The Simple Summer

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

When I was small, summer meant the smell of chlorine and cheap plastic inner tubes. We’d visit the local pool store to ready our above ground at the start of each season; she was nothing fancy, but she cooled us off and attracted a steady stream of friends and family to splash with. It also meant we stretched the days to their seams, making the most of every minute and begging our parents to stay up even after the sun went down. Those humid nights when they threw up their hands with an “oh well, why not!” were as good as winning the lottery: rich with sticky s’mores and too many popsicles, lit up by lightning bugs, culminating in a neighborhood-wide game of Manhunt. The memories are priceless.

Now, as a parent myself, the summers seem full of pressure; summer camps are full half a year in advance, sports are all booked up, vacations are plentiful and grand, and of course, all of it is well-documented on social media. It’s easy to get swept up in the idea of what a summer should look like for our young kids: have they seen all of their friends, tried plenty of new things and had a sufficient number of experiences? 

Did our parents frantically ask themselves these questions and put the same pressure on themselves? I’m no sociologist, but without social media to document every minute, perhaps summer truly was simpler in those days. At some point along the journey from then to now, simple became synonymous with boring; but with increasingly harried parents and jam-packed schedules, maybe simple isn’t so bad after all. 

Don’t get me wrong: I am a restless soul and a proud maker of seasonal “bucket lists.” I want my little girls to see, hear, taste and experience new things, to make memories that will still be with them when they’re my age. But I think we all—myself included—could benefit from taking a step back from the lists, from the posts, stories and reels, from it all, to reflect on what made our own summers magical. Was it learning a second language, zip lining through a forest, or exploring mountain peaks in a foreign land? Probably not. 

Maybe you planted flowers with your mom, dirt caking under your fingernails as you talked about life. Perhaps you spent afternoons with your grandparents, the only reprieve from their un-air conditioned house melty root beer floats on the front porch. Could be you ran wild with the kids on your street, savoring your first tastes of freedom as you bounced from yard to yard living in your own imaginary world.

I’m sure there were also times when you were bored. Weren’t we all? Those might be the best times of all, as a child; stolen pockets of time with absolutely no expectations and no choice but to let our imaginations run wild. What an underrated treat it is to be bored – let’s not take that away from our kids.

For me, the magic was in that distinct smell of chlorine. It was my older brother cooking burgers on the grill, walks with my mom, water from the hose, mid-day naps with sunburned cheeks, and picnics of saltine cracker sandwiches with my best friend under her willow tree. It was the “late nights,” as we came to call them, when we felt the rules didn’t apply. These no-frills summers may not have been Instagrammable—in fact, there are few pictures to prove they existed (such a pain to develop film back then)—but they were time spent with the people I loved most and the camera roll in my mind is better than any digital highlight reel.

My favorite memory with my own kids so far this summer was throwing on our sandals and walking in the summer heat to the grocery store down the road to choose our own pints of ice cream, whatever flavor they wanted. They partially melted on the way home, but we took spoons to them to taste-test each other’s selections while chatting at the kitchen table. They said I was the best mom and that it was the best day, and I was reminded once again that simplicity reigns.

So now, when I begin to feel that familiar uncertainty creep in about whether I’m giving my kids “the best summer ever,” when I worry that we haven’t crossed enough off our lists or the memories we are making aren’t grand enough, I recall the summers of long ago and am reminded of what really matters: saltine crackers, fireflies, and pool floats. Joy in each other. Joy in the little things.   

Welcome, August: Your Weekly To Do List to Make This Month Amazing

Monday, August 2, 2021

 I have long held the belief that August is an underrated month. It tends to get tacked on to the end of the season and looked over in a blur of "sort of summer" and "sort of back to school." But man, oh man, do I find beauty in August. Why? Because August is the best of it all: warm and sunny summer days mixed with the excitement and possibility of new things to come. You know that sort of magical feeling that hangs in the air as the first day of school approaches? That's August. It's slow and lingering, reminding us to soak up every last second of less structure. It invites us to do the things we may still be longing to do, like go swimming in a lake, pack up and head to the beach, take a nap in the shade. And yet, August is full of promise for fresh starts. And there's nothing I love more than that!

This month, I hope you'll take inventory of your life and prepare yourself for your next step, whatever that may look like for you. Even if you're not heading back to school or don't have kids going back to school, I hope you'll still think of August in the same way: as a month to both savor and prepare. Take time this month to reflect on what it is that makes you truly joyful, what fills you up, what you're excited to spend your time on. How can you do more of that? It's going to look different for all of us: for some, it may be career-related. Maybe it's time to ask for that promotion, to take the first step in starting that business you've been dreaming of, or even to quit a job that's draining the joy out of you. Perhaps it's related to relationships -- you may want to text a friend today about getting a date on the calendar, make a plan to reconnect to your spouse, or plan some quality one-on-one time with your kids. Perhaps it's related to self-care (though the term has become so overused!). Maybe this is the month you want to try something new (full disclosure: I taught myself a tik tok dance the other day!), carve out time to journal, finally commit to exercising, heck, even pencil in a daily 20 minute nap. Whatever it is... I challenge you to put one foot in front of the other this month, and to take that first step! The first step is always the hardest, and once you have some momentum going you'll find yourself striding toward writing a beautiful, exciting, joy-filled new chapter of your life. 

Let's start with August! This month, I'll be sharing a simple weekly "to-do" list at the beginning of each new week (Monday). I'll include a special written note at the bottom to remind you of your worth and potential at the beginning of each week. :) This is a space to jot your intentions for the week, the steps which will propel you forward week-by-week. Just save and print this sheet, clip it into your planner, and refer back to it at the end of each week. Give yourself all of the kudos for completing whatever steps you could and know that I'm cheering you on, too! 

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