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Classics Rock

07/02/2016

In trying to explain to my friend why reading classics, writing letters, and hanging out in coffee shops (but mostly the classics) appeals to me, I said this:  I might be nostalgic for a time when avoiding an active shooter was not a life skill. Of course, in that statement is so much privilege.  My country is still relatively safe. I have easy access to food, water and shelter. I have the ability to type this post and put it online. My gay bars of the 90’s and early 2000’s were safe. Yes, there was hate outside the bar. There were insults yelled from passing cars when I was out walking my dog, invasive questions about my sex life, secrets kept and lies told by me about my personal life to people I deemed unsafe. But in the bar, there was safety, acceptance, and belonging.

I am privileged.  I get to move about and live my life safely. Yet still, it’s a more worrisome world. Maybe the world has always been thus, since humans began, but I’m just paying more attention.

I’m working on a 2016 reading challenge, which asks me to read a book I should have read in high school. I chose Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Reading a book that I pretended to read when I was 16 made me nostalgic for that time, something I rarely feel. It also made me feel connected to one of many messages in the book- it might be dangerous to ignore your literary history (well, that and living your life hooked on soma will fuck you up). Maybe that’s why I need to read more classics; I’m communing with literary history. The 2016 book challenge also advises reading a banned book. so I chose Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. Classic? Yes. Considered one of the 100 best novels? Yep.  Entertaining and Funny? Check. Vonnegut is reminding me that this being human and being saddened by our unkindness to each other is universal and timeless. The thing to do is choose kind, and I guess for me, read classics.

For camping, I am bringing What is the What because my bookmark has not moved from page 113 for months.

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That Damn GPS Lady

06/23/2016

I’m pretty sure I don’t have anger issues, but IF I do, I might be taking my anger out on that damn GPS chick on Google Maps. My quest to write in different coffee shops this summer (and side note my quest to find the Schat’s Bakery in Carson for an Elephant Ear), means I have been using her services more lately. And I would just like to say, she could do better. Like, for example, she should stop saying “You have arrived,” all proud of herself like she got me to the place, when I am still driving around aimlessly trying to find the damn place. And also, when I am almost to the place, I need her to say SOMETHING. Anything. I could do without the “in 15 feet, TURN!” thing she does. And yes, I did yell at her to “Say Something Lady!!!! Talk!”  And I might have even called her a f%$*er.  But I’m just saying, technology is so rad these days, couldn’t the lady say things that work for my sense of direction, like “turn left into the shopping center that has the Joanne’s Fabrics and drive towards that Mexican food place and you will see the Schat’s on your left and now…. Park.” I’m saying that is the level of GPS I need.  But I’m going to try to stop yelling at her. She probably deserves better.

Reading:

Brave New World (2016 reading challenge: Read a book you should have read in high school. I’m struggling)

Unwholly by Neal Shusterman

 

Confession: I’m a Bad Parent Too

06/17/2016

I don’t think this parent shaming trend is perpetuated by those who don’t have kids. Those people are all like, “Ya, it must be hard.” I think it’s the parents themselves who are all judgey.   I myself have been the victim of the you’re doing it wrong mentality. I guess it’s not really a new trend actually, since I think I did pregnancy wrong too, based on people’s unsolicited advice and comments.

Below List:  Ways I did it wrong, and the way people made sure to tell me (italics). The kid is only 11, so this is a list in progress. That is to say, I’m fully prepared to mess more shit up. He is still breathing, so I feel pretty successful, you know, as a parent.

I only had one kid (That’s easy, that’s not hardly even parenting, you aren’t a real mom until you’ve had two, three or seven, how sad for him, he’ll have no siblings… Yes, he knows how lucky he is).

I didn’t give the kid a dad (Oh my God, two moms, that’s sad. A boy needs a dad. Does he have proper male role models? Who will talk to him about sex? There is not enough testosterone in that house.   His moms taught him about sex, with the help of books with cartoony sex pictures like all kids get. I like to think I did a better job at it than my mom did. I don’t know the correct testosterone level. Is there like a recipe? The kids eats a lot of home cooked meals. I believe in reading.  I’m sure he can read books about boys if he needs more testosterone. Or hang out with his uncles, grandpas and friends who have penises)

I put the kid in daycare and went to work (Don’t you hate having him raised by strangers?   Yes, but I hate living under a bridge more.)

I lost him at the San Diego Zoo once (Were you not watching him? How could that happen?   What can I say, he’s short, all the other people were tall, he saw something shiny while I turned for three seconds and he was gone. But, he got a free stuffed animal, drink and snack from the zoo employees in the Lost Kid Center, and that normally would have cost me about $30, so I’d say it was a win.)

I share custody of the boy. This is the biggest feeling like a bad parent event ever.  This one really does suck. (How can you share custody when you gave birth to him?    I guess to this I’d say, what would you have me do? Somehow deny access to half of the people he’s known all his life? I don’t own him. I get to know him for a while. He is his own person, and he deserves regular access to his whole family, which means parents too.)

He gets a sunburn every summer. (Cancer.   I know.)

He almost drowned in his Nana and Papa’s hot tub while I was inside the house watching TV.  (oh my God, where were you?   Inside, watching TV. It was hot. Hello, it was Vegas in June. He was being watched by his Nana, who fished him out, pounded his back, and never even dropped her smoke. She is cool like that.)

I guess my point is, I have more time to mess stuff up, since he’s only 11. And I’m pretty sure he’ll turn out okay. And some people do suck. But most people are giving it all they have.

What I’m rocking currently with parenting:  Well, he’s  getting a bit sassy and talk backy, and I haven’t strangled him yet. He is a good reader and I take some credit for that, since I’m the biggest geek I know.  I think I’m a good listener.  I have climbed what feels like a million waterpark stairs, read Good Night Moon hundreds of times, and made lots of healthy (and delicious I should add) dinners that he only sort of wants to eat.  So I feel good.

Currently Reading: Lily and Dunkin, The Urban Monk, What is the What, Kid President’s Guide to Being Awesome.

Please read The Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin. Please. It’s so good.

Summer Goal: Lots of writing time.  Create a habit.

I’m a Stranger Here Myself

01/29/2016

This 2015 Christmas, we decided to spend our money on experiences, rather than things. I’ve always enjoyed the doing of Christmas rather than the having and getting of things, so hitting the beach was a solid plan. By beach of course, I mean home. Back to San Luis Obispo, specifically Cayucos. I briefly lived in Cayucos, and it’s my favorite spot to stay when we are on the coast.

The central coast is where I grew up, and of course when I go there I feel less like a tourist and more like a local. As it should be right? Except it has now been (gulp) 22 years since I lived there, so deep down I know I’m a tourist there. I do know where to get the best pizza: Nardonne’s in Atascadero. I know how to order it too; in case you are wondering. The thing is, the people who work there can be a bit pissy about making pizza. So you have to say please, please, please, sorry, sorry, sorry, don’t arrive before your designated pick up time, do not complain when they say it will take an hour and ten minutes for your pizza, smile at the chick at the counter, sympathize when she complains how busy they are, apologize again for bothering her by wanting pizza, and then go home and enjoy the best pizza in the world. I can chat with the owner of Good Clean Fun (where we rented our wetsuits and boogie boards) like a local. The owner and I have a mutual friend (my best friend and he were in the same social circle in the 70s), and he was a customer at the deli where I worked in the early 90s. I can find my way around all the central coast towns, and I know where to park. So I feel like a tourist at home.

The thing is, I don’t like the tourist feeling. I have a need to be a local. I want to know the best spots to boogie board. I’d like to not feel like a poseur when I put on the wetsuit. Part of me wishes I had stayed there on the beach where I grew up, instead of moving to New Mexico and then on to Nevada. But I know that if I had done that, I would not have Tommy or Angi or this life I love so much. I think the sad feeling of local/tourist comes from wanting to live on the central coast full time again, and hoping I can work that out some day. During the Christmas trip, in order to really have fun, I had to let go of this feeling of needing to fit in like a local and just enjoy myself and have fun like a tourist.

Strangely, I have this similar feeling with parenting. In some ways, as the boy gets older, I feel like a tourist in his life. I used to know my boy very well, back when he was a little boy. But now, he is growing to be a young man. My local status is waning. There was a time when he was cuddly and called me Mommy. Now I am Mom, but there is an inflection in his voice sometimes that I can’t even write. Sometimes he says mom like you might say “Ew” while looking at a dead snake on the road or somebody else’s puke (well, any puke). I’m not allowed to touch his head because I might mess up his hair, and his room smells so much like Axe it sometimes radiates down the hall and down the stairs. I guess I will navigate this phase like I managed putting on a wetsuit and getting back in the ocean after 20 years: just jump in and try to act like I know what I’m doing. That defines parenting pretty well. It probably describes most new experiences actually.  And parenting an almost 11-year-old boy is new, just like all the ages to come will be new.

This preteen boy is mostly well-behaved, responsible and sweet, and I do enjoy seeing him push off and do his own thing, since my ultimate plan is to move back to the beach when he is all grown up. Right now he says he is going to come with us and work at the Brown Butter Cookie Company in Cayucos and go to Cal Poly. I’m down with this plan, but I imagine at 18 he is going to say Peace Out Mom, I’m getting as far away from you as possible! We’ll see what happens. I’ll support all plans, except maybe joining a cult or getting a motorcycle.

Reading: The Girl on the Train (so good!), Ishmael (I’m not sure about his one yet), and on deck is What is the What (I’m very excited for this read)

Camp Session 3, We Did It!

07/28/2015

I usually make a summer bucket list. Last summer, my list included outdoor concerts, writing, sketching, reading, water slides, hiking the Rubicon, camping D.L. Bliss, Barnes and Noble Day, and swimming in Lake Tahoe.  This summer, because I figured I better teach art at least once in the 2014-2015 school year, my bucket list is actually on a bucket. It looks like this:

20150727_172611

I have not yet jumped in the Truckee or finished writing my book, and I’m running out of time, but I did accomplish camp. By camp I mean Camp Lotsafun. And like my summer bucket list, I could list all the things I did at camp, brochure style. Here are all the fun activities you will enjoy if you go to Camp Lotsafun: archery, swimming, mountain biking, hiking, arts and crafts, basketball, soccer, frisbee golf, karaoke, card games, dances, movies, campfires, s’mores, talent shows, volleyball, panning for gold, treasure hunts, tie dye, and even food art. Yep, we played with our food, because at camp you get to do almost anything you want.

If I’m really thinking about what I accomplished at camp, it’s more than a list that would fit on a brochure. It’s more than you will see in the camp pictures. Maybe it reads more like a Help Wanted Ad. A list of reasons you should come work this camp.

The ad might read like this:

Free room and board in beautiful locale, which includes a squeaky bunk in a cabin and pretty good food. Coffee will be provided. Lots of hours, little bit of pay, make friends from around the block, around the state, and around the world.

At camp you will:

Count to 8 one thousand times. Have late night talks in your cabin. Laugh until you cry. Get glitter in your hair. Learn secret handshakes. Sing crazy songs that involve fun lyrics and hand signals. Make up new rules for Uno. Share everything. Get lots of hugs. Have inside jokes and new nicknames. Learn new dance moves. Feel the joy of getting your quiet camper to talk and your oldest camper to dance and play soccer. See amazing sunsets and stars. Love coffee more than ever before.

At camp you may:

Sing all the words to The Gambler, and remember that Sweet Caroline never stops being awesome. Realize one cookie is all you need and share the rest. Be reminded of how lucky you are, and how in your regular life you take things for granted, things like relationships, kids, your freedom, your job, and even your ability to walk quickly or go to the bathroom on your own.

You will probably leave this camp, this job, with an inner sense of calm and a new outlook on life. Apply today.

Three sessions in the books and I feel very proud. And now it’s time to think again about teaching. It starts tomorrow with training, but that road trip is still a plan. The book, well, I’ll keep trying.

Reading: Teach Like a Champion. I can dream baby, I can dream!

 

Camp Lotsafun Part Deux

07/12/2015

Session 2 is in the books and I’m noticing a trend, broken down by days as follows:

Sunday: Counselors arrive. Get set. Read bios. Enjoy the quiet, the scenery, the chance to read and journal and sketch before…

Monday: Crazy. Thoughts like, I can’t do it happen. I forget my campers’ names. I am annoyed at the necessary task of moving STUFF. I can’t wait to already be settled in and programming.

Tuesday: This is what the week will look like. We are on a schedule, in a groove. We make cabin rules and are following them for the most part, with some reminders. I’m learning my group. We get our first rest time. I love me some rest time.

Wednesday: I know my guys, I know what they like, what they don’t like, who wanders, who doesn’t, who is the helper, who is in his own zone, who is excited to be at camp, who is pining for Saturday. It’s easy to be together and the schedule is our happy king. We are a team, moving together everywhere. We also know where to find the cookies and how to bribe the Cabin Fairy. Shhh.

Thursday:  We are gellin’. We have inside jokes. It’s easy. We aren’t thinking about Saturday. We are just thinking about whether we will do bike riding, basketball, drama, karaoke, Arts and Crafts, hiking or beach. Good choices to have on a beautiful summer day at Eagle Lake.

Friday: We feel we’ve been here at least two weeks. The idea of going home is sad and happy.  The cabin smells like feet, farts, and BO. Despite daily showers. We’ve accepted it. It’s our smell, the smell of our Cabin 8 team.

Saturday: I’m home already in my mind. I’m trying to be fully present but once again dealing with STUFF. My mind’s eye can see the Starbucks in Susanville, can see me in it, ordering a Grande caramel machiatto. Making the big decision of hot or iced. It also knows I may never see my guys again and wants me to come back to the now. Saturday is an exercise in mindfulness. The week goes by fast and slow at the same time.

This post, I thought I’d list some of the things I learned from campers during Session 2.

I learned….

  • How to draw Inspector Gadget.
  • The 2005 Dr. Who is better.
  • When making cocoa or tea, double the packets or bags. Always.
  • My plan to hide in a boat on a lake during the Zombie Apocalypse will not work because zombies can swim and stack, and plus they don’t breathe because they are dead so water is no big deal. So. New plan needed, but not offered by these guys.
  • If you want someone to feel like they are part of your tribe, give them a new name. Please just call me Tamika from now on.
  • If you are driving somewhere and you see cows lying down, it means a storm is coming.
  • It’s good to get to work an hour early so you can chill and drink coffee and get ready. I bet I never actually follow this very good advice.
  • You can play a Draw 2 card on top of Draw 2 card in Uno, making the next person draw 4, or 6, or 8, etc. This is not Camp Uno Rules, but REAL UNO RULES.
  • The Backstreet Boys and In Sync broke up. Why? We don’t know.
  • John Lennon and George Harrison are dead. Paul McCartney is a vegetarian.
  • John Wilkes Booth killed Lincoln. And Reagan was not, in fact, shot; he died of Alzheimer’s, and don’t try to say anything different. Just. Don’t. Even.
  • You are never too old to get your picture taken with Smokey the Bear.
  • Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.
  • Given the chance to tip a canoe on purpose, dumping your counselor into the lake, you must do it. You must.
  • If your friend is sad, you must go over, put your hand on his shoulder, compliment him on his awesome personality, and tell him it’s okay to cry.

What they learned from me? It’s very polite to go pass gas outside in nature. I’m sure there is more but that’s the one that comes to mind at the moment.

One more session on the horizon. I am going to enjoy this home week, finish my list of things to do, walk dogs, read books, journal, and watch lots of Netflix. Can’t wait for Session 3!

Camp. It Was Lots of Fun.

07/02/2015

With seven weeks off for summer, I thought I’d take an opportunity to work a summer camp. Maybe I’m pining for my youthful days at good old Camp Hapitok. Or maybe I thought I’d get a paid vacation and a chance to commune with nature. Camp Hapitok was so many years ago, and I don’t want to do the math because it’s the kind of math problem that makes me a little bit sad and a lot bit shocked. I remember very little about that camp, but I do remember that at age16, my number one goal was to kiss a hot counselor. This time around, my goal for camp was more altruistic. This time, I wanted to impact somebody’s life in a positive way. I wanted to be like Julie, the super awesome cruise director of not The Love Boat, but Camp Lotsafun.

So what qualifies me to work at a camp for children and adults with disabilities? Having gone to camp before? Being a teacher? The desire to do it? The love I have for this population? Love of the outdoors? Being friends with the director? A willingness to sleep in a cabin, hike, dance badly in front of many people, sing karaoke loudly (also badly, with no social cushion of alcohol), and make beaded necklaces and bird feeders out of toilet paper rolls and peanut butter? Yes, all of the above.

Byron Katie has said, “I’m very clear that everyone in the world loves me, I just don’t expect them to realize it yet.” This was how I approached the somewhat nerve-wracking unknown of camp. Yes, I’d be older than all the counselors, but I figured they’d realize how much they love me eventually. And I long ago learned not to offer unsolicited advice to anyone, so I’d be set. Because I remember being in my early 20s and wishing that old lady would stop telling me what to do with my life. Nobody wants that, right? So I would not be that chick, no way. And the campers, well, my plan was to listen. Support. I’d work really hard to not interject my story. I’d listen and ask questions and follow the schedule and not lose any campers. Yes, goal number one, don’t lose anyone. Also make sure they bathe, don’t choke at mealtimes, use sunscreen, and drink enough water. Got it.

And I did do all those things. The session was much like what I expected. I hiked and swam and I sang Kenny Rogers songs loudly and badly and actually remembered I kinda like that guy’s music. I gave lots of high fives and hugs. I talked about important things like The Avengers, The Hulk, what it’s like to pay bills all the time, and 80’s music while waiting for sleep to come late at night. I caught and released 10 moths because one of my campers could not sleep knowing we had “flutterflies” in our cabin. I played a lot of games of Uno. I laughed the daily allotted amount for good health, as recommended by Psychology Today.com. I learned some hip hop dance moves. I slept very little and wished for stronger coffee. All as expected.

Here’s what I didn’t expect: How much my campers would teach me. As I do with my regular job as a teacher, I learned something very valuable from my campers, and all the campers: life, no matter what is going on, is to be appreciated, despite the challenges it offers. My guys, my campers, have real challenges. They have no privacy because they can’t take care of themselves. For some of them, walking is a very difficult. They always need to rely on the help of others. While I was thinking and planning very carefully what books to bring (not realizing there would be zero time or energy for reading), my guys packed nothing to occupy their minds at camp. They, unlike me, don’t have to read at night to calm the crazy monkey mind before being able to fall asleep. One of my campers, who is older than I am, packed a Step Into Reading book that I would probably give to one of my first grade students. For some reason, this made me very sad. Reading, writing, and sketching are so important to me, and I was assuming, like a 4-year old who thinks the whole world revolves around her, that not being able to read a book is such a sad, sad thing. But is it? These guys were happy. Fine. Appreciative. Smiling all the time. Chipper in the morning. Very chipper. Which made me wonder, what’s my issue? Why am I assuming my way is the best way? The right way? It’s human nature I guess.

Whenever I camp I come home with an appreciation for the things that make my life so great. My family, my dogs, my house, morning coffee and journal time, a bathroom that is only ten feet away and pretty clean most of the time.(except baseboards, but those don’t count).  Something else happened after this camp though. I realized that almost all of the stuff I worry about doesn’t really matter. Not my bank account balance, the money my credit card people keep wanting from me every month, the size of my jeans, or the wrinkles on my neck that I hate so much. My life is enough. I am enough. And in this life, what matters is not what you look like, or what you have, but how you make people feel. At the end of Camp Lotsafun, Session 1, I can say for sure that my campers felt listened to. Important. Valued. Nothing else matters. Session 2 is going to rock.