Saturday, July 26, 2014

Tribute to Toner

Every now and then, we come across people who really speak to us on that deeper level of human existence, without even trying. They reach a hand into our souls, not to take anything, just to write their name as if it were a fogged up mirror. So far in my 20 short years on this planet, I’ve only come across 3.

Last week, at the beloved Sonora Farmers Market, I made two trips in hopes that I would run into my college English professor, Jim Toner. And that I did. For at least fifteen minutes we stood baking like cinnamon rolls on the asphalt catching up about his year spent abroad with his son and wife and my major discoveries as a young adult. It was one of those few experiences when the elements couldn’t matter less because I was just so overcome with happiness. It barely felt as if a week had passed; we picked up exactly where we left off.

Obviously, I told him that I have a blog and he winced about neglecting his.

“How about we make a challenge?”

With a slight gasp, I answer, “Of course!”

“If you write four blog posts in the next seven days, I will buy you a cucumber and slice it for you, right here at the market. And if I write four by next week…”

“I’ll write you an honorary blog post!” Little does he know it’s already on my to-do list of blog ideas. He draws his hand up to his mouth to think and I’m convinced he hates it.

“Yeeeeees. YEEEEES. YES!”


So here I am at 7:09am, an hour before I leave for the farmers market, writing his tribute (which I am counting as my fourth blog post, oops). Let’s get to it.

  1. You taught me the value of saying “yes” and how this one little word can drastically improve the quality of life.
  2. You showed me how natural writing is when you just let go and only think of the next sentence.
  3. Which leads me to teeka-teeka. Involuntarily, this is how I now approach everything. Just think about the next kayak paddle or focus on this round of sun salutation and even taking the dishes one at a time. Teeka-teeka is how I write, clean, exercise, everything.
  4. You’ve shown me how wonderful it is to open up my heart on paper and to everyone I meet. You opened my eyes to a world of people being themselves completely and allowing human nature to rule their thoughts, not unnatural societal standards.
  5. You’ve taught me how natural it is to love each other as fellow human beings and there’s no reason to hold back showing our love.

Jim Toner, I could continue forever with this list, but it is time for me comb my hair that’s sticking out in directions I didn’t even know existed and finish my detox tea so I can claim my pre-sliced cucumber and revel in all the glorious words we somehow managed to put down on digital paper this week. Thank you for the inspiration to keep writing, no matter how serious or silly, and I will forever be one of your blog apostles, cherishing every word that comes from your anti-handyman fingertips.


P.S. I won’t forget to feed my rabbit if you don’t forget to feed your pillow. Deal?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Cucumber, cucumber!

Cucumber, cucumber!
Where art thou now?
Cucumber, cucumber!
There’s sweat on my brow.

When I opened the fridge
You were nowhere to be found
To slice through your ridge
Is better than to be crowned

Your sweet, tender tongue
Is all I desire
Your siren has been sung
Step away from the fire!

The holiest of vegetables
And better than any fruit
Some give you bad labels
To me you’re a flute

The disappointment is overwhelming
How ever will I carry on?
This sorrow is helming
Like an offended Don

My life can’t continue
This ear of corn is looking sharp
All I have to--but wait! What is that?

Can it be?
My beloved cucumber
Next to the ghee?

What are you doing out here?
You silly little thing
By the beer
And the coil spring

Never again will I lose you
For there is the cutting board
Time to say “Adieu”
My mouth you are moving toward.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Home Sweet Home

Eight more days. Just eight more until I fly back to Washington. I can do this. I can make every last second of dry sunshine and rolling brown hills and spider web infused mountain air count, I think as I begin another slow day of cooking, lounging, and cuddling with two dirty dogs.

When this countdown began I had just purchased my plane ticket in our tiny hotel room in Helsinki, just four days into a vacation that I had been bragging about for an entire year. For some strange reason, I couldn’t wait to get back to my new Washington home; back to my drama and lonely days. Skipping right over the excitement to relish every second of delicately prepared reindeer meat and scenery so spectacular that we are still pretty sure wasn’t real, I began counting down the days until it was over. Not just the trip in Scandinavia, my whole five week vacation with the two weeks at my parents home in Northern California.

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Why was I doing this to myself? I love traveling and, even more, I love coming to my childhood home. My best friends are here and my beloved dog and my parents’ pantry which resembles that of a disorganized doomsday prepper’s. Why was I wanting to press fast-forward? Maybe because I cherish my independence, or crave complicated situations to counteract my freakishly stable childhood? I’m not sure if I will ever figure it out.

But I’ve taken my finger off the fast-forward button to hover it over the slow motion one. With only eight days left, there is beauty in every moment: every bead of sweat that forms simply from stepping outside, every second with friends I see less and less often, each moment with my parents whom I couldn’t get away from fast enough when I moved out, but miss more and more when I’m away. There is something so special and safe about coming to the place that used leathered hands with dirt crusted fingernails to mold me.

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This seems to be a familiar pattern with my visits home: start out excited, realize how boring it is and squirm to get back, then settle back into this slower, simple, beautiful lifestyle. I am grateful that I still have so much time to teach myself to break this awful habit, but I’m terrified that I’m doing this with the rest of my life. It’s time to slow down all the time because every day offers a wonderful tidbit of happiness that I’ve been allowing to slip by.

As my favorite English teacher always says, “Teeka-teeka, little by little,” and little by little I will cherish my last summer days in my beloved mountain town.
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Saturday, July 5, 2014

Old Farts Ain't So Bad

“Well, are you sick of us old people yet?”

I turn my head to the right, “No way!”

“Are you sure?” he asks, squinting a little.

“Yeah, I’m sure.”

We’re eight days into the trip with thirty 65+ year olds and this is about the seventh time someone has asked me. At first, I have to fake it, saying through clenched teeth, “Oh, no, it’s fine,” but by day eight, I’m having the time of my life, eating reindeer, legally drinking wine (but everyone thinks otherwise), and bonding with my grandfather over a poker game.

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The first couple of days involve a lot of flying and checking into new hotels and let me tell you, with thirty old people, this is no quick task. No one can really hear that well, so information literally passes from one person to the next. Half of the group stands around, waiting for directions, while the other half is confused and shouting across the lobby to one another, but of course they can’t really hear each other. My mom and I look at each other and silently agree that we could have already converted money, gotten on the bus, and be checked into our hotel by now. But, here we are, standing by the baggage claim for half an hour waiting for everything to get organized.

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Typically, I like to get things done as efficiently as possible. For instance, I’ll do the dishes while dinner is still cooking. Brush my teeth in the shower. Even check Facebook on my phone while Pinterest loads on my computer. I don’t go as far as doing my makeup in the car, but I like to multi-task.

This is not the crowd for multi-tasking and efficiency. On our tour of Helsinki, the guide tells us, “The walk up to the church is about eight minutes, so I’ll give you fifteen.” I want to rip my hair out. She continues to say at a different location, “Please don’t go up the stairs to the church; you won’t make it back to the bus in time.” There’s about two flights worth that take me roughly sixty seconds to ascend. What the hell am I doing here?
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Every day I adjust a little more to this slower pace, sighing in frustration less and less every time we transition. Walking at half my normal pace lets me take in the important details that writers survive on: the way norwegian seagulls land on a traditional slate roof, how my grandmother talks about knee surgery (as if she were a middle aged woman casually speaking of her ongoing plastic surgery), the appalling amount of socks and sandals. Life in the slow lane isn’t so bad.

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Slowing down in its most basic form (walking, transferring information, remembering new instructions) is really opening my eyes. What started out as irritation has developed into such intense inspiration that I can hardly sit still. Finally, I know what I need to do to get my business started. I can’t stop writing. And I’m wittier and happier than I’ve been in many months. Half way through this trip my perspective has done a full 180, leaving me smiling at every passing passenger and turning my crankiness into appreciation for every leisurely moment. I guess these old farts ain’t so bad.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


I finally get it, I thought. I finally understand the pain of 9-11. Staring up the wall at the sea of different shades of blue paper, one for every victim, it sinks into the deepest part of my core. It was just another day at work. They brushed their teeth the same way they did every other morning. No one knew it was their last day on Earth, with their families and problems and plans for the weekend. They didn’t have a chance to apologize for petty fights with friends and tell their parents that they meant the world to that person, even though they didn’t make it home for Christmas.

I walk past caved in police car doors and massive rods of steel that were never meant to change shape. A recording of a husband calling his wife from the second tower minutes before it was hit to tell her that he’s okay, plays over and over again. No one smiles as they gradually shift from a piece of wreckage to an interactive wall of the victims’ biographies. A couple walks into the recording booth to leave their memory of lost loved ones.

I look down at my belly and set a hand over the place that, just days before, nestled a baby, wishing I had been able to appreciate the life I created. Life is so fucking precious; it can be taken away in a matter of seconds, even if we are unaware of it’s presence.

No day shall erase you from the memory of time.

And we all know this. We’ve all been told a million and one times and experienced at least one event that really gets through to us, but it becomes so easy to get caught up in the monotony of daily routines and our petty worries. Rarely do I stop to think how precious every breath is. Every single breath is a blessing, whether we are taking the most gorgeous hike of our life, or trying not to vomit in Times Square, every one counts.

I could tell you that from now on I’m going to make the most of every day and live life to the fullest, but we’ve all been there and that feeling fades. Instead, I’m going to finally talk to my mom about our shallow relationship and hug people when there is a goodbye. I’m going to give my housemates a big, genuine smile when they walk past me on the porch. I’m going to tell my dad I love him for the first time in thirteen years. Every morning when I wake up, I’m going to put my hand over my heart, breathe in the morning, and open my door for the world to feel my love.

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