Tag Archives: Vacation

The Importance of Stopping

This week is fall break, the glorious light at the end of the tunnel after nine weeks of school. For those of you with the normal two to three weeks off per year, I realize nine weeks does not sound like such a terrible stretch of work, but as a teacher, it is a solid chunk of energy investment, particularly given the first weeks of school are among the most tiring.

Before I became a teacher, I thought the breaks alone would make up for any amount of exhaustion in the classroom. Instead, I discovered that while time off definitely helps, the exertion required to keep 30 children learning, entertained, and emotionally supported surpasses anything I expected.

The upside, of course, is the reward in knowing I am doing something good for others, and the enjoyment I derive from building relationships with my students. So, none of this is to complain, but the truth is, I’m tired. Fall break could not have come at a better time, and I did not realize how tired I was until I finally allowed myself to sink into my couch this afternoon and shut my eyes.

Here is the thing, though, I know I am not alone. Teachers are not the only people pushing themselves to their limits. Most jobs are stressful and we also have family and other obligations that require our time and focus. We commit ourselves to a lot because we care about a lot. I get it. However, there has to be the balance, the time to stop and regroup, and sometimes, we have to let a few things go.

Balance is a big reason I have stepped back from my blog in recent months. Between school and family, writing has taken a back seat. Not because I stopped caring about writing, but because I realized other priorities had to come first. My health and my family are of paramount importance, then my job, then my writing. With less time to write, I have focused on my fiction over my blog. It is all a series of trade-offs. When I have more time, I enjoy blogging, when I don’t have time, I have to just let it go.

I know I am fortunate I get to stop, I get time to breathe and fall asleep on the couch as the leaves outside my window change color and the air is a bit more crisp. But, what about everyone else who is not a teacher? What do you do for yourself to allow for a little break, the time to stop and recharge and take care of just you?

Hopefully you have an answer!

One of the

For the past few weeks, my 17 year-old sister stayed with us, which added to my shifting perspective on life and my priorities. Family has always come first, but I feel myself transitioning to a new level of awareness in how important family is to me and what this means in my quest for balance in other areas.

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Beating the Vacation Hangover

I’m suffering from a bit of a vacation hangover. Pictures freeze time when I cannot. Fortunately, there is still the anticipation of all that is left to come, and it is a lot.

Life

What is life?

Sisters bouncing in the waves,

Rituals untouched by age,

Mosquito-ridden hikes through streams,

To waterfalls guarded beneath a canopy of trees,

Jasmine pearl ice tea,

Sunscreen layered thick,

Tiki Mai Tais hidden in a maze of stalls,

Millions of stars in the night sky,

Sprinklers then laughter,

A ghostly figure in the dark,

Manta ray arms stretched wider than my own,

Two turtles and a friendly fish,

A Buddhist temple with a bell so large,

You are promised happiness and peace.

A catamaran skips across the water,

Edging closer to the unknown,

A fish caught and punched to death in the head,

Blood diluted by the sea,

Tears of brevity,

Life impossible to hold,

As sisters howl and scream beyond the break.

Sisters

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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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Teaching: I didn’t give up.

I’m sitting in my classroom right now, typing into a blank email screen.  My desks are stacked along the wall, the chairs awkwardly tilting atop one another.  Everything has been scrubbed, mountains of recycling taken away, and there is nothing left to do.  Maybe that’s incorrect, I could be more industrious like some of the teachers down the hall that have torn apart their classrooms to implement new organization systems or started on next year’s copies.

Not me.

I prefer to just sit here and take it all in.  I cannot help but think back to what my room looked like on the very first day that I arrived last summer.  Only desks and chairs, nothing else.  No additional furniture, nothing on the walls, a blank canvass.  Now, bulletin boards announce a space for students to brag.  Our small library overflows with books and Machu Picchu hangs proudly in front of the timeout space, inviting angry students to sit and trace the buildings with their fingers, calmer.  The empty room is now a lived in home.

I remember the pride of ownership I felt in decorating this home, walking around barefoot as I hung the butcher paper and decided where the newly bought furniture would go.  Now I’d never walk barefoot in my classroom.  I know what my floors have been through.

There was a time this year when I did not think I would survive.  I counted the days and weeks in order to make it through.  I’d find myself still at school 11+ hours after arriving, straightening out the desks, rearranging, trapped in my own OCD.  If nothing else, this year has cured me of that.  Even sitting here now, I find myself not caring that some of my borders are coming undone or that some of my piles aren’t perfectly organized.  I’ve realized that in order to be a good teacher, I have to give myself breaks.

I earned this break.

Sure there was that one kid today who got under my skin by saying her mom didn’t want me to be her teacher again next year, but there are also kids that wrote me little notes of love and sang me little songs of praise.

“Shhh… Ready… 1-2-3… Mrs. M you’re the best teacher ever!”

Or, my selfish favorite of the day:

“Mrs. M., my mom said she’s happy to make you enchiladas because I got good grades on my report card!”

The enchiladas were delicious.

Until this very moment, I’ve managed not to cry, but I feel the tears, they’re finally here.

I avoided becoming a teacher for a few years after graduation because, among other concerns, I was scared that I would not be perfect at it.  I’m so grateful that I faced my fear.  Yes, teaching is hard, much harder than I ever expected, but it is also deeply satisfying.  Surprisingly, I don’t mind my imperfections nearly as much as I thought I would.  Mostly, I’m just proud that I didn’t give up.

My perfectly imperfect classroom home, ready for summer!

A gift from one of my coaches today, reminding me that I taught my students how to think in my own off-the-wall way, thanks Julie!

Today’s final message of fourth grade, what a year!


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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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