17 November 2012


Saw these words yesterday and loved them:

Life needs frosting.

Sad to add that it was spotted at a Cinnabon store.  Kinda takes the shine right off and makes your hips suddenly feel wider.  Well, I am forgetting the Cinnabon part and just thinking about all the emotional frosting life has to offer.  I got a nice heaping portion last night.

Mark is away so Elise is sleeping with me.  Something we both look forward to.  The snuggling part, not the Mark being away part.  In the middle of the night I thought I heard her say hi but I wasn't sure so I asked her.  She replied, I just said hi because I am snuggling here with you.

Yep.  Life needs frosting.


25 October 2012


Well, I guess that website was not happy with me borrowing a photo or two of Grace Kelly from them.  It is a photo of her in a film more than 50 years ago.  Didn't think it was really their property.  But, I guess once it is posted on their blog, it's theirs.  I, on the other hand am not so blog savvy.  Here is another attempt at showing you the elegant, beautiful Grace Kelly and her amazing bracelet.

 Hope it worked this time!

23 October 2012

Rear View

Friday night I chaperoned a movie night for some middle schoolers.  We watched Alfred's Hitchcock's Rear Window.  I had seen it years ago and was interested in seeing it again.  Here are my observations.

~It is sad that kids today have no attention span.  If a plot is not moving a hundred miles an hour, they lose interest.

~In the midst of our chaotic lives, it is difficult to pay attention to details.

~It feels as though we live disposable lives today.  Buy it cheap at Target, use it for a season and toss it.  Paper, plastic, synthetic crap.  None of it ages well.  Wood, linen, silk, leather.  These have staying power.

~Dressing well is worth the trouble.  Here are some fine examples.

Check out the gorgeous bracelet.  All the moms were drooling over it. Ah, the grace, the elegance!

~Men often don't know a good thing when they have it.

~Last but not least, if you are going to murder someone, for goodness sake, pull the blinds!


14 October 2012

Good Thought

The other night I was snuggling with Elise in bed when I heard her whisper,  

"Thanks, brain." 

What did you say?   

"Oh I was just thanking my brain because it sent me a good thought," she said as she tapped the side of her head.

That's nice.

"Yes, it was a really good one.  One that I can think about all night."

Really?  What was it?

"Mama, I can't tell you until the morning."

How delicious!  To be thankful for a really good thought.  To be cozy and secure that you will ponder it all night.  Even more fabulous to hug and love this girl with all my heart.  To watch her develop, listen to her giggle and hear the amazing ideas and thoughts she utters.
There is a magnet on my fridge I bought because I think it captures Elise perfectly:

You are so much sunshine 
to the square inch.

Sitting here, being thankful for my little power-packed ball of sunshine and thought it just may be a start to writing again...finally.

Happy Sunday,

03 September 2012

Lesson Learned

Here I am, blogging at 12:45 am because I can't sleep.  The problem is I was pinning things on Pinterest way too late.  This happened when I first started pinning.  I should have learned my lesson.  But nooooo...  Pinning is like drinking caffeine.  Don't do it late at night.  I am trying to sleep while images of chalkboard paint and modge podge crafts dance in my head.  All the quiet and darkness get crowded out by recipes and decorating ideas.  Then I start talking to YOU in my head, writing a virtual blog post.  Finally, I decided the best thing to do would be to write it out.  Let the images slide out of my head onto the computer screen.  Maybe that would help.

Today for lunch I tried a recipe from Pinterest that was easy and yummy.  Not an over-the-top, knock-your-socks-off kind of dish but a good staple for weeknight dinners.  Here's the recipe:

4-6 raw chicken breasts
new potatoes
green beans (Broccoli is good, too). 

Arrange in 9x13 dish. Sprinkle with a packet of Italian dressing mix and then top with a stick of butter. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until potatoes are soft.

Yummy results!

Since I will be teaching again this fall, I am trying to get organized with menu planning.  I am thinking this will help:

Who wouldn't get excited about planning ANYTHING on cool chalkboard peel and stick paper?  Then of course, you need these:

 So now my mind is racing as to where to set up this magnificent chalkboard.  Of course, the moment of putting chalkboard marker to chalkboard will be a huge stress- wishing I could write in a fabulous font.  Which led me to thinking about being a fifth grade girl.  Do you know what the best thing about being a fifth grade girl is?  Time.  Time to play with your handwriting.  I remember reinventing my handwriting over days and weeks.  It felt like I was reinventing myself every time I practiced a new slant or style.  I would get lost in the swirls and curves of the letters.  What a fun indulgence!  I remember thinking a teacher or a friend's writing was cool and I would choose elements of their style to copy.  In seventh grade, I practiced writing a capital H just like my teacher and I still write it that way today.  I often think of Miss Hingle when I do. 

Okay, back to meal planning.  I was thinking I would come up with 30 meals and write each on a post-it note.  I would cover my paper calendar this month with the post-it note recipe titles then as the days pass, I could just transfer them to the next month.  That way my meals are planned as I go along.  The point of the post-it notes is not only to use them again for a few months but also to rearrange when the schedule doesn't work with the meal I planned.  That gives me flexibility within the week.  I definitely plan to write PIZZA on one post-it note and maybe SANDWICH NIGHT or RAID THE FRIDGE on another.  Then I could write the weeks menu on my fancy chalkboard.  I'll give you a report when the system is up and running.

Well, now that it is 2 am, I hope I dumped enough out of my brain onto this blog so that I can finally sleep.


22 August 2012

My "Pinterest"ing Summer

After two weeks of multiple first days, book days, registration days and numerous early dismissals as well as a quick jaunt to North Carolina and back (in two days, mind you!) to pick up my camping girl,


My days are my own, at least until I start another maternity leave in late September.  This time I will be substituting in middle school, teaching science and math.  I can hear you all wholeheartedly (and skeptically) wishing me good luck.  Before looking ahead to all the school year brings, I'd like to take a moment to reflect on this summer.

I mentioned before that I was totally obsessed with Pinterest and have even managed to get a few others addicted as well.  I must say, while I did spend lots of time on the computer enjoying the website, I balanced that with getting off my rear end and using many of the ideas I found.  Looking back, we had a great summer, in part, thanks to Pinterest.

I found this idea early in the summer and incorporated it almost immediately.

We sat down as a family and decided what we hoped to do this summer.  The list included places to go, activities and our favorite summertime treats.  When we were bored we could check the "To Do" cup for inspiration.  At summer's end it ensured that a oh-no-I-let-my-kids-do-nothing-but-electronics mom realize that was just end of the summer lazies slipping in.  In reality, looking back through the popsicle sticks, we actually did a lot and had a great summer. (Which I know in my heart but this parenting job does not always foster good perspective.)  Here are some of the things we did:

We made soap, lots of crafts, did science experiments, played board games and made a movie with the ipad.
We enjoyed our favorite frozen yogurt, ate Choco tacos and yummy fruit bars as well as cooked something from a kids' cookbook.
We went to the Aquarium, French Quarter and bowling alley.  We went to the beach and visited my sister in Dallas.  And who didn't watch tons of Olympics?!

Whew!  That's a great summer!  As you can see from the photo, we didn't move all the sticks to the "Done" cup.  Oh well, there are weekends in the fall, Christmas and Easter break and then there's always next summer.  The thing is, it made us sit down as a family to talk and and plan our summer and then it provided a tangible reminder of all fun we had once the dog days hit and no one had much oomph or energy (that would be me) and we all resorted to a little extra screen time of our choosing.

I am not the best mom in the world but I am surely not the worst and now I have the popsicle sticks to prove it!  So there!

On to another school year...

25 July 2012

The Weight of Words

It is quiet and I am sipping my coffee and happily enjoying my computer time.  Perfect time to write.  Noooo!  Why have I been avoiding writing all summer long?  I have gotten lazy.  Came across this quote from Confederacy of Dunces author, John Kennedy Toole:

"...When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, 
I make an occasional cheese dip."

If I haven't been writing this summer, at least I could have been eating cheese dip.  I have done neither.  Which makes me feel guilty.  Which makes me sad.  Which makes me feel more guilty.  Which makes me sadder.  Do you sense a downward spiral here?

There are many things to blame here, none of which are me, of course!  I blame the lack of structure of the summer.  I blame the kids.  Just being kids and being around.  I blame all the fun things on the internet that take what little attention I have left and pull it away from writing.  But most of all I blame that OH-SO-EVIL...  dun, dun, dunnnnnnn (sinister music playing in the background)


ThereI said it.  I am Dina.  I am a pinner.  I have been pinning for two months.  Non-stop.  I love that Pinterest is visual.  I love images.  I love words.  I love words combined with images.  Like this:

I made this on my computer.  It was quick.  It was easy.  A sweet sentiment for Mark on our anniversary.  So unlike writing a post.  Images seem so quick and easy while words sometimes feel like the weight of the world.  Painting a picture of me on Pinterest is so simple. and pin.  Yes!  That is me.  But to paint a picture of me or what I think or feel with words takes time.  And thought.  And effort.  Too much for the average summer day.

Where to go from here?  I need to remember that words can be a light and airy as a balloon floating in the sky.  There is joy in trying to capture and pin it down.  Sort of like finding a word that means Maria! :-)  Oh, that is too good!  How to follow that line?  A flibbertijibbet! A will-o'-the wisp! A clown!  Perfect! 

I feel the weight of words lifting.  Writing can be fun and lighthearted.  Thanks for sharing this moment of therapy with me.


05 June 2012

Simply Summer

These things happened at my house yesterday and made me so happy:

Elise playing with letter tiles

Yummy and easy bacon-wrapped asparagus bundles

Pretty and practical way to keep track of electronics time. 


 Hope you have a summer filled with simple joys.

27 May 2012

For Love of Children's Literature

 A teacher at the kids' school had a baby and I offered to take her maternity leave so I have been teaching first grade since the beginning of March.  It has been fifteen years since I have been in the classroom.  The actual teaching and time spent with the students has been enjoyable.  It is interesting for me to flex my teaching muscles once again.  There are ways that I think I am a better teacher now and ways I was a better teacher then.  There are things I like better about teaching now and things I liked better then.  One thing has not changed.  I love enjoying a good book with my class!  I have a scrapbook of notes and cards I received during my years as a teacher.  One of my favorites was a card that said- "You sure can pick a good book."- then proceeded to list all the read-alouds for that year.

My fourth grade teacher read aloud books by Beverly Cleary.  This lead to a life-long love of the author and her books.  I read Mrs. Cleary's books to almost all of my students, then to my own children.  I have read books about her life and even brought my children all the way to Portland just to see the Beverly Cleary sculpture garden.  Recently, on Facebook, a student of mine sent a photo of a street sign he saw in Portland that is a mainstay in several of her books.  I teared up knowing that those books had touched him as much as they had touched me.

My fifth grade teacher read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to us which introduced me to the literary giant, C.S. Lewis who is among my favorite authors.  I came across a quote by him about children's literature and as a lover of children's stories, I couldn't agree more.

"A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children 
is not a good children's story in the slightest." 

 One year while teaching, I had announced that I was pregnant.  I had a miscarriage and was struggling with how to share this with the children.  I was heartbroken and wishing I had waited to share the news.  At the time, I was reading Charlotte's Web with the class.  The goose on the farm was hatching eggs and one didn't hatch.  Templeton the rat was drooling over it and asked the goose if he could have it.  That one is a dud, she replied matter-of-factly and turned it over to the greedy rat.  That was my moment.  I explained that my baby was like that egg.  It just couldn't be born and that was that.  It was healing to put it bluntly and succinctly.  It also reminded me that this happens all across God's creation and I needed to trust him.

The same teacher I am substituting for taught several of my children.  She read The Trumpet of the Swan to them and I have been wanting to read it.  I decided that reading it aloud with this class was the perfect opportunity.

You know, it's funny the slight difference in reading aloud to the class a book which you have read before and one which you have never read.  The first is like introducing two people you care a great deal about.  You are excited for them to meet and eager that they feel the same about each other.  Reading a book with the class for the first time is like getting to know a new friend with someone you love.  They are both enjoyable experiences, just different.  It has been quite sometime since I have been able to fall in love with a book with my class.  And falling in love, I am!

The writing of E.B. White is so achingly beautiful.  You can't imagine you would ever want to be friends with a talking swan but E.B. White writes him as personable as any human being you can imagine.  To read a particularly poignant or funny passages and to look out at that sea of bright, young children and see the emotion in my heart spread across their faces is nothing short of magical.  To think someone who is no longer on this earth can still evoke such joy through his writing is amazing to me.  I had been pondering this very thing then was blown away by this quote from the author himself:

“Books are good company, in sad times and happy times, 
for books are people-- people who have managed to stay alive 
by hiding between the covers of a book.”

I am thankful so many fabulous writers have managed to hide themselves between the covers of countless great books for us to encounter again and again.  If you are a reader, don't overlook children's literature.  As C.S. Lewis says it is only good if it can also be enjoyed by adults.  It is fun to reread a book you loved as a child.  You will be amazed how differently you experience it the second time around.  If you have children, never underestimate the power of reading a good book out loud together.  I think this is especially true with older children since we tend to stop reading to our kids when they can read themselves.  Reading books with my third, fourth and even seventh grades are among our favorite memories.  We often recount favorite passages and characters.  It greatly enriches our shared memories.  The stories and characters become woven into the fabric of our lives.  I think this is true of every book so be careful what books you pick.  If you are going to weave it into your life's tapestry why not choose one with sparkling thread.  Like E.B. White also said:

"Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder."

This summer I challenge you to be on the lookout for the presence of wonder in the books you read.  Children's literature is a great place to start.


15 April 2012


The other day at lunch, I was talking to the social worker at my kids' school.  The topic of where she was from and where she had lived came up.  She was from Vermont and had lived in DC and NYC.  After comparing notes on living in DC, I asked her more about the circumstances of her time in New York City.  Her face lit up as she began to revisit that time in her life and remember details squirreled away in the corners of her mind.  She painted a picture of a young girl in miniskirts and platform shoes walking twenty blocks or more to work and happily window shopping the whole way.  Young, happy and energized by all the big city had to offer.  I was enthralled, being the HUGE New York City junkie that I am.  I was thrust back in time to a cleaner, safer, better city.  You know, the one in Barefoot in the Park with Jane Fonda and Robert Redford.  Oh, to be able to visit THAT New York City!  Through this woman, however, for a moment I was transported there.

I am currently reading a book set at the end of the Sixties.  I was reading about what this group of women was doing when man landed on the moon.  It made me realize that I had no idea where my parents had watched this historic event.  I could hear my mom smiling, almost holding back a giggle as she remembered.  "We were at the bowling alley with our bowling league and you were in the playroom in the back."  I laughed, imagining reporting this to anyone.  "Hey- Where were you when Armstrong made that giant step?  Oh, I was in the playroom of a bowling alley."  The rest of the story came spilling out.  All the details that had us laughing so hard.  About how it was my mom's idea as a newly married couple that they should make new friends and what else to do but join a bowling league.  How they were the worst team in the league.  How my dad would sweat profusely when he was under pressure and the team relied on him for the winning points.  The ball would always slip and land in the gutter.  Humiliating for someone who, under normal circumstances was a pretty good bowler.  I enjoyed hearing the story, picturing my parents as a young couple.  My mom and I laughed so hard.  I could almost hear her reaching back in her memory for details that painted a vivid picture for me.

Why then is it so hard for us to go from verbally telling a story, to writing it.  My point is, we all have a story.  LOTS of stories.  When we share them we share ourselves.  We can escape our bodily prison to truly connect with others.  That is why story is so important, why there has always been a storytelling tradition.  As long as there are human beings, there will be story.

Cam across this on a blog today.  It was a good reminder for me and I want to remind you too:

Your story matters. 
Tell it.

Happy Sunday,

10 April 2012

Easter Witness

Yesterday in church, there was a lady in the pew in front of us.  As I waited for Mass to begin, I started taking in details.  Her hair was dirty and straggly, her clothes mismatched and she smelled.  She wore a woolen scarf and had a sweater stuffed in an olive green canvas tote.  I wondered how she had arrived in this church, at this moment, together with me.

There was a kind gentleman who I recognized as the father of two of the altar servers.  He had probably been to another Easter Mass and was only here to escort his daughters.  Without them or his wife, he floated around the pews trying to make room for families to sit together.  He bounced around like a pinball as the church filled to capacity and beyond.

In walked an elegant older lady who found a place in the pew with the strange woman but at a safe distance.  The well-dressed husband arrived a few minutes later, forcing his wife to inch towards the undesirable pew-mate.  Finally, with Mass beginning in moments, the kindly yet portly gentleman ended up needing to nudge into the pew.  The woman in her lovely spring green jacket and gold bangle bracelet was forced to push down even further.  The portly man was scrunched in about half the space he actually required, much of his girth spilling out over the edge of the pew.  The stately lady tried with all her might to maintain some distance between herself and her "fragrant" friend.  So they sat there, three pretty people clumped together clinging to each other and the pew while the stranger seemed oblivious to their plight.

As the Mass began the cantor asked us to rise and greet those around us.  I froze for just a minute waiting for the woman to turn around.  How would my kids react to her outstretched hand?  How would I?  I looked up to be greeted by a sweet face with round, deep brown eyes.  I looked straight into her eyes trying to read her story in them.  She nervously but persistently greeted every person within her grasp.  She seemed to reach out with more than just her hand, as if she wanted desperately to connect with someone.

The greetings subsided and we all faced the altar.  There we were- my family, the elegant couple, the portly man and the strange, smelly lady.  At that moment, all things superficial faded away as we faced Jesus.  After all, it was Easter and Jesus had risen for that lady who was breaking my heart as much as for all the well-groomed people crowding the church.  After Mass, I would be enjoying a day with family and friends.  Good drink.  Good food.  Good conversation.  What did this lady's day hold?  It brought tears to my eyes.  Then another thought crept in that brought happy tears.  In the end, we all have one thing in common.


Not just the beautiful.  Not just the church-going.  For ALL of us.  He offers that gift to this strange woman as freely as He does to us.

Happy Easter to her.
Happy Easter to you.


31 March 2012

Constrained and Free

 Found this on a blog tonight and thought I would give it a try:

Write whatever is happening around you WHILE you are writing (sometimes that’s the very best) OR whatever DETAILS you remember about your day or a specific experience.
Next, try not to clarify or explain what you want to speak through your post too much. (Try not to force a theme or message.) Just write your experiences.  What did it make you think?
Then watch how your ordinary and extraordinary experiences speak all on their own.

So here goes:

 I am sitting with Elise on my bed.  I am reading a blog post that is so beautiful it breaks my heart.  Like hearing the first giggle from your baby.  Like a moment you wish could be suspended in time.

She is wearing an I "heart" NY shirt.  A classic.  A sentiment I share.  I love when any of my kids wears that shirt as we have many floating around the house, worn thin and passed from sibling to sibling as they are outgrown.  First worn too big as pajamas.  Then just worn and worn.  She has a silver tinsel halo on her head.  She is waving a plastic pink scepter.  It is perfectly topped with a dollop of marabou, so soft and fluffy.  As she waves her scepter she is weaving words into poems and songs.  They are silly.  They are serious.  They makes us giggle.  I am struck by how free she is.  Not constrained by conventions of language or dress.  Paying no attention to what makes sense.  Playing with words like notes on a piano keyboard.  Striking them just to see how they sound.  "Feathers float to the ground as cows begin to nibble them.  And then you be and then you do.  And that's how it go-ed."

Oh to be that free.  To be oblivious to the rules.  I am always glancing at the person next to me, wondering if I am getting it right.  Mostly measured, usually constrained.  It can be tiring.  There are moments of breaking free and finding the real, true me.  The whole me.  Not a portion that has been checked against all the rules and deemed okay.  Just me floating to the ground, light as a feather for one breathtaking flash of light then I am nibbled away by that pesky cow.

And then I be and then I do and that's how it goes!

04 March 2012

Love Song for my City

Last night Mark and I went to a wedding in the French Quarter.  The Mass was at St. Louis Cathedral,  a magnificent setting for a wedding.  Trumpet sounding, crystal chandeliers sparkling, Latin phrases in gold proclaiming the glory of God all enhanced the event.
After the ceremony it was a short walk next door to the Cabildo.  As we left the Cathedral, bells began to  peal proclaiming the happy event.  The large group of wedding guests attracted the attention of tourists wandering the area and I felt like we were in a scene from The Princess and the Frog.  At that moment, I felt blessed to be living in New Orleans.  There are many moments like that for me.

When my family is together on the parade route, a band marching by, drum beat pounding in my heart, I feel blessed.
In Audubon Park with a live band playing surrounded by friends all dancing, eating, drinking and taking time to enjoy life, I feel blessed.
When I see tourists gazing with awe at stately homes on Saint Charles Avenue as they enjoy a streetcar ride, I feel blessed.
Looking out at the Mighty Mississippi from the view afforded by the Aquarium of the Americas, I feel blessed.

Living in New Orleans is living a life enhanced.  It's as if someone slipped a stained glass window before your eyes, changing your view of everything for the better.  Colorful, vibrant- that's life in the Crescent City.  Strange, exotic- that's life in the Big Easy.  Dazzling, breathtaking- that's life in New Orleans.   

I could go on and on about my beloved city but I will have to leave it as a snippet for now.

If you are living here, take a moment to think of your reason to be thankful.  If you live away, come visit and see life from a new perspective.

One last thought- if New Orleans was a taste there are tons I could offer but I think it can be summed up nicely by the appetizer we were offered upon entering the wedding reception:


Wow!  Life in New Orleans is delicious.

Happy Sunday from my beautiful city,

13 January 2012

Things I know (but don't always put into practice)

1.  The day is always better when I begin with writing.
2.  The day is always better when I end with reading.
3.  I am NOT marrying the coffee creamer so I shouldn't spend so much time choosing it.
4.  Slow and steady wins the race.  Also known as ...A little bit is better than all or nothing!
5.  Comparing myself to others is not helpful in any way.
6.  I can do what I put my mind to.
7.  It's okay to ignore the rules sometimes.

Seven is a lucky number so I will end there.  Happy Friday!

08 January 2012

Back in the Saddle

 My daughter was going to a swim meet today.  Swim meets begin at God-awful times so I found myself awake in a quiet house with a little time on my hands.  Perfect time to write.

I sat down to read my favorite book about writing, the one that has an assignment after each chapter.  Where was that book?  Oh yeah, squirreled away in an old armoire in a pre-holiday cleaning blitz.  Now to find my glasses.  Darn!  Where have all the pens gone?  Probably another casualty of tidying the house.  Do you see a pattern here?

At this point, my mind wanders.  Well, maybe I should do something else.  Any excuse to avoid putting pen to paper.  Okay...I'll blog instead.  But blogging means running the gauntlet of distractions like e-mail and Facebook.  It was close but I avoided them both and here I am, pounded away on the keys.

It is already a daunting task, staring at a blank screen, the cursor expectantly blinking.  Over the holidays, the tiniest seed of a thought that would linger in my mind.  It would make a great subject but the thought of fully forming it stops me in my tracks.  Other times, a grand idea would sweep over me but the thought of taking a big thought and narrowing it into a blog would wear me out even before I started.

Then there is RHYTHM.  This morning when I was stopped at every turn by a new (albeit minor) hurdle- glasses, pens, book...I realized how hard it is to get back into a rhythm.  That's what the holidays do.  They interrupt our daily rhythm.  It is always a welcome break.  Day after day with no distractions get monotonous.  As a matter of fact, during Christmas the break last so long the holidays take on a rhythm of their own.  Imposed discipline from being forced to follow a schedule slips away.  Normal cycles of eating, sleeping and working all blur like the horizon when it is cloaked in fog.  I have been trying to claw my way out since January 2nd.  I always find transitions difficult.  It seems every summer I blog about struggling at the beginning.  That struggle is in letting the rhythm of the school year give way to the very different cadence of the summer.

So here I am, caught between two rhythms.  When I am thinking and writing about a subject, I love to look up quotes about it.  I read many quotes about rhythm this quiet Sunday morning.  It was frustrating because I couldn't find one that encapsulated what I was trying to express.  I think God has planted a natural rhythm deep within our being.  It is so primal, it is almost hard to separate ourselves from it and find a way to express it in words.   The best I could find was this:

Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.
Thomas Merton

The holidays are a time of intense pleasure and temporal happiness.  Restoring the balance and order of daily life can be a challenge...

Especially when living in New Orleans with football and Mardi Gras threatening to sweep everyone into another rhythm altogether.

Oh well.  Guess I should just celebrate the fact that being being in or out of rhythm as well as the transitions does one thing...


It's the start of the Carnival season.  Better go find my tap shoes.