Tag Archives: Kauai

Good-Bye 2012, It’s Been Real.

So, it’s about that time.

All the cool kids are doing it.

Must post something about 2013. You know, resolutions or something.

To be fair, I DO love resolutions. One of my life goals is to spend every New Year’s Day at the ocean, reflecting. I decided awhile back that it’s a much better way to spend the new year than hung over on the couch.

Not sure I’ll make the ocean part happen this year, we’ll see.

But, before I can look forward, I have to look back.


Struggle and happiness, chaos and peace. Immense gratitude. I learned, a lot. I wrote, a lot. So much stuffed into 12 months. Do I have it all figured out? Not hardly. But, I feel better balanced than ever before. Happy, even. In the spirit of Thankfulness Thursdays, I leave you with my 2012 Gratitude List (and pictures dug out of this year’s blog).


I feel so fortunate to have a teaching job as a new-ish teacher in our current economy. This year was hard, but I became a better teacher one day at a time, and each day I feel a step closer to making this my lifelong work, instead of something I lovingly survive for the time being. So much gratitude.


2012’s valentines to my students, proof my heart is in the right place!

MacBook ad?  More distractions from revisions...

And, can’t complain about my night job. It may not pay the bills (yet) but writing makes me happy.


I was definitely an ADHD reader this year. Still have ten or so titles half finished on my dresser… The book I was most grateful to finish, hands down, Dear Sugar.

Sugar says...

Cheryl Strayed speaks to every human emotion in this book. So real, so touching. She writes with an unabashed openness I strive to emulate…


I’m thankful for the Lumineers’ soulful lyrics set to summer in the backyard with family, our car cruising down the coast, a sea of people at Golden Gate Park…


So much gratitude to live on such a beautiful planet and to have the means to see it even in a year that did not always feel easy.

Union Square at sunrise was not something I ever saw as a child.

San Francisco at sunrise

More gorgeous coast before snorkeling.

Magical Kauai

Goodbye sun.

Oregon Coast sunset

Mom’s Mt. Shasta


More than anything else, I am grateful for the people in my life, friends, family, near and far… Oh yeah, and my dog too, he counts, right?

No greater gratitude than for the people in my life.

No greater gratitude than for the people in my life.


And, not to be forgotten, this was the year I discovered my own power in healing. So thankful.


Yoga, meditation… healing.

Other bloggers:

Even though I started blogging in 2011, my move to WordPress cemented my commitment to putting my words out there and becoming part of a greater community. I am truly grateful for all the connections I have made this year– words of wisdom from every corner of the globe, thank YOU!

So, your turn, what tops your 2012 Gratitude List?

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Seek Out Sunsets

My brother has a ritual.  No matter where he is or what he is doing, he must stop and watch the sunset every single day.  The first couple times I was around for this, I thought, really, we have to wait until it is all the way down?

But then I watched him, sitting on the hillside, the magnificent display of colors in the sky as the sun slipped beneath the coastal mountain range off in the distance, and I understood.  Watching the entire sunset every evening is an act of gratitude to life and this amazing planet we inhabit.  It is so easy to forget to look at the sky, to miss its daily beauty, a show put on for us two times each day in case we miss the first.

This summer, when we were in Kauai, every evening was a celebration of the sinking sun.  Cars and people would stop, where ever they might be, pulling off the road even, to watch the entire show.  As the colors grew more amazing, more people would arrive, and soon there would be an audience of strangers brought together to witness the beauty of the sky, a certain surreal joy felt by locals and tourists alike.

That’s when I decided my brother belonged in Kauai, a place where people stop nightly to watch the setting sun. But, maybe it’s not just my brother that belongs there.  Maybe we all do, or rather we deserve to live a life where there is time and willpower enough to stop and enjoy the show as part of a greater community.

To me, seeking out sunsets is symbolic of something much more profound– it represents a commitment to being present in a world that pulls us all directions at once.  I thank my brother for teaching me this and look forward to tonight’s setting sun spent with family.

One evening in Kauai, we stumbled across this overlook where locals go to watch the sunset from their cars.

Another evening, another Kauai sunset, everyone drawn out onto the golf course to watch the show, children dancing, playing, a heightened sense of presence, alive.

I regret not stopping and taking in every last moment of this gorgeous dropping sun on the Oregon coast.

Last one, my family’s backyard. Proof the sunset is beautiful everywhere, especially at home.

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Life Beyond the Computer Screen

Yesterday, I took a break from blogging, my first since summer vacation started.  After reading “iCrazy” in Newsweek while lying on Tunnels Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, I realized I have become too dependent on the public approval fed through Facebook and WordPress, the notifications popping up in little dopamine doses on my smart phone.

While I rationalize that blogging is at least part of my mission in establishing myself as a writer, the reality is that it has also become part of my greater addiction to the internet.  The number of likes and new follows either negatively or positively affects my mood after posting, (not to mention the compulsive checking of my inbox for feedback).  My solution, forced breaks, turned off email notifications, and only checking my blog when I post new material.

In just 48 hours of silence, I’ve already noticed that not receiving email notifications to my phone has made a huge difference.  Not knowing what activity I am receiving is better than the high or low of immediate reinforcement.  I no longer have the urge to pick up my phone every two minutes.  In fact, I left my phone off all day today and yesterday, save for checking for voicemails and text messages once in the morning and once in the evening.

Taking a day off blogging was also nicer than I thought, as I resisted the urge to complete my daily ritual.  That’s the thing, even on vacation, I derive satisfaction from the exercise of blogging, I am just trying to move away from it being an obsession.  So far, giving myself a little space is making it feel a lot less compulsive.  Best of all, a break made me hyper-aware of how often I think about being online or checking my inbox.  It was more often than I like to admit.  However, the more time I let pass, the less often I had the urge.

The important life reminder– I value time spent disconnected.  A big motivation in becoming a teacher was creating a life where I was not connected to a computer for work all day.  I have to remind myself this as I dive head first into the world of writing, an evolving world shrouded in technology.  If any of this resonates with you, I recommend reading the article linked above, although I’m not suggesting that it is a problem for everyone.

A few pictures below to remind you how beautiful life can be beyond the computer screen.  I look forward to reconnecting with you all next time I post!

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The Real Hawaii

I’d like to think I’m not an obnoxious traveler.  I like it all– cheap, luxury, anything in between.  Today we discovered the real Hawaii.  Not the resort or the places made to manufacture an experience.  Instead, we ate where locals eat, snorkeled at public beaches, shopped in a gritty little town where surf clothing was actually on sale instead of marked up for tourists.  We even discovered a hostel on the beach with beds for $27 a night.  No, we did not stay, but the fact that such a place exists is pretty awesome.

Sometimes I get tired of the glossy, clean, perfect version of travel.  I would have a hard time staying at an all-inclusive resort where I did not step foot off the property.  I want to know how people live in different places, I want to meet to them, to talk with them.  I especially like discovering places that are gritty, down-to-earth, without pretenses.  I get a thrill out of enjoying food that is both delicious and cheap.  Somewhere I can stand in line and actually start a conversation with someone that is not also from California.

I got my wish.  These pictures will share my finds better than my words.

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It Did Not Rain on Our Parade

A rainy day, three tropical storms somewhere far away.  But that’s okay.  It did not rain on our parade.  The rain was beautiful and warm, leaving little waterfalls trickling down the mountainsides. Time to explore Hanalei Town, hike between downpours, and enjoy the evening at the pool, clouds parting to a stunning, setting sun.

Proof it only rains on your parade if you let it.

Ephemeral waterfall running off the mountain from the rain.

Hard-earned sunset in the pool.

New fruit adventures… The one on the left was really stinky and weird, we don’t know what it’s called.

Dragon fruit tastes just like kiwi, delicious.

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Permission to Enjoy Life

This afternoon I had the good fortune to lay out on the beach of the St. Regis in Princeville, Kauai. If my husband and I were traveling alone, we’d be kicking it a lot more low-key, but we are fortunate to have family that invites us places.  Absorbing all of the opulence around me, I could not help but understand why people strive for wealth. As a teacher of low-income kids, I will be the first to proclaim wealth and happiness are not the same thing, but sometimes a bit of splendor can be pretty alluring.

Anchored out in the bay was an impressive yacht, complete with its own helicopter parked on back. The St. Regis staff told us it belongs to the owner of Budweiser, whoever that might be. What a different world from the rest of us on this planet.  While a yacht is more than I would wish for, it still struck me as a very interesting contrast.

Back during the school year, on days that were particularly challenging, I would imagine myself lying on the beach in Kauai, and everything else would be fine.  The fact that I could have this fantasy and really live it out provides a different, but also very real contrast between the relative prosperity of middle-ish class America and the poverty that exists in our country.  While I may feel like a have-less when I look at the truly wealthy, I am a have-a-darn-lot when compared with much of the world.

What I am trying to work on is transforming the guilt that sometimes accompanies this disparity into an extreme gratitude that I am as lucky as I am.  As I was sitting there thinking about the differences in worlds between myself and the people on the boat, as well as myself and the students in my classroom, I finally had to just tell my mind to shut up and enjoy it.  Life is short, we work for a better world, but we should also give ourselves permission to enjoy whatever good comes our way.

I’m on a boat and I’m going fast and…

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Wanderlust vs. Sleep

It’s my little tradition to wake up early in Hawaii and run on the beach.  Our resort is perched up on a bluff, so I had to get creative.  The people at the front desk warned us not to take the public access trail to the beach at the entrance of our resort.  I figured they just wanted it for themselves, so of course, that is where I had to run.

At 5AM, like clockwork, my eyes opened, not accustomed to the time change.  Fighting the urge to just lie there, I pushed myself out the door, reaching the dirt trail by 6AM.  At first, I was a little nervous, reading all the signs warning me of danger, suddenly alone in a canopy of trees. Determined to keep going, I carefully maneuvered down the steep, muddy slope, and discovered a glorious little beach.

So glorious, in fact, a few smart campers have their tents protected beneath the thick tree branches, waking up to this amazing view.  I startled a bohemian sort of man, meditating alone at the base of the trail, his canoe and tent behind him.  Or, maybe he startled me. Either way, he has the best front yard on earth.

Jogging on the beach, I let a passing rain storm drench me, smiling with my face pointed to the sky.  My wanderlust restored, I reveled in life.  Sleep is tempting, yes, but nothing beats an early morning outing, alone, on the beach.

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Day One: Kauai in Three Pictures

I’ll spare you the long travelogue, today at least.

Three simple pictures to share why I love Kauai.  The first shows its raw, natural beauty.  The second its down-to-earth vibe.  The third what all of life should be, enjoyed in its own time, not hurried, delicious.

I might not come home.  Ever.

Garden Isle.

I fell in love with this cute little fruit stand.

Did you know pineapples are supposed to be yellow? I didn’t…

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Travel Rant: 3 oz, really?!

I remember standing in front of the guard at Heathrow a few years back.  A gruff man whose first language was definitely not English.  “You’re going to have to throw away the chocolates,” he told me flatly, pointing to the sign with the liquid regulations.  Tears welled in my eyes, $100 worth of Bavarian liquor-filled chocolates purchased as gifts for others down the drain.  I’m not sure if he took pity on me or was joking the whole time.  “No, you’re fine,” he finally smiled, letting me through.

Flash forward to today as I pack for Kauai.  Going about my business, oh, wait, all of this frickin’ sunscreen we just bought is in containers larger than 3 ounces.  Shit.  Google to make sure the ban still stands.  Yep.  Alright, options, options.  Try to find same “naturalish” sunscreen in Kauai, ehh…  Okay, what else…  Smaller containers!

So you’re telling me that I can have the same bottle of four ounce sunscreen divided into smaller containers?  What is the f’ing difference?  Seriously.  Why not just set a limit on the TOTAL number of ounces that can be carried on, or to whatever can fit in that dumb ziplock bag?  Is that so difficult?

I know what you’re thinking, just put it in your checked bags, but there’s where you’re wrong. My husband and I have a commitment to avoid checking baggage at all costs.  Too many bags lost or delayed or damaged along the way, not to mention the time lost waiting for your delightful goods to come around that magic circle.  No thanks.  Hawaiian Airlines now charges $25 per checked bag, too.  Insult to injury.  So, for now, all I have are my rants and my thousand little containers of sunscreen.

What’s wrong with this picture? Pretty sure the pile of sunscreen containers on the right is the same as the nice, protected container of sunscreen on the left…  Too bad TSA doesn’t think so.

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Anticipation Junkie

Four more days of school, then seven weeks of glorious summer.

If I haven’t made myself annoyingly clear, I’m an anticipation junkie.  Half the thrill for me is envisioning the future.  Life moves so quickly.  The real thing is over before you know it, but if you look forward to it first, it lasts longer.

At least, that’s what I tell myself.

So, in an effort to stretch out my summer before it even starts, here is what I’m looking forward to most:

1. Road trip to Olympia with my teacher lady friends! (Hello Portland, dirty bars, roller derby, beautiful coastline, our special version of Flat Stanley, and a raucous good time… Sometimes I wonder if people really know what elementary school teachers are like in their off hours… I didn’t!)

The fourth/fifth grade team dressed up like Viola Swamp to scare the children, told you we’re fun 😉

2.  Kauai.  Think the complete opposite of above road trip.  Peace, quiet, sunshine, beach.

See, I already have the crucial supplies ready!

3.  Mt. Shasta, CA.  Time with my mom, sitting under the pines, swimming in the lake, snacks at the Goat Tavern, hot springs soaking in Ashland, OR.

See Mom, I am excited to come visit you!

4.  WRITING.  As much as I’m excited for all of the trips above, I might be even more excited for the time to write.  I’m ready to do my final polishing of my book (AGAIN) and submit to 31 agents in 31 days in July.  WOOT.

Only a little more work left before I can submit! No thanks to Simon…

5.  General summerness.  Time with my dog, husband, family, friends.  Impromptu road trips to Napa for yummy Ad Hoc lunch, San Francisco Giants games, the Pelican Inn and Muir Beach.  Days spent floating in my dad’s pool, lazing about at teacher pool parties, thrifting, reading and sleeping.

More time with these guys!

Okay, just one more, because he’s so stinkin’ cute.  Clearly, I’m obsessed.  Watch out when I have kids…

See, now I’m excited, and summer hasn’t even officially started.  Thank you anticipation, I don’t care what people say about the present, you’re pretty cool too.

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Retail Therapy: Anticipation Purchases

I fancy myself minimally materialistic.  I won’t lie and say that I don’t like new things– I do, but generally I avoid situations that make me want to purchase items that I don’t need.  In other words, I consciously avoid shopping.

However, today I gave in.  Alex and I went to find new jeans for him and came home with goodies for me.  New running shoes, check.  Need those to run on the beach.  A hat to block the Hawaiian sun from my face, essential.  Flip flops to replace the ones rotting from yard work, yep.  1950’s inspired D&G sunglasses to look cute, okay, I didn’t need those, I just wanted them, badly.

Thanks to Nordstrom Rack I managed to purchase all of these items for around $160.  Not bad when you consider that the D&G glasses retailed for $155 alone.  In fact, it’s a rare dose of retail therapy that so far brings zero remorse.  Usually, I have a hard time buying anything for myself, anything, and often I end up taking everything back.

I don’t feel guilty this time is because I justified everything as “necessary” vacation purchases for our summer trip.  A stretch, perhaps, but I have always derived extra morsels of anticipation from buying little things to use on vacation.  Somehow, these purchases prolong the happiness derived from travel as their imagined use enhances the entire experience.

Maybe retail therapy is not the secret to lasting happiness, but sometimes, it really doesn’t hurt.

My collected treasures…
Now I’m officially beach ready!
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Anticipation is a funny piece of happiness.
Lately, when I am feeling the most stressed in my classroom, I’ve just closed my eyes and reminded myself that summer is just two months away.  For the briefest second, I allow my thoughts to slip off to everything that summer holds.  Pool parties, warm evenings, time to write.  I remind myself that I get to go to Kauai, too.  Then I smile, and I’m fine again.
Anticipation is pretty wonderful.
I remember being a kid and marking my happiness by what I had to look forward to.  It was always a letdown when my short-windowed calendar ran out of good stuff in the foreseeable future.  Thankfully, that’s the coolest part of being an adult– I can always find something to add to my calendar, even if it’s just making time to go out with friends or planning a weekend escape.
We’re pushed to believe that anticipation is not as valuable as being present in the moment, but if it makes us happy, what difference does it make?  Can’t we find happiness in the moment by thinking about the future?  Our large frontal lobes exist for a reason.  We’re planners by nature.  According to one study, we actually derive great happiness from planning a trip, (eight weeks worth!).

As such, I think it is okay to revel in the excitement of what is to come.  Why not take pleasure in this simple act?

Tonight, I’m letting myself savor the thought of a warm Hawaiian beach, a cold Piña Colada, and the soft sand between my toes.

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