Monthly Archives: October 2014

Tiny Travel Tips

Hello from the road!  I am on my way to a writing retreat in North Carolina and was inspired to share a travel tip or two that I try to remember.  They are small acts that help reduce the strain a little bit on precious mother earth and sometimes save me money.  I’d love to hear your tips, too!


1)  Bring a reusable coffee mug and water bottle.  Whether at the hotel’s continental breakfast, a gas station, or Starbucks, I use my own mug.  Not only am I not contributing to more Styrofoam cups in the landfill, I sometimes save a few cents by doing so.  As for water, I refill a gallon jug and keep it in my car.  Instead of wasting another disposable plastic bottle and spending $1-2 each time I stop at the gas station, I top off my “Klean Kanteen” from the jug I brought.   This is my daily practice, too, not just when I’m in travel mode.


2) Save the shampooI don’t mean actually take it, I mean save the earth from more wasteful plastic containers that get trashed after a few uses.

I used to always hoard the “free” shampoo, lotion, soap, pens, pad of paper, and coffee.  It’s in my nature to (a) collect…er…hoard and (b) “get my money’s worth,” whether at a buffet, music festival, or gathering items from the hotel room.  I’m learning to let both go and instead honor my body (avoid over-eating at a buffet because it’s there and go home from a festival when I’m tired) and mind/spirit (avoid collecting stuff since it often clutters my physical space, which often taxes my visual field and emotional landscape.)

Since I rarely use shampoo anymore, instead, opting for a baking soda and apple cider vinegar hair care regime, its even more reason to leave the unnecessary “beauty essentials” behind.  Here’s more information about the no ‘poo method.  There are plenty of other resources out there, but they are all similar:

Try to use only one bar of soap instead of unwrapping two.  Is it necessary to have one in the shower and at the sink, or can you use one for both?  If I do use the hotel’s soap, I often save the plastic wrapper and take the nearly full bar back home….or use it at the next hotel.

Speaking of using only one….how about if you use only one trash can in the hotel room, too?  Think of all the plastic trash bags that are used when only a few items are in it!

I hope these tiny tips inspire you to think of other earth-friendly acts you can do, too, whether on the road or at home and work.  I know I have lots more room for improvement and I look forward to hearing from you about your ideas.  Please comment below and let me know.

Thanks for helping take care of our Mother!




See Sara Go


                  As Gene, the night shift worker at the Comfort Inn, checks me in, I ask about discounts.

“AAA?” he asks.


“Well, you certainly don’t qualify for a senior’s discount,” he chuckles.

“Right,” I reply.  “But I am a teacher.”  I lie…a little.  I mean even though I am not a teacher in the traditional sense anymore, I am still a teacher. Besides, I figure for all my years of service, a piddley $8 discount was nothing.

“Well, great.  Then we’ll apply the government worker discount for you.”

“Thanks.” I smile nervously, afraid I’ll be struck down for lying. I am hoping he doesn’t ask for ID or a paycheck stub to prove myself.  However, just in case of these moments I still have my staff badge from two years ago when my hair was much shorter.  I figured I would say that due to budget cuts we haven’t gotten new cards in a while.

“What do you teach?”

My pat answer is always…or was always,  “Everything!  To first graders.”

“Oh,” he says.  “I remember my first grade teacher, Ms. Sullivan.” He lets out a small sigh through a small smile.

I nod and pack up my laptop from the lobby area where I had been working.

“Oh yes, kids usually remember their first grade teachers, it seems.” I zip my bag and push in the chair.

“Look! Look!” He exclaims with exuberance.  It startles me as I glance around the lobby.  It is now 11 pm and I am bleary eyed from 12 hours of driving and covering 520 miles from Tampa, Florida to Atlanta, Georgia.

He begins narrating my every move in Dick-and-Jane style commentary.

“See Sara.  See Sara walk.  She is going.  She is going up.  Up. Up. UP!”

I turn back toward him not knowing if I should laugh or clutch my belongings and make a mad dash to the elevator.  I do a hybrid, giving him a wave and a nod and reach quickly for the button.

“Ms. Sullivan taught us to read using Dick and Jane books,” he calls after me proudly.

I smile and nod again. “Yes. Those are good books for early readers.”

“Sara is going to bed.  Go Sara, go. Good night, Sara.”

“Good night, Gene. ”

The elevator door closes and I go up.  Up, up to bed.

From Teacher Books to Travel Guides


I park my bicycle outside of a little book store in New Orleans and wander in.  It is the only business open on Sunday besides the coffee shop down the hall.  I weave around the low shelves of paperbacks and hardcovers, breathing in the scents.   As I have done for the past 18 years, as a college student preparing to teach and then for the years I served as  teacher, I stand in front of the children’s book section.

This time, a pang grips my gut, like a sucker punch.  A pang that struck me occasionally as a teacher and continues, at times, to strike since leaving my position in the elementary schools.  Instead of letting the feeling wash over me, I stand firmly with it.  I begin to question it.

What is this all about?

                Goonight Moon, The Runaway Bunny and Make Way for Ducklings peer out at me and are surrounded by other classics.

Teasing me? Questioning me?

Reminding me.

Reminding me of failure.

Somehow I failed my students, I ruminate. I didn’t do all that I could to teach them about reading. There were so many techniques and strategies and tips that I failed to use and share.  Guilt ices over my insides, leaving me feeling defeated.   My feet are heavy on the floor as I start to turn away.

Hold on, I demand, facing the memories head on.

                Did the kids laugh? Did they feel like running away like the bunny sometimes? Feel hopeful that all was well and they, too, were loved to the moon and back? Reassured to know they weren’t the only ones who thought there was a monster under their bed?

                And wasn’t I the one to read these classics to my kids, evoking feelings and discussions from students year after year?

                Didn’t I read in a hushed tone? Infused with enthusiasm? Mimicking voices of cats and cows, monsters and fairies? Bringing in props and puppets?

                And how often did I hear, ‘Read it again, Ms. Sabourin’ as twenty-some sets of eyes locked in on me at the back of our cozy classroom corner….or under a tree…or crammed on the school bus?

                What about all the times I opened up a prop box filled with scarves, hats, glasses, vests, dresses, and animal ears and hauled out the life-sized cardboard character cut-outs, turning over the dramatic reenactments to the kids’ imagination?

                What is it they will remember most?  Naming the seven comprehension strategies or the plays they put on, through which they lived those strategies?

I know that I touched kids lives in a profound and deep way, and largely in a positive way.  I fought fiercely for their right and need to play, for kids to be kids, not corralled like cattle.   Together we discovered the power of deep breathing, morning exercises, and community circles. We embraced creativity and curiosity.  We walked in the woods and fed peanut butter-and-seed crusted pinecones to the squirrels and birds. We gathered to the steady rhythm of a djembe.  We tip-toed to the chrysalis hanging under the windowsill, unbeknownst to the rest of the school kids.  We mourned when someone  or something knocked it down. We made mistakes and forgave each other. We celebrated our strengths.  We sang, read poetry, danced, and baked.

Here I stand as the icy guilt melts away with warm memories of all that I DID do with and for my students.  Scanning over the titles, my eyes land on the corral next to the kids’ books.  Travel books stare back at me.  Peru captures my attention first, a place that I am destined to visit.  I smile at the transition I’ve made: from teacher books to travel guides.  Here it is, laid out in front of me, reminding me of my journey.  Though I left my role in the traditional classroom, I will always be a teacher…and learner… at heart.  As I set off on my next adventure, I will carry the spirit of wonder, excitement, and awe that those six-year-olds so often showed me.  And for that, I’m grateful.

Bright Tights

“Those are the. Best. Pants. Ever.”
I look up from the shelf of collectibles at Powel’s bookstore to see a lanky man with wide set eyes staring at me.  One eye looks a bit to the left and the other one directly at me. I never know where to look in those moments, so I decide on the bridge of his nose.
“Thanks,” I say, setting down the temporary Gratitude tattoo that I was contemplating buying.
“I saw your pants, or tights, or whatever they are called and I thought, ‘Those are intense tattoos.'”  He laughs.
“Oh, could you imagine? ” I laugh.
“You totally should, though.  That would be awesome,” he continues to stare at me hard, then glances down to my tights.
“But I have other leggings to wear. I have to change it up you know.”  I explain.
“You’re not from around here are you?”  His arms hang loosely by his side and he stands tall and still.
“Oh,” I let out a sigh and little frown. “How did you know?”  I look down at my funky jean skirt and floral print leggings and back to him, “I thought I looked like a local.”
“You do,” he assures me, “but you sound like you’re from the mid-west.”
“I am.  Michigan.  And Florida.”
“What brings you here?”
“I packed my car and thought about relocating out to Portland.” I tell him.  “But I’ll be returning to Florida because I met my love before I left.”
He arches back like a ball of energy struck him in the chest.  He throws his head back and rolls his eyes, bringing a hand to his chest and feigning pain.
“Well, good luck with that.  I just wanted to tell you that you made me day brighter with your tights.  Thank you.”
“Thank you….” I trail off extending my hand waiting for his name.
“Thank you, Steve.  I’m Sara.  And you’ve brightened my day by liking my tights.”