how to bore yourself into having the best summer you will never forget.

FC REading

The Summer we…. read every day in these exact same positions

We’re all supposed to be experts. Especially if we dare write now and then, and then ask people to read it, we should have asserted our expertise in something. I have acquired mastery in a few things – obviously, cream cheese based dips, Disneyland, the long-gone TV shows Alias, and wearing t-shirts. I believe the term we are looking for to describe a person with this specific skillset and knowledge base, is lifestyle expert.

As a lifestyle expert, who, like you, is looking at weeks of summer stretching out ahead, I am anxious to get started filling those long summer days with the exact stuff that will make for great memories. I want this selfishly for me and, more selfishly, for my boys so they will someday reminisce with their own kids about how much fun they had with their amazing parents, and then for those future mystery kids to say, “Wow; Grandma and Grandpa are the best.”

“Well,” you might be saying, “tell us, Lifestyle Expert…tell us how to make a summer that we’ll never forget.”

After 40 summers of in-depth field research, the solution is clear: find something – even a tepid, mildly fun something – and then do it a lot. No! It’s not about manufacturing a new adventure every day! The key is intentionally indulgent repetition.

Look back at your own summers. No matter what cool big stuff you did, I’m guessing those long warm days blur together, and the parts of the blur you remember are: popsicles, water fights, sunburns, lounging around a pool/lake/park/beach with your friends, whatever your 4th of July tradition was, and probably a regular family trip to the mountains/lake/ocean/desert/city/backyard tent.

My kids may only have relatively few summers under their mom-made-us-wear-these belts, but they already start their reminiscing about just last summer with “We always…..” and then fill in the blanks like a couple of weathered older guys sitting on a porch, talking dreamily about their (mandatory) weekly trips to the library and subsequent reading time on the couch; and trudging through the cold San Francisco fog to the damp and dreary playground, and then to the burrito place, the market, and the pet store. Even lucky enough to take a dream vacation around the East Coast, our 9-year-old never fails to bring up how what he loved most were those nights we got back to our hotel room just in time to watch “The Tonight Show.” In 30 years, he may not really remember Paul Revere’s House, but I guarantee you, he’ll remember all of us, exhausted, sore, and punchy, lying there in the hotel air conditioning watching Jimmy Fallon.

I think of my own summers, and I instantly recall running errands with my mom every Monday. We’d zip around town in our giant Chrysler Cordoba, stopping at the bank, the post office, and finally McDonald’s, where I would think about how much paperwork is required to be an adult. It was easily 100 degrees every one of those Mondays, and my skin would sizzle against the car seats, and heaven forbid, the metal seatbelts. I’m sure I was a real peach when it was time to start our weekly Monday adventures, but, little did I know, in 30 years, I would treasure those trips as well as weeknight tennis with my dad. Not Wimbledon, or Palm Springs tennis, just regular old Tuesday night tennis on the old courts by the town’s recycling center.

Happy blurs aren’t just for childhoods. I treasure the summer I discovered the white wine spritzer, and the summer my self-tanner was full of *@&%$# glitter, and those 92 mostly-summer couch dates with my husband watching “Mad Men,” and the summer I listened to the new Franz Ferdinand album over and over, and the pre-drought summer I came home from work most nights to squirt the kids with a hose, (in a very classy sophisticated way before drinking my white wine spritzer).

Let’s look ahead to Summer 2016, and come up with some possibilities for stuff you always used to do in the Summer of 2015.

Remember last summer when we….

  • played Uno on the porch every night?
  • ate all that watermelon?
  • went to the library and checked out every one of Judy Blume’s/Beverly Cleary’s/David Sedaris’/Nora Ephron’s books? (They may not all be excellent choice’s for 9-year-olds.)
  • watched every episode of _____________. I hear they’re making a movie of it. That will be great!/terrible! (The Lifestyle Expert recommends “CHiPs.” It works well, because it is hilarious, and they are making a movie of it.)
  • Ate lunch in the park every weekend?
  • Always rode bikes to get Slurpees? But then we had to drink them in front of the store because we are not skilled enough cyclists to hold our Slurpees and steer our bikes.
  • Got really in to the Giants? (The Lifestyle Expert recommends this. The Giants are the best.)
  • Learned how to do calligraphy? And then we wrote everything with our special pens all summer long, and then school started, so we had to stop and go back to boring cursive, and now I need to re-learn calligraphy.
  • Cooked our way through So-and-So’s cookbook? (The Lifestyle Expert is not an expert in this area.)
  • It doesn’t matter. Put whatever you want here. Put in the bank, the post office, the cracked tennis courts.

Sure, plan a grand adventure here and there, and enjoy every second of it! Big adventures are good for the soul. But, expertly speaking, make a lot of room for the nothing-special stuff too. You just don’t know how special that nothing may turn out to be.

FC Cordoba

Me, my mom, and our Chrysler Cordoba, in the summer.

Happy B-Day America! (238 is the new 138)

HBD America

Happy 238th Birthday America! I’m sure you’re a little stressed by the fact that you are officially in your late 230’s; I can relate, I’m like minutes away from 40, (hooray for July birthdays!) and totally trying to eke the most out of what’s left of my 30’s. But seriously, you look ah-maz-ing.

How will you spend your big day? Sleeping in? Stuffing your face? Relaxing on a beach/mountain/desert/lake/prairie/city sidewalk/valley/plain/waterfall/lava field/bayou? (Man, you really have it all, don’t you?)

Listen, I know, for like, the 238th year in a row, things haven’t been easy. People aren’t getting along. Everybody says they know what’s best for you, and then we go and call the people who disagree with us, idiots.  It must be sooooo frustrating.

I know, I know….we Americans have a terrible habit of romanticizing a time in your storied history that was sweet, ideal, problem-free, and sadly non-existent. No matter when we were born, the generations ahead of us managed to somehow be gallantly noble and hardworking, while simultaneously screwing stuff up. Things have somehow been getting both better and worse since the beginning of time – I’m sure your other country friends like England and Japan would agree. (BTW, so happy everybody’s back on speaking terms).

Compared to a lot of other countries, you’re practically a baby, and it seems like yesterday when you were just 13 itsy bitsy colonies. You may still have your youthfulness, America, but you’ve been around the block; you’ve got street smarts. You went from 13 to 50 (but you wear it well), and you’ve had wars and boom times, depressions, reality television, and you’ve produced your fair share of heroes and jerks. You’ve been through the Whig Party, the Old West, The Roaring 20’s, 90’s grunge, and whatever it is we are doing right now.

But hey, guess what, you don’t need to think about that today! You’ve got another big, exciting year ahead of you! And that’s what’s so cool about you America – you’ve kind of always been about the future – the possibility of what could be. You should be flattered, that all those folks saw your potential years ago, and fought for it. George Washington and his buddies didn’t start a revolution so everything could stay the same forever and ever. The United States of America came to be out of the desire for change, freedom, progress, and yes, the dream that you would one day realize your full potential.

You were unique and different from the get-go, and we celebrate you for it. We’ll eat hamburgers, get sunburns, and tear up a little at the fireworks over the golf course/river/baseball stadium/fairgrounds/cul de sac/bridge while we think about how great you are, just as the founding fathers would have wanted. (Remember your bi-centennial? That was crazy.)

You’re beautiful America, and don’t let Canada tell you otherwise. Happy Birthday!

 

xoxo

Find me on Instagram @colleenweems and on twitter @fulcrumchron

ice cream

the sun is but a fickle muse. especially when there is ice cream involved.

ImagePeople who fancy themselves writers, or painters, or poets, or photographers are often inspired by the power of the ocean; the pulse of the city; the majesty of the mountains; the starkness of the desert; or the simple beauty of rolling fields and a golden countryside.

I like those things. Ok, I like most of those things. But a few times a year, I feel as if I can’t write about anything, until I write about the weather; yep, the very weather that is the cliché calling card for people who simply have nothing else to talk about. If you’ve been reading along with me over the last few years, you may have realized before I ever did, the seasons are my collective muse. Spring, summer, winter, fall. Or in California, sprummer, summtumn, autinter, and winspring.

There is something magical about the changing of the seasons; the marching-on of time; the promise of something exciting, yet familiar, just around the corner. The evidence of change pops up all around us. Menus change. Wardrobes change. The telltale pain in my knee emerges as the barometric pressure shifts. The knick knacks in my house get rearranged, and at some point, I remind my kids how my knee knows when it’s going to rain, while acknowledging that yes, it’s weird.

As any change of the season approaches, I declare the upcoming season to be my favorite. The best! The most wonderful time of the year! Think of the sun dresses/white pants/boots/sweaters! Think of the seasonally appropriate treats I plan to make, but probably won’t! And now, September is here, and as I now live in San Francisco, I can finally write about how much I love summer.

Not to be a show off, but it’s been sunny, for like eight days in a row. This stretch was balm to the soul after a summer marked by oppressive fog. In August, I wore the very same outfits I wore at Christmas time. On those days, I thought back to the Fourth of July sunburn that I acquired in another town, and I could not imagine what that must have felt like. Hot, maybe?

The fog-free streets have been teeming with people, happily standing in line around the block for ice cream – not just any ice cream – but a compostable cup full of honey lavender, balsamic strawberry, basil, or blueberry cheesecake ice cream. If you are my foodie son, you wait for fresh peach ice cream topped with a drizzle of olive oil; or if you are my chicken nugget, noodles-and-butter-with-nothing-green-in-sight loving son, you stand in line for “chocolate.”

Our family went to a baseball game – at night, in San Francisco – and I did not put on a sweatshirt, and even more telling, I did not make my deliriously happy 8-year-old wear a sweatshirt.

I broke a sweat the other day, and it was kinda awesome.

Fall is lurking though, like a bully, trying to usurp summer and kill my sunshine buzz. I was forced to make my annual TV watching, DVR matrix, with a detailed chart of new network shows I want to try, because as we all know, good TV waits for no one. And with three guys in the house, football is the topic du jour, every jour. The September calendar page is full, and I’ve started writing things onto those little squares in October. I try to put off thoughts of pot pie, and caramel, and cider. I know, pumpkin-flavored-everything is already on menus, but for this brief moment in time, I’m thinking about watermelon. Does anybody know where I can get some watermelon?

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*In the photo up top,  the idea was that I would capture the cool play structure at the new Exploratorium in SF with Coit Tower artistically hovering in the background; but mostly I took a picture of the blue sky. It felt like I was getting a picture of a unicorn being walked by a leprechaun. The baseball photo, is pretty much the same thing. I think my kid’s in there somewhere.

**Between when I started writing this post, and finished, the temperature dropped twenty degrees, and I broke down and made a mug of tea. Stupid hot tea.

sunburnt: a summer (cautionary) tale

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There are a few minor adult ailments that might be described as humbling. The first of the non-graphic variety rhymes with… tangover.

The second – a summer staple, perhaps next to the tangover – is the sunburn.

Maybe you are of Irish descent, and you have freckles, and you spent 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s summers with ineffective and/or expired SPF 4 slathered on your parts, only to have the lotion rinse immediately off on the first pass through the sprinklers, or with the first toe dipped in the pool, or with the first sweat broken. Maybe you decided you were better off with an unflattering oversized t-shirt covering your bathing suit – a shirt that became a 40-lb anchor once you jumped in the pool.

Maybe you are an olive skinned beach beauty who’s only had to look with pity at one of us less fortunate folks, roaming the sweltering grounds of the state fair, pink and defeated.

As a grown-up, I listen to my doctors. I wear sunscreen on my face every day. I wear a hat. I sit in the shade. I even went so far as to move to the foggy part of a notoriously foggy city. This ain’t my first rodeo – I’ve been burnt before. (I have been to a rodeo, but it was at night, so I was not actually burnt at the rodeo.)

I was burnt in the usual locales – the pool, the park, the passenger seat of a car, the driver’s seat of a car, the back yard, the front yard, and while sitting on a bench/blanket/lawn eating a sandwich/popsicle/cheeseburger.

In college and during that sliver of time in which I wore a bikini, my then-boyfriend/ now-husband and I uncharacteristically spent the day jet skiing on Lake Tahoe. It turns out Lake Tahoe is closer to the sun than I am used to. The jet-skiing part exposed enough parts of me – top, bottom, front, and back – to make sleep impossible as there was not one way to avoid resting on a throbbing purple and blistered patch of skin. I was out of commission for two days, calling in sick to my barista job, and freaking my mom out with sunburn fueled hallucinations.

In high school, I went to the mid-day Oakland A’s baseball game with friends.  Our upper deck seats put me at roughly the same elevation as Lake Tahoe. As I rode back home, rolling around in the back of my friend’s grandma’s old van, I knew I was in for a world of hurt. I couldn’t bend my knobby violently violet knees and the blisters were already presenting themselves. It was days before I could ride my bike.

Over the next 20 years my baseball outings were relegated to night games, or day games at the San Francisco Giants’ ball park where one usually freezes one’s rear end off, regardless of what weather is happening immediately outside the gates. But July 4, 2013 – armed with a hat, two tubes of sunscreen, and an additional precautionary spray from my friend Megan’s sunscreen can- I re-entered Oakland Coliseum at mid-day, ready for my show-down with the sun.

Our kids had been lined up in the parking lot and sprayed down with an additional protective layer of cream over their little faces, necks, and the oft-forgotten tops of ears.

Somewhere in the 2nd inning, I took off the knee brace that protects my wonky joint but makes my leg fall asleep when I sit for very long. Maybe it was my hops-based beverage in a souvenir mug. Maybe it was the nostalgic and patriotic delight of being with friends at a baseball game on the 4th of July. Whatever it was, I missed sun-screening my darn knee. On that day, in the stadium cleverly designed to focus the sun’s powerful rays on whatever seat my pale limbs occupy, the sun won.

Our friends from New Mexico emerged from the game looking as if they had been kissed by the sun. (Fun “fact”: New Mexico’s climate was designed to resemble that of the Oakland Coliseum, so they had the advantage going in.)

My little family unit walked to the car with 7 pink knees, and one familiar-looking, raging violet knee.  I knew I what I was in for.

Beginning with the failed attempt at prevention, your general sunburn experience might look a little like this:

  • You feel false confidence that you’ve done enough to protect yourself
  • As the sun goes to work on you, you remain blissfully ignorant
  • You congratulate yourself for wearing shorts and a tank top because it’s so hot
  • Your friend slides her sunglasses down her nose, peers at your afflicted area, alerts you to your pinkness, and pokes it with her finger
  • You put on another layer of sunscreen or move to the shade, knowing it’s already too late
  • You realize it’s going to hurt
  • It hurts
  • You wonder if it should really be as purple as it is
  • It hurts more than it did before
  • You vow never to wear a tank top and shorts again, let alone go in the sun
  • You love aloe
  • You love aloe so much
  • You consider filling the tub with aloe and sitting in there for a while
  • Nobody is allowed to touch you
  • You do not sleep
  • You can’t stop talking about your sunburn, as much as you want to
  • Your mom tells you not to worry, it will fade into a tan
  • You assure her that it most certainly will not fade into a tan
  • She remembers that she and your brother are the only family members who enjoy the “fades into a tan” phenomenon
  • You realize the burn does not hurt as bad as it did yesterday
  • It’s itchy now, a sure sign it will peel soon
  • It peels
  • It’s peeling and you feel like a lizard, and you have finally found the one thing that grosses out your boys so it’s kind of funny

All the while, and just like with a tangover (I’m guessing) you waiver between feeling sorry for yourself, and feeling like an idiot.

You should know better. You cooked your own goose. Or in this case, you cooked your own knees.

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* At the top is our actual sun prevention collection. It is strategically spaced through the house, so that by the time you reach the front door, you will have had three to four opportunities to remember it.

**This is me and my awesome friend Megan at that fateful game. I’m the one in the stripes. The one with the freckles. The one who’s legs are sizzling just out of frame.

A Puzzling Dilemma as in a dilemma about puzzles

Image I certainly wasn’t going to let the boys sit around during the first week of summer and play video games. No sir. I had big plans: walk the new neighborhood discovering the treasures outside our back door and establishing ourselves as regulars at the library and the playground around the corner. Take a picnic to Golden Gate Park. Frequent the local museums. Become a family who cooks together and whimsically creates goodies like sweet potato chips, and kale chips, and banana chips.

It was a chilly, foggy San Francisco summer day – the first of many, I’m sure. The boys had already raced through the comic books they insisted on checking out from the library, and nobody felt like slipping off the mist covered playground equipment around the corner. Our pantry was also suffering from a disappointing lack of kale, sweet potatoes and bananas.

I stood in the middle of the room considering our now limited entertainment options while the boys’ fingers slyly walked themselves to the Playstation controllers, like Thing in “The Addams Family.”

Aha!

“A puzzle! Puzzles, are fun, and I have a perfect puzzle for us.”

I dug around the cabinet, to find it pristine and unopened, even after two moves. Mickey Mouse in all his glory. Not just any Mickey Mouse, but a mosaic Mickey, in which his diminutive frame is constructed of tiny little scenes from Disney classic movie scenes from “Aladdin,” “Peter Pan,” “Lion King,” and “101 Dalmations.”

The puzzle prep began –  a cleared spot on the floor, a giant plastic lid for the portable puzzle building surface, comfy clothes, and snacks. The 7-year-old took his place next to me and helped rip the plastic film from the box. The almost 13-year-old stretched his lanky frame across the couch above us, typing into his phone what I guessed was a text that read something like, “Sorry friends, I will be unavailable for a bit. I’ll be building a cool puzzle with my cool mom and adorable little brother. It will take a couple of hours, but it will be awesome, then we can start texting again about how much we love our parents and reading.”

“Remember, first we look for the edge pieces, so we can build the frame,” I said as we pulled off the lid. “We’ll knock this thing out before dinner.”

“There must be a mistake, is this two puzzles?”  Inside the seemingly bottomless box, were the tiniest puzzle pieces I had ever seen, with only about three colors of the rainbow represented.

I looked at the lid. 1000 pieces. One thousand.

Jake peered down to us from his perch in a way that made it clear Zach and I were on our own.

Do we back down in the face of a challenge? No, of course not. I ignored the voice in the back of my head that plead for me to abandon ship, and find some Play-Do.

“More like a thousand pieces of fun!” we decided and dove in.

“Is this an edge, Mom?”

“No sweetie.”

“How about this?”

“Close, but no. See, it has to be totally straight on one side.”

“Is this an edge?”

“No, sorry.”

“This one’s red, where does it go?”

“I’m not sure. We’re just looking for edges right now, don’t worry about the color yet.”

“Is this an edge?”

“Yes! Yes, it is! Great find!”

“I did it! Aren’t you happy I found that for you, Mom? I need to go to my room for a second.”

You can see where this is going. It wasn’t for a second.

The fate of this puzzle rested with me.

Over the din of the video games that were eventually turned on, the boys threw me an occasional, “Mom, you are so good at puzzles. It’s really shaping up. Look at you go! I can kinda see the picture. Did you forget that we need to eat breakfast/lunch/dinner?”

The floor suddenly was uncomfortable. All the pieces looked the same.  I was missing two edges. I had other stuff to do. All this squinting at the tiny pictures of Mufasa were going to give me crow’s feet. I wanted to quit.  The boys were right there, occasionally paying attention, though. What would my quitting teach them? Anyway, they would probably want to help when it started to come together, and when they saw how much fun I was having.

Over the course of the next three days, my mind raced over the doldrums of methodically scanning the example picture for the location of the tiny Princess Jasmine who was looking slightly down and to the left, as opposed to the right-facing Jasmine, or the Jasmine glancing over her shoulder. Wait, is this helping my healing brain, or making it worse? I should give up. No, it makes much more sense for a grown woman to obsess over a Mickey Mouse puzzle for three days, than to give up just to do “laundry” and “clean the bathroom.”

It was a silly puzzle, but I learned a few things.

I can now pick out, from a mile away, all of the gradations in the red and blue color families.

Putting tiny dalmations in a puzzle is just mean.

There are always moments in the course of a puzzle, where you are certain at least three key pieces fell on the floor of the puzzle factory, and were never included in your box.

“Good job Mom,” even when being delivered between pitches of an MLB Playstation game, makes you feel good.

The boys are surprisingly self-sufficient. And they were interested in helping after all. When I had 980 pieces put together, they decided to jump in for the assist, and have subsequently, and repeatedly reminded me of their contributions. In a moment of weakness, I allowed myself to participate in a kerfuffle with the youngest about who would have the honor of putting in the final piece. It was me. I put it in. And it was wonderful.

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whose bucket list is this? the beauty of doing stuff you didn’t think you could

When I look back at the highlights of this weirdly action-packed summer, I feel a sense of accomplishment from successfully whittling away at a bucket list….

Somebody else’s bucket list.

There is a special sense of satisfaction, however, that comes with doing things you never intended, hoped, or signed up to do, and then doing them well.

If this list looks familiar, please step forward to claim it. It’s mostly done, so, you’re welcome.

#1 Be Allowed into Central America

Every day, people go to fabulous exotic places with backpacks, sarongs, and well-worn passports. Maybe they’re off to climb a peak, or swim to a hotel room that sits on stilts in the middle of a crystal clear lagoon. Maybe they’ll pet a sloth, or drink tea with a prince on the balcony of a palace. No? That’s not what happens immediately upon crossing the border? My obvious international inexperience also extended to not knowing how to change money, or use a passport. I knew how to take a cab – but I didn’t know how to take a cab in Nicaragua.

Nicaragua – the exotic-to-me locale where our dear, smart, hyper-educated, beautiful, world traveling friends had decided to get married. We’d known them forever, and I’d been not-so-secretly hoping they would finally get hitched.

But Central America?

What happened to getting married in Vegas? Or Palm Springs? Palm Springs is nice.

I thought my first trip abroad, might be to, say…. Canada. Not like faaaar into Canada – I’m not crazy – I was thinking maybe the part of Canada that touches Washington.

My husband John was not nervous at all. He’s traveled far more than I, and in more precarious situations than our loungey, celebratory jaunt to the Tropics.

John came home a few nights before we were to leave, and could see it on my face.

“What is it? What’s wrong?”

“I’ve been reading the Internet.”

“No. Why? Why would you do that?”

“According to the Internet, there’s a good chance we’ll be abducted by machete wielding kidnappers if we take that road from the airport at nighttime.”

“We won’t. Stop reading the Internet. And besides, someone visiting from Nicaragua would be scared to death if they read the Internet about coming here.”

Here’s what happened instead of us getting kidnapped: Our trip to Granada, Nicaragua – a Spanish provincial town from the 1500’s that smells eerily like the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland — was notably machete-free. We met amazing people who’d traveled from near and far to celebrate a couple we all love; the weather was warm and the people of Granada were kind, and lovely.

The trip turned out fine. Not just fine, but fun. Like really, really fun.

Even the part where my hair frizzed out to three times its normal size.

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#2 Be OK with Lizards

After traveling safely from the airport, we settled into our Indiana Jones suite – huge vaulted ceilings, wrought iron fixtures and a mosquito netted, four-poster bed.

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John, having been to Central America before, ran into the bathroom ahead of me, mysteriously asking me to wait in the hall until he emerged a moment later with a sheepish grin. “OK, here’s the deal. There’s one little green lizard in there, but he darted away. I’m sure he’ll stay hidden.”

He did stay hidden, and I’ve never been such a picture of efficiency in the lavatory. I stomped into the bathroom on every subsequent trip, hoping to scare away any critter that may have already called dibs on the bathroom. It was a full 24 hours before the little green lizard and I came face to face.

I have been known to scream and run when faced with a lizard of any size, shape or color. However, the tropical heat paired with the rum gifted to us by the bride and groom, most certainly significantly and mercifully slowed my freak-out response time. I was able to look right into the creature’s beady little eyes and see he was scared to death. He had a facial expression I did not know scaley things were capable of. As he stood frozen in the corner, his face said, “Please don’t see me, please don’t see me. Does she see me? Oh no, I think she sees me.”

My fear was replaced with pity as I realized he was just minding his own beeswax when he got stuck in a bathroom with a terrifying giant sorely in need of a deep conditioner and a flat iron.

#3 Use what little Spanish I learned in college

Each morning of the trip, John and I shuffled to the hotel dining room where Olga, whose dewy skin and bright smile belied her age, presented us with a new exotic juice, tropical fruit, and huevos-anything-you-want. She was patient with my Spanish as I said the eggs are very good, and the birds are very pretty, and the trees are very pretty, and the table is very pretty. And every day, Olga suggested to us that our family would only be complete once we had a daughter. Either that, or she was saying her family is complete because she has four daughters.

If only my college Spanish teachers, who I in no way remember, could see me now! Unlike Spanish class, not once did I get to ask someone how to get to the library.

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#4 (Almost) jump into a pool, fully clothed, at the end of a party

Our trip to Nicaragua was a four-day fiesta punctuated by naps and mosquito bites, and of course, the tear-jerker wedding and five-hour dance party reception that concluded with grown men jumping into the swimming pool fully dressed – John included. I stood next to my college roommate as her boyfriend Jesper jumped in. Liane and I hemmed and hawed. “Should we jump in? We should, we should totally do it.  I don’t know. Yes. No. Yes, let’s do it.”  By the time we got to “OK, we’re totally doing this.” It was over, the guys were climbing out, and I did not have to transport a soaking wet dress back to the United States in my carry-on.

But still, I’ve never been closer to jumping into a pool while wearing a dress. So, progress.

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# 5 Be glad I went to my 20-year reunion, and come to terms with the fact that high school was actually pretty OK.

When the invite came for my 20th high school reunion, I thought, “Of course I’m going.” I spent the next months trying to change the minds of naysayer classmates who saw no value in reuniting, telling them “Come on, you have to go! It’s been 20 years! No, it’s not the same as Facebook! It’ll be fun!”

Sitting in the parking lot, all dressed up, with my classmates streaming into the party behind me, I realized that maybe I had jumped the gun. “Remind me why I’m doing this,” I said to John. It’s not like I was that great in high school; I was really committed to that asymmetrical haircut I had all four years. I went through a thing where I made my own jewelry. I was in a knee-brace half the time. I was a bit of a spaz. “I don’t need to be here. We have Facebook now.”

Buoyed by my arm-candy husband and old friends who met us in the parking lot, we went in.

Sure, the evening had its awkward moments – even painfully awkward moments with stilted conversation or that thing where you don’t recognize or remember someone in the slightest – but most of the moments were hilarious, sweet, fun, or wistful. Everyone had changed…but not really. While the 10-year reunion had an air of one-upsmanship, the 20-year came with the acute but unspoken sense that time was now starting to go by too fast, so we should just enjoy ourselves. Some classmates had passed away, many had moved away, and it seemed that everyone recognized we simply don’t have the luxury of time to compete, judge, be intimidated, or hang onto whatever baggage we’d brought from high school. We’re all just people, with a little bit of shared history – just like we were in high school, before we had the wisdom and sense to realize or appreciate it.

If given the chance, go to your reunion – it’s not the same as Facebook.

So there you go – what I did with my summer vacation. And now for MY rest-of the-summer bucket list:

Sit around and talk about the heat

Clean last day of school stuff out of backpacks before first day of school

Get DVR ready for new season of TV

Deep condition

*The photos at the tippy top are hopefully illustrative enough to make sense: Nicaragua. Then you’ve got reunion pics with girls I was lucky enough to grow up with. This one below? That’s my darling husband leading me through the streets of Granada. I’d follow him anywhere (almost).

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will there be bears?

“Will there be bears?” I asked.

John shook his head and explained that they would be spending their boys’ night a few minutes from our old bearless suburb across the Bay, and probably 100 yards from the main road on which you can find a CVS and Round Table Pizza.

“Do you have everything?”

“Yes.”

“OK, well….be careful out there.”

“You be careful, and have fun. Don’t worry about trying to do too much, you can sleep for hours if you want to.”

John had provided the opportunity to go camping with them, and I was admittedly less than pleased. I think you could describe the look on his face as half confused, a quarter surprised, and a quarter not-at-all surprised as I explained that I was unhappy with the invitation because now I was put in the position of having to feel bad about saying no, and I would rather just not even be asked in the first place.  It made sense at the time.

My friend Margie has a cheeky little napkin hanging on the bulletin board in her kitchen that says, “I love not camping.” I point at it when we visit, and quote it often, and I quoted it again when he asked.

Oh how I want to want to camp. It seems to be a popular thing for people to do and the snacks would be right up my alley…I hear there’s often chocolate and marshmallows AND bacon.

But after realizing the weekend’s arrangements were likely best for everybody, I was excused from going, and from the jobs of monitoring stick usage, dirt abatement and maintaining a 40-foot perimeter around the campfire. The guys loaded up their tent and stove and other supplies I did not recognize. John pointed out the ingredients they left me on the counter for my own “in the house” s’mores, and headed off into the beautiful sunshiny weekend for a night in the wilderness.

We waved at each other enthusiastically and I dashed up the stairs, ready to tackle my list. Of course I had a list; I wanted to use this time wisely.

I had just under 24 hours and a few simple things to do:

  • Clean out and organize all rooms, closets, bookshelves, and areas that could possibly contain LEGO’s and/or baseballs
  • Fully prepare for the start of school, short of packing lunches two weeks in advance
  • Give self manicure and pedicure
  • Catch up on DVR’d shows (that, my friends, is a legitimate to-do)
  • Plan meals for the week, nay, the month
  • Read backlog of magazines
  • Return backlog of emails
  • Think about exercising
  • Finish reading The Help then go see The Help in the theater, and of course…
  • Re-start, finish, and finally fall in love with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

I am almost positive that I had NOT written:

  • Make and eat entire box of pasta salad
  • Run out of things to read on the Internet, because you have simply read it all
  • Don’t read any books at all– I mean it, NO books
  • Watch Hoarders, then feel yucky after
  • Watch romantic comedies until your eyes hurt, and feel way worse than you did after watching Hoarders
  • Argue with the cat about her incessantly stealing the drain things out of the sinks
  • Take picture of the cat with the drain things, because even though it’s so annoying, it’s kind of cute
  • Argue with the cat about her trying to remove the vent grate with her tiny little claws at 2:00 am, which unfortunately is shortly after you will finish watching a Drew Barrymore romantic comedy, and not one of her better ones.
  • Paint nails and allow to dry while laying motionless for the length of DVR’d Gossip Girl season finale
  • Rediscover long-dormant and impractical love of French house music
  • Use minimal math skills to evenly space out consumption of the three Hawaiian sweet rolls that are in the kitchen
  • Become overwhelmed at how many areas in house contain LEGO’s and/or baseballs

Though that is most certainly the list I did not write, it is the list I diligently completed while the boys were frivolously frolicking about in the woods.