Monday, February 28, 2011

Good Grief: Finding My Way Out

Grief
When grief comes to you as a purple gorilla
 you must count yourself lucky.
You must offer her what is left of your dinner, the book you were trying to finish you must put aside
And make her a place to sit
At the foot of your bed,
Her eyes moving from the clock to the television and back again.
I am not afraid. She has been here before and now I can recognize her gait
As she approaches the house.
Some nights when I know she is coming, I unlock the door, lie down on my back and count her steps.
Tonight she brings a pencil and a ream of paper.
She tells me to write down everyone I’ve ever known, and we separate them between the living and the dead. We talk about each one.
I play her favorite Willie Nelson song.
She says she misses home.
I hum a little and then close my eyes.
I consider myself to be pretty lucky.
********
For anyone who has lost someone they love you understand the profound effect it has on your life. If you are lucky, as I was, you begin to see it as an opportunity. Not that I would choose this as a method to happiness. Not at all. Only as a choice. After caring for my father and my husband both with cancer, and watching them slowly leave this life , I had an awakening. Not without a price tag mind you. I spent six years going from hospitals, to work, to emergency rooms and doctor's offices all in a blinded force that kept me locked in fear. I battled along with my loved ones but with a fierce and firm grip on some unknown reality that I could possibly have changed the results of their disease. In the end, the harsh and devastating truth won. Now three years later I can see clearly what a gift this was to me. I understand now that nothing is random, that my life is full of signs and symbols. That at any given moment the universe is giving me the best possible results. That through that experience  I have a new and stronger reverence for life and a fearlessness that would not have come about if I had not be present for their passing. In the midst of the sadness and deep loss I was able to see the beauty.
We have all heard the saying "live as if this is your last day". It may sometimes be hard to process when you have too many other things on your mind and much to accomplish in a certain time frame. Perhaps it is simply too abstract or demanding...what do I do? how do I act? Living each day to it's fullest has no particular look , that is the beauty of it. It has a feeling, a flow, an awareness that keeps you centered and able to be.Easy to say when the demands of life get the better of you and you feel anything but flowing. Consider this.If you were given medication from a doctor because you were told it would help you,most likely you would take it right? I consider living in awareness my daily medication.  It does not promise grand results only gifts beyond any I could imagine.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

CONTEST!

Next weekend's blogs will be dedicated to books and favorite book blogs and websites. Be the first to comment and list your favorite books, blogs or websites and win a chance at a Amazon gift card worth $10.00. Tell your friends!!!

Pancake Sunday

I have fond memories of my Dad making pancakes on Sunday. Mind you, I thought all Dad's did this, and in my day making pancakes involved using either Aunt Jemima Mix or Bisquick. I am not complaining the smell and the cakes swimming in syrup is something I will never forget. Now we understand that using whole grains is a far healthier way to experience pancakes and the like. So, thanks to a friend this recipe and the website it came from is a winner. You will not be disappointed. Check out http://www.myhomemadehappiness.com/





I use my Homemade Biscuit Mix quite often to make pancakes.  But I also love using this recipe for something different. And it's a nutritionally packed pancake too!  And the kids love it too!

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes

Ingredients:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oats
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 cup milk

Mix together dry ingredients.  Whisk together egg, milk and vanilla.  Slowly add all ingredients together and whisk until smooth.  Pour over a hot, greased griddle.  Cook until bubbly, then flip.  Cook another minute, when you see steam, that usually means it is cooked through.

Homemade Biscuit Mix

Those boxes of prepared biscuit mix sure are handy, but have you read what's in them! Hello chemicals and hydrogenated oils. Also, it can be too expensive!  So here is a healthy and cheaper alternative and great to have on hand for a quick fix!

Ingredients:

 8 cups flour (I usually use half wheat and half white {non-bleached/non-enriched!} or spelt flour)
1/3 cup baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup Earth Balance shortening or butter (you can also use any other oil -olive, flax, etc- and then store in the fridge)
*A quick note about shortening: Generally, shortenings are full of some really awful stuff, but if you need to use it, use a brand like Earth Balance which uses all natural, organic oils like palm oil and olive oil and leaves out the trans fats and hydrogenated oils.*
Mix together dry ingredients. Cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles coarse

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Wing-it Weekend

I have decided to devote my weekend blogging to recipes, ideas, websites, good books and anything I come across that you might like to know about. It's been a cold and windy day so  that makes me think about a good bowl of soup. This recipe came from a great website called http://www.joythebaker.com/ The web page design is beautiful, the recipes are inspiring and delicious and the photography is wonderful. Another worthwhile site for good recipes is; http://www.goodlifeeats.com/ Again, good food and photos that will make you drool!.  So, follow your nose and your hunger to these sites and enjoy!
More tomorrow.....

Lentil and Ginger Soup

serves 8
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped small
3 to 6 cloves garlic, minced
3 to 4 tablespoons ginger, grated or finely diced
3  cups water
3 to 4 carrots, sliced
1 pound French lentils
6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
grated Gruyere cheese for serving
cooked couscous for serving
Take some time to sift through the lentils.  Do it.  Sometimes you find little rocks and pebbles.  Those are bad for the teeth.  I found a rock in my lentils... check through!  After picking through the lentils, place in a colander and rinse with cool water.  Set aside.
Chop onions, garlic and grate ginger and chop carrots.
Place a large pot over medium heat.  Add oil.  When oil is hot, add onions.  Cook until transparent and slightly browned.  Add garlic, ginger and carrots and and cook, while stirring, for 1 minute.  Add cumin and cayenne pepper and cook for 30 seconds.
Add the water to the hot pot and scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pot as the liquid sizzles.  Add lentils and broth and simmer for about 45 minutes, until lentils have softened.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.  Finish with lemon.  
Serve with grated cheese and/or couscous.
Soup will last, in an airtight container in the fridge, for about a week.  Soup is also great to keep in the freezer.  It's a win.


Friday, February 25, 2011

On Being Colorful

I feel fortunate to have grown up in a household that embraced art and style.My mother was an artist and spent a great deal of time pursuing a career in painting. I have vivid memories of trips to art museums, galleries, shows and anything that had to do with the visual arts. I loved the smell of paint and turpentine and spent hours watching my mother paint. I was encouraged to use the real materials and painted my first oil painting on a canvas when I was 7 years old. How things look have always been an important part of who I am.The more color the better.
So, it was no surprise when I entered a Montessori classroom for the first time that I knew I was home. The colorful materials on the shelf, the beautiful art work on the walls, the plants, class pets, child-sized tables, books in the library corner and happy atmosphere all painted a lovely picture. Maria Montessori was a genius when it came to designing materials that spoke to the young child. Not only were they self -teaching and aesthetically pleasing but they were constructed out of wood and other natural materials. The children in a Montessori classroom are drawn to them like magnets and learn through their senses all that they need to according to their individual interests and needs. Does that sound too good to be true?
It is so true and so right. In my many years of teaching the first order of business at the beginning of a new school year was to set the tone and atmosphere. By placing objects of art and nature for the children to feel and experience and by hanging beautiful pictures and textures to brighten the space, I was giving the classroom it's personality and aura. The children could sense the moment they entered that it was safe, stimulating and it felt good to be in a space that called to their nature.
Children notice everything. The smallest leaf on the ground, the tiniest bug and the beauty that surrounds them. There is so  much we can learn from their perspective. So open your eyes, bring color into your life and into your classroom. Share what makes your eyes happy and the children you teach will thank you.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Seeing What is Right in Front of You

I am reminded every day of the importance of being present. There has been so much written and said about living day to day or being in the moment but not so much about how you do that. Most of my preparation for entering the real world had to do with planning ahead or making the right choices so I could get what I wanted. Usually they turned out to be the wrong choices but you couldn't tell me that at the time. I spent a great deal of effort regretting the past and fearing the future that any good that could have been happening went unnoticed. In that existence I was lost. I recently finished reading a book by Deepak Chopra, The Book of Secrets, Unlocking the Hidden Dimensions of Your Life.  I have read many of Deepak's books in the past and listened to his tapes, all of which helped me in my quest to understand myself. This book really struck a chord. It was as if every word was written for me! Now of course I know that is not true but what an experience to find words that lend a powerful message to where I am right now.....the present! He writes about what happens when the only time on the clock is now and what becomes your experience. "The past and the future exist only in imagination. Everything you did before has no reality. Everything you will do afterward has no reality. Only the thing you are doing now is real. "
He goes on to write that "when you find yourself in the present moment, there is nothing to do. The river of time is allowed to flow." I can't help but be reminded of my Montessori teacher training. Maria Montessori was so wise to understand the importance of really watching and observing to learn from the children. In order to be a good "directress" as she called teachers you needed to develop a keen sense of observation. By learning to observe, by sitting still and watching without involvement, you could see the true nature of the child. I feel fortunate that I had great master teachers who emphasized the art of watching. I found such fulfillment after a day of watching in different classrooms and taking notes. I would come away with so much more insight and it always gave me a sense of joy. I never tired of that exercise in fact it was invigorating! I now realize that those experiences trained me to be an observer.Not only in the classroom but in the world. By noticing situations, seeing people, putting myself into the experience, I become present.
The challenges are great. Our culture works against observation as a way of being present. The constant demands placed on our senses and our precious time make it almost impossible to fully experience our moments.
I am of the believe that the universe brings you whatever you need. I ask you to consider your present awareness. Remembering how fleeting life is and how rewarding it could be if you are truly present , not worrying, not regretting and not fearing what might happen. Just being and understanding that everything is perfect in this moment. Take some time to sit and watch, feel, smell, touch or write about what you see. Your moment will bring you a happiness and contentment that only can exist by seeing what is right in front of you.
I dedicate this to Maria Montessori in honor of Montessori Education Week.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Always More To Learn

As usual,I don't need too much encouragement to jump in and do something I have never done before. Nor do I require much time to consider or contemplate what I am about to do. Nope, not me I just do it.So, here begins a journey, one that started about a year ago when my life took a turn actually several turns.
I have my good friend Shahrooz to thank for this adventure, the blogspot that is and the title. She seems to think I have a lot to say or write about a lot of things. I hope so.
I have been a Montessori teacher for over thirty years. Hard to believe when I see it in print. It has been the biggest blessing of my life. The anchor and the heart of who I am and what I have learned so far in this life. Looking back it is easy to see that every child I taught and every parent I encountered had some gift to give me. Usually the most challenging in both categories. My hope here is to pass on what I have been given and hopefully along the way inspire or at least be helpful to anyone who is searching.
I enjoy humor, beauty, nature, food and just about anything that falls into the joy of living category. I have stories to share and much more to learn.