Category Archives: perspective

friend or foe? the fine line called “busy”

agirofobiaIf I had eventhe time I need to record my thoughts every day . . .
I grew up busy. I had busy parents; we led busy lives. From sun up to sun down (and usually long after and before), my family was on the go. My brother and I did the usual “kid thing”: school, homework, varsity, instrument lessons, church programs, summer camps, etc. There was always cleaning and cooking and laundry and yard work to do. Mom and Dad worked full time. When they weren’t at work, they were working at home. If I ever saw my dad, say, sitting down on a Sunday morning, I wondered what was wrong. Was he sick?

They say busy is good — at least that’s the way it’s always been presented to me. And busy is good. Some of the most depressed I’ve ever been is when I was unemployed and had nowhere to go. Working gives me a sense of purpose and direction — I am doing something with my life. But . . .

How busy is too busy?

I wake up every day with a to-do list a thousand miles long: work, run, ride, swim, wash my car, do laundry, cook, clean, vacuum, dust, mop, make lunches, do dishes, pay bills, check email . . . My blog is important, too, and enters my thoughts a thousand times each day — Oooohh! I could write about this, or this, or, I wonder what they’d think about this? — but often (usually) gets pushed to the bottom of my list.

The only reason I’m writing tonight is because the laundry room at our apartment complex is full.

And I wonder, every night as I’m compulsively working on my list: Where does time go? Why couldn’t we sleep deeply like Roald Dahl’s *BFG so that we didn’t need eight hours of sleep every night (which, incidentally, I rarely get). And what is relaxation worth? Many people have no trouble sitting down and “chilling” after work every night. So, why can’t I? I pride myself in how much I get done in a day, but what about the things I didn’t do — the things whose results would, perhaps, would last a little longer?

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*Big Friendly Giant

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“thank you”

TypedThankYouShucks! A whole week gone and not a post written. Guess that’s what happens when spring break ends…

Got an email today from a student I taught at my last job, in San Ramon. It was a good way to end a rough week, and a reminder that no effort on a child is ever wasted.

Sorry I haven’t been talking that much. I don’t remember what I did for Christmas. I like the teachers at Eye Level but I like you the best! ;)

Aww!!! Thanks, A!

Never underestimate the power of “Thank you.” A’s sure made my day today!

Hope your weekend is off to great starts. Thank you for reading! Be looking for more posts soon!

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times are tough, but i’m in luck!

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True that, yo!

It occurred to me, as I was reading the headlines this morning, just how lucky I am. I have a roof over my head and enough food to eat. I have a job and a loving boyfriend. (Believe me, he puts up with a lot.) I have family close by and friends near and far. I have use of all four limbs and my hearing and eyesight. I have it good.

I am often quite hard on myself, but, the truth is, when comparing myself to others (which I shouldn’t do — I know, I know), I only look to those I consider my betters. Those with more money, more life experiences; those who have things “all figured out,” those I consider better looking. I forget to check myself and look at all of humanity and just how many people out there I can help, or would, or should. Continue reading

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looking for the bright side

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I had it all worked out. And then it didn’t.

I was working as a *teacher’s assistant, applying for jobs elsewhere. The teaching thing wasn’t going well: my student was a nightmare. I dreaded going to work every day, and then —

A reporting job came available. It was at a small paper twenty miles away, and it was perfect. The staff was small; the paper, bi-weekly. I didn’t have a lot of experience, but, surely I stood a chance here.

I had an interview; it went well. Wrote a test article; it went went well, too. And then I waited. And waited. The editor had had a few more interviews to do, so . . . Continue reading

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broken home

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I was talking to Mrs. V,  the other day. Mrs. V is the 1st grade teacher I work with. We’d had an assembly that morning to recognize students for good behavior and school work, and *Sarah had won Mrs. V’s class award. Sarah’s mother was at the ceremony, and with her was someone I guessed was her dad.

I was wrong. Continue reading

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the stories of our lives

atoz_assessmentI attended a private school growing up, as I have said. Private school was a “safe” environment — at least it was for a goodie-goodie like me.

The elementary school I work at now is not private. There are three kindergarten classes, three first grade classrooms, three second grade classrooms. Third, fourth, and fifth graders attend an identical school down the street. More than 60 percent of our students are Hispanic. More than forty percent do not live with their parents.

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Last week, *Marius was thrown out of school. He’d been a problem all year, had barricaded himself in the bathroom and was stuffing toilet paper into all of the toilets. He refused to come out, and, when he finally did, was chased down and taken to the office to wait for his grandmother. Marius has blond curls and blue eyes and baby chub. Marius is in kindergarten. Continue reading

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will we never learn?

m-2339Bloody Sunday. Selma. These are names, places, that ring bells in many Americans’ minds. My boyfriend grew up in Alabama. He says every Alabamian’s skin prickles when they hear these terms.

No one has good recollections of Selma.

I won’t tell you all of the things that happened on Bloody Sunday. I myself didn’t know the story until recently. I was writing an article for the newspaper. A local man was there when it happened. He had his story to tell. So it goes.

So it goes that, back in the sixties, African-Americans weren’t allowed to vote — even though they legally were. In the South, in places like Selma, only two percent of blacks had been able to register. Because of this, and because of the senseless killing of a man named Jimmie Lee Jackson, protestors organized a march from Selma to Montgomery on March 7, 1965. They were trying to gain national support for their cause. They were trying to gain what should have already had: Equality. Continue reading

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on my way

pathwayI can only be me.

Must live the life I’m given,
and wear the skin I’m in,
be wary how I’m driven,
and of the walls within.

Must mind to whom I listen,
think deeply, unafraid,
to ask the questions hidden,
no matter where they’re laid.

Can only be . . .

And always kind to others,
must selfless, always brave,
think not of petty druthers,
a loving pathway pave.

Must worry not ’bout others —
their glories or their stays,
or envy all their treasures,
I’ll follow my own ways.

. . . me.

For when this life is over,
for when my race is run,
I’ll worry not ’bout Rover,
just want to see the Son.

And me is who He’s given,
so me is who I’ll stay.
And me has always thriven,
when me is on my way.

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*For an audio recording of this poem, click below.

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Image: Pinterest

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a very, very belated thank you

A year ago today, a friend sent me a message. He sent it to my email. Those of you who’ve ever contacted me through my blog know I am not always good at checking my email: I got his message after several days. Here is what it said:

allwin Continue reading

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to be or not to be worldly-wise

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My follow-up post may not be what you were expecting.

We wrote letters for a summer. Dated for roughly three years. We loved each other much longer than that, but, ultimately, he was meant to be a priest and I, to be a writer and meet Jon.

I love Jon.

So, no. This post isn’t about childhood sweethearts and love ever after. Rather, it’s about that 14-year-old and her reputation for being a “goodie-goodie” — a name that has stuck with her for many years. Continue reading

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children’s stories

chinese childI was trying to write a children’s story. I wasn’t any good at it.

My language was too dense.
My thoughts, too dull.
My words too extreme.
My heart, too full.

Because you see…

Life is hard, children. And we make it that way. We grow from you — so innocent, wide-eyed, full of joy — and turn into…? Monsters. We are monsters, children. Everyone one of us. Even the best of us. Monsters. Continue reading

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little by little

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Chasing seagulls at nearby Bodega Bay

I’m supposed to be applying for a job right now. The open tab on my computer — “Children’s Fiction/Non-Fiction Writer” — is just to my right. I think I might actually have a shot at this one. I’ve been a teacher, and I love to write. The position is freelance, so . . . What more could they need?

Well, they’d need my application first.

I guess I forgot to mention that we moved. In all of the hustle and bustle of the holidays, and of packing and unpacking, and of apartment hunting and job searching, there was no time to blog. Continue reading

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new year, new you . . . not!

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No, I did not take this picture. I was in bed last night by 10 p.m.!

As a teen, I remember counting down the seconds — ten! nine! eight! — to midnight on New Year’s Eve. I clung to each one, lingered over it, never wanted to let it go. Those seconds were portals into my future past, remnants of a beautiful year.

I was a nostalgic kid.

As an adult, little has changed, except . . . I’ve seen enough New Years to know that there isn’t some catastrophic, year-annihilating boom at the stroke of midnight on January 1st. 2014 isn’t a pile a rubble and ash to be sorted through and mourned. Rather, 2014 is what it is — the past — just as 6:30 this morning is now the past. Continue reading

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the hope of christmas

IMG_0376ed2014 is almost over. Where does time go?

It hardly seems a few days since last Christmas, when I woke up beside a lake in Pell City, Alabama. I was welcomed with open arms by Jon’s family — Southern hospitality in full form — and spent New Years Eve beneath the stars in Santa Cruz. The past year has been a big one — full of changes and surprises, love and laughter. It’s been a sad one on a national and global scale — so much hurt and pain and anger; so many issues that make me sad. But, through it all — the good and the bad — one thing rings clear: HOPE. Continue reading

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ungrateful and unaware

And what would you . . . ?

What would you do if a child from a privileged home couldn’t tell you what they were thankful for?

Not a single thing?

Yesterday on facebook, while browsing my news feed, I came across this photo and quote from Humans of New York. Humans of New York is a popular photoblog created by a man named Brandon Stanton. The site features portraits and interviews of individuals in New York — and around the world. While some have criticized HONY, saying many of Stanton’s interviews must be staged, most viewers love the site. I myself like HONY because, to me, Brandon has done exactly what I’ve been trying to do all along: Show that people are people. Continue reading

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killing the idealist in me

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Chattanooga’s waterfront, where the Chattanooga’s first Ironman took place

When words fail, what do I have left?

This past week Jon and I went back to Chattanooga for his Ironman. It was Chattanooga’s first, and Jon’s, too, and was something he’d been looking forward to since before we met. And…

It was good to see his friends and family, and good to be able to help him reach his goal. His training hadn’t exactly been what it should have been (for a lot of reasons), and I was proud of him for finishing. But… then…

Why was it so hard for me?

Why is everything so hard for me? Continue reading

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the fire in my heart

It may be old news to some, or too distant to matter for others, but for me, the King Fire hits home.

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Placerville is my hometown. Pollock Pines is just up the road. I can’t count the number of times I’ve driven past this sign on my way home from Lake Tahoe. Continue reading

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my prayer

San Ramon, California

San Ramon, California, where I work

Sitting in my darkened apartment, listening to the hum of traffic on University Avenue. It’s Saturday evening and my weekend has (finally) officially started. I’ve had thoughts all week about what to write right here. And yet, now, when I finally have the time . . .

the words,

the topics,

seem . . .

Misplaced.

Like me. Continue reading

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remember . . .

xray2How many drafts can I write before finally finishing a new post?

Seriously. I think I’ve written at least fifteen.

There have been posts about crazy people, posts about jobs, posts about love, posts about war. I’ve had thoughts on Robin Williams, thoughts on poetry (I haven’t written any in a while) . . . My most effective writing comes from what is closest at hand, closest to my heart.

I’ve had this week off and expected I’d get something written — anything. But then last weekend I broke my collarbone on a ride in Napa, and now tomorrow I’m having surgery. And now I’m no longer sure I can write at all: my mind is so scattered. Continue reading

teach them to read

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Thought for the day, and week, and month, I suppose, at the rate I’ve been blogging:

If you want children to write, teach them to read. If you want them to read, show them reading is fun. As a kid, I was a bookworm, but it wasn’t until I became a teacher that I realized how much reading had impacted my understanding of the structure of the English language. No one cares about adverbs and subjects and predicates and helping verbs. No 8-year-old wants to break that stuff down. What they want are action and adventure and ideas. What they want are the things of life.

Except for that one student. If you really think “will” + “not” = “willn’t,” we may have a problem . . . Except that, there, the study of grammar failed you, too. You wouldn’t have said “willn’t” in day-to-day speech. You were following a pattern, and “won’t” breaks all the rules.

— Miss Jess

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fate?

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Writing Camp, Summer 2014

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My favorite professor in college used to tell a story. As a young man, he’d been in a jazz band and then the army. He’d traveled solo around the world, dreamed of being a pilot, gone to flight school. After receiving his pilot’s license, however, he couldn’t find work. Times were desperate; money, scarce. One day, in a moment of frustration, he cried out, “Lord, please . . . What do you want me to do?!” Continue reading

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no excuses

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Do you struggle with perfectionism — like me?

This is the first time I’ve opened my laptop in more than a week, the first time I’ve looked at my blog in more than that. The last two weeks have been busy. I’ve been teaching a writing camp at my new job, where I’m an instructor at an after-school learning center. Camp has been in the mornings; regular classes, until 7 or 8 at night. It’s been fun — tons of it — and has given me a lot of ideas about what to write right here. But when it comes to actually sitting down and finding the time to write? When I’m not exhausted?

And the thing is, I don’t want my blog to be all about me, or, worse, less than my best work. The key to successfully engaging an audience is to have something interesting to say, and to say it well. But great writing requires a fresh mind and time to follow through. It seems like every time I sit down to write, I’m in a hurry. Today I’m headed out to meet Jon at the marina where he is tootling around on the bay in our new kayak. It’s something we’ve been wanting to do together for a while now, but, well, when has there been time for that, either?

The good news is that this next week I have a little time off, and I intend to utilize that time to do some of the things (write and ride, and maybe swim) I’ve been putting off. I also know that many of the world’s greatest writers have finished their best works while working other “real” jobs, however. A busy schedule is no excuse.

So stay with me, please. Soon to follow are letters from students, thoughts on homelessness, thoughts on futures, gay pride (the San Francisco Pride festival is being held in the city this weekend; it feels weird to live in so liberal a place when both Jon and I come from much more conservative backgrounds), and much, much more.

I hope you are all having a wonderful weekend!
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See that head poking out of the water? That’s me swimming. :)

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thrive

bike..
It’s funny how it hit me: Tonight, I had to write.

I’ve been putting it off for ages, trying to find my voice. Writing is my passion, but there is never time, never the place. There are always things in the way — things of higher priority — and there are bills to pay. Blogging doesn’t help much with bills.

And then there’s topic. What on earth do I want to say? My little brother got married a few weeks ago. I cut my finger so deeply I could see the tendon. I started a new job working with young kids. Traffic is insane in the Bay Area. The weather is different here. Homelessness is everywhere here. And, and . . .

People are people. It’s what I keep coming back to. Here in Berkeley the population is incredibly diverse. There are black people and white people and red people and yellow people. There are people wearing saris and turbans and skullcaps and blue jeans and pant suits and rags. We are all so different, and yet . . . forever the same.

And that’s why I love you . . . and you and you and you (especially you, hatted boy). I love you because I am like you. I breathe and cry and laugh and try and fail and try again just like the rest of you. I am sick when the world is evil but thrilled when love calls my name. (Thank you, sweetie…)

I am human, and I will thrive. Until my dying day, I will thrive.

And you will, too.

I know it.

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leave it to me . . .

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Sometimes I feel like this guy: bumbling along, never knowing what trouble I’ll trip into next . . .

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To build my blog and then abandon it because life has just gotten too dang busy.

To finally get a job I love but for that job to only be part time.

To get a part-time job I love and for that job to be more than thirty miles away. (Gas is more than $4 a gallon.)

To get a ticket for talking on my cell phone in my car for two seconds. Why can’t you go after the real trouble-makers, cops? (My co-worker’s bike was stolen from right in front of our office the same day.)

To have a clean apartment but never spend time relaxing in it (writing my blog) because I’m too busy cleaning (thinking) and exercising (thinking).

To break my boyfriend’s beautiful glass thermometer because I was trying to clean it.

To cut my finger so deeply (I could see the tendon) that I need stitches because I broke my boyfriend’s thermometer.

To cut my finger so deeply I need stitches on the weekend my brother is getting married in Tahoe. (Love you, bro!)

To be lucky enough to have a dad who’s a doctor who, it just so happens, will also be at the wedding in Tahoe this weekend.

To want to clean my car because I just can’t take the dirt anymore, despite the fact that I need stitches and my car is just going to get dirty this weekend, anyway. (We’re driving it to Tahoe.)

To want to ride my bike today because that’s just what I love to do, even if I do have a cut finger!

To beat myself up for the mistakes I’ve made, and then to just make them again.

To never give up despite making the same mistakes over and over again, because that’s just how I am — stubborn as hell.

To have just written an entire draft of this post and not saved it, then pushed save, and for it to have been deleted.

To miss reading your blogs and connecting with you (you know who you are) but to be unable to catch up with everyone right now.

To miss you all and know that someday soon I’ll be back — blogging regularly, loving endlessly.

Promise.

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Pictures from my brother’s wedding to come. I hope you all have a beautiful weekend!

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why we write

writer….
Tell tell a story.

To tell our stories.

To share our hearts.

To fall apart.

To pull ourselves together.

To communicate.

To inform.

To breathe in.

To exhale.

To forgive.

To forget.

To remember.

To hope.

To kill hope.

To grieve.

To understand.

To apologize.

To express.

To think.

To garble.

To worry.

To cry.

To laugh.

To sigh.

To hurt.

To heal.

To give.

To receive.

To send secret messages.

To laugh.

To learn.

To love.

To fight.

To die.

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We write because we have no other choice.

Because writing consumes us or we consume it.

Because it gives voice to our tears, wind to our wings, air to our everything.

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We write because we are alive.

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Why do you write? Do you?

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“If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.”

— Lord Byron

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