One Day in Saba (Part 1)

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I Googled, “Beaches for Women”.  This is how it started.  I wanted just one place to sit on the Caribbean Sea.  Add coconut oil, drinks, sand, and relaxation.  I don’t know how, and I don’t know why, but at that very moment, seemingly, I got an email from AARP giving me this great deal to an island called Saba.  The back story is here.

I really write this blog for my mother.  I emailed my parents for two days from Saba, then sort of fell off the map, and she is dying to hear about it.  Moms are great like that.  They make you feel like your travels, thoughts, and words are so important.  I have learned so much from her.

On the first day of this trip, I took a redeye out of San Francisco.  The BART was weird-a guy was flicking his lighter on and off, and I decided that perhaps the convenience of BART to SFO has lost its charm.  I was scared.  I started to wonder what I was doing.  I am in my 50s.  No.  My LATE 50s.  Some of this series of posts will come from my writing.  And practially the first sentence I wrote was this:

What am I doing?

I landed in St. Maarten, and started to write, as I had a  two hour layover.  I met a man who told me, listen.  You’re going to Saba.  Put your phone in your room.  Disconnect completely.  I was getting excited, because, you know.  St. Maarten.  The music, the famous airport.  Everyone sitting around said how lucky I was to be going to Saba.  I didn’t feel lucky.  I wanted to stay in St. Maarten.  With people.  I felt underwhelmed.  I felt foolish-as if I imagined that this would be some big eye opening experience, and it probably wouldn’t be…I would simply be a weary traveler.

I looked around.  Everyone was a couple, and everyone was on their phones and iPads. They weren’t engaged, but they didn’t seem alone.  I was alone.  I was going to a place with no one, no one meeting me, and not knowing one soul.  The flight was cramped, and I felt dejected.  I met wonderful people on the plane, but of course, you turn, and you never see them again.

The flight to Saba is billed as being one of the most exciting on the planet.  It felt this way. The cliffs on both sides, the two young pilots, the breathtaking scenery.  However, coming up to the island, I just felt scared.  The island looming in the airplane window just freaked me out.  This is a familiar feeling that I would battle all week.  Eddie the taxi driver picked me up, and drove me to my cottage… to my little eco cottage in the sky.  From the street, there are 70 stairs to the office.  Then, my lodge was 30 more stairs.

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I was dropped off at El Momo Cottages.  Cute, eco-friendly.  I watched my first sunset with my feet on the railing, and suddenly realized I was hungry.  It was 5:00 pm, and I knew it would be getting darker.  There was no place to eat, and I knew no one.  I also knew the steep hill would be unpleasant coming back.  I walked down to the only place I saw.  A place called Guido’s.  A young local, named Wilson, made me a salad, and after a really long time, I said, you know I should probably get it in a box, because I have to walk home.  He said not to worry-he would take me home.  That everyone on the island hitchhikes, and it was just up the street.  I thought to myself, well.  You certainly aren’t in California anymore.

It’s the first night. I was home, and it was so quiet, it was deafening.  It hurt my ears.  The silence was almost painful, and I started writing.  I also started counting.  I was counting how long I would have to stay on this island in the Caribbean.

I finally fell asleep to the sound of chickens, frogs, and this gnat.  This one gnat.

(Day 1)

(Coming…these four sentiments would be the ultimate lesson for the week)

 



This Post Wanders

 

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Today is my 58th birthday.  I have never felt more calm, and more scared at the same time.

Let me work backward.  Soon, I’m headed to an island 4 time zones away, and I have no idea how or why I picked this place, but it was borne of a restlessness, a fear, an anxiety produced evening, when I had just burst with the words “enough!”

Several weeks before Christmas, I would head to bed at night, and just say to God that I’m sure you have something more for me.  More than this.  These 700 Facebook friends and all their pictures and opinions and oh god I do not think I can take any more political posts.  Several years before, my boyfriend and I consciously left Facebook with the plan of coming back.  But this time.  This was different.  I would come home at night and turn on the computer and go about my evening, and keep checking back.  I talked all night with friends as I tended to the keeping of my house.  And my fingers hurt.  Like, literally I was starting to realize that I was not having a relationship with my friends, but with this plastic phone.  I was tapping and zooming and reading, but make no mistake.  I was not interacting with people.

A few weeks later, I found myself wondering what I should do on my ten day break from school, and that I really should do SOMETHING.  I got a random travel email, but I didn’t know where I wanted to go.  So, I Googled “beaches for women”, or something.  It turned up lists and lists of good travel destinations.  Groups of women.  I didn’t really see myself doing a group, and wasn’t needing or wanting to go on the “Eat, Pray, Love” tour.

I wandered a bit, and found an island.  Within minutes, I booked the trip.  To another country.  To some remote place that I had never heard of.  Not the Caribbean with your beautiful nails and lying on the beach with suntan oil, but the place where iguanas are on your porch, where you hike for 2 hours, where you land hopefully on the runway.

In the next several days, the shock of this decision wore off, and I realized that I needed a passport.  On New Year’s Eve day, I spent the day with all the families and people needing to travel.  I was the last one on that day, and I literally got in under the wire.  Since I was leaving so soon, I needed to expedite the transaction, costing me more money that I wanted to spend.

I cut my hair.  My long hair was now right at the shoulder.  And of course, it’s already grown back to within reach of where it was.

On New Year’s Eve, I had Chinese food with a dear friend, both of us in sweats at a local restaurant.  I was home by 8, and spent the evening listening to classical music and reading a book.  I’m telling you.  This is not me.  Not even close.  I’m the party girl, who won’t leave until the end.  I listen to loud music, and am hardly ever able to just sit and relax.

I woke up at 9am the next day.  I called Texas.  I told him I needed to deactivate Facebook, that I was painfully alone, and needing to stop filling that feeling with fake connectivity. Thankful for his friendship and support, I just clicked.  Delete.

I had woken up that morning to a Faceversery of six years with the social media mogul, and I just thought.  That’s it.  I’m done.  I had no plan of staying off, or counting days.  I just had to deactivate it.  I knew that it was tapping into a place of loneliness.  This appearance of having relationships.

During the Fall, I was trying to figure out a way to outsmart Facebook.  I couldn’t stand the little indicator telling people the last time I was active on Facebook.  I felt manipulated, controlled.  Every app, every possible place on the web pointed back to it.  And, I hated it.  There was no work-around.

The first week was hard.  Like kicking heroin, I imagine.  I thought, wait.  I have 700 friends.  Where are they?  There were a few nights that I couldn’t sleep.  That I thought I was going a little crazy.  And when I would tell this story, people would say things like, “Well, I’m not that into it like you are…”, or “Good for you! You definitely were on it too much!”  And I said, listen, do you think you could go off for three days?

The answer was always, oh no.  No way.  No. Way.

So it’s been about six weeks.  And I’m headed to my island soon.  And I’m scared and excited.  I feel as though I just am landing there.  I didn’t plan this, or decide to visit.  I didn’t know it was owned by the Netherlands, and so I have been receiving emails in Dutch, translating, then sending them back.

Today, I turned 58.  I didn’t receive 300 Facebook messages.  My people called me.  My true loved ones.  Family.  Friends.  My children.

I don’t know where I’m going.  I’m fascinated that I landed here at all.  Apparently, I’m off to discover that core alone-ness.  To find me, that little girl who played kickball in the streets with the boys.  My guide said to bring paper and pencil…that I will need it.

To write, to pray, to discover.  I’m finishing this, and Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me”, comes on a random playlist, and it’s the first song that was at my nephew’s funeral.  And I look up at his picture, here in my dining room.  And I would give my right arm to hear him tell me to do it.  To go.

And they say that all who wander are not lost.  But oh.  I am.  I am.

 

 

#MTM & Why I’m crying.

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Today, the original Single Girl died.  I was sick at home, and so I started downloading and watching The Mary Tyler Moore show, which aired the Fall I went into seventh grade.

I started to well up when I saw her driving to Minneapolis to start a new life on her own. The music, the girl tossing her hat into the air.  The perpetual hope that you could do it, if you tried.  I didn’t want to be like her.  I was 12.  But now, I wish I had learned the art of being sweet.

On the very first episode, Mary is trying to get a job as a secretary, and because she is so cute, they give her the job as an associate producer.  The next several episodes are periodically peppered with comments about her caboose, her single hood, her lack of a husband.

And.  I started crying.  I don’t know why, but I think it might have something to do with the fact that since this aired in 1970, some things have changed, but many have not.  No, you can’t ask if someone is married in an interview.  No, your boss cannot come over drunk to your house, though Lou Grant is such a lovable person, you almost forgive him.  Roe v. Wade wouldn’t come into being for 2.5 years.

One comment after another, she bounces back.  When the leering TV Anchor makes sexist comments, Mary keeps coming back.  When she breaks up with her boyfriend, he says, “Take care of yourself”, and she replies, “I think I just did.”

Mary was single throughout the whole series.  She tackled the issues of the day, which actually mirror many of THIS day.  And, perhaps that’s why I cried.  Because even though we’ve come so far, we still have so far to go.  Another 40 years?  I certainly hope not.

 

on who owns the power

I went to the Passport Office today, because that’s what you do on the last day of the year. When you’ve read all the “do it now”, and “buy the shoes” posts, and you realize that you really must take action. So. This is where you start.

Today was the day that I found out who has the power in our country.  As I sat there with the last ticket of the day, lucky number 26, I watched the agents turn away people, because it’s a holiday after all, and we’re swamped.  I looked up at the number on the wall.  They were on #2, and it was 11am.  I was in for a long day, and as it turns out, it ended up 3.5 hours long.  There.  But, I was good with it, because I have plans for this salty year, this 2017.  It starts with a Passport.  More on that later.

I looked at the different groups of families, some alone, and some with many children.  And in my gut, way way down deep, I was smug… feeling like it wouldn’t take me any time at all.  I had my documents, I had my paperwork, I had my money.  The agents would ask the children, “Who is your Mommy?  What grade are you in?”  One family forked over $500 for multiple passports.

But here’s the thing.  No one was angry, or irritated.  It wasn’t what you see, say, at the DMV office.  It was quiet, calm, and oddly peaceful.

And.  I was ready when they called my name.

I brought everything.  EVERYTHING.  I have been married twice, and I brought all Social Security cards.  I brought birth certificates.  I had court documents proving I was divorced.  I explained the multiple name trail.  I had been married, went back to my maiden name, was married again.  Only twice, but it was difficult to explain four names. However, I felt secure in that I had prepared for this.

The agents told me I didn’t have enough-that I would have to explain how come I had so many names.  That even though I had my birth certificate, and all my documents, they still needed to see why I still used my current name, though I have had it for 22 years, and it is mine.  I almost cried.  Because for a moment, I started to get frustrated that only the woman has to go through this.  What about the multiple marriages of men?  What about the hoops I have to go through?  THIS is why I’m marching.  This is unfair.

I looked down at my last passport, that time in 1989 that I was going to teach overseas and never did.  I looked down at my only stamp, the honeymoon trip to Tahiti. I looked at my picture-a 29 year old who didn’t understand the import of this document.

And. Suddenly, I wasn’t angry.  Because I noticed these words on the top of my expired Passport.

 

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That America finds it so important to track down every piece of information to make sure that I am who I am.  That I am the actual person who is going to travel, and to whom they are telling the world,

This citizen is ours.  Give them the pass in and out. Take care of this person.

Who owns the power in America?  I say this unequivocally.  It is us.  It is all of us.  At the end of the day, I am ever so grateful to be here.  To be a citizen of this great nation.  To have read those words at the top of the passport.  To be free and cared for…passing without delay or hindrance.  I am free.  We are free.

I left the office finally, to get ready for tonight.  This is my last blog post of 2016, with New Years Eve waiting for me.  With a Passport application winging its way to San Francisco. Because 2017. You are waiting. And I want to be ready.

Happy New Year’s Eve to all!

Goals.

keep-on-hoping2016 is coming to an end.  I have spent it dating, and Tindering, and being very non-committal.  I decided in the beginning of this year, that I would never ever give myself over unless I was madly and crazy in love.  Unless I had decided that this was the one.  The final one.  I went about dating with verve, and refused to be intimate unless I was in love.  I reconnected with old loves, but the old could not be shaken.  I was unwilling to fall back into something unless I chose it.

But this year.  I didn’t like it.  I was untethered on purpose.  I thought I was choosing light connections.  I ran when I felt smothered.  I had a hard time committing past a first date.

So. I stayed alone.  I wandered my teeny tiny bungalow, and became familiar with late night TV, old books, my neighborhood.  I met with friends, but I decidedly avoided any whiff of romance for fear of rejection. and perhaps closeness.

Along about June, I panicked.  I couldn’t get close.  I became fearful that it would never change.  I decided that I should just pack it in.  For the first time in many years, I have been eager for New Years to come.  Please come quickly.

And I have goals.

I want someone who is kind and generous. Patience.  Consideration and compromise. I want to know that he chose me, and will continue to do so.  I’m tired of the old story: the affairs, the caustic sarcasm of a mate you just don’t dig.  I’m tired of starting and stopping.  I want someone who understands that the little things matter: which fork to use, opening the door.  I have a goal to not put too much into something that is filled with holes.

I want to be lucky.  And I want him to be too.

From going all the way from nothing, to opening my heart just a tiny crack.  Going from no-way-never, to yes-perhaps and please.

I want to drop the fear.  DROP. DROP. DROP.

and even as I type, my chest aches, as if making this decision to hope will be so stupid.

And i just think i should try.  Just this once.

Again.

 

This Cross Quarter Day.

August has always been special to me, and I never knew why.  It was a time when the pressure of Summer and travel and party and water was over.  It was not yet time for school, but there was always a sign of renewal in my house.  We would start thinking about lunch boxes and notebooks, and even though it was hot, there was this notion of sweaters, and jackets and new school shoes.

Today is what’s called a Cross-Quarter Day.  Halfway between Summer and Fall.  The air isn’t so horrific, and you can open your windows and doors in the morning.  Vacations and vacation clothing is packed away, the pounds gained are dealt with.  Students and Teachers start looking ahead.  A sense of excitement as I head back to school, coupled with a nagging, “What did I miss and what more can I do?”, accompanies my soul.

This season has been filled with hellos and goodbyes.  D. helped me negotiate the dating scene, met me for yogurt at the drop of a hat, pored over “what does this text mean?”, that is common to this two dimensional arena. She helped me weed out the crazy ones, and keep the ones that were promising.  We laughed and beached and ate. A trip to Palm Springs, a surprising anchor tattoo that I kept secret all Summer, time well spent with one of my best friends in Texas.  I ran a race where I placed 6 out of 26 in my age group.  I didn’t announce, as it was a test I wanted to pass in private.  My dear college roommate’s mother died, and a reunion of old pals accidentally happened.  Sweet B got married overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and I was transported to 40 years of memories at my High School reunion.  I am one week away from sending my first born to college in Idaho.

And this thought.

I have protectively guarded my singlehood, stating numerous times that I will never marry again.  That I would never do that.  Again.  That I am “Stands With A Fist”, a movie reference where the little girl was rescued by Kevin Costner’s love.  My therapist kept insisting that I had been hurt, while I bravely shouted, “No! I’m not hurt! I’m FINE!”  And the tighter I held my fist, the more my hand cramped, the more I realized, yeah.  This isn’t working anymore either.

So.  Here it is…this Cross Quarter Day.  It’s as though the days start to shorten ever so slightly to remind you that Fall is on its way, yet the Sun agrees to keep working all through harvest.  I suddenly decide, that yes, I will admit a small quiet desire, one that lives way down deep.  That I am open.  Yes.  I want this. That I will try to love, and I will try not to run away.  I will keep my eyes open, because I will recognize him when I find him.  I will keep my eyes open, and perhaps in time, my heart will follow suit.

It’s a beginning.  It’s something.

on how to say goodbye to my students

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Today is the day.  You play board games with your friends, and I am tasked with the challenge of a farewell letter.  At the beginning of the year, when I wrote your names over and over, and tried to practice saying them, I had no idea of the vast landscape we were about to cover.  I knew my curriculum.  I knew what I was going to teach you, but had no idea what I would get in return.

On the first day, you were crying because you were scared, and I came and over to tell you that I was scared too, and would you come help me.  You told me no one was going to read your newspaper, but then everyone wanted to write one.  You barely spoke, and now you don’t stop talking.  There was that day that I discovered your poetry, and raced to the cupboard to get you a special journal. You are going to be a writer.  A doctor.  An artist.  A go-kart racer.  A pilot.  A soccer star. A professor.

 

I was a magician.  In the beginning, you didn’t know that I peeked at your name tag, but looked at you and said your name, as if I knew.  And I heard you say, “She knows my name!”  You would stand in my way and want a hug, and I couldn’t walk in one direction without you stopping me. Now, when I come on the yard and you ask if you can help me, I’m thrilled, because you’ve become my personal secretary.

I know when I announce it’s time for Daily Five “Old School”, you scream with excitement, because you get to pick what to read, what to write, and what to work on…stories of mystery, drawing cartoons with purpose, writing lyrics.  You have become the textbook.  You blossomed, and you taught me what I needed to know to ignite your spark.  Your Mom came to me crying.  She told me that you have been in trouble every year.  Except this one.

Those times we stopped class.  To talk with a Native American tribe leader to explain what happened to Indian children during the Mission period.  To watch Father Serra get canonized by The Pope. To watch The President talk.  To talk with the man who made our Math Videos.  To chat with our Canadian pen-pals.  To use Google to chat with each other, to learn collaboration in real time.

Your Missions.  Your inventions.  Learning not to use the word “basically”.  To use well instead of good.  To care for each other’s feelings.  Days when you begged, “Can we do SHARING day today?”  You asked so much, that I actually had to set aside a weekly time for it, even though it’s not Common Core, and seemingly not academic.

There were so many good things.

But there were things I missed.  And I’m sorry.  That time when you didn’t have gel in your hair, or it wasn’t combed.  I don’t know what happened that day, but I didn’t ask. I just gave you some extra time to fix your desk. When you wrote, “I don’t know what is life?” in your journal, I answered you by saying, “Sometimes I don’t know either.”  I knew there was something going on in your 9 year old brain, but I didn’t find out.  I just sat next to you.

I wish I had taken more time to sit down with you when you were fighting with your friends, but I knew you all would work it out.  When you forgot your stuff at your Mom’s or Dad’s, I told you it was okay…that my boys had to learn that there’s one extra step when you live in two houses.  I didn’t let you off the hook, but we figured out how to make it work.  I’m sorry that you cried in that Math Lesson.  I cried, too.

I’m sorry about that time around Christmas when our Twitter, Expert Chat, and Google was all shut down, and we had to use the textbooks.  I know.  It was awful.  And thank you for trusting me that Homework wasn’t necessary.  Okay.  Those Spelling Tests I gave to you were to make you feel safe.  You like memorizing.  It’s not rigorous. But you wanted them.  Multiplication Tables.  Grammar.

It was those months that you taught me.  That you still wanted to read and write and sing and play and that even though everything was shut down, we could still learn, and when I didn’t think I could do one more day, you showed up with your smiles and hugs and, can we please read to you today.  It was then that my Grinchy heart grew. That I realized we didn’t need all the exciting bells and whistles.  That we just needed each other, and an open heart.

Okay, so this is getting long.  Here’s what I want you to know.  You must speak properly.  Math matters.  Even though everything is metrics, you have to know inches and feet.  Trust me, you just do. You live in the best state in the nation.  That the California map became alive when you put your family pictures there.  That I wear a dress on Fridays because I want you to keep bringing it all week long, even on Friday.  That your grades are just numbers at this point.  And that even though I act like I know, sometimes I think I haven’t done enough, or that one more lesson would really help.  Know that I’ve eaten my weight in your birthday donuts, but I wouldn’t dream of saying no to you.

It’s hard to say goodbye.  You are sad, and you think you will miss me, but you will not. You will take all these lessons, and bring them with you, and to the world.  And you will understand that love never dies.  It just changes form and grows.  You will love your next teacher, and all your new friends. You will be fine.  I promise.

And someday when you remember this class, I will want you to know this…That you were wanted.  Every single day.

Goodbye to the Class of 2024.  I love you.