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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Time to Reflect...

on the summer.

My summer break is drawing to a close.  I started having back-to-school nightmares about three weeks ago, which is kind of early but is probably indicative of the great summer I've had.  I'd love this break to continue for - oh - about thirty years, but the summer was so nice that I'm not dreading the return.

Early last week I got my principal's "Welcome Back" letter. Friday I turned in my documentation of my credential renewal and my TB test card.  It's feeling like a go.

There was good news in the letter.  Last year our two new teachers (both fabulous ) were pinked.  One is getting married; one just had a new baby.  At the end of last year they had both been warned they probably were not coming back, but as of now they've both been rehired.  Whew!

My schedule is essentially the same.  I'll have my preparation period period 4 instead of period 3 (where it's been for several years) but otherwise I'll be teaching what I'm best prepared to teach, so that's a relief.

So, as I say a fond farewell to summer 2011, here's my fond farewell to summer 2011.

The first week of break I worked in the Fairy Garden.



I also started cleaning out the pantry in the garage, learned that two shelves had to be discarded due to rain damage (don't ask) and gave up the project.  When something is so frustrating from day one, it's time to put it off until sometime in the future.  WAY in the future.

June 18 marked the beginning of Birthweek 60.


My family gave me the best birthday party ever.  They ASKED what I WANTED (what a concept) and made sure I had it.  Everything was perfect and I felt very spoiled.

After a Father's Day break the next day, I was treated to a delicious Weight Watcher's dinner prepared by Amber.  Originally we had planned to spend the day watching chick flicks, but the day ended up being pretty busy and we only got one in (Disney's Enchanted).

The fun continued on Tuesday.  I captured Amber again and we headed into the big city.   We started by meeting my good friend Julie at the Autry Museum to check out their exhibit, "Skydreamers."  

Amber and Debi enjoying the Autry western heritage museum, Griffith Park, Los Angeles.


Julie (a pilot) and Debi really enjoyed the "Skydreamers" exhibit.

After enjoying the museum, Amber and I headed into Hollywood where we watched Super 8 at the ArcLight.

The lobby was impressive, but we didn't like the movie that much and - for all the ArcLight glitz - I have to say that our little Roxy is much more comfortable.  After the movie Amber and I made our way down the street for dinner at Miceli's, an old Italian restaurant with OK food and dynamite atmosphere.

We sat in the right corner under the window.  It was dark, so very cozy.

Piano player that night was named Brian (or Bryan?) and was hilarious.  I love when musicians make jokes with their music.

The next day was REALLY my birthday.  As always, the first thing I do in the morning is boot up the computer and head over to facebook to see how my peeps are doing.  When I got there, I had this birthday surprise.

video



I cried.

My son and I had enjoyed men's choirs since Paul Simon introduced us to Ladysmith Black Mombazo in his Graceland album.  I had attended a Los Angeles performance of Straight No Chaser in December, and after telling Garrett about it, he had done some searching on the internet and found The Whiffenpoofs from Yale as finalists on the show, Sing Off.  I searched for a live performance, and we enjoyed this group of 14 Yale seniors on tour (venue was in Santa Barbara).  Garrett corresponded with the group after the concert, and they generously and graciously granted his wish to give me this special HAPPY BIRTHDAY.

Once I got myself together, I got ready for my next big celebratory event.  I had decided weeks before that I would have a formal portrait taken on this big day.  I had a blast with the JC Penney's photographer and managed to get some decent pictures of myself to give to my family.


That evening my family went to Brendan's, a new Irish pub-style restaurant in town.  It's my favorite place to eat.  Great food and great atmosphere.

Son Garrett, Amber, Debi and husband Larry.  I got my entree free on my birthday, but would have enjoyed their Irish version of onion soup just as much.


The next day my son and I had a date in Seal Beach.  Tom Kubis leads one of my favorite big bands and they play the fourth Thursday of each month at the famous Don the Beachcomber's in Seal Beach (Huntington Beach).  After a difficult trip down (took three hours instead of the usual 1.5) we got there just as the performance was starting.  The food was excellent and the music terrific.  This youtube video was taken last year, but they did "Village Dance" when we were there.  It was my favorite piece.


That was Thursday night.  The next night was our scheduled baby shower for my first grandson.  We had shipped a couple of boxes of goodies to my son and his wife in Japan, then arranged to "meet" them on Skype for the unwrapping.  It was the next best thing to being there.


On Saturday I had planned to end BIRTHWEEK 60 with a solo trip to Disneyland.  And solo is just what I did.  What a great day!  Highlights included:


Being the "Director" (meaning announcer) for the Disneyland Band Disney movies book.  This is the second time I've had this honor.  It's the only way to get the coveted Disneyland Band button, but the best part is sitting next to the hilarious bass trombone player, Toby, for the show.  Artie, the conductor, noticed I was wearing a birthday button, so the Disneyland Band serenaded me with "Happy Birthday" at the end of the set.  They really know how to lay on the magic!

 Birthday photo with Mickey.
 

The new parade, "Soundsational."  It really is!  The Mary Poppins chimney sweeps are my favorites.  Great  choreography executed with high energy, enthusiasm and charm.  (One of them popped over to say, "Happy birthday, Debi."  Smiles.




And the super amazing All American College Band.  I think I saw this group a half-dozen times this summer and NEVER got tired of them.  I've been enjoying each year's group for about five years now, but this year's was extra special.

That was supposed to be the end of BIRTHWEEK 60, but hey, when you're having fun, why stop the celebration, right?

The next day my terrific sister-in-law came to Camarillo and we went together to see the hideous movie, Bad Teacher.  Cameron, really?  What were you thinking?  We were so disappointed in that movie with no redeeming value, but made up for it by going out to The Sportsman, a small restaurant/bar, to see Swing Shift, a local big band.

The amazing Don Tanner, 92, still swinging. 
I can't say it enough - learn what is available live in your community.  This band was every bit as good as Kubis.  My son is a fourth-generation drummer (and a damn good one, too) and he was blown away by Swing Shift's drummer, Don Tanner.  (To read a feature story from our local paper, go here.) Add in a wonderful singer and the fun of a handful of swing-dancing couples and it made for a delightful evening.

I had hoped to include my good friend, Suzi, during my birthweek, but she still had a week of work so I sacrificed myself by extending my celebration yet again.  Suzi and I started our day by going to the Monastery of the Angels in Hollywood for a loaf (or two) of their famous pumpkin bread (yum), and then to South LA for some See's chocolate fresh from the factory.  After a pleasant drive down the 405 (believe it or not; must have been the company) we had a delicious (and healthy) lunch at Andrew Weil's True Food Kitchen in Newport Beach.  (Don't know that it made up for the pumpkin bread or See's though.)



After lunch we spent a lovely hour or more at Roger's Gardens, a premier garden supply center (and more) in Corona del Mar.  We had a leisurely drive home along PCH, hoping to find a fabric/quilt store that Suzi knew of.  We found it, but it was closed for the day.  It happened to be right next to a Claim Jumper restaurant, and I was suddenly craving a piece of their chocolate cream pie.  Once seated I learned they no longer serve the pie, so I made do with spinach and artichoke dip with a hot fudge brownie for dessert (Dr. Weil would be so disappointed in me, I know.)

I suppose I could have called BIRTHWEEK 60 concluded at that point, but found myself in the delightful position of having not one but TWO old friends in town and available for a visit.  I met my friend Sandy at Cafe Nouveau, a favorite restaurant in Ventura on Tuesday of that week, then that Friday our mutual friend Maureen was visiting from Missouri.  I met her on the beach at Silver Strand for a nice visit.


Cafe Nouveau for pecan pancakes with pixie dust syrup.  No, that's not us but I do love to eat in the courtyard.
Thus ends the day-by-day, play-by-play (in the fun sense of the word "play") of BIRTHWEEK 60.  But the fun of summer break didn't end there.  No fear.  I'll just hit the highlights.

I read more this summer than I have for the last five combined.  At the top of my nightstand pile was Anne Lamott.  I read Bird by Bird (twice), on how to write.  I read all of her "faith" books including Grace Eventually, Tender Mercies, Plan B and Operating Instructions.  I read her novel, Rosie and have the other two in that series waiting.

Wonderful advice for writers.
I did a lot of yardwork, including (drum roll, please) finishing this planter that had been on hold for over a decade.  What SHALL I plant?

I discovered treasures in my garden including blooms on the stephanotis,

They smell so delicious!
and this year's crop of Monarch cats in the milkweed.

I started a jacket that has also been "on hold," this time for closer to twenty years.

Made of black duck with Christmas fabric patchwork, this will be done by Christmas although I did not get it finished before the end of summer break as I had hoped.

I wrote just about every day.  Some days it would be just a thought jotted in a journal or the small notebook I carry in my purse.  Most days it was Morning Pages, a habit I had developed as I worked Julia Cameron's Artist's Way last summer.  And sometimes I would work on one of the books I have on file - one an autobiographical piece and the other a novel.  I had found The Artist's Way so transformational that I decided to continue the growth process with Right to Write and am still working that process.

I had purchased a concert series of the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles and attended their last concert of the series in July.  I started that day with a lovely drive down the coast into Hollywood, then enjoyed a delightful lunch with my writer friend, Dustin (a very talented essayist).  The concert was called TOTALLY! and was a tribute to the music and events of the 1980s.  This group is brilliant.  In case you missed it the first time I posted:


Add another half-dozen trips to Disneyland with friends and with my Mom and I had a very full and entertaining summer break indeed,

As most teachers do, I took care of health issues with visits to dentist, dental hygienist and internist.  I went to the gym for my 1.5-hour workouts regularly, clogged most Wednesday nights and attended Weight Watcher's meetings most Thursdays.  I did not meet my goal of increasing my work-outs and losing 20 pounds this summer, but will finish out the summer with a loss and considering the "fun" I had, that's doing pretty well.

For now, I'm getting ready to go support my Mom as she has knee replacement surgery.  Her surgery is scheduled for this Wednesday.  I'll move in with her on Tuesday afternoon and stay until the 27th, starting back to work on the 29th.

It's much easier to return to work when the summer break has been so rejuvenating.

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