it for your average pedestrian crossing sign. This Tuesday, however, I walked by and really noticed the sign for the first time. It seems that the city is commenting on the particular type of pedestrians who are likely to cross at this particular junction. I must also point out that this sign sits at the corner of the street that one would take to get to the Canyon of Despair and the horrible apartment we almost inhabited.

    {vagrant crossing?}