Tag Archives: Summer vacation

A Starting Point

The Tuesday after Labor Day feels like a transition, a “start.” Summer vacation has ended and you start back to work. The kids –and their teachers—start back to class. Football season kicks off. I notice the leaves of the poplars have started to change; now they flutter gold in the shorter days.

And did it feel a little chilly to you this morning?falltime 2011 004

As you start your autumn, I admit there is a restlessness within me that I won’t be there with you. For six years you allowed me to be on your TV in the morning while you got ready for work, rustled the kids out of bed, cleaned up whatever the cat threw up or dragged in overnight. I will miss sharing the news with you, but I won’t lie to you (I never have). I don’t miss the alarm going off  at 2:44 in the morning. When you no longer have to get up when you’re supposed to, you will love it. If you have earned your retirement, you certainly know what I mean when I say it feels so liberating to start my day not when I have to, but when I darn well feel like it.

Sure, I still get up at the crack of dawn to work on the novel, but for me, sunrise is sleeping in! At mid morning I take a break from writing. The dogs get their walk, the lawn might get mowed, and then I’m back to the book for another few hours.  I’m shooting to finish SALAD DAYS before the end of the year.

Will a publisher print it? I don’t know, but I’m following my passion. And that’s a start.





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Endless Summer

The beach at Coronado, California

The beach at Coronado, California

The beach at Coronado at sunset

The beach at Coronado at sunset

When you’re a kid, summer seems endless: hanging out at the beach, the lake; if you were a city kid, you rode your stingray or caught the bus to the community swimming pool. Three months of sleeping in, sleeping outside on those hot August nights, just hanging out . Endless.

I regret I didn’t make better use of at least some of that downtime;  learn the sax, join the Scouts, volunteer for something.

So now,  summer always includes a project, a goal to pursue, something that when I look back I can say, “Oh, yeah. That’s the summer when…”

  • I was 19 and lost 35 pounds. You should have seen the faces of Diane and Vivian on the first day back at college.
  • I remodeled my house, although my physical labor stopped at writing the check to the contractor.
  • I started a small backyard fruit orchard, one of my favorite summer projects because unlike most aspects of life,  at the end of day, wine in hand (stained with irrigation pipe glue), I could go out and see immediate results. This summer I’ll harvest plums and nectarines. Next year I should have cherries and apricots, maybe a few apples.
  • I learned how to read music, thanks to Music Theory for Dummies.
  • I bought a CD-Rom and sat in the shade trying to learn Slovak. I didn’t get too far beyond knowing how to say the names of fruits and vegetables, but I sounded so fluent when I said “vidlička” (fork).

This summer, I’m helping Ian Tripp save the cat in my second novel–and pitching my first to any agent or editor willing to take a look.

What about you? What’s your summer project? Paint an oil seascape? Paint the house? Read all Louis L’Amour westerns? 

(I’ve done that, but it took me two summers.)

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A summer tradition worth starting

I caught this on CNN’s website and want to pass it along to every guy and girl–preferably in high school, but college works, too.

So there are these five guys, teenagers, who go on a road trip, a weekend at one of the guy’s parent’s mountain cabin. It’s 1982. Hot, not a cloud in the sky, John Cougar singing a little ditty about Jack & Diane drifts across the lake to the boat dock, where the guys decide to pose for a group shot.

Five years later, they returned to the lake, set up the camera on self-timer and pose again.

Now, it’s 15 years later, hair starting to thin and gray, and as they admit, their shirts stay on now, as they mug for the camera.

Now, it’s the summer of 2012, 30 years on, and the guys have returned to the lake for what became a tradition, a picture of five friends who’ve kept in touch after all these years.

I wish I would have thought of this when I was a teenager. I think of friends from high school and college who I have since lost touch, despite youthful promises that we would never.

 The guys at the lake say the scheduled photo shoot probably kept them together. I suspect it also motivated a few diets and sit ups in the weeks before the trip.

 Every teenager should start this tradition, a summer group shot of your group, your gang. And every one of you promises to reunite at the same spot every five years, until there’s no one left to push the button on the timer.

Want to see the 30 years worth of pictures from the lake? Click here.

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What would Hermione Granger be reading this summer?

You have a cleaver aimed at the chicken splayed across  the cutting board, the spin cycle crescendos in the laundry room, the cat down the hall is throwing up who-knows-what now, and the kids shuffle in with pinched faces, crooning their mid-summer blues. “We’re bored.”There’s nothing to do.” 

I wish there was nothing to do. I’d sit under the maple tree and read my book.

Okay. Hold that thought. We’ll get back to it in a moment.

The Children’s Reading Foundation of the Mid Columbia has a plan.  Get your kids reading during the summer. Don’t let them slip into that brain closed- for- summer routine.

“Children over the summer lose about 20 percent of what they learn during the school year,” says foundation executive director Brian Ace. He cites research that shows children who read at least four books over the summer months maintain, or—and what do you know–increase their reading skills.  

And kids who continue using their brains over summer aren’t so rusty when they return to class in the fall.

“It’s discouraging for teachers to spend the initial weeks of the school year reintroducing concepts introduced in the spring, “says Ace.

And it doesn’t matter what your children read.

Chapter books. Picture books. Comic books? Fine.  Got a kid who loves cars? Vampires? Rock and roll? Encourage them to read about it! 

“If it grabs the interest of the kid, they’re going to run with it. It’s not going to be a chore. And they still get that print concept. They’re still going to get new vocabulary. It’s all going to come through those mediums. The important thing is that they’re excited about reading about it.”

Now playing at a theater near you: A book!

One great way to light a fire beneath kids is to take advantage of the summer blockbusters.  “Most of the movies in summer are based on books,” Ace says. “Encourage your child, make it mandatory to read that book first, before you see the movie.”

In case you haven’t heard, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 opens in theaters at midnight.

Now, back to you.

Adults “in a huge way”  need to read more, says the reading foundation director.  “The best way to get your kids engaged in reading is for them to see you reading.”

Lead by example.

 None of that “Do as I say not as I do.”


 It doesn’t have to be a book. It can be a magazine or a newspaper (or, ahem, your favorite blog).  “But kids need to see you being excited about reading because then they are going to model that.”

“How frustrating for a kid to be told, ‘Go read for 20 minutes,’ and then Mom and Dad sit in front of the TV,” says Ace. “Make reading a family thing. Go to the park, lay out a blanket, and read books together. Turn reading into a family activity.”

So have I lit a fire beneath you? 

My summer read recommendation, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, which, by the way,  has been made into a movie, now playing at a theater near you (soon on DVD).


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