Tag Archives: Sacramento

The Old Lady at the Door

An old woman knocked on my front door this afternoon. She knocked and knocked and when I did not answer, she knocked some more. At first she knocked on the door and then she knocked on the window with her keys and then the door again. The dogs howled and still she did not leave. Instead she sat in one of the wicker chairs on my front porch and made herself comfortable in the hundred and ten degree heat.

Reluctant, I opened the door, baby in arms, dogs still growling. I knew who she was. She was the same lady who stops cars dead in the middle of the street for a ride. I have picked her up on the corner before, her arms waving back and forth like it is an emergency. My husband has taken her to the farmer’s market. My mother-in-law waited for her to walk up and down each isle of the grocery store just last week. When she stops you, she gives you no choice but to let her in your car. She does not budge.

So when I opened the door, annoyed because I was trying to get the baby down for a nap, I told her I could not take her. I knew she could manage for herself. Sometimes I sit and watch her stand in the middle of the road until someone lets her in his or her car. She is quite capable and here I am, standing on my front porch in the heat with a sleepy infant who does not like the car, listening. The baby smiles, giving her more fuel. Inside I groan.

There are no apologies for waking the baby or causing such a ruckus. Just a straight face and a lot of complaints. Her knee, the blazing sun, her small social security check, her need to go to the store, (which we have learned is always followed by the bank and the post-office and the…). No sympathy when I tell her the (smiling again) baby is fussy. Instead stories about her grandkids making millions of dollars and those years she worked for Harry S. Truman and how her name is Bernice.”Like our street?” I ask. She does not respond.

I look at her clothes, a wool jacket and long pants. I am sweating in just shorts and a t-shirt, anxious to get back into the air-conditioned house. I feel sorry for her but still do not have the time or energy to take her all over town. After all, I have a trip to get ready for, a messy house about to be listed for sale tomorrow, a baby who should be asleep. I accept her phone number and tell her next time I leave the house without the baby I will give her a ride but warn her it might be a bit, I am leaving tomorrow. She finally gives up.

I ask if she has asked any other neighbors, she says no. The new neighbor pulls into the drive and she yells across the yard, the girl stares back uncertain if the woman standing on my porch with me and my baby is really yelling at her. I shut the door and shake my head. I call my husband and complain. I feel bad but she makes no attempt to be understanding. She is not like the other old lady who lives down the street, the one with the old cat who has now passed, who thanks me and apologizes every time she knocks because she remembers what it was like to have a baby with barking dogs.

This old lady pushes, so I push back. It is my nature to push when pushed. But now it is 4AM and I am awake while everyone else sleeps and I wonder if just maybe I should have been a little kinder and done something for her. Growing old sucks. Growing old alone is worse. Maybe I would be that pushy too.

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The Residency Will Change You

Thinking about becoming a teacher? Aspire’s teacher residency program operates throughout California, (Los Angeles, Oakland, East Palo Alto, Sacramento, Stockton, Modesto, Fresno), and Memphis. Alumni include recent college grads and career changers of all ages. It will transform your life!

Aspire Teacher Residency

Olivia pregnant, 2.13.14

In preparation for maternity leave I am typing pages and pages of notes. A daily skeleton, lesson plan tips, behavior and learning modifications, incentive and consequence systems, instructional guidelines. I am on page 15 and I am not done. Explaining to someone how you do your job really puts things in perspective. Teachers do a thousand things every day. Teachers at Aspire probably do two thousand, or at least it feels like it.

This whole process has reminded me of how lucky I was to be a resident teacher. I cannot imagine what summer training and those first months on my own would have felt like without watching and practicing for an entire year. So many of my tricks I got from my mentor, or at least borrowed until I came up with tricks of my own. Walking away, even if just for part of a year, is more challenging…

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The Girl on the Corner

Years ago, I would watch the same homeless man from my third floor window in Berkeley each evening as he approached people on the street with his book of poetry. Some would stop and look, others would keep walking without so much as acknowledging his hello. His mannerisms fascinated me, his bright purple cap and smile always ready and waiting for the next passerby. I was the voyeur, the girl upstairs with the notepad full of observations.

In the beginning of my tenure as a Berkeley resident, I had a hard time not stopping for people on the street. I knew to be careful, but they were people. Often I planned my routes to work and the grocery store as to avoid certain homeless characters, including my friend with the purple hat. It was too painful to look him in the eyes and tell him I had nothing to give, when really I had quite a bit for a twenty-four year-old.

My compromise was always food. If I had any, I would offer. I will never forget the look of gratitude from the man with the purple hat when I handed him a bundle of ripe bananas from my tote after my weekly visit to Andronico’s Market. I lugged the rest of my groceries straight home and wrote an email to my friends and family to share my story, eager to express myself in writing before I ever had a blog.

However, not all the stories were pleasant, and over the years I collected many that taught me to keep a safe distance. Berkeley is full of mentally-ill homeless people, the remnants of a failed health system and a closed center to help them. I learned where not to look or step in the mornings as to avoid human waste. I watched in disappointment as an elderly man whose bike I had watched with my husband, whose story I had patiently listened to, who even ate dinner one cold night at McDonald’s alongside my husband, scream at us in the street that we were racists for not stopping to give him money.

Of course, there were many others who said terrible things, but that old man was the saddest. We had helped him many times, but he had no memory of it. Others cursed our souls, accused me of anorexia, threatened to stab us in coffee shops. Maybe the worst remark was the strange man who stopped in the middle of a busy walkway and told me he was a serial killer with the kind of laugh that makes you believe him.

Needless to say, I have had my fair share of experiences with homeless people, enough so that our move back to Sacramento has felt quiet in regards to my interaction with them. Until yesterday. I had seen her before, from a distance, a small feminine figure with a furry hoodie pulled over her head, sitting on the median around the corner from my house, begging. This time, I pulled up right next to her at the light, her body in a ball, her knees tucked to her chest, the early morning cold not worth the effort to stand.

I checked my coin tray but then thought better of it. I reached back and rummaged through my lunch to pull out two bags of trail mix, then rolled down my window.

“Do you want food?” I asked.

She nodded as I extended the bags. Her eyes stopped on my hippie offering. My eyes stopped on her black eye, her taped-together boot. In every other way, she looked like a normal high school kid ready to get on the bus for the day, her tight jeans and colorful sweatshirt trendy, her backpack waiting on the concrete.

“I don’t eat that.” Her expression was hard, reminiscent of many of the tough kids who have passed through my classroom.

“Okay,” I replied, our eyes locked. I rolled up the window.

I wanted to tell her she must not really be hungry. I wanted to feel satisfied I did not offer her any money. Instead I drove away haunted by her black eye and taped-together boot. Even if she was not hungry enough to eat nuts and dried berries, something was seriously wrong. She was not begging for fun. Someone hurt her.

Next time I see her, I will call the authorities and hope some group will at least give her an option different from the one she now chooses, on the median around the corner from my house. It is so easy to detach, to decide we should not help because someone is too rough, too ungrateful, too crazy, too whatever. My first instinct was to detach, too. However, knowing the stories of my kids at school, it is easy to imagine how she might have ended up in that spot, angry and alone.

Sometimes, it matters less how people got themselves somewhere and more what choices they have to change. While I understand reticence in offering money to homeless people, I empathize with the reality that I have no idea what got them there, what it feels like to be at rock bottom, to spend the night cold, on the street, afraid. Absent of drugs, abuse or mental illness, I cannot believe anyone chooses this reality over what “the rest of us” have.

As I lay awake contemplating her fate, homeless or otherwise, I realized she touched something in me that only awakens for my most troubled students, my human rights studies, my desire to write. I think it is time to try my hand at writing something a little grittier, a little less about escape. Something true to my heart and all I have seen in the past few years. Something hard instead of easy. Wish me luck.

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Words of Peace in Chaos

“It is not in the still calm of life, or the repose of a pacific station, that great characters are formed.”  -Abigail Adams

The September Bloggers for Peace challenge is to post a quote. I dragged my feet, but realized the quote I include with my email is the perfect one to share. It is my reminder life is not about avoiding challenge, but rather figuring out how to exist to our fullest potential amidst the difficulties and chaos.

Happy equinox-eve.

Happy equinox-eve from Sacramento.

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112 Degrees.

Water gun fight + swimming pool necessary for survival.

Water gun fight + swimming pool = necessary for survival.

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Playing the Part: Fake it ’til you make it!

Fake it ’til you make it is a common piece of advice for anything you want to achieve in life. While on the surface, it might sound a bit disingenuous, there is a lot of truth to this statement. As a teacher, I had to fake it until I knew what I doing. Had I not, the kids (and their parents) would have eaten me alive. Likewise, when it comes to writing, platform creation is the current buzz.

However, for all of us yet-to-be-published authors out there, we know platform creation comes with a little faking. After all, we have to create the image of the author (and an audience) before our books even have real spines. I knew I had achieved some success in this endeavor when a friend introduced me at a party as a “real writer” again and again. While I protested a bit at first, she was adamant I had earned this title. At that moment I realized I had successfully played the part.

So, now it’s time to take this adage to the next level as I prepare to query (last round) and possibly self-publish Expecting Happiness. Some of the most common advice in platform creation is to make sure you present a professional and unified picture of yourself across all of your pages, (blog, Facebook, Twitter, Gravatar etc.). It’s important to make sure you pick just one or two photos as many readers will not know you well enough to identify you in different settings without these cues.

As such, I enlisted the help of a local blog friend and talented photographer to take some head shots to help me polish my presentation. While I’m going to hold off on picking which photo (or two) to use until after I get back from my trip, I wanted to give her a shout out for her photographic talent. If you live in the Sacramento area and need photos for any occasion, head over to Urke Photography’s blog. Likewise, Ashley also runs her own blog empire over at Domestic Fashionista (and has been my delightful inspiration for Thankfulness Thursdays). Stop by, say hi, tell her I sent you!

And, most importantly– keep on playing the part until it becomes a part of you! Any secrets you want to share on how you’ve faked it to make it?

Photo credit: Urke Photography

Photo credit: Urke Photography

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Being Who We Want Our Kids to Be

I’ve shown my students the pictures of the trash continent floating in the ocean. Whenever there is trash outside our classroom, I remind them we don’t want it to end up in the sea. Still, I often walk by trash at school, either disgusted at the prospect of touching it or too much in a hurry to stop and pick it up.

Yet I ask kids to pick up trash all the time.

Today the irony of this finally hit me. How can I expect kids to pick up trash that doesn’t belong to them if I don’t do it myself? I’m not too good to keep plastic out of the mouths of sea animals, no one should be. So, at the end of our jogathon today, instead of goading the kids to pick up all the plastic water cups forgotten around the track, I did it myself. For two laps, I collected all the plastic I saw and made a show of throwing it away. Soon I had helpers.

The kids saw me do it and showed enthusiasm to follow suit, versus the regular “if I have to” or “but it’s not mine” response when I just tell them to pick it up themselves. I was so enthused that soon I was carrying a bag and a long-distance trash grabber with two very eager helpers I didn’t even know tagging along and other kids scouring on their own around the track.

So simple, but so easy to forget. We can’t expect kids to do unpleasant tasks for the good of others if we don’t do the same ourselves.

While I may not have led by example until today, I have done my best to educate my class about the importance of respecting our planet. Recently on CNN Student News, my class learned about Living Lands and Waters, a nonprofit that cleans up waterways, and were in awe of the amount of trash pulled from the Mississippi River. Many students expressed their desire to help– they thought it sounded fun to see how much trash they could amass from waterways in Sacramento.

Likewise, they loved the story about this trash orchestra from Paraguay in a recent Scholastic News read aloud. When they discovered we could listen to the orchestra on YouTube, they were beyond delighted. Unsurprisingly, they clamored for the opportunity to create similar instruments.

All this is to say, there is a lot of hope for the future. Our children care about the planet, but they need to see adults lead the way.

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Did someone say yoga?

I’m sitting on the couch, watching the rain. Spring rain, brief and warm, my favorite. The windows are open and the smell of wet earth and concrete makes me happy. I just finished home yoga and a meditation. I feel relaxed. It has been one week of yoga every day. The evenings last longer. I am more patient, at home and at work. Everything is less urgent. So far, so good.

A few quick thoughts:

1. Kundalini yoga is weird. Please feel free to correct me on that statement. I did a program on Hulu that involved lifting and dropping my body on the ground. Oh yes, and lots of chanting and breath of fire. Not my thing, but I’d try it again to be proven wrong. Still not going to buy an all-white outfit, however.

2. Yoga with a View is a better Hulu alternative. Gets straight to the point and pairs nicely with other workouts, (like walking the dogs to the park).

3. Yoga instructors make all the difference. Over the last couple weeks, I’ve discovered some really wonderful yoga instructors who actually make me want to go to class. I had been going to a yoga class that was convenient for my schedule, but with an instructor I dreaded. Now I’ve befriended a couple instructors (one who is moving to Germany, boo!) and feel much more encouraged/likely to maintain a regular studio routine.

4. Yoga buddies also make a difference. Knowing that others have joined me for daily yoga in May is keeping me true, (ahem, Friday night was definitely a challenge, but I did it!). Likewise, having people who expect you to show up to class also helps to stop the urge to just stay home and practice from the comfort of my living room.

5. Restorative yoga is amazing. I attended a free class for teacher appreciation week on Saturday that not only left me feeling deeply relaxed but also prompted me to take the most restful nap of my life. Thanks Tami! (You can check out Tami’s awesome blog here…)

6. Daily yoga is life-changing. Okay, I know I’m only a week in, but I dabbled with it in December, and I’m getting back into that groove. Not only does a daily practice inspire me to eat cleaner, but it also leaves me feeling much more centered, especially while I teach. And, speaking of teaching, I think I might want to take classes to become a yoga instructor. Not right this moment, but if I can sustain a regular practice, I would love to be able to integrate it into my work with kids (and maybe eventually adults too).

Alright, I think that’s enough thoughts on yoga for tonight, but I promise there are more to come. Perhaps you’ll join me for a daily practice and share your thoughts too?

My current obsession-- whether or not to volunteer to work at Wanderlust this summer for a free pass... Any yoga besties want in?

My current obsession– whether or not to volunteer to work at Wanderlust this summer for a free pass… Any yoga besties want in?

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Week 29: Children Standing Up Against Domestic Violence

At the end of fifth grade, students at my school complete a rite of passage project before they move on to middle school. The guidelines are pretty open-ended, but students are expected to have some kind of new experience or provide a service to others. A student in my room decided she wanted to help W.E.A.V.E. (Women Escaping a Violent Environment) by collecting used items and money from students at our school to donate to the organization.

While other kids are learning to surf, rock climb, and snowboard, she came up with her idea to help women and families entirely on her own. Of course, I think the other projects are awesome too, especially for kids who often do not get to have those kinds of experiences, but her project has touched my heart. As she stood in front of our class to explain the organization and ask for donations, she told the students to only bring change, not dollar bills, because their families need to keep their money too. This child is an old soul.

As she talked, I was moved by the expressions on the other students’ faces, their quiet gestures of acknowledgement, connection, and support. Teachers in the rooms she visited said the same thing, that their students had so many questions and were really excited to help. In the short time I have taught, I have heard more stories of domestic violence than I would have ever expected. It brings me so much hope that children can help break the cycle. Yesterday, just one day after she presented her project, she left school with a huge bag of donated items. She cried tears of joy that others cared enough to help. Her spirit is contagious.

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Inspired by the April Blogger’s for Peace challenge to write a post about children and peace.

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Tales from a first-time homebuyer: Our Story

I wanted to write some sort of blog post for my husband’s birthday… At first I was thinking something sentimental, some story from our past. Then I decided, why not blog about homeownership. He’s working to expand his blog to include more personal touches, hopefully I helped!

Sacramento Real Estate

My first guest-blogger just so happens to also be my wife, imagine that good fortune to get such an established blogger over here typing for me! She plans to return with more stories about homeownership and I plan to include more personal touches like these on my blog going forward. 

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We bought our first home three and a half years ago, the summer before we got married. My husband had just graduated from SF State and I was an economic analyst down in Berkeley. We wanted to move back to Sacramento, our hometown, where for the rent of our 650 square-foot, one bedroom apartment on busy Shattuck Avenue, we could own a whole house with a yard and three bedrooms. We had visions of dogs, lazy backyard barbecues, and maybe even someday, children. I had visions of no more homeless people waking me up in the middle of the…

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Week 22: Anticipating the Small Moments

This week marked the passing of the 100th day of school. The kindergarten and first grade teachers dressed up as 100 year-old ladies and the students squealed with delight. One student asked the other fifth grade teacher why we don’t dress up too. She responded, “Because we would have to be mean old ladies, not nice ones.”

That kind of sums up what teaching fifth grade feels like sometimes. I have to be stoic else I succumb to laughter over forced farts, sexual innuendo or goodness knows what else. Fifth grade is a constant adventure. Occasionally, I crack. However, it’s in my best interest to remain stern. I get why.

This week I survived some pretty traumatic fifth grade break-ups, (for them, not me), awkward puberty conversations, and the reintroduction of chocolate milk to their school diets, (a point I’m lobbying to change). My crowning achievement was not teaching my students to master adding/subtracting/multiplying/dividing fractions, but rather to hold tree pose. It’s the little things.

Now, I’m home, I’m tired, and I’m ready for a well-deserved weekend. Monday I have my last mini-observation and I’m determined not to spend the next 48 hours over-thinking it. Someone else made an anticipation list for the weekend, and I have to say, this might be my favorite idea of the week. Anticipation slows down time… It also puts value on moments, big or small.

So, here’s my weekend anticipation list:

Yin yoga, (candles, 95 degrees, slow movement, meditation, bliss), no alarm clock, my nephew’s fifth birthday party, SuperBowl Sunday featuring SF (first time I’ve ever slightly cared), family dinner, tradition, query letters, my fluffy dog and Fair Oaks bridge with one of my long-time besties, hot tea, snuggling on the sofa with my honey, quiet. Maybe even a little peace.

I feel more relaxed already.

It's so easy to look forward to the big moments, I'm attempting to learn to anticipate the small ones too...

It’s so easy to look forward to the big moments, it’s refreshing to stop and anticipate the small ones instead…

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Shameless Plug: Sacramento Real Estate

Okay, so this post really only applies to a small segment of my audience– those of you who live in Sacramento and/or are interested in Sacramento real estate. In my past life, I was an economic analyst who covered Sacramento real estate from the Bay Area, so I know those two qualifiers do not have to be mutually inclusive.

Enough rambling, I’ll get to the point. This post is a shameless plug for my husband’s new Sacramento real estate blog. He’s an agent for RE/MAX Gold and a darn good one at that. He’s now also dabbling in the art of real estate blogging, which is an art, because I had to wade through all kinds of this stuff back in that last lifetime (a few years ago). Some was useful, some was not. I’m happy to report Alex’s blog gets straight to the point, and I like that. I’m clearly not as disciplined…

So, if you’re interested, click and follow away– happy house hunting or market following, whichever it may be!

And, his mascot is pretty darn cute too. Like how I managed to sneak a pic of the dog into this post?

Like how I managed to sneak a pic of the dog into this post?

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