Ojai in Pictures

Ojai’s climate is warm valley meets ocean breezes (it’s only about 15 miles from the beaches of Ventura.)  There’s a lot of citrus (including their famous unique Ojai Pixie tangerines), bougainvillea, oaks, eucalyptus, lavender, olive trees, avocados, and cactus.

ojai 1 cactus treesojai 2 huge eucalyptusEucalyptus is SO fragrant.  I love it.  I learned as a kid that eucalyptus was introduced to California because its fast-growing wood could  be used to build the railroads.

ojai 3 fruit standPomegranates!

ojai 4 vistaAll of California is in a major drought so all of the vistas looked down into dry, rocky creek beds.

ojai 5 rains local stuffIn cute little downtown Ojai, Rains is celebrating their centennial.  Rains is a local institution that is truly an old-fashioned department store, with hardware, garden, housewares, and local items.  It has shoes and clothing (“Ojai Man” and “Ojai Woman.”)

ojai 6 matilijaI love these posters of matilija poppies (“fried egg flowers”) that grow locally.  A major street in town is called Matilija (the Rainbow Bridge health food store is on Matilija.)

ojai 7 mission tilesThese mission tiles are great!  The missions are all a day’s horseback ride from each other. Santa Cruz is #12.

ojai 8 artA local gallery has interesting art from all over the country.  I like these “Critters from the Hood” which are made from old cars.

ojai 9 art explanationThese creatures are pretty cool, too.

ojai 10 art againojai 11 tea shoppeLook!  An English tea shoppe.  What a nice surprise!

This consignment/resale shop caught my eye because there was a fabulous bright purple dress hanging out front.  The price was right so I bought it.  Ojai is bag-free so I had to walk around carrying it in my hands.  I always forget to bring my bags.  Memo to self:  bring a few bags in our luggage to Portland.  I’m SURE Portland must be bag-free.

ojai 12 treasures store

A Little Something Different…

photo 1 (5)photo 1 (8)Four weeks flew by, and it was time to pick Eva up at camp, so I decided to finally check out a place I’ve heard about but never visited, Pepper Tree Retreat in Ojai.

Their brochure says:  “Pepper Tree Retreat, an Ojai retreat with vegetarian cuisine, is the former home of philosopher J. Krishnamurti, perhaps Ojai’s most famous resident.  Krishnamurti lived here from 1922 to 1986, welcoming visitors from around the world who were challenged by his penetrating inquiries into the fundamental questions of life.  These included such 20th Century luminaries as Annie Besant, Aldous Huxley, John Barrymore, Greta Garbo, David Bohm, Dr. Jonas Salk, D.H. Lawrence, Jackson Pollack, Igor Stravinsky and many others.  The retreat guest rooms are named after these visitors, some of whom stayed in the rooms that are named for them.”

(I originally booked the Charlie Chaplin room but it wasn’t ready in time so ended up in the Annie Besant suite instead:  a nice upgrade as you can see!)

photo 3 (8)My suite of rooms was in a beautifully maintained 1910 farmhouse set among towering eucalyptus, oak, and pepper trees.

photo 1 (6) photo 1 (7)In addition to a main bedroom, I also had a screened-in patio with writing desk which had views of the porch, rose garden, orange grove, and mountains in the distance. Ojai is a very narrow valley so there are beautiful mountain views on both sides.

photo 4 (6)The whole place smells like orange blossoms and eucalyptus.  There is such quiet except for sometimes when you walk past pepper trees you hear a low buzzing:  bees!  There are lots of bees all around Ojai but none ever seem that interested in people, luckily.  And I was a little worried I might see a snake but nope, no snake sightings either.

photo 2 (6) photo 2 (7)I could walk right out my back porch down a winding path where I took my morning walk.

photo 2 (2) photo 2 photo 3 (6) photo 3The retreat is amazing.  There is a wonderful, still feeling that is both restful and restorative while also stimulating.  I felt calmly energized even though it was hot (even by Ojai summer standards it was hot:  over 100 degrees and humid, overcast with light sprinkles in the morning which is very rare.)

The common areas are beautiful.  Breakfast in the main dining room was simple but somehow everything tasted wonderful.  I asked the dreadlocked and nose-ringed guy who was putting out the food whether the jam (simply labeled “organic berry”) was made on the premises.

“It’s from Trader Joe’s.  I can show you the jar if you want.”  I noticed many of the products around the house came from Trader Joe’s, and I should have asked who gets stuck doing the shopping, since TJs always has THE worst parking lots.  I would love to know a yogi’s tricks for navigating the Trader Joe’s parking lot without losing it.

There’s a living room area with comfortable chairs and couches.  The walls are lined with books.  One entire wall is filled with books written by Krishnamurti.  (He wrote a lot!)  An umbrella stand filled with rolled yoga mats sits near the French doors leading to a shady patio.

Water and tea are set out all the time, and the water pitcher had rosemary and sliced oranges (grown on premises; the night caretaker urged me to pick whatever I wanted when I was there.)  They even had my favorite tulsi tea.  Score!

By day it was beautiful but I admit I was a teeny bit concerned that I might get scared at night.  You just never know.  Sleeping in a creaky old farmhouse haunted by the ghost of Charlie Chaplin (okay, I just made that up, but it sound like it could be true, right!?) might be scary.

I brought my airplane-freebie sleep set (eye mask and earplugs sealed in plastic) and my Essence of Vali sleep aromatherapy, but I didn’t need them.  I fell asleep and slept soundly until I woke with natural dawn light.  But when I checked the clock I saw it was only 2 a.m.  “Supermoon” had been two nights before and the moon was still really light, and by the wee hours it was shining in through the window at my headboard like daytime.  It was like summer in Finland.

I was initially worried that I might have to make chitchat with fellow guests or visitors to the retreat center but luckily everyone was very quiet and vague.  Nobody asked why I was there or how I decided to come for a visit.  Everyone had vague unplaceable possibly European sounding accents, and there were a lot of natural fibers and braided hemp sandals.

So anyway, the retreat was wonderful, and I plan to return for a longer visit in the future.  Best of all, it was only a few minutes from camp so I was able to be one of the first cars in line, pick Eva up, and be home before rush hour.  Score again!

STRONG!

Okay, so this is really exciting.  I have been doing The New Rules of Lifting for Women (NROL4W) since June 9.  I am not a newcomer to strength training, and I get why it is important, but this is the first time EVER that I’ve stuck with any type of organized program consistently for any real length of time.

And (AND!!!!) I began feeling noticeably stronger literally after my first workout.

Because I love “proof” I have been tracking my progress in a workout log.  The numbers on the log don’t fully capture how much stronger I feel, though.  Mere numbers can’t demonstrate confidence.  They can’t measure taller posture.  They can’t convey how much more comfortable I feel walking into the “real” weights area of my local Gold’s.

My weight is the same.  My clothes fit pretty much the same (except oddly my bras fit size-wise the same but the straps needed adjusting; I think my shoulders might be getting more contoured.)  I’ve been in a bikini a few times this month including yesterday for July 4th and I look the same.

Which is FINE!  My goal going into this program was to stay the same size, or even get a wee bit bigger, since I started out underweight, but I want to firm up, shape up, and most importantly feel strong.  And not just FEEL strong, but actually BE strong.

I’ve been athletic for decades but you can move a lot, and do sports, which is great, fun, very healthful, and good for a whole bunch of stuff, but now that I AM 44 (!!) I need to lift weights.  And I need to do it consistently.

[AND....AND!!!....those weights need to be HEAVY.  Doubt me?  Check out New Rules of Lifting for Women and the excellent rationale he has for why.  It makes so much sense.]

That said, the numbers are moving a little bit.  And truly though I feel different, it hasn’t been that long.  But just for example:

1.  LUNGES.  I am holding a dumbbell in each hand and stepping forward into a deep lunge, then pushing back into starting position.  Repeat on the other side.  That’s one rep.

On the first day, I  could barely do two sets.  I actually felt a little bit dizzy and queasy as I “finished” (aka ended early) my second set. Holding 15# dumbbells in each hand I did one set of 15 and one set of eight.  Yesterday, I did three sets of 10 reps each holding that same weight.

More importantly, I felt strong and held good form the entire time.

2.  DEADLIFTS.  Yes, deadlifts!  Like I said I’ve lifted weights in the gym before but I’ve always done “girl” exercises, mostly on the machines.  I was seriously outside my comfort zone picking up a bar like an  old timey strongman to bust out some deadlifts.

I started out with a 30# bar and did two sets of 15.  I was SO SORE the next day that I thought I might be coming down with some weird type of body-ache flu.

Now I can do three sets of 10 reps with a 60# bar.

3.  STEP-UPS.  Holding dumbbells in each hand, put the working foot on a step.  Push up to the step, letting the non-working leg trail along until it rests gently on the step.  Return to start and repeat all the reps on that side. Then switch working legs.

Step ups are a bit of a balance challenge for me.  Weird, I know.  But that’s one thing I love about this program. Every exercise works many different muscles.  Anything that throws me a little bit off balance?  I can absolutely feel my core strengthening to hold me steady.  Plus who couldn’t use a little balance improvement?

The first day I held 15# dumbbells and did two sets of 15 reps each. I was not feeling awesome as I ended each set, and in particular finishing all of the reps in that second set was a challenge.  Now I am doing three sets of 10 reps each holding 22.5# dumbbells.  Nice!

4.  SEATED ROW.  Sitting on bench, pull cable toward chest.  This may be why I had to adjust my bra straps around my shoulders.  I went from two sets at 40#.  I was supposed to do 15 reps but could only do 10 my first set and 12 my second.  Now I can do three sets of 10 reps lifting 60#.

NROL4W is divided into seven stages and the entire program takes approximately six months.  In my enthusiasm I already bought the author’s newest book:  New Rules of Lifting-Supercharged, which I plan to do after finishing stage 7.  More to come!

Quick Takes

To date the funniest sign I’ve ever seen:

LOST BLOODHOUND

Par-tay!

Busy time, party time, crazy time.  We’re still enjoying the novelty of having a pool (which was after all a major selling point of this house for us) and we’ve definitely been getting a lot of use out of it!

We had a family party for Mother’s Day here, then a pool party for Eva’s Hebrew school class, followed by a pool party for Jane’s 2nd grade class one week later.  Then later this week the kids are hosting a party entirely of their own creation.

This reminds me a little bit of the time Jane announced we were hosting a tea.  Don’t get me wrong; I’m thrilled the kids are sociable.  I really like their friends and I’m glad to be “the house” where all the kids hang out.

It’s just kind of funny how it all unfolded.  They hatched the idea (probably while swimming with friends one afternoon in the spring:  “Wouldn’t it be fun to have a party after school’s out?”)

They printed out invitations.  They wrote out a guest list.  They wrote a menu (complete with shopping list.)

They even  created a Gmail account for RSVPs.

Want to hear something really, really funny?  And kind of sad?  Among the parents of the 7th graders at Hebrew school, the parents of the 2nd graders at Jane’s small private school, and the CHILDREN living in our neighborhood, guess which party got more people to respond with RSVPs?

Yup, the kiddos.

What is with people not RSVPing, anyway?

I’m just sayin’….

Because yesterday at 2:15 pm I was sitting on our bedroom floor sorting laundry and paying bills.  Party was scheduled for 3 pm but I figured NOBODY was coming.  I went downstairs and mixed up a batch of Crystal Light lemonade and put out some baby carrots.  I figured maybe we’d have two or three families and we’d have a quiet afternoon swimming.

Nope.  By 3:15 our house was filled with probably 25 people.

And again, don’t get me wrong.  I love to host.  I love seeing these folks and we all had a great time.  But HOW do you get 75%+ attendance and NOBODY who attended actually RSVPd at all?  The only people I heard from were two people who couldn’t attend.

I always, always RSVP and I thought I was normal but maybe all these years I’ve been the weird one.

And Eva’s Hebrew school class is a quirky, unusual group.  I figured maybe it was just them, but Jane’s class isn’t at all quirky or unusual. They’re all totally normal.  And nope,  they don’t RSVP either.

But anyways….pool parties, check.  Fun, check.  Swimming, check.

And as they say, it’s all good.

Parents of Middle Schoolers: How Involved Should We Be?

Now that Eva is almost two thirds done with middle school, I feel able to comment about something I find incredibly frustrating from the parent side of things.

We have an epidemic of kids arriving on college campuses unable to register for classes, buy books, or take exams without calling Mommy and Daddy (but usually Mommy) for help, advice, input, feedback, or moral support.

I am trying my level best to counter that by training the kids from a young age to interact directly with teachers (plus school administrators, coaches, tutors, and other adults in their lives.) Even when it would be faster and more convenient to intervene, I let the kids handle these matters on their own.

Except…EXCEPT….the adults on the other side of the equation aren’t holding up their end of things. Maybe it’s just the age. Maybe things will become very different once Eva hits high school and is dealing with high school teachers and school administrators rather than middle school ones.

Because what I’m watching firsthand is very frustrating. When Eva deals with her teachers herself, she often gets no response, or an incomplete or completely unacceptable response.

These are things like showing up at school on crutches with what everyone including the doctor thought was a broken foot, with a doctor’s note telling her to stay completely off her foot for four weeks, and being given an F in all of the half-mile and mile runs she missed. When Eva dealt with the teacher on her own, the best deal the teacher was “willing” to make was to give her an incomplete in PE and allow her to make up four runs the following semester. (While still doing all of the runs required for that new semester on a foot that had just been crutch-bound, and these are runs given a letter grade based on time.)

After a couple of weeks of this, I contacted the teacher myself. I also contacted Eva’s school counselor. Rather than call me back, they simply changed her grade in PE to an A and gave her As for those runs.

Clearly this is a bureaucracy that doesn’t enjoy talking to parents and probably feels the easiest way to shut us up is to just give us what they think we want: As for our kids.

Or take the incident of the lost standardized testing. Eva took three days of standardized tests this spring. Scores from one of the days showed up but for two of the days she had Fs. She contacted her teacher who said she got Fs because she didn’t take the tests. Eva replied that she did take them. She was in school the entire time. The teacher said she’d look into it.

Meanwhile time went by….and went by….and went by. Flash forward to the weekend before the final exam. Still no answer. This is two days worth of testing in a class with a grade derived 90% from test scores (the other 10% is from homework.)

Was she going to have to retake standardized tests? Was it going to happen outside class hours? During vacation? Were they going to just pretend the tests never happened? (That’s what her teacher initially did; she simply removed the tests from the pool of graded work, as if they never happened.)

This was not acceptable for a variety of reasons, the main one being the fact that I’m trying to teach the kids that their work needs to be handed in. When they get the message that their teachers don’t know or care whether or not an essay is submitted, not submitted, or stuck to the bottom of someone’s shoe, they really don’t understand the value in any of these assignments.

Finally I shot the teacher a quick email. Miraculously Eva’s grades for both of the missing days appeared on the school grade reporting website as A+s. I am a little skeptical since her grade for day one of testing was a C-. I ran my theory by Scott and he said fraud is a pretty serious accusation and while I agree, part of me wonders if this is just the fast way to shut up the parents.

And honestly what I really wish would happen, no matter what affect it were to have on Eva’s grade, is for her teacher to actually know and notice when two days worth of work simply disappear, and to brainstorm with Eva ways to fix the situation. I wish I didn’t have to be involved at all. But sadly it seems like a visit or email from a seventh grader doesn’t do the trick.

I remember in high school my friend Diana and I wrote essays for American History and we both received Fs with the comment that our opinions were “un-American.” The topic was “Why I am proud to be an American” and we were mad about the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI.) The teacher accused us of plagiarism when in reality we had just discussed our ideas and were probably “Yeah, me too!”-ing in conversation then we independently wrote it down.

My mom went to the principal but Diana’s refused. My grade was changed (I don’t remember what I ended up getting) but Diana failed American History and wasn’t allowed to graduate with the rest of the class until she finished summer school.

I am continuing to have the kids solve their own problems but reserving the right to intervene when things get ridiculous. Short of a perfect world, I guess it’s all I can do.

Ironic Intolerance of Humanity

There’s nothing like a long day in uncomfortable shoes at Disneyland to make you accept the fact that hell probably really is other people after all.

I’m actually exaggerating a little bit since in the big picture, we ended up at Disneyland to celebrate Eva’s 12th birthday on what turned out to be a gloriously un-busy day.  We literally walked onto several rides, and our longest waits for the more popular ones were 25-30 minutes.

We also had some wonderful, fortuitous moments like walking out of the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor holding cones and happening upon a perfect shaded table right in front of the best spot of the parade route becoming vacant at that exact moment.

But it was while standing in line at It’s a Small World that I found myself sandwiched between two large extended families, both from different countries, each of those countries having different cultural norms about how close you’re supposed to stand to people, and the relative merits of shoving people in the side, jabbing with an elbow, creeping up to cut ahead in line, etc.

The irony of feeling incredibly xenophobic while standing in line for It’s a Small World did not escape me.

The woman behind me had her face wedged right up against my back.  At one point she actually got her makeup on the back of my shirt.  She also brushed her Dole pineapple whip against my purse.  The people in front of us were doing the same, but in reverse, so we really were wedged.

Eva was irked that I forced the kids to go on It’s a Small World in the first place, since the kids felt it was “boring,” “annoying,” and “creepy.”  Jane remembered there were “hidden Mickeys” inside Small World so she was somewhat okay with it, but the older girls were just annoyed.

Eva became obsessed with how they divided us into two lines, then our line stood still and the other line kept moving.  For every three boats of theirs, one of ours set sail.

But then it was our turn.  Our group had the third and fourth rows. The first and second were the annoying people who had been in front of us and the last rows were the equally annoying people from behind us.   And…

….as soon as we sailed under the first arch and into darkness, which turned to bright colors, glassy eyed animatronics and glittery cutouts, everyone started singing.  In English.  From behind us, from in front of us, in heavy accents, from the elderly grandma (with the sharpest elbows of the entire group) to the youngest toddlers, they all sang “It’s a Small World” with complete abandonment. It was like these people from different continents who had never met before this day got together on Main Street to punk me.

It was pretty remarkable, really.  Nothing like that has ever happened to me on Small World before.