Category Archives: School

Nurturing Creativity


You know, you don’t have to spend a ton of money in order to do something creative each day, and I think that it’s very important to do something….anything that is creative, each and every day.  We are teaching this lesson to Ingrid, who  often goes out with me for duo photo shoots.

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The object is to stroll down Division Street in Portland, and to photograph every letter of the alphabet sequentially.  These photos are then sold, via Ingrid’s own Amazon account, and are used by collage (and other) artists in their work.  While it’s nice that Ingrid can earn a little pocket money, the more important lesson for her is the art of looking.  This exercise makes her look closely at things, and to really examine and think about them.  This sign was a good example.  She read every word of it, and we had a great talk about it along our way.

Each letter forms its own complete composition.  We discuss things like color, shape, form, edges and other aspects of the design so that Ingrid can get a better overall picture of what the project is about.  She does really well, too!

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It usually takes us around 2 hours to capture the entire alphabet.  There are some tough letters, such as “Q” that can be difficult to find.  We also have a rule that once a letter is photographed from a specific window, one can’t photgraph that same letter from the same window again, so this adds more of a challenge.   I got her this little Pentax camera for Christmas.  She’s so proud of it, and takes very good care of it.

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Sometimes the letters come out fuzzy and out of focus….but that’s ok, too.

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Ta-Daaaaaaaaa!  If you are an artist and would like to use any of the photos in this post only, please feel free.  These photos are not up to our usual high standards, but some of the images are nice.  (I particularly liked the composition of the letter “B”.)


Retreats, Yoga….and


I went location scouting for a place to hold my first retreat yesterday and ended up at a cool place in Damascus, Oregon.  Scenic location…beautiful sanctuary, dining hall, great vegetarian catering…many many good features.  This might be the place.  Still looking. screen-shot-2016-09-20-at-12-53-49-pm

Started a new yoga class last night that was unlike any I’d participated in previously.  Really enjoyed it.  The theme was focused on gratitude, which we talked a little about as participants, and tried to integrate it into our practice.   I have so much to be grateful for in this life, and it seems to just get better and better, as I settle into this heartfelt happiness.  All areas of my life have improved over the last year.  My friendships/relationships/the family I have here….all so good and better and   best.  Really. I am so thankful.


The yoga was an hour and a half, and by the end of it, I had begun to feel slightly nauseated. Thankfully, I live nearby, so rushed home and no sooner walked in the door when I got very sick. I investigated why that would have happened after yoga, and it said that sometimes the liver is prompted to release toxins during yoga. I threw up because I was poisoned by these toxins. Today, I feel a little “meepy” (as my old friend, Peggy Spott used to say), but better.

So today was a productive day, work-wise.  I fulfilled some interesting writing orders about various subjects….”the dangers of Aspertame”, “coping with loss,” “how drones can be used in the construction industry…” Just enough to earn a few bucks and get my brain charged up.

Anyway….namaste….and until next time…be sweet now.

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Happy Leap Day…well, I think…


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On this, the last day of February, I recall how I used to pity those poor kids who could only celebrate their birthdays on the actual date, every couple of years.  I felt uncomfortable about the ambiguous nature of the leap year birthday. I mean, those poor kids had to hesitate and figure out an understandable response to the question, “How old are you?”.

I have always had a distaste for ambiguity.  Therefore, I ask a lot of questions.  (Liars HATE it that I ask a lot of questions.  I catch them off guard, it seems…)  I ask people a lot of questions, not because I’m nosy but because when I have all the facts about a given situation, I can make better decisions for myself.  It isn’t a judgement issue.  It’s more like:  “If you’re going to do this….then I’m going to do that.”   “If you are going to call back later, I’ll leave my phone on.  If not, I’ll turn it off so I won’t be disturbed while I work.”  It isn’t that I’m asking someone TO call back.  Whatever their decision about this is, will be fine with me.  I just want to know one way or the other so I can take action accordingly.

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Turns out that science has now substantiated why ambiguity bugs me ( or all of us) as much as it does.   The phenomenon  actually screws with our heads.   According to a study published in the Journal of Science, the reason lies in how the brain responds emotionally, and sometimes, even illogically, when forced to make decisions based on conflicting or little evidence.   These so-called ambiguous decisions are different from decisions that we think of as risky decisions.  No wonder the person who is being lied to, for example, appears so nutty to the rest of the world. That person is being fed conflicting information.   The heart hears what it wants to hear, but the head says, “Um….hold on there just a minute….That doesn’t make sense!”

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Wait….If it looks like a duck…then, it IS a duck….but it also looks like a rabbit.  Which do I choose?

When faced with a risky decision, one  is not sure about the outcome of a particular choice but can have a notion about the probability of success. In an ambiguous decision, a person is ignorant of both factors.  Thus, the uncomfortable feeling….the uncertainty, and sometimes illogical and absurd behaviors.

Brain specialists  would say ambiguity is the discomfort from knowing there is something you don’t know that you wish you did.  This probably stems back to the fight or flight area of the brain, the hippocampus, and is a matter of survival.   In the previously mentioned experiment,  subjects were given the opportunity to place  ambiguous bets while their brains were scanned using a functional magnetic resonance imager (fMRI).  In this part of the experiment, participants  were given the choice between placing a monetary bet  on the chances of drawing a red card from a “risky” deck that had 20 red cards and 20 black cards…that is, where the probability of choosing either color was 50-50, and making the same bet with an “ambiguous” deck where the color composition of the cards was unknown.

In the majority of  cases, the participants  decided  to place the risky bet. Logically, however, both bets would have been equally good because in both cases, the chance of pulling a red card on the first draw was 50-50.

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The brain scans taken during the experiment revealed that ambiguous betters were often accompanied by activation of the parts of the brain known as the amygdala and the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC).  These are  two areas of the brain that are involved in the whole emotions processing thing.   The  amygdala has been found to be closely associated with fear, which, again, harkens back to being in survival mode.   If you think about it, a correlation between aversion to ambiguous decisions and activation of emotional parts of the brain makes  perfect sense from an evolutionary point of view.  Do I go into that dark cave or don’t I?  Well, first, I need to know if a saber toothed tiger is in there, right?  And I’m going to be a little nervous about it until I find out.  Should I leave my boyfriend or not….Well, first, I need to find out if he really IS cheating on me.  In the modern human brain, this translates into a reluctance to bet on or against an event if it seems at all ambiguous.

The results of this study could help those of us in the field of Psychology,  understand how humans make decisions in the real world, because the choices people make are often based on very limited information.  (i.e…..All signs point to cheating, but he denies it….or I’m not going to walk into that dark cave if there’s a tiger in there, because it will eat me alive. )

Makes sense to me.

Anyway….Happy Birthday, Leapers…er…Leap Yearlings…um…people whose birthdays are on leap year.  Here’s a nice mug.  Have some coffee.

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It’s Official! 


There is no greater feeling in life than accomplishing a goal that one has worked hard to achieve….well, maybe seeing my daughter receive HER masters degree was a greater feeling, but this is a significant personal milestone and I’m feeling pretty good about it today.  Congratulations, me. 😀  

Day 23 – Good Times



I’ll Have the 3-D Printed Luncheon Special, S’il Vous Plait

I’ll Have the 3-D Printed Luncheon Special, S’il Vous Plait

“Don’t expect to see this in your grocery store anytime soon.   One Dutch food designer thinks 3D printing with living organisms could be the future of sustainable food, creating crackers that sprout greens and mushrooms days after they’re 3D-printed into existence.

“A 3D-printer builds cracker-like structures made with seeds, spores, and yeast,” Yahoo Food explains. “In three to four days, when the seeds and spores have fully sprouted, it’s snack time.” The project is intended to demonstrate “how 3D printing could transform the food industry.” Designer Chloé Rutzerveld argues that by 3D printing food “you can make the [food] production chain very short,” with less transportation and land requirements.


While Rutzerfeld estimates it will be least eight to ten years before foods like this could hit the market, other companies are already utilizing 3D printing for other culinary endeavors. Chocolate giant Hershey’s will soon install a 3D printer at its Pennsylvania headquarters to enable customers to create custom-shaped chocolates, while tech companies have invented printers capable of extruding everything from Nutella to pastry dough.  ”   (end)

As with everything, there are positive and productive ways to use 3-D printers, just as there are negative ways.  People are already making guns out of them and doing other potentially dangerous things, but the good they can do is amazing.  Entire countries can be changed with this technology, which, in addition to being utilized in the food industry,  is being applied in the medical industry, in education and in other areas.  It has tremendous potential to make the world a better place.

Hats off to the inventors of 3-D printing technology!

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A Waltz on the Forensics Dance Floor



How many of you love television programs that have to do with crime solving?  Shows such as CSI, Dateline and others that entail looking inside the heads of criminals are quite interesting.  They tend to hook their audiences by providing clues that audience members can easily fit together to solve the crimes from home.  When I signed up for a Forensic Psychology class this term, I thought this was what I would be doing.  In reality, crime solving is only a tiny aspect of being a forensic psychologist.  The discipline is so much more than these highly publicized sensational aspects.  The rest involves a fusion of psychology and technical law that can easily confuse even the most astute student.


A lot of people equate forensic psychology with forensic science or law enforcement.  They tend to think that the forensic psychologist arrives at a crime scene, surveys the area and eventually identifies a number of psychological clues that can help catch the bad guy.  These things that you see on TV easily lead to a number of incorrect conclusions about what Forensic Psychology is. In fact, psychologists are rarely called upon to act in this capacity at all.


Simply stated, Forensic Psychology refers to any application of psychology to the legal system. Most often it is clinical psychology, but not always.   There are different ethical standards regarding confidentiality and other issues that apply in the forensics field, as opposed to therapeutic psychology work, and forensic psychologists take completely different approaches to their clients than therapeutic psychologists do.  Some might even argue that the intersection between psychology and the law is more like a collision than a fusion.

The work that I am currently conducting is a case analysis of a Muslim immigrant who was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic.  He lived on the streets and was arrested and jailed for trespassing.  While in jail, he was given anti-psychotic medication for his mental illness.  However, upon his release back into the streets, he discontinued taking the medication.  He began to suffer visual and audio hallucinations and to believe that Nazi youth were coming to assassinate  him.  One night, as he was asleep on a park bench, he was, indeed, attacked by a gang of hoodlums.  They beat him, kicked him and left him lying on the ground, but he was not seriously injured.  After they left, the man searched until he found a pipe which he stashed in the shadows for his own protection.

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The next morning, the man saw two young teenaged boys approaching from the park’s pathway.  They were on their way to a music lesson.


Thinking they were the youths who had attacked him the night before, and believing they had returned to kill him, he sneaked up behind them and began to wield the pipe wildly.  He struck the elder boy in the head knocking him to the ground before he began to repeatedly beat the younger brother.  The elder brother was able to escape and seek assistance.  When the police arrived, the man had bludgeoned the younger brother to death and was continuing to beat his lifeless body as he lay on the ground.  The man went completely limp when he was apprehended by the police and did not resist arrest.

The man was evaluated, deemed incompetent to be tried and committed to a mental health care facility where he underwent pharmaceutical therapy for the paranoid schizophrenia.  After 6 months of treatment, he was reevaluated and deemed competent to stand trial.   He was tried and convicted of capital murder.  It is my job to determine whether or not he qualifies for and should get the death penalty.

This brings up countless ethical issues with me.  I am an avid opponent of the death penalty for many reasons.  First, it is unfair.  Ethnic minorities are more often convicted and sentenced to death for the same crimes when non-minorities receive lesser sentences.  It costs more to execute a prisoner than to give one life in prison.  Death of the criminal does not bring back the victim.  There are just too many reasons to say, in full, why I oppose it on legal and ethical grounds.  However, my personal opinions do not count in this instance.  Only my professional ones do.

I have to consider what the prisoner needs, in terms of his rights being observed.  I have to consider what the state needs, in terms of keeping the streets safe, and I have to consider what the court needs, in terms of arriving at a just solution.  It is a lot to think about, and there are so many laws and legal loopholes and psychological issues and ethical standards to consider that it really makes my head swim!

I do not believe I will pursue a career in Forensic Psychology…..but this is an interesting class, nonetheless.

When Someone You Love Succeeds

When Someone You Love Succeeds

I have to admit it.  Personal success feels great.  Each time I accomplish something that sets me one step closer to my goals, I feel elated.  However, that feeling pales in comparison to the emotions I experience when someone I love achieves success, be it a friend or a family member.  That’s right.  I take more joy in seeing someone I love succeed than I take in my own accomplishments.  For instance, yesterday, I received this email from my husband, John:


My Dearest Wife,

Early this morning,  I received the news that my “The Merchant of Pittsburgh: A Comedy” was selected to kick-off San Francisco Dramatists Guild’s  spring Footlights, staged-playreading series on March 2nd.

Attached is the invitation that will be sent out from New York in a few days.

Love to you,


SAN FRANCISCO FOOTLIGHTS – March 2, 2015 presentation.

Please join the Dramatists Guild for a staged-reading of John Freed’s


“The Merchant of Pittsburgh: A Comedy”


on Monday, March 2 at 7PM
Tides Theatre
533 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA


Play Synopsis:

“The Merchant of Pittsburgh: A Comedy” is set in an Equity-based, regional theatre in the late eighties and concerns a fed-up Jewish board member who takes over as acting artistic director in order to stage a Shylock-friendly production of “The Merchant of Venice” while being forced to confront his own set of racial and ethnic prejudices.


                        “A brilliant mashup of Shakespeare and August Wilson.”   Arno Selco, Ithaca College



John Freed’s Brief Bio:
East Coast native by birth, the high point of his acting career occurred at age seventeen playing the lead in “Kiss me, Kate.” He received a standing ovation for his fireman’s carry off-stage of  his co-star after her slap nearly knocked him out at the close of Act One.
Fast forward to teaching dramatic literature, especially Shakespeare,  at Penn State as well as being the theater critic for the “Erie Daily Times” and film critic for New York’s “OneWorld Magazine.” He adapted Richard Wright’s novella “The Man Who Lived Underground” as a radio play produced by the local National Public Radio station and co-wrote “When Shakespeare Was a Woman” while functioning as pro bono drama consultant for the artistic director of the Pittsburgh Public Theatre.
His own writing evolved further from developing a series of creative writing and new media courses at the University of St. Thomas in Texas and at Brandman / Chapman University here in the Bay area.   During this time he wrote  “Love me, Fuseli: A Play about Mary Wollstonecraft and her Circle of Friends” and “Figaro’s Follies” – a new adaption of  Beaumarchais’ “Le Mariage de Figaro” which had staged-readings by the EastBay Players in the fall of 2014.


He is currently working on the book and lyrics for a musical entitled “All Hallows at Hearst Castle” with composer, Jeff Dunn.

John bi-locates to Portland, Oregon where his wife, Stacy Alexander, is a graduate student, a professional writer and a mixed media artist.  His playwright website is .


Dramatists Guild’s San Francisco


My response to John:

To My Most Admirable Husband,
So, once again, a public acknowledgement and congratulations in the midst of many, my darling.   What an honor for your play to kick off the season!  There are insufficient words to convey how proud of you I am.  Each play you write is better than the one that came before it.   I enthusiastically encourage you to continue with your play writing, just as you have always encouraged me with my own creative endeavors.  It is with great happiness that I  look forward to seeing what you come up with next.  Oh….and “break a leg”  (figuratively…not literally)  🙂
Your loving wife,

Self Discipline….and Burning the Midnight Oil


midnight oilThis is the time in the school term that requires much intensive work, meaning that I am burning the midnight oil every night and have (even bigger) bags under my eyes.  Week 8 of 10 means that there is light at the end of the tunnel, but I must dig my way to it through a mountain of books and papers and self-discipline.

My major is Organizational and Industrial Psychology.  These last few terms have been focused on leadership, so we have been studying the habits and lifestyles of the uber-successful to find out what makes them tick.  I don’t really have any grand plans for after graduation.  I will be starting a business, but  I do not aspire to make a fortune. I’m not really doing it for the money…but I do aspire to do some good in the world and to positively impact other lives.  However, before I get there, I must keep my nose to the grindstone and practice some self discipline.

There are many important qualities that can contribute to a person’s achievements and happiness, but there is only one that begets sustainable, long term success in all aspects of life – self discipline. Whether in terms of one’s diet, fitness, work ethic, or relationships, self discipline is the first and foremost trait that one needs to accomplish goals, lead a good and healthy lifestyle and ultimately, to be a happier person.

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Self discipline means doing what needs done rather than what one necessarily wants to do.  For instance, I turned down a great invitation for dinner and music with friends last night because I had a paper to write.  I have gotten used to this, during the course of my grad school endeavors, and, in fact, rather enjoy just staying at home alone working toward a much-desired goal.  Each day, I realize how much closer I am, and each day, I am a little more grateful for this opportunity.

According to a 2013 study by Wilhelm Hoffman, people with high self control are happier than those without.  The study discovered this is true because the self disciplined subjects were more capable of dealing with goal conflicts. These people spent less time debating whether to indulge in behaviors detrimental to their health, and were able to make positive decisions more easily. The self disciplined did not allow their choices to be dictated by impulses or feelings. Instead, they made informed, rational decisions on a daily basis without feeling overly stressed or upset. That is what I am trying to do with regard to school….and it is paying off, big time.

Self discipline is a learned behavior. It requires practice and repetition in one’s day-to-day life.  Here are a few tips to help attain it:


1.  Removing as many temptations and distractions from one’s  environment is a crucial first step when working to improve self discipline. If you are trying to have better control of your eating, toss the junk food.  If you want to improve your focus while working, turn off your cell phone and clear away the clutter from your desk. In other words, set yourself up for success by ditching the bad influences.




2. Eat regularly and healthfully  Well, anyone that knows me, also knows that I am an advocate for a healthful, organic, plant-based diet.  Studies have shown that low blood sugar can weaken a person’s resolve. When you’re hungry, your ability to concentrate suffers as your brain is not functioning to its highest potential. Hunger makes it hard o focus on the tasks at hand, not to mention making you grumpy and pessimistic. You are much more likely to have a weakened sense of self control in all areas of our life – diet, exercise, work, relationships… you name it. In order to stay on track, make sure that you are well fueled throughout the day with healthy snacks and meals every few hours. I personally make sure to always have some almonds or Muscle Milk on hand. These snacks ensure that I can get a dose of healthy protein and fats throughout the day when needed. Eating often regulates your blood sugar levels and improves your decision making skills and concentration. Allow you brain to focus on your goals and priorities instead of on your growling stomach.

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3. Don’t wait for it to “feel right.” Improving your self discipline means changing up your normal routine, which can be uncomfortable and awkward. Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, explains that habit behaviors are traced to a part of the brain called the basal ganglia – a portion of the brain associated with emotions, patterns, and memories. Decisions, on the other hand, are made in the prefrontal cortex, a completely different area. When a behavior becomes habit, we stop using our decision-making skills and instead function on auto-pilot. Therefore, breaking a bad habit and building a new habit not only requires us to make active decisions, it will feel wrong. Your brain will resist the change in favor of what it has been programmed to do. The solution? Embrace the wrong. Acknowledge that it will take a while for your new regime to feel right or good or natural. Keep chugging along. It will happen.



4. Schedule breaks, treats, and rewards for yourself. I tend to pick up my guitar and practice for half an hour when I want to reward myself for accomplishing a school task.  Self discipline does not mean your new regimen needs to be entirely cold turkey, hard core, or drill sergeant-like in execution. In fact, giving yourself zero wiggle room often results in failures, disappointments, and giving into your old ways. While practicing self control, schedule specific breaks, treats, and rewards for yourself. Dieting? Designate Saturday as ice cream sundae day. Trying to lose weight? Treat yourself with a fancy massage after a month of gym trips. Working on controlling your spending? Allow yourself a $25 splurge at the mall on Sunday. (Leave the credit cards at home, and bring cash only). Self discipline can be hard. Reward your effort.


5. Forgive yourself and move forward. As much as the turkeys WILL try to bring you down, simply detatch and don’t allow them into your headspace.   Mind you, instituting a new way of thinking won’t always go according to plan. You will have ups and downs, fabulous successes, and flat out failures. The key is to keep moving forward. When you have a setback, acknowledge what caused it and move on. It is easy to get wrapped up in guilt, anger, or frustration, but these emotions will not help build improve self discipline. Instead, use the hiccups in your plan as learning experiences for the future. Forgive yourself, and get back in the saddle ASAP. The longer you’re off your game, the harder it is to keep going in a positive direction.


Oh….and have a beautiful day, ok?  🙂

Last Update of the Year

Last Update of the Year

I have been trying to make it over here to do an update before the end of the year, but this has been my first opportunity to do so.   First, let me thank my 590  wonderful subscribers and other readers for your continued support.  I appreciate each and every one of you and hope you have gained something from being a part of my life through this blog.   I wish each of you a happy and prosperous 2015.

As I approach the end of 2014, I have made some big changes in my life.  First, I have eliminated some unhealthy familial relationships that were dragging me down,  and have grown closer to other family members.  Both moves proved to be freeing and healing.

I have begun a regular meditation and yoga practice.  I am making art again.  I still have a four point in grad school and am slated to graduate this summer.   As for friendships….every single friendship that I had at the end of last year is still in place.  One, in particular, is stronger than ever, and I feel so blessed because of this. (4).

r     Rene Best musician

Life here has been a December whirlwind!  I took a couple of fun little trips…some that I can talk about, and some that I can’t.  However, my break from school proved to be no break at all.  I had a difficult midterm that took an entire day to complete, two discussion papers to write, a paper on women in leadership roles and a psychometric analysis of a psychological testing instrument used to determine levels of creativity.  Eeeee!  I still have two papers left to write before the fourth, but I’m fairly certain I will be able to complete them on time.  I have also been finishing up a lot of work projects that I had to finish by tonight.  Those are completed and sent to my editors, so I feel great about that.

The good news is that John is home, and we have been having the best time!  We took Ingrid Christmas shopping and to Peacock lane.


We spent a quiet Christmas together at home, then went to our daughter’s house for gift exchange and a delicious dinner.  My son in law, who makes THESE  gorgeous knifes and teaches black smithing,  hand forged an incredible cheese knife for me. I am so proud of it!  (I love handmade gifts best of all!)   For the handle, he used exotic wood that had some naturally-formed cracks in it.  He ground up turquoise, suspended it in resin and filled the cracks with it.  The picture does not do it justice.  This is a gorgeous knife! He also hand carved a beautiful wooden spoon for me and gave them both to me in a nice wooden holder.  So talented, he is! Thanks, Nate!


John wanted to do something extra special this year, so surprised me with a trip to Sun Mountain Lodge   up in the beautiful Cascades. What an incredible trip! It was cozy and romantic, stunningly beautiful and gave us the opportunity to get caught up after spending a long time apart.  We loved it there and want to go back in the spring.


Met some friends there, and were able to parlay the journey into a side trip Seattle where our granddaughter, Maya, is visiting from the East Coast.  We were absolutely thrilled to learn that she plans to return to the Pacific NW.  We have missed her in the 5 months she has been gone!

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We stayed with our darling friends, Sheryl and Dylan and really enjoyed the company.  Sheryl is like family to us.  It was high quality, beautiful family time.  We visited and took Ings to the park.  We went out for dinner.  We went to an incredible display of Christmas lights.  It was so much fun.  I feel so happy just thinking about it.

ings and sheryl

Much, much more has happened, but I haven’t the time to write about it all.  Tonight, we are going to join our friends, Toni and Peter, as we did last year, for dinner, drinks and dancing.  We’ll start the evening off at a little wine bar known as “Arrivederci” and then meet other friends in another location to ring in the New Year together.  There won’t be any redneck bars and plastic cups in the mix for this year,  but as my friend pointed out, I’ve always been more of a crystal stemware type anyway, so it all works out. 🙂  I know I’m loved.  I’m happy.

I’m lucky….and I know it.


Be safe and have fun!

Another Reason to be Proud of my Daughter!

There are countless reasons why I am proud of my daughter, Sarah, (Ingrid’s mom).  One of them is because she has worked so hard as part of its Board of Directors, to organize and affect the upcoming  opening of the Portland Toy Library.  What follows is the article that recently appeared in the Oregonian Newspaper:

PDX Toy Library to open in Southeast Portland with a mission of promoting play

Cat Davila, founder, president and director of PDX Toy Library, says her daughter, Lilah Hurst, was the inspiration for her new nonprofit. (Courtesy of Cat Davila)

Portland’s newest library, opening next month, will be all about play.

The PDX Toy Library, an all-volunteer nonprofit, has a mission of lending out high quality toys and play equipment to help infants and children up to age 8 with their physical and educational development.

Its founder, Cat Davila of Southeast Portland, a former nanny who is now a full-time mom to a 5-year-old daughter, said she came up with the idea several years ago, when her daughter was about 2 and a half.

“She became really interested in board games and just wanted to play one after another all day,” Davila said. Davila began wishing she could trade in the games she had for new ones. When she learned that toy libraries existed, she decided to start one in Portland.

The idea also fit with her interests in child and family welfare, the sharing economy and environmental sustainability, she said. And, she said, “I always wanted to be a librarian.”

The PDX Toy Library, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, now has five board members, all volunteer moms from Southeast Portland, Davila said. They will start out in an approximately 300-square-foot room they’re renting from Sunnyside Centenary United Methodist Church, with hopes of moving to a larger space once they can afford to do so, Davila said. She also plans to use an adjacent room for storytimes, craft times and other events.

PDX Toy Library
Address: 3520 S.E. Yamhill St.
Phone: 503-610-6061

The library will be open only to paid members, with 12-month memberships for $100 and three-month memberships for $30. Those who sign up before the library’s planned Jan. 17 opening will receive discounted memberships of 15 months for $100 and six months for $40. Oregon Trail Card holders will receive a 50 percent discount on memberships.

There is no limit to how many people can use a membership, Davila said, but members will be limited to checking out three items at a time for two weeks.

The PDX Toy Library will have its first event from 10 a.m. to noon Monday, Dec. 22, with a storytime, balloon animals, snacks and ornament decorating; those interested in memberships can sign up during the event. Donations of $5 per child are requested to cover entertainment costs; additional donations are requested for the snacks and crafts.

The first day of checkouts is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 17. Davila said she and the rest of the library board are still working out library hours, but hope to open three days a week, including Saturdays. In the meantime, the organizers are seeking donations of gently used toys and games for the library’s collection and to sell to help cover operating expenses.

The concept of toy sharing isn’t new to Portland. In the Woodlawn neighborhood in Northeast Portland, for instance, the approximately 115 member families of the nearly 3-year-old Woodlawn Swap N Play can swap not only toys but also clothing, books and baby gear while taking advantage of an indoor play space, said director Beth Ivester. In the Woodstock neighborhood in Southeast Portland, the Southside Swap & Play cooperative (formerly Sunnyside Swap Shop) provides its approximately 105 member families with the opportunity to share and swap toys, books, clothing, games, art supplies and baby gear.

And at the West Slope Community Library in Washington County, patrons can check out board games such as Qwirkle, Ticket to Ride and Word on the Street.

Nationally, toy libraries have been around since the 1930s, said Judith Iacuzzi, the executive director of the USA Toy Library Association, based in Evanston, Illinois. The 30-year-old association has about 350 members in more than 30 states. (Three Oregon toy libraries are listed on the association website, two in Hood River and one in Medford. The one in Medford is no longer operating, nor is the one listed at a Marina Way address in Hood River. The third couldn’t be reached Monday.)

Iacuzzi said the first official toy library was established in Los Angeles during the Great Depression after a store owner saw children stealing toys and got the idea of starting a lending program.

Most of the association’s member libraries are affiliated with larger institutions, such as community libraries, hospitals, social services agencies or child care programs, Iacuzzi said. The freestanding toy libraries are often affiliated with the disabled community, she said.

Either way, they share a mission “to provide quality play experiences in a localized environment with specialists who can help select toys and advise parents or the caregivers on the quality of the toy or the play experience,” Iacuzzi said.

The association uses the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio as a resource for choosing toys.

Well, that was fast…..


Tonight marks the end of my 8-day between-term break.  I should be thankful that I had a break at all, because last year, I didn’t. …but I am still tired.  A few stressful incidents occurred during this break and I didn’t get to rest up as I’d planned….plus, I worked a lot, which I shouldn’t have done.

Rest is difficult for me.  I push myself very hard and feel guilty when I relax.  This has always been a problem.  If not for my daily meditation, I’d scarcely get any rest at all.

This term, I am taking a Women in Leadership course and one about Psychological Testing and Assessment.  I’ve already jumped the gun a bit and have started work on the assignments for the week to come.  Looks as though the material is going to be very interesting, so I look forward to it, but I am still very tired.  I think I needed a couple of weeks of sleep.

I celebrated a birthday yesterday.  My sweet husband wrote a lovely piece of poetic prose for me…about our marriage.  My darling best friend was especially attentive and loving.  I love him so much.   I had many, many calls, emails and lovely Facebook messages, and my daughter and her husband prepared my traditional vegetarian “pulled pork” sandwiches for me for dinner last night, so it was a good birthday.  I enjoyed its being low key, simply due to the exhaustion factor.

The pulled “pork” sandwiches are made with a vegetarian product called Quorn.  I love it.  It is quite delicious and is far better for the body than meat.  Quorn products are made from Mycoprotein,  a nutritionally healthful protein that is  naturally low in saturated fat and high in protein and fiber.  Nathan simmered shredded Quorn in the oven, in a delicious barbecue sauce with lots of peppers and onions and made a delicious red cabbage slaw that he served in the sandwiches themselves, with yummy homemade rolls.   He also made me a gorgeous apple pie with a cheddar cheese crust.  It was the most delicious pie I have ever had in my life!


I played the piano while Ingrid and her cousin, Madeline, sang, and we sat around and talked and had the most pleasant evening I could imagine having.  I hadn’t really felt like celebrating at all, but it turned out so well that I’m glad I went.  So sweet of them to do that for me.

Today, the sun was shining, but it was cold and windy.  Had a very good telephone conversation.  Beebs and I went for a good walk, but I spent the majority of my time finishing up some articles and preparing my discussion questions for my Testing and Assessment class.  Feels good to have a bit of a head start.

I’m going to turn in early tonight.  Still fighting the last remnants of a cold and it has really zapped my energy.  Still…it feels good to be alive, and I am grateful to the universe for giving me this good life.

‘night, all.  xoxo

A Little Reward

A Little Reward

I have been on the verge of tears since the weekend, just from the sheer exhaustion of having to knock out my final projects.  It feels like I am chipping away at a mountain with a tack hammer.  Feeling very discouraged simply because I am so overwhelmed and tired.

I signed into one of my classes today, and I received the comment (following this), from my professor. My whole point in posting it is to illustrate that the smallest bit of encouragement….the smallest act of kindness….can go very far in having a positive affect on someone’s life.  We are studying this in one of my cognitive psychology classes.  It really DOES cause changes in the brain.  (Love that brain science!)

Reading this simple comment gave me the energy I needed to get through the next hours, to complete yet another step in the mountain of work that I have to do this week, and although I am not even close to finishing, I feel I’ve made progress.  I feel encouraged.    I just NEEDED someone to say something nice to me….and when it happened, it really did a lot to make me feel better.

Noting my own response to this kindness, I had to stop to express my appreciation and to acknowledge others that go out of their way to be kind toward me throughout this trying ordeal.  I just want everyone to know that I love and appreciate you more than words can say.

My love and thanks go out today, to my son-in-law for his sweet texts to me last night.  Those kind words meant the world to me.  My deepest love and special appreciation goes out to John, an unending source of strength, love and encouragement, someone who makes me proud to be alive. My daughter, my granddaughter…there are simply no words to describe what you do for me…for my heart and head. You are good people, through and through.   My love and further appreciation goes to my Best friend, who never fails…rain or shine…to find some way to get a loving message to me.  Sending that loving energy every day gives me confidence, and propels me forward through the toughest times to attain these goals for a better future,  even in the face of stern adversity.  I love you.  I truly do.  To the lovely Maya, , who is so sweet and loving, offering her assurance and unending encouragement.  My love and gratitude to the endless list of strong women friends that prop me up….Michele, Genie, Nancy, Denise, Toni, Suzanne, Kat, Kat II, SB…and on and on and on.  I am so fortunate that all of you are in my life.  My loving mother, who, in her serious illness, continues to send love and encouragement to me, (and who now is able to call me frequently). (It’s a miracle!!)  It is so wonderful to hear her voice and to know that she is  getting stronger.  Every loving word that she utters makes ME stronger. We have had our ups and downs throughout our lives, but now we are at peace, and that means more to me than just about anything.   My wonderful cousins, J & D, my Auntie….I just can’t say enough about how much all of you are loved and appreciated. Thanks so much for the vote of confidence.  Your support is cherished.  My friends….my family….You’re all I need to get by. I could not do this without you.

When I feel too drained to go through another day of this grueling work, I can count on all of you.  You are always there for me.  You never let me down.  Your little notes, calls, texts and personal visits are what get me through.  Please know how much you are appreciated. I love you all.


My professor’s note….and this might not mean much to those reading this, but it meant a whole lot to me:

Another great discussion, Stacy! Although I love online education, there are times and certain students that cause me to wish we were in a traditional classroom. You are one I would love to be able to interact with in person (please take that as a compliment, as it is intended). I love how your brilliant mind works! Your points break down as follows:

Comprehension (20/20) –  Very nice initial post.

Timeliness (10/10)

Engagement  (20/20) – Nice responses to Graham and to Deanne (as well as to Bob in my thread).

Critical Thinking (30/30) – Great use of evidence and examples; citing the source you did in your response to Graham /perfect!

Writing (19/20) – Small errors; nothing major.

Total Percentage – 99%

Great job!

So….with this “fuel” and much gratitude in my heart….back to work I go.


Going in to the Home Stretch….


Inasmuch as I had a lovely time in San Francisco a few days ago, going was probably not the wisest of decisions with all the school work I had on my plate in this past week…but alas, I did go…and I had a lovely time…but man.  The grueling work that slapped me in the face when I got back was not fun.  I did manage to finish, albeit I could not solve one of my stat problems, to save my life…but all-in-all, I think I did well.  I am seriously sleep deprived, and do not even want to walk by my computer, let alone stop and type, as I’m doing now.  ugh.  So. Tired.


So this week is the final week of the term.  Throughout, we have had to work on milestones that we will put together into final projects this week.  Mine are in good shape.  I just need to do some tweaking (as opposed to twerking) here and there.  Graduate school is the most labor intensive endeavor I have ever undertaken (with the exception of raising my children).

My daughter is sick right now, so she dropped Ingrid off with me for a Saturday night sleepover.  It was good that I was forced to take a little break, as by that time, I had worked so hard that I honestly felt like my brain was melting.  Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, John was able to enjoy Ingrid’s visit via Facetime.  It was great for the three of us to be “together” with his face up on my big computer screen as she entertained us with song and dance.

ingrid singing

We gave the puppy a bath, made a snack tray and watched Rachael Ray (the child is a ‘foodie’ and cooking fanatic who is actually quite talented in the kitchen)…and we played dress up with the box of costumes that my Auntie G. sent.  We had a delightful time, and she reported to her mom that “This was the best sleepover EVER!”

ingrid scarf

We got up early yesterday and went for a puppy walk.  When we got back, I cooked oatmeal and sprinkled fresh berries on top.  She loved that…and she also wanted some of my homemade applesauce.  She is a Johnny Cash fan, and in the midst of eating the applesauce, broke into her own version of “Jackson”…..“We got married in a fever…started by some applesauce….”  The kid cracks me up.

ingrid twirl

So…today is another day.  I met two friends for breakfast at Lauretta Jeans, walked the Beebs…and am now going to sign in to my classwork and start knocking out those projects.  As soon as I’m finished, I will have a break until the17th.  YAY!!!



No, I’m not manic depressive….just feeling a little down in the dumps as the crushing weight of these last few weeks of the term rob me of any semblance of rest.  I am sleep deprived, overworked, tired…exhausted, really, and my head is asunder with the multiple tasks that lie before me.  I know the signs of depression, and I know what triggers them, so I also know what to do.

Be Gentle

I know, when I feel this coming on, that I must be gentle with myself.  This involves avoiding stressful situations, television programs, films, books, people and places.  I don’t really drive downtown, for instance, when I feel this coming on.


I have doubled my exercise routine.  I am walking my puppy more and more and more, drinking in the beauty of this city, even when the weather has become wet and gray.  It is still beautiful here, and I still stop to smell the ever-blooming roses.


When I’m feeling down, I turn to those who I know love me….my daughter, my husband, my best friend, my parents.  I am a strong woman, but I let them hold me up with their kindness and I lean on them a little bit when I feel depressed.  Of course, I’m there for them, too, when they need it, so it all evens out in the end.  I think about the people that I love…Maya and Ingrid and Harrison, Katherine and John and Sarah…Nate and William and my other friends…my little puppy, Beatrix……and somehow, this makes me feel better.

Vitamin D.

I up my dosage of Vitamin D and take it with Vitamin C.  My doctor recommended I do this and it really works!


I create something….anything…I bake a cake, create a piece of art…take a photograph…MAKE something creative and constructive.


Staying on Task

There is nothing that can cheer me up more than accomplishing a task.  So…I just try to keep my nose to the grindstone and do what needs to be done, chipping away at this work a little bit at a time. When I get to the end of that last paragraph….that last equation….that last problem, I might be wiped out….but magically, I feel much better.

so……..back to work for me!

Doctors Without Borders Auction Preview!

Standard  <——-click here!

Here is your chance to preview all 141 STUNNING pieces of mosaic art created by artists from all over the world in the Doctor’s Without Border’s Charity Auction that will be coming up in November.  There are SO many beautiful choices!  Proceeds go toward a most excellent cause, so make your selections and get ready to place your bids!  dwb mosaic 2014Four René

by Stacy Alexander

© Stacy Alexander – 2014 – All Rights Reserved

Day One of…..


2 days

Soooooo…..Over the next two days, I must reread the literature review that I wrote last week, and turn the information into a 15 page paper that outlines my own leadership theory.  AND….I have to figure out how to do advanced ANOVA research designs, write a paper about that, analyze a data set and explain how the results make sense.  ugh.  Hard work!    This is going to be two sure days in hell….but once I emerge, I shall never look back…and  I will have learned something new….so here I go!