Fun fact: I learned how to surf in Costa Rica. My husband and I stayed in a (literal) treehouse on a remote beach, and a local instructor offered surfing lessons. Of course, I took him up on his offer.
(One of the treehouses in Ojo Del Mar, an EcoLodge in Costa Rica)
I thought I was so cool. Gently pushed forward by the warm waters and calm, consistent waves, I stood on the longboard with pride and panache. It was like I was born to surf: a true natural. I even let myself pretend I looked like Duke Kahanamoku, the legendary Hawaiian surfer.
But then I returned home and attempted to surf at Newport Beach. If the waves could speak, they would have said, “Gurrrl, please. LOL.”
I was NO Duke Kahanamoku. First of all, the cold water (even in the summer) shocked my body and tightened my muscles. The waves barreled at me, one after the other, and kept knocking me off the board. Then, when I managed to stand, the shorebreak thrashed me against the sand. Humbled by the unforgiving California waves, I carried my foam board back to shore on my throbbing, moppy head, feeling defeated and foolish.
I have since recovered from that episode. However, that feeling of defeat--of wiping out--has recently crept up inside me, but in a different context. When I began teaching, I quickly learned as much as I could and fell in love with the profession, hitting my stride, getting positive feedback and results, and even mentoring several amazing student teachers. I challenged myself to keep learning and level up my skills. Maybe I’m good at this, I’d let myself believe.
Then 2020 hit. And then 2021. Now, the classroom climate feels very different. Teachers are exhausted, discouraged by so much constant bad news and division, and overwhelmed by so much thrown on our plates. For many of us, teaching nowadays feels more like trying to surf on the cold, rough California waves instead of the warm, welcoming waters of Costa Rica. The once familiar landscape of our classrooms and schools often seems more like a fun-house version of itself, which is jarring.
(Teaching in 2021)
Getting pummeled by waves--whether the ones in the ocean or the ones in our psyche--sucks. It’s painful. But it reminds me that learning is never a “one and done” deal. Even when we feel like we’ve mastered a skill and start to feel comfortable, we have to constantly evolve and adapt in order to keep growing and surfing through the ups and downs of life.
With that said, my arms may be tired, but it’s time to get back on that board.
"Smooth seas make poor sailors”--Nautical Proverb
Since I’m talking a lot about the ocean, surfing, etc., I thought this was a fitting quote. It reminds me to embrace reasonable challenges as a chance to learn about myself. Sweet little Amelie, on the other hand, doesn’t seem concerned about being a poor sailor (or taking over my writing chair).
Current Read: Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh
My husband read this graphic novel (which was originally a popular webcomic) and loved it, so I thought I’d check it out. Don’t let the child-like drawings fool you: Solutions and Other Problems is a GN for mature audiences. With a series of short, illustrated stories, Brosh tells readers about her childhood and struggles in witty and, often hilarious, honesty. And when I least expected it, Brosh dove into some heavy stuff revolving around mental health, gut-punching me with emotions I didn’t expect to experience. I appreciated that, actually, and felt the ups and downs gave this story so much complexity.
I worked on revisions for the middle grade story I mentioned last month. The working title is In The Middle of the Sea, and it is set mostly in Maui. However, the time setting is not in 2020/2021. Based on the hint below, can you guess approximately when this story takes place?
Now that apple season is here, our Gala apple tree has sprouted a bunch of little apples. It took years to get this tree to bear fruit, but ever since we established our beehive, our fruit trees have become much more productive. Thanks for all of your help, bees!
That's all for today, but stay tuned for next month's updates. In the meantime, feel free to reach out, share this with friends, and/or comment on this post. I love hearing from you all! :)
2021 has been hard. Like, really hard.
I was hoping it would be better than 2020, but it hasn’t been for so many reasons.
As a teacher, I was burnt out from the most exhausting year of my career. As a mother, I struggled to support my kids through a year of remote learning (!!) and then hybrid learning, in addition to meeting their growing mental health needs. As a daughter, I’ve been processing the messy, complicated grief from the sudden, horrible death of my estranged father. And as a human being, I’ve wrestled with some hardcore isolation.
Many days have felt like lumbering through the fog, with me wandering aimlessly in my own head until something (or someone) snaps me out of it. Some days, I am lucky enough to have some clarity and motivation, and I try to harness that before it slips through my fingers and the fog settles around me again.
But no matter what, each day I’ve pushed myself to get out of bed and do something. Walk with my family. Run alone. Read (if I can focus). Cook. Pull weeds. Cuddle with my sweet cats:
It is no substitute for therapy (which I 100% support), but these small actions do help. My kids--as much as they can be exhausting--have also given me a reason to get up, access hope, and find joy in the small moments. I am thankful for them, my supportive husband, and those who have patiently taken the time to listen to (and read about) my experiences.
“Healing” is a verb, an ongoing act, and it will be a long process. However, I am embracing all I can do to emerge as a stronger version of myself on the other side of this current fog. I remember once, when I was at hula practice over 15 years ago, one of the Aunties noticed I was sad. She gave me a hug and reminded me of the Hawaiian phrase, “Imua,” which means “straight ahead.”
To this day, I remember Aunty Tina’s words of encouragement. I can stop to feel the sadness. I can pause to take a much needed breather. But I must keep my toes pointed forward and keep moving straight ahead, standing as tall as my 5’2” self can in order to take on whatever craziness 2021 still has in store.
Current Read: Kerry and the Knight of the Forest by Andi Watson
I recently discovered Andi’s work, and I was immediately drawn in by the textures in his illustrations. His fantasy story is about a boy on a quest to get medicine to his sick parents back at home, but he must first make it through a dangerous forest, full of spirits and mysterious and magical creatures. I appreciated the quiet moments, the expressive nature of his characters, and the important lessons on trust. Also, my sons enjoyed his book, so that's a big plus!
Writing Update: I am still plugging away on Three Bee Honey (Graphic Novel Project) and working on other project ideas as well. I will keep you posted on this!
Garden Update: Our red flame seedless table grapes are starting to ripen, and they are so crisp and sweet! My kids grab a handful to snack on as they walk by when playing outside.
Inspirational Quote: “Embrace and endure.” I read this quote once many years ago, and it stuck with me. It is simple, but it has become a mantra during the hardest days. It reminds me that these tough feelings are inevitable. I can’t run away from them; rather, I’ve got to embrace them as part of my story.
As you can probably tell, I am a fan of inspirational quotes and great books. Do you have any great books or quotes you'd like to share?
Opening up like this was pretty nerve-wracking, I must admit. But I am glad to be able to share my experiences. I will be in touch again next month. In the meantime, I'd love to hear from you! Please reach out if you have any comments on this issue (I am open to suggestions on making it better) or if you have any questions. :)
Some updates, musings, and sharing of inspirations.