Weight On Me

This is like taking a topic and doing so very c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y. Gently. What are you weighting for? Show up to dance class fit, or don’t show up! How’s that for gentle?

As volunteer teacher to a group of students in the high school dance class, I became painfully aware of the disparity among the girls. Out of sixteen, six were too large (politically correct) to be accommodated by the X-large dance outfit. Dance catalogs don’t offer clothing any larger than that. Could the message be that a student larger than X-large is better served in another type activity?* The mandatory outfit was necessary as the class was to perform throughout the year wearing something that unified the individuals in their cohesive group. There was no other way to handle this.  To take on this disagreeable task, I proceeded at my expense (the students had apparently taken on a vow of poverty) to hire a seamstress to tailor their outfits. She completed the task, I paid her, and the students had their outfits. Three of the six thanked me, the others didn’t see their way fit to do that. No good deed shall go unpunished.

It wasn’t in the cards to see me, or the class, endure for many more years. Four was all I could manage before it became clear that this was an exercise in futility. And it wasn’t merely due to the expense this volunteer teacher placed toward making the outfits sized to specifications. But, today we are bombarded with how best to deal with weight issues. And it had better be politically correct. I can’t say much about the general population, but within the smaller population in that high school I held on to  my philosophy.

Show up fit or don’t show up.

*The railroad is looking for stout, hearty workers.


Make a piece of land more attractive by altering the existing design.

The task was already done for us. Just over twenty years ago, we set out to find a nice house to buy. This took place in the city of Rio Vista where we had already spent seven years living in someone else’s house, renting. It was time to make a move, literally. I had my sights fixed on a particular side of town. Some neighborhoods resonate and some do not. Ultimately, the side my husband favored left me feeling less than enthusiastic. Streets with uninspired property. Lack of curb appeal.

I have managed an ongoing philosophy in life. Be open minded. Okay, so, armed with that equipment I agreed to look at the house he had discovered. On this particular street were houses in the gray, grayer, and grayest category. No one house looked appealing by virtue of their exterior color. The object of interest for my husband was  white, blue trim. It looked rather small from the street. Upon entering this “tiny” house, I registered complete surprise. The house held 2,400 square feet of living space. Most of it was a testimony to additions built on the original 1948 structure. Remodeling. Amazing. Oh, and there’s a pool. Having grown up in Orange County with pools everywhere, this appeared to be a bonanza.

The total landscaping project completed by previous owners was huge. Grass, shrubs, tulips, and trees (a geriatric apricot tree in one corner of the back yard) cover the property. Two citrus trees were housed in large containers. I have since released them from confinement. I planted the two in a piece of soil where they were destined to thrive. Kind of like people planted where they thrive. Each year we send bags of oranges and lemons to neighbors.

This could not have been a more perfect arrangement. Literally. Repeating myself. I have never considered myself a green thumb. I have killed enough house plants to validate that self-assessment.  I have been transformed in the past twenty years. My property screams  “Look here! This is quite a refreshing site”.  Owing in no small part to genius landscaping on the part of past occupants.

Oh, because white is too close to gray, I had the painters re-invent our house. It now sports a sunny side up shade of yellow.

Coffee Evolution

In my youth the coffee pot was passed around among the adults. This is why I always viewed the beverage as hands-off to me. Grown-up stuff. It never occurred to me to help myself to a cup.

When I was 32 I joined my husband on an overnight trip while he attended a conference. The boys and I traveled together. Since I had not discovered the value of coffee up till that time, imagine my surprise as I took my very early morning constitutional through the hotel hallway during the wee hours.

Situated there in the main hall was a coffee cart with all the accoutrements. Smelled wonderful. Clock indicated it was 2:30 a.m. Since I couldn’t get back to sleep, the coffee cup, creamer, sugar, and coffee itself, spoke to me. Lots of sugar and creamer because I was a newbie after all.

Well, that was thirty years ago. Coffee has evolved and so have I. Currently, because it is still summer, I indulge in three servings of ice coffee daily. My doctor will certainly ask me how much caffeine I am taking in…I will answer truthfully and wait for his stern expression.

I so enjoy my coffee laced with Safeway’s house brand, Lucerne Vanilla AlmondMilk. Aside from adding hazelnut ground coffee to the regular, I don’t mess around. No Starbucks for me. No Peet’s.

I will say that an amazing 26 year-old Japanese woman, on homestay with me,     proved to be the navigational/coffee wizard of all time. She and I took to the streets of San Francisco. She had researched two generic coffee houses there in the city. Her goal was for us to stop by these two locations and take pictures. We followed her magical phone directions and arrived at the two caffeine venues. When I asked her why these coffee houses, she simply responded, “The ambience.” And, neither of us ordered coffee.

So, I come full circle. I was introduced at 32. I have gone through different evolutions. Hotel blend. Instant coffee. Folgers. Cappuccino. Espresso (too strong).

Neither of my adult sons, 32 & 36 years of age, drinks coffee. I suppose they are waiting for their hotel cue.

In Town

Never one to assimilate into small town atmosphere without kicking and screaming, I walked into the local grocery store incognito. For me that means sunglasses on indoors. I would have thrown on a green wig as well, but one, I didn’t have such a wig, and two, I really was invested in the shades serving me through my disguise effectively.

Forget it.

As I made my intentionally-swift arrival through the entrance, an acquaintance stopped me with the question, “Cyndi, is that you?” Busted. Obviously not swift enough to avoid her. Now, I need to point out that I have always considered it the height of bad manners to speak to someone face-to-face while wearing shades. Make eye contact with people. This time I had lifted the ban on wearing shades indoors. Recognition factor is unavoidable in the grocery store located in my charming hamlet, as evidenced by my interaction with acquaintance.

So, my efforts were futile. I had to answer truthfully, “Yes, it’s me”.

“Oh, were you hoping nobody would recognize you?”

Thank you Sherlock.

Once I had accomplished my errands I made a beeline to the nearest costume store. Walked out with a green wig.


It is alright to be polite, respectful. It is not alright to kowtow. Not everyone deserves, earns conditions ripe for pleasantries. I know of no other time when polite language was least deserved than during the exchange that took place between my husband and his school district superintendent.

My husband was raised to address others with “Yes, ma’m” and “Yes, sir” in a consistent manner. All inclusive. Nobody was left out of the equation. If you occupied space in the same room with him, or on the phone with him, he would include you in his homespun ways. What is interesting is the fact that not one of his three siblings adopted the same reverential treatment towards others. Maybe that’s the joy of being firstborn. Another interesting outcome of his respectful approach came when my mom — unaccustomed to this manner of speaking, quite foreign really — felt compelled to tell my husband, “I don’t like that (recoiling at the use of “Ma’m”) don’t say that to me.” Okay. So, it is not universally held as cute, quaint, or necessary. Lay off.

At no time in my history as wife to my husband could I have known a more appropriate time to call into question his language. The local school district, where my husband had been employed for 21 years, using no polite language at all, wanted him gone. With zero justification, he was to vacate his position as teacher at the high school. They were to replace him with someone else. And the process played out with no pleasantries. It was a bitter pill for my husband. But, there he was in the throes of leaving, objecting all the way and using “Yes, sir”, not deviating one bit in his interactions toward the one man leading the campaign.

I don’t conform to the concept that I must be polite while someone knifes me in the back. Life is too short for that. I say construct a voodoo doll in the likeness of someone who has betrayed you…very therapeutic. Have fun sticking pins in the doll. Add to the mix your penchant for punctuating your conversations with, “Yes, sir” and you are sure to walk away both polite and victorious.

A Ride To McDonald’s

My 14 year-old student, here on homestay from Japan, was seated in the passenger seat of my car, we were ready to head out of town. I pulled into the Shell station parking area ready to make my way to BART, our visit to San Francisco. I just needed a couple bottles of water, for me and the student. Once I had made my purchases, I returned to the car.

This has happened to me before, so I am no stranger to the technique. A young woman approached my car and ultimately stood within inches of the driver’s side window, like some welcome-wagon agent…only she was there with an appeal. Dammit! When will I learn to get moving swiftly? I know the rule but I became a backslider. I opened my window and asked the woman what it was she (apparently) needed. “Can you drive me to McDonald’s?” came her request.

I replied, “McDonald’s is right over there,” throwing my head in the direction and trying to sound sarcastic without sounding sarcastic. I continued, “You can walk there, and I don’t know you, I do not let strangers into my car.”

A weak , “I know, but blah, blah, blah…” came her words. By that time I had dismissed her need. I drove off.

On the way to San Francisco I went over it in my mind…all the potential for harm that might have manifest had I allowed her in the car. With my overseas student right there. “Mom, dad, I am in the hospital…a bad woman got in the car…and Cyndi…”

Be careful.

And She Weeps

An adult student of mine arrived from her country nearly two years ago. She is thirty-two years old. She has two small boys. By definition she is a busy, young mom. Traditionally, she stays home with her children. One son is in first grade and his younger brother is starting pre-school soon.

This mom comes complete with stories about her past life, the life that she had previous to her current suburban California environment. She has shared enough of her story to conclude that her life was, typically speaking, dysfunctional. Estrangement from her own mother speaks to that.

On more than one occasion, conversation has focused on her duties at home and within her marriage. She is stressed. There is tension. And she weeps. Her sobs came hard and heavy the other day. She said she is looking for balance. She covered her face as the tears fell. Sympathetic response on my part kicked in. I gave her a hug and attempted to comfort her using language like,”You’ll be fine”. Seeking balance has been an ongoing preoccupation of mine. I make every effort to avoid issuing platitudes with those in pain.

My student sobbed a few more tears and regained her composure. She thanked me. We continued the lesson. I have been seeing this student for six months, but I think the lesson has just begun.

All Grown Up

My kids. They are all grown up. Just the other day I asked my oldest son — who happens to be daddy to a two year-old — which stage has he enjoyed most, his son’s infancy, or, now? His response was a quick one,”Now”. I watch my grandson and I am reminded of many of the stages I witnessed in his daddy, Lance. I have to agree with my son. While infants are sweet, it is the older child that captivates. The crawler, and then the walker, and then the talker. Stages in which I can see real progress. An animated toddler is a source of entertainment. Ewan, my grandson, walks and runs throughout our house picking up the notepad and pencil to “write” a message. He lifts a favorite book out of its storage place and I drop everything so that I can regale him with the story. He pokes his finger into the space between the bars of my parakeet’s cage. I have to issue a stern, “No”,  and Ewan is sent to another room, away from his killjoy Nana. He sits motionless while enjoying a musical children’s video on his mom’s iPad. And, he slips his feet into the pair of tap shoes that he has learned are his.

Right about here is where the story takes on another leap. I love my adult children. I love them to a level reserved strictly for grown ups — this is the level that actually brings the greatest satisfaction. They can drive themselves wherever they need to go. Trevor, my youngest son, has driven himself up from L.A. on a number of occasions. He arrives five hours after he has left his home and I am not sure if that is a reflection of his speeding…with adulthood comes wisdom. They cook & they feed themselves. I so enjoy sitting down to one of their favorite movies, discussing the actors and picking apart our favorite scenes. They can take me to the airport. And, they can present me with flowers and chocolates for my birthday. Things an infant can not manage.

I am thankful. Collectively, we have made it this far. All grown up.