IMG_1285 2

by cheri sabraw

Spring has begun to show her petticoats but Winter, well, he refuses to go away, hibernate, and return next November. Fall, my favorite friend, never does this. Oh sure, sometimes she flares up in late October like a bad hot flash but when her time is over, she leaves.

Winter is hanging on too long. His timing is off.  He’s not the most enlightened one but I love him anyway. We all hang on too long sometimes, don’t we?

I’m fine with fog and cold as long as hot soup, warm bread, and red wine are in front of me. A romantic fire crackling, authentic conversation, and laughter warm up any winter day. But the natural light is missing. We light-catchers await Spring, season of light and hope.

Spring is doing her best to hatch.


Every scene is a potential oil painting.

Since the art show, I have been focusing on the light. Where is it? And how does it contribute to the mood of a painting.  Instead of painting on a canvas, I have been painting in my mind.

Spring turns greens to yellows.


And browns to grey-greens.


When I drove into the garage today, the dog was on the front porch, waiting for her afternoon hike. So off we went, chasing the light.


This part of the hillside looks like the saddle of the hill. If you look carefully you will see a rock wall, constructed by who knows? many years ago. Rock walls such as these are all over the East Bay Hills. Anthropologists have all sorts of theories about their origins.

Notice the mustard on the right as it polishes the saddle with that cool blue light.


At the top of the road, the weather turned colder. I wished for more insulation around my limbs and face.

The wind picked up and blew through my clothes.

Winter! My, my.




Posted in My photography, Nature photography | Tagged , , , , | 15 Comments

Good-bye Instagram!


by cheri sabraw

It’s been a bad week for technology what with a driverless car running over and killing a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. Add to that the massive privacy breach allowed by the boys at Facebook, whom I understand, sold quite a bit of their FB stock before the bad news came out. And I just read a report last month about the harmful and addictive nature of smart phone and adolescents’ FOMO.

I realize that we are never returning to answering the rotary phone or writing a letter on paper, but such news should be considered a warning.

I received such a warning from an unlikely source nine years ago.

When I owned my business, I was told that in order to promote our product (education) and to keep clients engaged, I should start a  Facebook page. So I did.

After a year or two, I had thousands of “friends,” usually former students; after all, by the time I left public education, I had taught about 3000 kids who wanted to get together for coffee. I could have died of a caffeine overdose had I agreed to meet them all.

It seemed as if I had a “friend” request 2-3 times a day. On my birthday, hundreds of people wished me “Happy Birthday.” Even at that time, it felt rather hollow and disconnected.

One day, while I was back in my private office at Mill Creek Academy, one of my 9th grade writing students–a shy Chinese boy who had said very little in the course of the year in which I had instructed him–knocked on my door.

“Come in!” I cheerfully suggested.

In walked Ryan, one of the last people I expected to see.

“Mrs. Sabraw, do you have a moment? ” he asked.

“Sure, Ryan, what’s up?

“I see you have a Facebook page, Mrs. Sabraw. I just wanna tell you that I think you should probably delete your account.”

“My god! Is there something gross or inappropriate on that page that would send you here to tell me this?” I asked, somewhat concerned.

“No, it’s just that after being in your class for a year, and listening to you teach and hearing your point of view about stuff, well, how do I say this? I think Facebook for a person like you could get addicting. Do you know what I mean?”

I knew exactly what he meant and viewed his entrance into my tent that day as prophetic.

“Thank you, Ryan. This conversation has been more meaningful than you will ever know.”

He nodded and walked out the door, shutting it behind him very quietly.

That night, nine years ago, on my status report I wrote...Mrs. Sabraw is signing off. Good-bye!

And with that, I was free to pursue other hobbies and culturally enriching activities.


One day, I had a relapse and signed up for Instagram because I was under the false impression it has something to do with photography, which I love.

In addition to some excellent photography from those I had allowed into my feed, there were also some low moments.

One person who had taken her son to college posted a picture of his room with a sign on the wall that said Fuck Trump. How her son felt about Trump wasn’t my problem. I just didn’t need to see the F-word.

After the recent March to change gun laws, one Instagram friend posted a sign from a marcher in L.A. (shock) with Fuck this and Fuck that on it. (paraphrased). This was a kids’ march, I understand.

It was at that moment, I wondered why I was on Instagram. Was there anything socially redeeming about it? Did it enhance my life? Could I have spent my valuable time doing something else other than checking my feed?

And though Instagram doesn’t have a place to say Good-bye, that night I quietly deleted my account without fanfare.

And I thought of Ryan’s words almost a decade ago.







Posted in Education, Life, People | Tagged , , | 14 Comments

My first art show


IMG_0030by cheri sabraw

I did not win a ribbon.

I did not sell either of my two paintings.

However, one woman, perhaps in her early 80’s, chased me down the hall, as I began to load my art back into my car at closing time.

“Are you the artist who painted that enormous bison on a large canvas?”

“Yes, I am,” I replied.

“Well, I just have to tell you that my brother is an oil painter and is showing his work here too. I have spent a lot of time in art galleries. Last night, I walked by your painting at least five times and each time, I choked up with emotion,” and as she told me this story, she showed me her goosebumps today, there, as we stood back in front of “At Rest.”

“Thank you,” I replied. ” Not only have you made my day, but also you have reaffirmed for me what separates some paintings or sculptures from others. Thank you for taking the time to remind me that often, it is the emotional experience  we have that draws us to a work of art.

Another woman asked me if I could paint a Paso Fino horse, which would remind her of her father and her early life Puerto Rico. I told her I could do that and she took my card.

The judge of the show, during the critique, spent most of her time indicating why paintings “worked” for her.

“They must be stand-outs, unusual paintings that catch the judge’s eye, something different, a painting that adheres to the Rule of Thirds, the Rule of Odds, and something she called rhythm. ”

She criticized perfectly lovely pastel paintings because the focal point was just below the center of the painting or had a walkway that exited to the lower left of the canvas.

One of the winners in the oil painting category told me that composition was everything and while I agree to a point, I would add that sentimentality, pure joy or wonder, nostalgia and the like do more to sell paintings than all the Rules of Thirds and Odds in the world.

I have started a new blog so that I have a place for my thoughts about painting, art, and the like. You can visit at

Your thoughts are always welcome.





Posted in My painting | Tagged | 8 Comments

The Man in the Red Slacks

Man in the red pants

Please note that I do NOT know the Man in the Red Slacks

by cheri

One may be older, now and then,

One may be younger, come again,

You! The man in the candy-apple red slacks

On the Eighth hole.

I see you there

Enjoying life,

I see you there

And bet your wife

the one in your life

Asks you to wear those red pants

Every now and then,









Posted in Life, My poetry | 21 Comments

March Miscellany

by cheri

Our friends Don and Donna came for an overnight visit last weekend in order that Don (a lifelong citrus nurseryman) could help the good judge to prune his 58 olive trees before they start to bud.

Donna and I spent our time washing our chicken and white bean chili down with rose wine, taking  an invigorating walk,  sharing our love of art, and then drinking hot coffee. Donna is one of my most eclectic friends–a landscape designer, tennis player, pastel artist, and serious reader (among many other hobbies). She even had the fortitude to work in my office years ago.

We wandered into the olive orchard but no husbands were working. We became suspicious. Then up on the hill, out of the orchard, we saw that they had escaped their labor and had shrunk with their pruning knives and shears on belts and in hands. They had become miniatures! What would Donna and I do with two tiny men, the size of gophers?



I suggested to Donna that we leave the property immediately and escape dinner preparation while the mini-men figured out how to enlarge themselves.

Besides, I wanted to show Donna a tree that I had discovered on my last walk up our road. In all of my writing on this blog, have I ever shared my love of dragons? When I was a young girl, I read every story I could get my claws and fangs on that concerned a fire-breathing dragon. ( I’m sure Jung would have something to say about this odd fascination).


Here is my dragon tree.

We walked up the road, our bodies warmed by pillow parkas, wool gloves and mufflers made of the softest wool.

I observed to Donna that the Escobars and Bettencourts (ranchers) had placed two outstanding bulls in their herds…Bull #301 and# 403. After all, that time was coming.

Here is Bull #403

IMG_0997And farther up the road is Bull #301.


I told Donna that by the time we returned for cocktails, our miniatures would have become bulls.

We reached the top of the hill and were rewarded with this view.


I showed Donna my finished piece titled ” A Penny for Your Thoughts,” a 16×20 oil painting of a Quarterhorse named Penny that I photographed in December.


Back to business. Where were our guys?


They were coming along.


At last, out among the herd, two men emerged ready for cocktails.

At the end of the weekend, the good judge and I settled back into a familiar routine.


To disabuse you of any notion that the good judge likes Dinah, she is there by his feet and easy chair only because he often drops crackers, nuts, and pretzels (accidentally of course) and someone must clean up the mess.

To think this is only March 1st!

Posted in dogs, Growing Olives, healthy eating, Life, My fiction, Nature photography, People, Places | Tagged , | 15 Comments

Agency fee may go to the guillotine


by cheri sabraw

Here is the leader in a Los Angeles Times op-ed concerning the United States’ Supreme Court’s taking up a case this week called Janus vs. AFSCME.

“For 40 years, right-wing activists and fronts for the 1% have had their knives out for a Supreme Court precedent that protects the ability of public employee unions to represent their members and even nonmembers, and to speak out on matters of public interest.

That precedent faces a mortal threat in a case scheduled for oral argument at the Supreme Court on Monday. Indications are that a conservative majority of justices is poised to overturn it. That would have implications for worker rights, principles of fair compensation and income inequality, none of them good — unless you’re a millionaire.


The case is Janus vs. AFSCME. The issue in the case is the “agency fee,” which public employee unions in 22 states, including California, charge workers who are represented by those unions. The fee is a subset of union dues, which are paid by members. It’s supposed to cover only contract-related union functions such as contract negotiations and enforcement, including grievance procedures.”

Many years ago, I was part of class-action lawsuit representing those teachers who objected to the teachers’ union charging its non-members for political advertising and other “services” we would never use.

Let’s say that union dues for the California Teachers’ Association in those days when I was a young teacher were $600.00 a year. That money, taken out of my paycheck each month, was used by CTA for everything from legal representation to political advertising. In the years when  the teacher contract expired–and negotiations with the school district were the only way to agree contractually—-that money was used for collective bargaining here in California (and now in 22 other states).

Our lawsuit was victorious in that the court ruled that the portion of money used for collective bargaining was to be paid by all teachers–even those of us who were not members of the union but that non-union teachers would receive a rebate of the money used for other services.

Out of union dues of approximately $600.00 per year, agency fee or “fair share” dues are about 1/3 of the mandatory automatic monthly dues deductions. I received a rebate of about $200.00 in those days.

For those of us teachers who do not want to join the union, who will not use union lawyers, and who do not believe in union tactics of manning a strike line or keeping incompetent teachers in the classroom–we believe that being forced to pay ANYTHING to CTA or its national organization the NEA is wrong.

Most teachers who do not join the union make that decision after a year or two in the public school system.

In my experience of over 25 years in the public school system, the biggest union people were the most incompetent teachers–you know, the ones whining about everything–from having to call parents back to showing up to supervise a dance.

Unions represent teachers with “grievances.” I never filed a grievance in my years of service although in hindsight, perhaps I should have. Why should I have had to walk by all the 16-year-old boys that a certain teacher had “thrown out” of her 5th period in a daily ritual? Why should I have had to listen to a Spanish teacher four doors down barking like a dog to get a laugh from her class? Why should I have had to teach essay writing to the junior English students who hadn’t been taught much by the sophomore English teacher?

The pubic employees union never did “represent” me. It stood for all of those things that I am so much against: protection of its members over protection of its constituents-the students!; fear mongering about progressive educational change (so drastically needed) in order to protect its weakest members, and knee-jerk reactions to any idea that might weaken the union such as school choice, vouchers, etc.

Most of us will agree that the public school system has room for much improvement, especially in the areas of accountability and teacher training.

The hyperbole in the Los Angeles Times op-ed is part of the shrill wailing going on in public discourse– an effort to deliver a toxic pack of liberal lies –the ones we regular people endure in California day in and day out.

And how is our school system doing here? Last year, California ranked #30 in student achievement.

A millionaire? I am hardly one.

A right-wing activist? I am hardly one.

You see.

Good teachers do not need any union.

Good-bye Abood vs. Detroit Board of Education.


Posted in Education, Politics | Tagged , , , , , | 29 Comments

Feeling Full of Life

IMG_0793IMG_0798IMG_0803IMG_0810photography by Cheri Sabraw

Don’t these horses make you smile?


Posted in clydesdale horses, My photography | Tagged | 14 Comments

More luscious landscapes

by cheri sabraw

The landscape often dictates where we choose to live or travel.

I live next to a comforting mountain dotted with stately oaks. Oak trees represent strength and stability to me. On our property a tiny creek bubbles, dropping several feet over rocks smoothed by time. Mountains and rivers are where I feel most secure and peaceful.

Especially during work or stress, our imaginations often take us to places where a dramatic view of Nature returns us to peace or to emotion, soothing us with a continuum of meaning beyond the five senses. Our appetite for those scenes that  bring either exhilaration or comfort, curiosity or serenity, can evoke strong almost hypnotic magnetism.

Landscape photography or painting or both takes us to that world.

Consider this lovely landscape photo sent by bogard, not only one of my readers, but also one of my dearest friends from childhood, now far away living in the South.


This is a stunning photo shot from the Ranchland Trail in Cambria, California. The ice plants’ lipstick seems to kiss the ocean! If you look far out to the mountains, you can see Hearst Castle on the ridge.

Lue sent this dandy of a photo taken at Niner Winery in Paso Robles. Perfect photo to send in light of Valentine’s Day approaching.


Lue’s husband John is photographer extraordinaire.

c68d9e29467153.55f472898aaebWhat an amazing piece of photography John!  The soft forest floor, sheltered by the largest living witnesses on earth, beckons the lone wanderer to lie down and rest in all-encompassing security.


John captures the nobility of the individual as she tracks toward a misty future. The choir of tall trees reassures her that the way forward is safe.

IMG_0710My photo taken last week reminds us that despite the heat of the atmosphere, the dryness of the rocks and prickly plants, we earthlings still worship the sun.


Posted in Life, My photography, Nature photography, Places | Tagged , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Landscapes that tug at my heart

by cheri sabraw


My brother Steve took this luscious photograph while in Montana last summer when he and his son Tyler fished the Madison River.

Wouldn’t this scene make for a splendid landscape painting? The lone tree presiding over an obedient river tamed by orderly fencing and blushing grasses appeals to many sides of my personality.

And what about this scene?


This melody in pastel blues and mustardy yellows was taken by my sister-in-law, Lue when she and her family visited the Carrizo Plain, a large grassland in San Luis Obispo County, California.

What appeals to me about Lue’s photograph is the presence of two explorers who seem to be walking on a salty sandy earth.

And then there is a photograph I took several years ago in Buonconvento, Tuscany.

P1000212One might be inclined to enhance this photo but what I love about it are the muted blue-greens and the small house in the background.

I’d like to be sitting on that bench, peeking through the cypress trees.

Landscapes provide many avenues of thought.

Romantic escape.

Aspirational destinations.

The past.

I am still pulled by and drawn to scenes of the west.


I took this photo in Yellowstone National Park. The two bison are heading my way. I am absolutely enthralled.


Ron’s photograph of an old abandoned shack off Highway 50 in southern Utah looks almost too perfect to be true. I’d like to host a small party in that  shack, bring our Weber and some steaks (although that might upset the cattle peering on), crack open some wine and wait for the Sons of the Pioneers to show up and seranade us with Red River Valley.


I took this nostalgic photo in Scipio, Utah. The greens caught my eye and of course, the well-preserved gas pump and barn door. I’m attracted to the way men might have dressed during the years when this pump was in use. I say men because I don’t think women would have been pumping their own gas.


If you have followed this blog for more than five years, then you know Ron and I have made two trips to the site of the Battle of the Little Big Horn in eastern Montana.

I love this photo, not only for the wispy dry twigs and yellow mustard that shelter the graves from the judgemental stares of most who view them, but also because there in the middle is the spot where Custer himself got his just desserts.

If you have thoughts or photos of a landscape that tugs at your heart, send them to me and I will post them.

Posted in My painting, My photography | Tagged , , , , , | 16 Comments

Phobia Schmobia


by Dinah, the Labrador

Hello, Cheri’s readership ( all ten of you)!

In Cheri’s composing, anytime she mentions my name, I have asked her in no uncertain terms ( I do this by repeatedly putting my paw with overgrown nails on her thigh while she is trying to write on her (damn) computer), to notify me and secure my approval before she uses me for her own personal entertainment.

This request has always gone by ignored. (Shock)

You regular readers, all ten of you, must know that when she photographed me growling at the Dyson vacuum last year (as if it were weird to be frightened by a sucking machine with a see-through canister that holds so much of my own hair), she did not ask  my permission.

That I now have developed a perfectly normal aversion to coming down one stair from our entry way to the only room I am allowed in, the “family” room,  is no big deal.

I decided to beat Cheri to the punch and put that psychological diagnosis right out on the table before she could use  me for your amusement.

She tends to that with many people and pets. I call that habit “ruthless.”

My decision to elevate my concern about trotting down one tile step started when I must have tripped either going down or coming up. I’m overweight; my nails look like a fortune-teller’s; is it any wonder that a 70-lb person ( I mean, dog) who walks on four legs with over-grown nails might worry about “getting a grip???”

I asked Cheri to describe the pre-dance that I now do before I can come down that one stair.

She likened it to a Roomba vacuum (there’s that V-word again) stuck in forward-backward motion, trying to move but unable to do so. The clicking of the nails on the tile, the readiness of a creature to step down (but not), the locomotion of a falling object accented by whining and whirring…

It’s really gotten out of paw. I refer to Cheri’s angst.

I find that being stuck in limbo (between the entry and the family room) in a place outside the powder room draws incredible attention to my predicament although Cheri’s husband, the good judge, could “care less.” He appears to be more concerned with his Wheat Thins and vodka tonic than my anxiety on the stair.

Last night, Cheri had had it watching what she termed a “pathetic situation.”

Finally, her brain clicked into gear.

She saved my life by putting an old towel (now dirty with rainy paw prints) over the one stair.

I’m coming down no problem.

Life is good.


Posted in dogs | Tagged , | 11 Comments