See the World! (aka: Living Vicariously)

“I’m shakin’ the dust of this crummy little town off my feet and I’m gonna see the world. Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Colosseum.” ~George Bailey (It’s a Wonderful Life)

George Bailey See the World

When I was a teenager, I often fantasized about traveling the world. I had a long list of places to go, languages to learn, foods to try. I begged my dad and stepmother to send me away to a boarding school in some faraway country (okay, this was partially because I hated living with them). They just laughed and mentioned this silly little thing called money.

Ugh. Money.

That has always been the Big Obstacle. Every time I managed to begin stashing some away toward international travel goals, some monster would come along and eat it up. Monsters such as bills. My college expenses. Kids’ extracurricular activities. Home maintenance. Kids’ college expenses.

Those vivid dreams of walking through streets in London and Barcelona, touring Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany, sipping coffee at a French cafe in Paris, climbing the ancient stones of  Macchu Picchu, became smaller and more distant as years passed, and life kept sending more monsters to get in the way. I learned to feed my hunger for travel in smaller, more attainable ways, like studying languages, eating foods from around the world, and watching House Hunters International. (Hey, that show can be pretty addictive!).

See the World travel

Recently, I sent my 16yo daughter off on her first big international journey. She traveled with a group of students to Beijing China, then stayed with a host family in Jinan. Each day, she sent me photos and stories about her adventures abroad, which I ate up with relish. Finally! Although I am still stuck here, working hard to provide a good life for my kids, at least my children can live out my dream, and I can share in them.

This week, our family has been hosting a student who traveled here from China. Just as my daughter’s host family showered her with kindness and introduced her to a wealth of Chinese culture, we are attempting to do the same. My kids are getting a chance to improve their Mandarin, while our student improves her English. And I get to practice being uber-organized, to fit everything into our schedule. (Luckily, I’m usually pretty Type-A, so it’s not too big of a jump to be Type A+).

Now my daughter has caught the travel bug, too. She’s already conspiring with friends to backpack Europe and stay in youth hostels after graduating high school next summer. Eek! I am excited about her ambitions, too. The next best thing to traveling and seeing the world is to travel and see the world through the eyes of someone you love.



Deep Questions (aka: One-Sided Conversations)


It’s been a very long time since I’ve had a good, deep conversation with another human being over the age of 18. Conversations in the workplace tend to stay on the shallow side, which is normal, I suppose, but unfulfilling at times, like snacking on fruit when what you really crave is a thick, juicy steak and a buttery baked potato.


While browsing blogs on WordPress, I came across a post by Wendy, at Brilliance Within, which posed ten great questions that can help you to dig deeper, to get to know other people at a deeper level. Since I lack the social opportunities to use these questions in actual conversations, I thought I’d answer them here, should any other wandering souls want to get to know me a little better:


  • What are you enjoying most about your life at the moment?


At this exact moment, I am enjoying a Netflix Show, called The OA. It is a strange and mysterious program about a young woman who has near-death experiences, and through them is able to reach out and change the lives of other hurting people. But overall, I am enjoying the peace and stability of my life; of raising my children in a decent neighborhood, of working at a job I enjoy, of having good health, and of finding ways to keep learning, keep growing, keep becoming a better version of myself.


  • What’s your biggest fear?


I have two. One is the obvious and unspeakable fear of something bad happening to one of my children.

The other fear was already realized. My best friend, around six years ago, decided that she no longer wanted to be my friend. Before we parted ways, she confessed to me that our friendship had been uneven. I wanted a best friend, and she did not. She had felt for a while that I was like a dog, following her around. Just writing those words – even thinking them, unleashes such a flood of raw emotions that I am still unable to keep myself from crying, and I am a person who rarely cries. I thought that I had been a good friend, and kind, and generous, and loving, and that our friendship was reciprocal. I never knew that I was being too clingy, or that she had perceived me that way. Her words have haunted me so much, that I feel them any time I start to get to know an acquaintance. I am fearful of calling, fearful of texting first, fearful of reaching out to invite anyone to spend time together, because I don’t know how to keep from crossing that invisible boundary that makes people feel as though I am chasing them. When I sense that someone’s interest in me is waning, I run away, because I don’t want to hear those words again. Because of my greatest fear, I have become skilled at remaining cold and aloof, and skilled at letting people go. I have learned how to be content with loneliness instead of trying to build relationships.


  • What do you regret most?


This is related to #2, and cannot be expressed here.


  • What did you dream about doing when you were a child?


I dreamt of being a children’s book author (still working on that one) and a tap dancer (no thanks, haha). I also resolved around the age of ten that I would never get married, and would adopt a bunch of kids and drive a bike instead of a car (which I did until I finally got a driver’s license at the age of 26).


  • How do you feel about your job? What would be your ‘dream job?


I’m crazy about my job. It covers my favorite aspects of IT (creating, building, and administering computer systems and supporting users of those systems). I also hope to have my young adult novels published someday in the not-too-distant future, but my day job is perfect for me, and I look forward to doing it each day. The only thing that would make it even better is to be in a position where I can use my leadership talent and skills at my job, which I intend to work my way toward.


  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?


Hopefully in that position of leadership (see #4). I also see myself as a soon-to-be single empty-nester, as my youngest kid will be on the verge of graduating high school and heading off to university. That is a pretty lonely vision. It is hard to imagine life without my children.


  • If you could choose 1 place in the world to travel to – where would it be?


Only one? Seriously? My list is sooo long! Okay, then, I will have to choose England, so that I can travel to the places in the Harry Potter and Jane Austen and Charles Dickens and Shakespeare stories that I love so fondly.



  • What is your ‘vision’ for your life?


I don’t have one all-encompassing vision. Just a series of smaller goals. Raise my children to be kind, caring, educated adults who contribute to society in positive ways and are content with their lives. See my future grandchildren grow up. Keep working hard at and enjoying my career. Keep finding ways to learn and grow and experience the good things in life. Share my stories with the world. Travel a lot.


  • How could you enhance your relationships/life?


I don’t know. Unless #2 magically fades away, I don’t believe that I will ever develop any close relationships beyond those with my children.


  • When do you feel you’re happiest/saddest/most in love?


I suppose I am happiest when everything feels at peace, like when reading a good book while lying on a warm, sunny beach while my children play nearby. Saddest when the darkness is too dark and the night lasts far too long.


Please feel free to answer questions in the comments below. After all, the point of asking deep questions is to start an authentic conversation, and to get to know other human beings.


A Souffle is Not a Life Goal (aka: Pondering the 5yr Plan)

“What is your dream?”

future aheadOne of my coworkers wrote this question on the top of a large white board that hangs outside his cubicle. Over the course of a few days, other workers stopped by to scrawl their ideas on the board, some realistic, some not so much. I paused a few times just to stare at the blank white space, as though waiting for inspiration to appear below the colorful writing.

But nothing came.

What is your dream? Sometimes, I look around the internet and begin to feel left out of this whole passion movement. “Follow your passion.” “Don’t give up on your dream.” “If you can dream it, you can do it.” I feel a flutter of panic – wait, I’m supposed to have a dream? I’m supposed to have some specific, long-range goal that fills me with fire whenever I think about it? But what if, right this moment, all I have is a half-dozen lukewarm short-term goals? I would really like, for example, to learn how to cook a soufflé. Does that count as a dream? Is it healthy to crave a simple glass of water, or must I desire the entire lake? perfect cheese souffle

It isn’t that I never have large goals. I have set and fulfilled some rather large goals in my life, which were important to me at one time or another along the journey. But now?

Then I had a bright idea – Pinterest! Surely Pinterest can help me to organize my muddled dreams and goals for the future. Okay, I’m totally kidding. Except for the occasional awesome recipe (like soufflés, for example) or hilarious joke, I mostly find Pinterest a dull way to spend time. But the other day, a particular post jumped out at me: The 5-Year Plan. So I clicked the link, and found this:

5-Year Plan Template

Well, that seems so simple. It should be easy to make a 5-year plan, right?


It was far easier to come up with tentative, bucket-list style plans that may or may not ever happen. It is far, far harder to make attainable, realistic, mid-range plans, especially if you also have to muster up some passion about them.

Career – This is the simplest. Finish earning my two college degrees and a couple more IT certs. Get a decent, full-time, well-paying job in the industry – preferably one that will lead me down the Systems Admin/Network Admin trail. This is definitely my career goal. Am I confident about it? Absolutely. Passionate? Some days.

Financial – This totally depends on the career goal.

Social – Umm…next?

Family – Well, I’ve already got this great family with my three great kids and me. Adding a dog would be cool, if our landlord allowed it. I hesitate to use university as a family goal, since a college education should be my children’s goal for their lives, not mine.

Health – Stay healthy. Keep on keepin’ on.

Relationship – Nada.

Travel – This is the only life goal that really gets my heart pumping. I have a long list of places I am dying to visit. But within 5 years? That all depends on financial goals, which all depend on career goals. So it is really hard to invest energy into getting passionate about it.

After pondering this plan, I also perused a few other websites about creating a 5-Year Plan. But the ideas were quite similar. Decide where your passions lie (Travel, doing fun things with my kids, my career path, writing). Write out a 5-year plan. Then create short-term objectives toward reaching that goal. Since the only solid plan I made had to do with career, the next step was easy: get off the computer and do your homework, dummy!

The perfect soufflé can wait.

Explore. Dream. Discover.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. ~ Mark Twain (1835-1910)

Sail away from safe harbors

It was one of my favorite quotes from an author whose literature I greatly admire. Explore. Dream. Discover. And so I did. At least, to an extent. I rappelled down the face of a cliff. I stood at the feet of the Statue of Liberty and watched a real Broadway musical on Broadway. I tasted the salty breezes of two different oceans, watched the eruption of Old Faithful, and threw stones into the Grand Canyon (because, why not?). I explored. I dreamed. I discovered.

I used to live life in fast forward, arms spread wide, mouth open, waiting to taste whatever new adventures the universe had to offer. I sometimes think that is why I rushed through university so quickly and married so young. I wanted to know what it was like to be finished with school. I was eager to experience life as a married woman (and, of course, the great sex and intimacy that was supposed to come with it. Haha – funny joke, universe). I was eager to try new foods and hear new music and travel to interesting places. I was eager to experience every good thing life had to offer – to explore, to dream, to discover.

I lost that hunger. Somewhere in the midst of an unhappy, abusive marriage, and broken friendships, and lonely, gray years of emptiness, that vision slipped away. Explore? But the world, once as vibrant and inviting as the Land of Oz, now seemed cold and hostile. Dream? I lost the ability to dream beyond rewinding the clock and fixing broken things. Discover? What remained to be discovered? I had traveled to the end of the rainbow, but instead of gold, I had found stones. And that fire that once burned bright within my spirit had gone out.

And so, I shifted focus. After all, I am a mother of three terrific kids. And they do not yet know that there are only stones at the end of the rainbow. So I live my life for them. I get out of bed every day for them. I go to school and work for them, so that I can provide for their needs. I plan adventures for them, because they have not yet swum in both oceans, or visited New York City, or climbed actual mountains. I am happy to do these things for them, because it allows me to ignore the gnawing, lonely emptiness inside of me. But I know that it is not sufficient. I know that I will never be content until that fire burns inside of me once again, urging me to really live…to stop standing still like a zombie and start to explore. To dream. To discover.

I mentioned recently that I have been Cheering Sports Fans in a Bartrying new things. Because maybe that is what it takes to re-light a fire that went cold years ago. So far, I have had little success. And in fact, just today, because I had never been to a bar, and had never watched a soccer game with a big group of other soccer-loving fans, I forced myself out of the house and into a large bar downtown to watch the USA vs. Portugal World Cup soccer game. Unfortunately, that turned out to be a huge mistake. The bar was absolutely packed with adoring, cheering fans. I stood among the beer-guzzling crowd, feeling out-of-place and very awkward. Not to mention thirsty. How on earth are you supposed to get something to drink in a bar…shove your way up front and yell “Diet Pepsi please!” over the din? And do they even sell Diet Pepsi? Luckily, I found a (waitress?) to ask, and she very kindly brought me a Pepsi (not Diet, but who cares?) for free. So I quietly sipped my soda and watched the game in silence, while imagining myself with a group of soccer-loving friends, guzzling beers and yelling at the TV screen. Together. (Does that count as dreaming?)

I went home at halftime.

But still, I explored. And I discovered what a bar is like. Sort of. So I don’t have to do that ever again. One teeny-tiny, wobbly baby step into a world that feels so enormous and so scary. Watching a soccer game alone in a crowded bar sucked. Seriously. But now, twenty years from now, I don’t have to look back and be disappointed that I didn’t even try.

Obsessing About My Great Love (Soccer, of Course!)

Tiare Loves Soccer 4everWorld, I must confess that I am in love. Not just a silly schoolgirl crush, either. Topsy-turvy, head-over-heels, inside-out love. With soccer.  In fact, soccer and I have had an ongoing relationship for almost 27 years now (not counting those dark years when I had no team, and no way to watch my beloved sport on TV, but we won’t discuss that sad time).

Yes, I have always been kind of a sports nut, since childhood. I have played on baseball, basketball, track, swim, and, of course, soccer teams. I was (and remain) a 49ers fan, an A’s fan, a Giants fan, and a Lakers fan. I have followed tennis almost religiously since Venus and Serena came on the scene, and am a die-hard fan of Nadal and Federer. But soccer still tops them all, in my opinion. As soon as the internet made it possible, I began to follow the world of football (the “real” name for the sport). I became an instant fan of the English Premiere League, especially Manchester United, and occasionally Chelsea. Eventually, Barcelona from La Liga España and the Seattle Sounders from MLS also joined my list of favorites. Eventually, my cable provider made it possible to actually watch regular games on TV, which really brought the sport to life in a way that radio programs and internet commentaries could not. I was hooked, addicted, obsessed with The Beautiful Game. watching live soccer 2013

It was only natural that my children would play soccer, whether they liked it or not. Fortunately, my oldest son did like it, and has played the sport every year since the age of 5. This year, he plans to try out for his high school Junior Varsity team. And if he doesn’t make it – well, it’s still been a fun ride. My 11-yo daughter, who recently retired from a high level of competitive gymnastics, is planning to play soccer for the first time ever this season. My youngest son, unfortunately, has sworn off soccer forever after one lousy season. No matter how hard I try, I can’t convince him that soccer — or any sport, for that matter — is worth his time and effort. (Yes, the competitive tiger mom inside of me is banging her head against the wall in frustration).

Still, even though I play soccer, and most of my children play soccer, and I watch it on TV and listen to it on the radio and follow it on the internet, I simply cannot get enough of my favorite sport. I have long dreamt of being at a live, professional soccer match, right in the middle of the excitement, cheering on my teams along with crowds of supporters. And yesterday, for the first time in my life, I had that opportunity. No,Daughter and me at pro soccer 2013 it was not Manchester United or Barcelona, or even the Seattle Sounders. But I did get to see Norwich City from the English Premiere League take on the Dorados from Mexico, and the MLS San Jose Earthquakes reserve team play against a team of local all-stars. Not only were these matches incredibly fun to watch in person, but my daughter and I got to be present as our city’s new USL professional soccer team was unveiled — the Sacramento Republic FC. I practically danced home after such an amazing date with my beloved sport, dizzy with excitement, and ready to hop aboard the Sac Republic bandwagon and support our new team, from the minor leagues, all the way to MLS. Sac Republic FC

My biggest fantasy is that one day, I will get to travel to see the World Cup in person. That is probably the ultimate fantasy of every person who is in love with soccer. (Yes– you see, my favorite sport has many lovers). Sadly, I will probably be stuck at home, parked in front of the television for Brazil in 2014. But there is always Russia. Or maybe Qatar. One can dream.

Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It (aka My Dream Job)

Maggie Q as NikitaI have finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up. My dream job is to be a spy. It is such an ideal career for someone like me! Just imagine – I could live overseas, speak different languages, wear cool disguises, and spend my time deciphering codes, solving puzzles, and extracting sensitive information all in order to protect our nation’s security. And maybe I’d even get to do occasional amazing things, like skydiving at night, or rappelling down the sides of buildings, or sparring with bad guys who get in my way.

Well, unfortunately, I discovered my dream career a few years too late. Apparently, the CIA does not hire people over the age of 35 to work as Operations Officers. And also, it’s not the kind of job that goes well with parenting three kids.

Sydney Bristow Alias

Jennifer Garner as Sydney Bristow, the best female TV spy ever (in my opinion)

My inner child is crying. “Waaah! I wanted to be Sydney Bristow! So unfair!” The life of espionage is so seductive. And is it any wonder? Film and TV role models of female spies, like Sydney Bristow, Nikita, and yes, even Foxxy Cleopatra are super sexy, intelligent, and independent. Plus, they can kill a man with their bare hands. Plus, they get to use high-tech gadgets like tubes of lipstick that take photos and lift secret files from an enemy’s computer. And they get to do all of this while wearing disguises, like Spy Barbies.

Beyonce as Foxxy Cleopatra

But alas, such a life is not meant for me. I guess it’s just as well. I’m actually scared to death of heights and could never bring myself to jump out of a plane to complete a mission. Guess I will have to face the fact that I am only a typical soccer and gym mom, teacher, and suburb dweller who bakes fresh bread and never does anything out of the ordinary.

Or am I?Spy hiding

Let’s Be Young Forever / Por Siempre Joven

Let’s Be Young Forever


Your hand clasped in mine

as we tiptoe in bare feet

across the cool, damp grass to the edge of night

and leap

together beyond the veil of time

to when the sunshine warmed our skin

and the mysteries of life were only

things to be pondered

while naming the clouds above our heads

and the only sounds were laughter and music and

love was like breathing.

Take my hand, and we will

run, run, run

across the flowered fields

and fly into the rising sun

forever young

forever young

forever young with you at my side








Por siempre joven


Me agarras de la mano

Cuando caminamos de puntillas, descalzo

través de la hierba fresca y húmeda

hacia el borde de la noche

y saltar juntos

más allá del velo del tiempo

a cuando el sol calentaba nuestra piel

y los misterios de la vida eran solamente

cosas que se consideraban

mientras que nombrando las nubes encima de nuestras cabezas

y los únicos sonidos eran de risa y música, y

el amor era como respirar.

Toma mi mano, y vamos a

Correr, correr, correr

Traves de los campos de flores

y volar hacia el sol naciente

por siempre joven

por siempre joven

The Traveler at Starbucks (aka: Wanderlust Strikes Again)

 The other morning, I stopped by a Starbucks, with the intention of splurging on a good cup of coffee. It was outside of my neighborhood, located near a rail yard, in an area with a high homeless population. And so it was of little surprise to me to see him sitting there — a young guy, maybe in his early twenties, sitting on the ground outside of the Starbucks. Beside him was an oversized backpack, filled with his possessions and coated in grime, much like his worn-out clothes. In his hands, he held a ragged cardboard sign, which read: Traveling. Any Assistance Will Help.

I had so many questions. How long had this guy been traveling? Where had he been? Where was he going next? My curiosity was so great, that I wanted to sit on the ground beside him and listen to his story. But oh! As always, I was much too timid to speak. Instead, I shuffled toward him, eyes trained on the sidewalk, and handed him a crumpled five dollar bill.

“Hey, thanks! That means a lot.” The young man smiled up at me, his eyes brightening. And then he picked up his pack and was on his way, off to see the world. And though I was the one with the money, and I was the one with the car to drive myself to a Starbucks for a fancy cup of coffee or chai, I was filled with a sense of longing and envy for the life of the traveler, for his opportunities to see the world beyond the matching rooftops of the suburbs where I live. What wouldn’t I give to taste such freedom, to strap on a backpack and hike the Pacific Coast Trail, or ride trains through Europe, or explore South America by bus.

But that is not my life. I have children, and work, and obligations. My place, for now, is here in the suburbs. But that does not have to mean a life completely void of adventure. I, too, am an explorer. I experience the world through literature, through films, and through music from different nations and cultures. I get to know the world through art, history, and photography. And I taste the world by experimenting with international recipes. I may not wear a backpack or ride the rails, but like the young man sitting outside of Starbucks that morning, I too am a traveler. And for the next few weeks, here on my blog, I will share my adventures with you.

Reaching for the Impossible

Or Listen Here
Like a Breath

There it hovers, just out of reach

Always just out of reach

With fluttering wings of blue and green

and gold

Beauty like tears, like a star, like the sea

I reach out to hold it

but it floats away like a breeze

like a breath

Yet my heart cannot turn away

from my own heart

Although the sun will rise and fall

flowers will bloom and fade

and the earth will grow old

I will reach out hands

again and again

until I can hold

this dream

Como un soplo

Ahí se cierne

siempre justo fuera del alcance

con alas aleteando de azul y verde

y oro

Una belleza como lágrimas, como estrellas, como el mar

Extiendo la mano para agarrarlo

pero se va volando como una brisa

como un soplo

sin embargo, mi corazón no puede desviar la mirada

de mi propio corazón

Aunque el sol se levanta y cae

y las flores florecen y se desvanecen

y la tierra envejecerá

yo extenderé las manos

una y otra vez

hasta que yo pueda mantener

este sueño

Summertime Dreaming

Less than two weeks of school…let the countdown begin! We educators are not very different from children when it comes to summer vacation. As the last day of school approaches, our eyes begin to glaze over, and our brains turn to mush. Really. It’s true. Right at this very moment, all I can think of is that theme song from the movie Meatballs. “Are you ready for the summer? Are you ready for the hot nights? Are you ready for the fireflies, the moonlit skies, and a whole lot of fooling around…” How can I possibly make it through these last few days? I have so many plans this summer, starting with:

1. Engage in some nice, relaxing Global Thermonuclear War

Ahhhh! While outside, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the air is filled with the fragrance of summer jasmine (well okay, smog), I will be parked in front of a computer screen, creating armies and trying to take over the world. I still haven’t tried Age of Empires Online. Wonder if it’s any good?

2. Wear a Bikini

Oh boy, I am still not so sure about this one! I have never ever worn a bikini. I have never had the body for it, and to be honest, I still don’t think that I do. But at the age of 36, this may be my last shot to try it out and get away with it, right? Geez, I am blushing already. Maybe wearing a bikini requires a kind of I’m Sexy and I Know It attitude, and I am just not there.

3. Drink a Beer

I know, I know, this one is completely ridiculous. How could I have gone so many years without ever trying a beer? I have nothing against beer. It is just that my choice of alcoholic drinks is usually a fine wine, or some fancy mixed drink. But good old, humble, reliable beer…never! I am still searching for the perfect opportunity to try it. Maybe during the Olympic Games? 4th of July? My 37th birthday?

4. Remodel My Sons’ Bedroom

My 12yo finally decided that he has outgrown the bright blue walls and cartoon vehicle wallpaper I put up when he was two years old. Now he would like olive green walls and cool decor, something suitable for a soon-to-be teenage boy. Unfortunately, he shares a room with his 7yo brother, who wants bright orange walls and a space theme. We’ll see if I manage to merge the two somehow.

5.  Write Write Write

Sure, I can make time to write blog articles or poetry. But the truth is, I am a fiction writer. Thanks to a busy school year, I have a huge backlog of stories to write or revise. At last, I will have time to sit at the computer and type. Well, after my three kids finish playing Roblox and Minecraft and Zoo Tycoon. Okay, maybe it is really time to buy another family computer!

Of course, there are also the usual activities, like camping, and swimming, and day trips with my kids. But who needs to plan such things? Summer is not a time for packed schedules and full calendars. It is an opportunity to kick back with the kids, watch movies, read books, and grill everything we eat. Yes, I am ready for the summer, and oh-so-ready for school to end. Then I shall don my sunglasses, pop open a Diet Pepsi (or a beer?), and cue the music: Summertime  by Will Smith. Ohhh yeah!!