Hello, Yerba Buena Garden

It's been rainy on and off throughout the day..."We have to leave in 5 minutes!" DH rushed impatiently. Why? We won't make it to the Toll Plaza before 10 to take advantage of the commuter lane if we don't hurry. Thank goodness we made it--another triumph!

Mom was meeting a friend and won't be home until noon. We took advantage of the extra time in the city touring the 5-acre Yerba Buena Garden, across from my old office where I worked for many years...many fond memories for me as well as for DD#1.

Main Entrance to Yerba Buena Garden, located between Mission and Howard Streets on Third Street. There is another large fountain in the middle of the Garden.

SHIP SCULPTURE, made of glass and metal and inside it are live plants, in the East Garden--just one of many artwork pieces scattered around the Garden.

I found humor in this. If you look up (from SHIP SCULPTURE,) you will see...duh...the Sky. You won't need this to show you where to look to see the sky!

The most dramatic, outdoor waterfall, created by Sculptor Houston Conwill, poet Estella Majozo, and architect Joseph de Pace as a memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sheltered behind this peaceful 50-foot-tall waterfall are 12 glass panels,

each inscribed with quotations from Mr. King. I can sit here all day, relax, and listen to the water.

Now at the top of Martin Luther King, Jr. waterfall, called Sister City Garden where several sculpture pieces are on display (as photos below.) Center for the Arts Theater is the building at the other end of the plaza; which presents music, theater dance, and visual art. To the far left is Center for the Arts Galleries & Forum, which features galleries and a space designed specially for dance. They also have cutting-edge computer art and multimedia shows are on view in the high-tech galleries. The brownish red building with round skylight is San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

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Full view of Martin Luther King, Jr. Waterfalls from Sony Metreon. There is a walk way to get up here from Yerba Buena Garden...you can get several other good views of the city from the large elevated patio.

San Francisco skyline is one of the most photographed cities in United States.

In front still standing is Saint Patricks Church, built in 1851, survived earthquakes in 1906 and 1989. I used to spend my breaks there praying, away from work (two buildings over.) To the right is the Mexican Museum, relocated from Fort Mason.

My Old Office next to now the Mexican Museum, transformed from a parking lot.

We were so looking forward to check out the 32,000 square-foot, professional-size indoor rink--with a National Hockey League regulation-size surface for team play and practice, figure skaters, skating exhibitions and general skating--located near the heart of Downtown San Francisco. Though it's open to the public all year round, it operates irregular hours. Disappointingly, it wasn't open until noon. When DH and I took a peek through the glass, guess who we saw practicing and performed the 'tano Lutz' jump....my teenage, local idol (he was 6 months of my junior,) Brian Boitano! Brian began to skate at age 8 when he went to a figure skating show starred Peggy Fleming. Brian fell in love with the sport and quickly became very accomplished. At times, he even gave the 1984 men's Olympic Champion, Scott Hamilton, a run for his money. In '88, he won "The Battle of the Brians" between himself and Canadian Brian Orser. He went pro and has skated and toured with skaters like Tara Lipinski, Michelle Kwan, Scott Hamilton, Paul Wylie and Kurt Browning. Even admiring Brian from a distance, separated by a piece of glass, it was enough for me...

Truly unique Circle Play was the highlight of the Garden, a neighborhood playground built in the heart of downtown. Our kids spent most of the time there...with no intention or desire to other cultural places the garden or nearby museums has to offer.

The bowling alley was empty except for the staff. This is a slow time of the year for tourism. We pretty much have the place to ourselves. I got to chat with a young docent/guide who manned the Circle Play. Since he is fairly new to the Bay Area, I ended up educating him...while the kids had a blast running around.

Zeum Store is in the large building in the center of the Garden.

Here is the all-glass, restored carrousel, originally built in 1903 by Charles I.D. Looff in Rhode Island. It was first used in Seatle until 1913 when Looff moved it to Playland at the Beach in S.F. It remained there until the park closed in '72. From '72 until late '98, the carrousel has been around. The animals on these old carrousels are all hand-carved, hand-painted, with real horse hair tails. Music for this carrousel is taped and played over speakers; versus old music used to be real musical instruments that played mechanically with a paper roll that recorded what to play, just like a piano player. In old days, you could grab a brass ring on your way around, throw it and try to get it into the big clowns mouth. You can't do it now because the building is all-glass.

The World's largest urban $85 million, 3-D IMAX Sony entertainment complex "Metron", with 15 stadium-seating movie theaters, opened in June, '99; next to Yerba Buena Garden lawn.

The lobby has a post modern brushed steel look to it and that is not all, there is much more going on at the Metreon than besides just movies.

In this lobby, you may purchase a card for different attractions including movies and food. You may increase its value at machines (like an ATM) located throughout the complex.

As with many other tourist-focal attractions, we skipped Portal 1, a dimly lit cavern with all sorts of video games and looked alot like a gambling casino. You have to have a card to play the games, like the one mentioned before. Machine design is very futuristic. THere is a simulator ride where you get in a pod and go into space and compete with others trying to get the fuel before they do.

Nice wrap-up to our one-hour visit in downtown...biggest X-box interactive advertisement I've ever seen and the kids were crazy about!
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Arrived the Bay Area Safe and Sound

Although driving through snow may have aggravated DH's nerves, at least it spurred me to express myself with photos...Feeling like your car is going to slide off the road at any second is not a good feeling. Having to follow the faint tire tracks left by the car ahead of you to make sure you stay on the road is not a good feeling. Having to drive 20-30 mph to a final destination that we were hoping to arrive before dark (especially we didn't leave our home in Bend until 12 noon) is not a good feeling.

After an 8-hour drive through heavy snowfall and rain, I was ecstatic...being "HOME" again, greeted by familiar sceneries, freeway signs, rolling green hills...it's a dream crossing the new $1.2 billion Benicia Bridge span at last. The new bridge has definitely improved the traffic in Martinez along 680. When we lived in Danville, CA, and during our last visit, I would go through the refineries to avoid the 680 as long as possible, getting on the freeway at the last entrance. Now, that way would slow me down. The new span, open since last October, exclusively serves northbound drivers. The 1962 span no longer serves drivers going in both directions, but only those heading south. Those extra lanes have made a difference. It's really sweet.

We made a quick stop at Whole Foods--not all whole Foods were created equal. I love this neighborhood Whole Foods as it has been and is always there for me when needed. Check out the best deletable bakery, fresh seafood and meat department, strong and hot mochas, most delicious organic produce, raw milk in glass bottles (still availabe,) floral department (people actually knowing how to create a bouquet), wine, cheese, chocolate...the store is amazing, the greatest supermarket in Walnut Creek, CA. Its store hours & friendly staff (some are people I knew before we moved away over two years ago) keep me coming back. This is an excellent place for grabbing dinner on the go. So, we picked up some dinner at its deli, and stocked up for breakfast and some basic stuff like Milk, OJ, eggs, etc., until next day or two for a more thorough grocery shopping.
We got to our friends off Tice Valley Road (on the border of Walnut Creek and Rossmor) before 9 in the evening. Kids haven't seen their friend Marisa for at least a year. Surprisingly, they picked up where they left off...as if it were only yesterday...My total admiration for my kids!

Ooooh, I just remember it's a holiday today honoring slain civil rights leader
Martin Luther King, Jr. (timeline created in Kid Pix) I take a moment to marvel at the progress our society has made together and its efforts to knock down social barriers and bring justice to those who lived on the margins. The work is far from finished. The dream is not fulfilled. What is your political view?

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Another Little Snow Storm

We've gotten another snow storm since this morning...kicked up more than an inch of snow on the driveway. Nothing to French Toast Alert about really, an inch is nothing. It is old hat. Par for the course. An inch? Give me that every day. I can handle it. But seeing as there is precipitation falling from the sky...ARGH.

On a short drive home in my friend's car after Mom's Night Out this evening, Michelle and I were thinking it's like we were in one of those frosty snow globe. Snowflakes were dancing everywhere. Temperature will drop to a single-digit tonight and below zero tomorrow night.

The only consolation is that we will be heading out for California first thing in the morning and in California by nightfall, tomorrow. Forecast indicates that it will be all snowy from Bend, Oregon, to Redding, California. It would not be an easy drive for DH. It solved however another dilemma we've been tossing back and forth...travelling with snow chains or stud tires. Decision is clearly made...stud tires. The drawback would be a slow, long journey.
(Max, son of a friend, drew the manga eye, as pictured above, especially for me--I love this priceless gift.)

I've been bombarded with sad news all around me and feel mentally drained. A dear friend didn't make it to Mom's Night Out because she just discovered that her husband started gambling again. Yes, it was a problem from the past. My heart goes out to her! Just yesterday, I learned through an email that another couple in California is going through separation after a marriage of 15+ years, blessed with three children from 15 to 5. It will be awkward seeing them in this trip. Both are friends...can I be friend to both without taking side unconsciously? This evening, as soon as I walked in the house, DH greeted me with another bad news. Another couple whom we will be staying with some days, while in California, are separated! What is it with marriage trouble! I am at lost...I'm crying...I'm absorbing everyone else's negative energies--overload. I am disturbed. I pray for a clear head and wisdom so I may be good enough friend to support these troubled friends when I see them, know how to comfort and assure them that divorce, or any transition for that matter, is not the end to everything. The Devil wants us to fall flat on our face when we have a trial of this nature, and he's good at working that angle. God will provide angels (friends) to help those in need. A good friend is like an angel. I pray for strength to be just that.

Well...it's time to say goodbye. You'll be sorely missed, dear friend. I look forward to my return home in February. Until then, be free, be joyous.
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Presence of Mind...Here and Now

How true that we often laugh together, but cry alone!

I hope this inspiring serenity prayer will touch you in even a small way.

(Photos were taken today at Farewell Bend Park along Deschutes River.)

by Reinhold Niebuhr

God, give us
Grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things which should be changed,
and Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.


Serenity does not mean a quiet, unruffled, calm, undisturbed, tranquil condition in the circumstances of life about us. In truth, what it really means is PRESENCE OF MIND and the HERE AND NOW, seeing reality of whatever conditions and circumstances that may be occurring...Not fighting reality with illusions of how things should or should not be.

Acknowledge the truth of reality, take what is offered or given, and receive willingly...As I am given life, one moment, one condition, one circumstance, one happening at a time...God's Life for God's children has to be a happening. It can't be any other way.

Reality cannot be changed. It simply is. No amount of mind bending illusion creating will change it. The truth is the truth--it needs no defense. The only thing I, a human being, can do with reality is change my point of view, my perspective. Reality itself will remain unchanged.

My life is determined by decisions and actions I take and the thoughts I hold, by no other forces. I must always live with the consequences of my decisions or lack thereof. Life cannot be lived any other way.

The only thing that I can change is my perspective as I view reality, learning to make better responsible decisions, living my way to better thinking each moment.

Wisdom, an acquired trait through the experience of life, a recognition and remembrance of the things that do or do not coincide with reality, that do or do not work, that are true, that are honest, for that is the meaning of truth, rigorously honest.

It has been said that a wise man's education toward understanding his own universe and reality (and to some extent mine) will embrace as much folly as he can afford. It is only to the degree that he can afford it, that he will be able to laugh at himself. If he embraces more folly than he can afford, he will cry.

The wise man knows that success in life is achieved by simply putting a whole lot of mistakes together in a way that works.

Wisdom is not something you think, Wisdom is something you DO!! Give yourself permission to be YOU!

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Excite My Imagination...so My Children Will too!

School is very different today than when I attended. It is a lot more like a prison. Detention, drills, getting permission to go to the bathroom, bells, confinement, crazy sequences, age-segregation, lack of privacy, constant surveillance, and all the rest of the national curriculum of schooling were designed exactly as if someone had set out to prevent kids from learning how to think and act, to coax them into addiction and dependent behavior. I can't stop myself shaking my head. In school, kids have to be there so you can do anything you want to them. If you don't like a class or activity for some reason, you can't just drop or not participate in it. It's not hard to see where my children's independent attitudes come from. DH and I have never been afraid to think and act outside of society's imposed norms. Mark Twain once said, "I never let my schooling interfere with my education."

Unschooling is a growing community. We feel the pedantic structures of public school system are stifling kids by starving them of creativity and passion. A conventional homeschooler will generally follow a set curriculum, which is often based directly on public school system's program. Instead, unschoolers are encouraged to find a path that works best for them and empowers them to choose their own intellectual destinies. We, unschoolers, agree with George Bernard Shaw when he said "We want to see the child in pursuit of knowledge, not knowledge in pursuit of the child.."

Public school kids are told when to be creative and when to be excited about something...'Now you have to be excited about the ABCs,' an hour later, 'now you have to be excited about the color green.' What happens if a kid's not? Or what if at 9:30 a.m., she is excited about the color pink and not what the teacher wants her to be? It's always their agenda and that kills the creativity. The message the kids get is 'your creativity isn't as important as our schedule.'

Creativity, above almost all else, is vital to our growth as human being. We need creativity for everything. People think 'oh creativity, that's just artsy-fartsy crap,' and that's not true. We need creativity to be a good philosopher, scientist, anthropologist, or even a cop. Creativity is our life force; if we don't nurture it, we would just walk around like a robot.

Have you seen 2001: A Space Odyssey? Do you remember when someone's removing the brain cores from Hal, the spacecraft's talking computer, pulling them out, and HAL gets more and more childish? Well, that's the job assigned to compulsory schooling.

Officially, our schools are supposed to prepare young people to be intelligent participants in our parliamentary democracy--and to train them for work. Actually, it doesn't do a very good job of either. Kids and parents are fed up with inflexible standards, confused educators, mundane textbooks, and overwhelming amount of homework assigned even off school. They feel they are wasting time and what the kids were learning had no bearing on real life. For those who do enjoy their classes and are the only ones who ask questions about a topic, you would be in for a big surprise...because other kids and teachers would get annoyed; everyone just want to get it over with and go home.

School has become a child care--much needed since families require two-wage earners to make a go of it in global economy. As harsh as it may sound, school is merely a place for warehousing kids.

Rapid bombardment of trivial information and lack of context make it hard to get anyone interested in school subjects, let alone become passionate about them. All you get is little bits and pieces of history, science, and politics; nothing connects them all together...to give a bigger picture of life. Like me, most kids don't learn when they're being fed so much information--names, dates, and so on. Speaking from personal experience, it didn't matter how I studied and did well on tests...because a week later everything I just learned were out the window to make way for a bunch of new stuff for more tests to come. The way I was taught, I never really retain or learn anything. My classmates and I were just regurgitating same answers, then forgetting them.

One of the loudest voices of the unschooling movement John Gatto said, "The best schools probably draw on 10 to 20 percent of what young people are [intellectually] capable of and they're intended to do that. They want to train you to move inside a very narrow compass; it's what they're set up to do. And they want to train you inside the narrowest compass to be a specialist and waste your life mastering an extremely narrow bit of a whole so that you never, never, never will tamper with policy."

Gatto explained, in an article he wrote for Harper's Magazine in 2003, how "mass schooling of a compulsory nature really got its teeth into the United States between 1905 and 1915, though it was conceived of much earlier and pushed for through most of the nineteenth century." He noted that throughout most of American history, children didn't attend public schools, "yet the unschooled rose to be admirals, like Farragut; inventors, like Edison; captains of industry, like Carnegie and Rockefeller; writers like Melville and Twain and Conrad; and even scholars, like Margaret Mead." Gatto explained that the Canadian public education system, since 1867 has been under provincial responsibility and control, was developed in tandem with its fundamentally identical American counterpart to "convince the majority of people that their economic lives hang by a thread, and if they don't do what they're told to do, they'll be doomed and ostracized."

Noam Chomsky, my favorite linguist and political activist--once called "arguably the most important intellectual alive" by New York Times--wrote in UNDERSTANDING POWER public education is a "system of imposed ignorance," that was instituted in the U.S. and elsewhere as "a technique to beat independence out of the heads of farmers and turn them into docile and obedient factory workers."

"In fact," Chomsky wrote, "the whole educational and professional training system is a very elaborate filter, which just weeds out people who are too independent, and who think for themselves, and who don't know how to be submissive, and so on--because they're dysfunctional to the institutions."

In his Harper's article, Gatto drew from a number of sources in explaining how the North American school system was adapted from a 19th century Prussian system and was "intended to be just what it had been for Prussia in the 1820s: a fifth column into the burgeoning democratic movement that threatened to give the peasants and the proletarians a voice at the bargaining table." The system was to "make sort of a surgical incision into the prospective unity of these underclasses. Divide children by subject, by age-grading, by constant ranking on tests, and by many other more subtle means, and it was unlikely that the ignorant mass of mankind, separated in childhood, would ever reintegrate into a dangerous whole."

One of the ways public school system accomplishes its intended purpose is by focusing disproportionately on reading and almost totally ignoring speaking and writing.

If you ask people what literacy is...they'd probably say reading. That's the third in the order of importance, or at best, tied for number two. Back in the days when United States was a British colony as was Canada, literacy identified the division between active literacy and passive literacy. Passive literacy is clearly reading. The active literacy, which is requisite of readership, is speaking and writing. The focus on passive literacies leads to passive students.

"If you went to the elite private boarding schools," Gatto said, "you would find an unbelievable stress on the active literacies. But if you went into the best public schools in Canada or the United States, you would not find that. And you would get an explanation that...there's simply not enough time to do that. We can't afford to teach writing, and where would the time come for giving every kid daily practice in speaking before audiences? I'll tell you from experience, if you want to do those things, you can, in fact, find the time and the mechanisms. The idea though, is to put the active literacies to death because, without the active literacies, you don't have a prayer of ever influencing anyone else."

In your entire lifetime of buying and renting services and negotiating contracts, have you ever even thought of asking a person what his/her standardized test score or grade point average was? Because with the stress and drum beating that you hear, you would assume you wouldn't go to an auto mechanic without asking him what his score was in mechanic school. Wouldn't you be a fool not to have that information if, in fact, it were information? Wouldn't you want to ask your hair stylist what her grade was in beauty school; let alone your lawyer, your physician, your architect? The very fact that universally nobody asks for these things is all you need to know that the information is worthless...or, it's extremely valuable in showing whether a person is obedient because the only way you do well on those tests is by memorizing the dots you're told to memorize. You're never asked to connect the dots.

By turning education over to 'professionals,' we have grown away from the learning process and become locked in our old ideas and methods. This system gives us the illusion that we are passing our values on to next generation when we have not really thought about what those values are. A much better system would recognize that one size does not fit all. We need to maximize individual choice, encourage creativity, discourage lock-step, make what is studied meaningful and real, involve parents and siblings, grandparents and workers in the process.

These ideas are the basis for unschooling. Life is learning. Learning is life. The world is our school. It isn't about letting our kids run wild with no direction but about choices. It isn't hands-off. We present our kids with a load of opportunities. We give them stimulating environments. Our kids are to develop where they want to go with it. Above all, unschooling is about letting them explore their environments for themselves with encouragement and a wide array of resources provided by us. It's my job to offer my kids healthy choices and a loving, trusting environment.

Many parents recognize that public schools may not be the best environment for intellectual development, but worry that taking their kids out of the system may have dire implications for their futures. All I have to say is STOP underestimate our children and recognize their true potential. Genius is as common as dirt. We suppress our genius only because we haven't yet figured out how to manage a population of educated men and women. The solution is simple and glorious. Let them manage themselves.

Public schooling doesn't squash everyone. But, it does squash a lot. There is a better way. I ask myself everyday how I may excite my imagination...because if I am interested in learning and seeking and doing, my children will be too. My belief system is heavily focused toward what we may do together and what will excite my imagination about learning so my children will be excited too.

What's your focus?
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True learning-learning that is permanent and useful,that leads to intelligent action and further learning, can arise only out of the experience, interest, and concerns of the learner.
John Holt
Real heroes are men who fall, fail and are flawed, but win out in the end because they stayed true to their ideals, beliefs and commitments.
Actor Kevin Costner

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