Tag Archives: Summer

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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To begin again…

I had nightmares well into my twenties about repeating grades in school. Now, I’m preparing to repeat fourth grade as a teacher for the third time (including my residency year). A fresh start feels good. The room is artificially clean and organized. Papers and two sharpened pencils wait on each desk. Thirty-one new names fill my head, and soon enough, my heart.

Save for the leaves on the carpet, everything feels like a new beginning.

Save for the leaves on the carpet, everything feels fresh and ready for new little faces.


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The Perfect End to An Endless Summer

Tomorrow is the very last day of summer break. After that, two days in Santa Cruz for a teacher retreat, a day to prepare my classroom, and then three days off to celebrate the final weekend of my twenties with friends (and dogs!) at a beach house about two hours north of San Francisco. Life is full and good to the point that I don’t have much time to lament summer’s passing.

Yesterday, a dear friend threw me an early 30th (or second 29th as she prefers to call it), and I have to say it was the perfect farewell to summer. We sat in her parents’ gorgeous backyard, sipped sparkling lemonade, and talked for hours about her life in San Francisco and mine, here. It was the kind of afternoon that does not need to end, filled with organic green clay masks, pedicures, and swimming, exactly the kind I long for whenever summer begins, that existed so freely in childhood, but now only appears here and there, unexpected though always desired.

If only I knew how to create that feeling more often– four hours on a Saturday could always feel never-ending in that beautiful childhood way. Time manipulation will always be my most coveted super hero power. So, as I ramp back up for 31 new little faces and a pile of revisions to my book, I am also determined to hold on to yesterday afternoon in a way that makes all time stop for a moment whenever I would like.

bday bday bday

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Squeezing Every Last Drop Out of Summer

I really can’t complain. I’ve had a nice break. Six weeks when everything is said and done. Still, as the days tick to a close, and work pops up a little this week and next and then back for good the following, I can’t help but cling to every second. Time is such a strange thing, stretching and doubling and speeding along then coming to a halt in the face of anticipation.

I want to make the next two weeks last forever but am also excited for what’s to come… My 30th birthday, 30 new little people, a fall full of weddings and family and friends, the changing leaves and holidays… It’s easy to get ahead of myself, but thinking of all the joyous moments that await helps to ease the separation anxiety from my beloved summer.

Any suggestions for making these final moments of freedom count?

Love & Gratitude

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A Week in Oahu: I’m Ready to Move.

When I heard we were headed to Oahu this summer, I was both thrilled and a little skeptical. In my mind, Oahu meant Honolulu—crowded beaches, throngs of tourists, a cookie cutter version of the Hawaii I love. After all, that was the only version of Oahu I had seen 13 years ago in my less than 48 hours on the island, and last summer I was spoiled with the secluded paradise of Kauai.

However, it turns out Oahu has a lot to offer—the same quiet, dense vegetation, and gorgeous seascapes as its northern neighbor, plus the metropolitan bonus of a big city. In fact, most of Oahu feels like the real Hawaii, outside of Honolulu there are fewer resorts compared to Maui or the Big Island, and there really isn’t a bad view to be found.

If you have not considered visiting Oahu, here are a few tips from my week in paradise:

  1. Flying to Oahu is the least expensive of any of the Hawaiian islands. Fares from Northern California consistently range between $300 and $500 per person, half as much as it may cost to reach Kauai during the summer. Likewise, your flight is more likely to be direct.
  2. If big cities aren’t your vision of Hawaiian travel, it is easy to get away from Honolulu. We stayed on the North Shore, home to the famous Pipeline surfing in the winter, and much more reminiscent of Kauai than a metropolis.
  3. VRBO is your friend. We rented a killer house for less than the price of three hotel rooms for eight adults. If you stock up at Costco on the island, you can also save on the food bill.
    Our private entrance to the beach.

    Our private entrance to the beach.

    Our perfectly Hawaiian retreat.

    Our perfectly Hawaiian beachfront retreat.

  4. Maunawili falls is worth the hike and the possible confusion in your search for the trailhead. You get vistas and the chance to swim in a waterfall. Head out early and do not leave valuables in your car. In the few hours we were on the trail, tales of theft and vandalism abounded.
    The hike to the waterfall takes about an hour and passes stunning vistas.

    The hike to the waterfall takes about an hour and passes stunning vistas.

    The chilly waterfall offers plenty of spots to jump in.

    The chilly waterfall offers plenty of spots to jump in.

  5. North Shore Catamaran is a great way to get out on the water and do some amazing snorkeling. They run semi-regular deals on Groupon, so check frequently before your trip. Amazing wildlife abounds. My proudest sighting was a small octopus that rolled up into a ball and winked at me.

    Didn't get to drive the boat this time, but still saw plenty of cool stuff.

    Didn’t get to drive the boat this time, but still saw plenty of creatures at one of the best snorkeling spots I’ve ever visited.

  6. Food trucks are delicious and easy to find. Read Yelp reviews beforehand to help make your selection. I chose a Cajun chicken burger, DELICIOUS.
    Easy to see why this one was Alex's favorite...

    Easy to see why this one was Alex’s favorite…

    Food Truck

    But I preferred the more land-friendly variety from North Shore Dogs & Burgers…

  7. Shaved ice is better than you remember as a kid, however, standing in a long line is not. Check out Yelp and jump in a shorter line with decent reviews. We loved Aloha General Store in Hale’iwa, owned by a friendly Sac State grad.

    My favorite flavors, Blue Hawaii and Passionfruit. Definitely not going to win  any health food awards on this one.

    My favorite flavors, Blue Hawaii and Passionfruit. Definitely not going to win any health awards on this one.

  8. Honolulu is worth a visit, even if you prefer peace and quiet. We visited the International Marketplace where you can negotiate with little old ladies and then enjoy a discounted Tiki drink with beautiful live music in the back of the maze of stalls. You may even feel a little like Anthony Bourdaine surrounded by all the booze and kitsch.
    Not sure what makes tiki bars so appealing, but this place was a blast.

    Not sure what makes tiki bars so appealing, but this place was a blast.

    As much as it pains me to admit, Waikiki is undeniably beautiful.

    And, as much as it pains me to admit, Waikiki is undeniably beautiful.

  9. Stars. Make it your mission to get outside and stare up at the stars away from the city lights. You will probably see constellations you don’t see at home—I can’t remember the last time I saw the Milky Way.
  10. Last but not least, remember to wear your sunscreen. As far as the more natural sunscreens go, I have a new favorite—Burn Out. Blends in much better than many of its competitors and does a great job protecting from the dreaded vacation burn.

It is a tradition for me to want to move after a vacation and Oahu is no exception. I have already researched teacher salaries, credential transfers and rents. Regardless of what the future holds, I will return one way or another. Oahu rocks.

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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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Mt Shasta: When Friends & Family Collide

I wrote this post from my laptop up at my mom’s. No Wi-Fi left time to reflect. However, when I got home, my original words were no longer enough. This time I went to Mount Shasta for five days, a record maybe. Usually I stay a couple nights, but during my visit in May I finally connected with nature, so this time I wanted to stay a little longer.

It's hard not to fall in love with such a glorious place.

It’s hard not to fall in love with this view.

This is more what Mt. Shasta usually looks like for me-- a space of solitude and hiking.

What Mt. Shasta usually looks like for me– a space of quiet hikes and happy dogs. As the picture proves, I still got these moments, but also a whole lot more.

This time, my mom invited a friend of mine from work, with her kids, to join us for the last couple days. This woman is incredible. She gives everything she has to children—her three biological, two adopted through foster care, and the hundreds who attend my K-12 school. She is magic. Sometimes she stands in the back of my room to lend an extra set of eyes, other times I send her kids for one of her special talks. They always come back respectful, ready to learn.

I told my mom about my friend, how she has believed in me even when I have not believed in myself, how she dreams of starting a house for foster kids graduating from high school, how she makes backpacks for the least-fortunate children at our school, filled with tooth brushes and other life supplies. Touched, my mom invited her to bring her kids to Mount Shasta to camp.

Part of the reason it has always been a space I have kept to myself is because Mt. Shasta is filled with a lot of lessons for me, some easier than others.

Mount Shasta has always been a space I have kept to myself because it is filled with a lot of lessons, some easier than others.

Before I extended the invitation, I was not sure what she would say. Mount Shasta has always been my secret place, a land of family only. I was not sure if anyone else would get it, but she did, without me even having to explain anything. She has a gift for understanding people’s thoughts. I should have known she would fall in love, too.

Our worlds are different, but our hearts are the same. Some days we talk and talk after school, leaving others wondering what we are up to—the secret, we laugh and cry and keep each other going. I decided what the heck. If my mom wanted her to visit, then I wanted my friend to decide for herself if she wanted to enter a different universe.

I was not sure what it was going to be like—whether my friend and her family would feel comfortable with strangers, whether she would even say yes. But, she did and I’m so grateful for her courage. We cooked hot dogs over a fire pit, shrieked at frogs (okay that part was just me), waded in the lake, and stared at the brightest moon I have ever seen. After I left, she and her kids stayed and played at the lake, my brother rowing the canoe with her youngest child singing the entire way. When it was all over, I got two phone calls, one from my brother and one from my friend, both full of happy stories of what I had missed.

Simon and I share a similar view of camping. Pretty, cushy chair in netted room required.

Simon and I share a similar view of camping. Pretty, cushy chairs make anything more appealing.

Preparation for our campfire.

Preparation for our campfire.

The lake has the coolest water playground for kids. I wish I could have stayed to watch my friend's family play.

I wish I could have stayed a little longer to watch my friend’s family play, but I’m also glad I left because their phone calls made me realize our connection is now a family one.

This weekend I am thankful for friends and family who encourage us to be brave and open our hearts to each other, for my newest sister and my wonderful nieces and nephew. Maybe we should let our worlds collide more often.

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To Love Me…

To love me is to love quiet, time spent deep inside of thoughts. I often retreat into myself, thinking, thinking, thinking. As a kid, some days I would disappear, still present but without words. I do the same thing now. When summer comes, I climb inside my laptop and write. My husband is patient for me to come up for air, to talk, to notice, to be. He understands this is part of me.

I made a rule for summer. Night is free from writing, free from technology, save a few minutes here or there if something important arises. Otherwise, I’d be gone for days and nights, but still here, in my chair, trapped in thought.

I’m getting better at balancing introvert with extrovert, but quiet is my natural habitat and summer is my friend.

Is it the same for all writers? Or, are some of you the other way around, more outside than in?


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Saturday Song: Only Miss the Sun When it Starts to Snow…

Yes, two songs in a row, but you can kind of get the feel for the inside of my head right now. I’m deep in my book, deep in my thoughts, deep in the solitude of summer. Pleasurable melancholy, if there is such a thing.

Time to prepare for a small dinner party with friends, time to emerge from my inner world for just a little while.

What about you?

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I’ve Got my Ticket for the Long Way ‘Round

I held it together when I read them my goodbye letter with each of their names remembered, I did not cry when I hugged them goodbye, I kept the tears in when I sat in my empty classroom, desks and chairs stacked, our two years in time gone. I even smiled when teacher after teacher asked me if I was alright at our end-of-year barbecue. Apparently, I’m not the only one who dreads goodbyes.

Yesterday, the first day of summer, I felt antsy. I could not put my finger on it. There is always the anxiety of not wasting a single second, because this too shall pass, but that wasn’t quite it. I woke up at 7AM wide awake, worked on my book, surfed the internet, did yoga, cleaned the house, and went on a date with my husband to a fancy restaurant, a perfect start to six weeks of freedom. Time passed slowly as it does in the beginning of a long break, each day accelerates a little more.

When we got home and snuggled up for a British show akin to House Hunters International, my husband brought over his iPad and pressed play. As the words washed over me, I could not hold back anymore. The tears flowed down my cheeks, a few sobs escaped, and my poor husband looked back at me like he had no idea what he had done. A group of girls in my class surprised us one day with this song at morning meeting, complete with cups thumping in rhythm against the desks and the a capella beauty of child voices singing in unison.

The words of their song did not hit me then. But now, they’re right. I’m going to miss them when they’re gone, the way they talk, the way they walk, I’m going to miss them when they’re gone. I keep telling myself it will be easier next time, that I won’t bond as much as I did with these first kids I kept for two whole years. Some teachers tell me it gets easier, some tell me they cry every single time. Who knows where I will fall, all I know is I managed to love these kids an awful lot. I’m not going to dwell, but last night it felt good to let it all out.

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