Summertime Challenge: Favorite Things About Summer

desert CAMPING

This is a summer challenge hosted by Parajunkee. It runs through the month of June and has weekly link-ups.

Favorite Things About Summer 

I love this topic! Summer in Texas typically ranges from the tail-end of April well into the end of September and sometimes the beginning of October. You may have seen those memes around the internet about how Texans measure distance in time? Something like this:

How far is it to Houston?

Oh, three hours.

That’s a typical conversation in Texas. We measure summer in the same kind of way. The seasons are typically marked by the solstices and equinoxes depending on the hemisphere you live in, but in Texas summer does not start on June 21. No, no, no.

Texas summer starts when it gets frickin’ hot! Once we hit 90 degree weather, it is summer. And that usually lasts most of September, well into the “fall” season when all the clothing and shoe stores begin churning out beautiful scarves, coats and winter boots.

So, welcome to my Texas summer! These are my favorite things about summer.

Watermelon

My great-grandparents had an expansive farm. They had five children who each inherited a nearly 20-acre tract of land (19.46 to be exact). Growing up my grandmother and her siblings had to help on the farm. Back then, my great-grandpa didn’t really have cattle, as is the most expected thing in Texas. No, he raised every type of crop you could believe. Even peanuts!

But what he raised that I love the most was watermelon. I have old, original photos of my great-grandpa, Euell, laying out on a big watermelon in his harvest patch. Despite the changes in land and hand over the years, I know where he kept his harvest patch, under a long row of trees to be shaded. They would cover the watermelons with black tarps. My great-grandpa has the biggest smile in that picture. I think he just loved feeding people. Most often, they gave away a lot of excess crops to neighbors and friends.

To me, watermelon means summer. It is “in season” in summertime, and you always want to check the ones you buy at the store. You want one with a yellow side, which means it set in the patch long enough to ripen and wasn’t picked too early.

Sun

One thing about summer is you can’t have it without sun!

I mean, really, can you have summer with no sun?

No, no you can’t. And if you do, you’re whacked. Please see your doctor.

I really do need the sunshine and the warmth. I grew up in Central Texas without air conditioning. I grew up in the house my great-grandpa (mentioned above) built with his own hands. Indoor plumbing wasn’t installed until the 1970s. The house is over 100 years old and cannot accommodate central air and heat. We didn’t even have A/C window units until I was a pre-teen!

So, I need the 90 and 100 degree weather. It is what makes me feel like everything is right in the world, and with it, the lovely, glorious sun. I have self-diagnosed myself with SAD (seasonal affective disorder) because every fall I start falling into this dark spiral and once winter hits, I am struggling to get out of bed in the mornings because it’s so dark and I just want to stay in bed until 10:09. Or at least 8:45. If you see photos of me in the fall compared to late spring and summer, there is such a visible difference. In the fall I also suffer through most of my coworkers always asking me if something is wrong, because I just need the sun!

Water

And with the sun, comes the glorious water. There are so many ways to enjoy the water, especially here in Texas. I think the only recreational aquatic sport that really doesn’t happen much here is surfing.

I love the water. I always have. I’m a Pisces, so it makes perfect sense. I feel like I was born in the water. (I wasn’t.)

When I hit six months old, my mother put me in baby water classes, and there’s been no looking back since. My father is deathly afraid of water. I think he was involved in an incident once on someone else’s property (that he was not supposed to be on) and a young boy drowned. Or perhaps he heard of his friend drowning, I don’t remember, but I do remember my mother talking about something like that once. Anyway, my father did not want my three brothers and I to have anything to do with swimming, but my mother refused to let us be cowed by and afraid of water – because that’s when it becomes dangerous.

Panicking in the water is the worst thing that you can do. If you are ever in a situation and someone is trying to use you as their personal flotation device (aka pulling at you, taking you under) just swim down. They don’t want to go down, so they’ll let go and you can surface a ways away from them safely.

After baby water classes, I was put in swimming lessons at age four. I did full-summer swimming lessons until I was 12. Not because I needed that much instruction, but because my mother wanted to know without a shadow of a doubt that we could swim and swim well in any situation if one ever arose. I also loved swimming lessons. I could beat all the boys in speed swimming. 🙂

I could spend all day floating around in the pool, or splashing at the beach – and I have…at least the pool part. I’ve only ever been to the beach twice…but guess where I’m going this summer?

Tans

The one amazing thing about summers besides all these glorious things is the tans! I think tans are very attractive – real tans. Not orangey, obviously fake spray-on or tanning bed tans. Natural tans just have a slightly different look to them, where your skin has soaked up the rays.

Summertime activities naturally give the opportunity for tans, whether it’s a farmer’s tan, a baseball/softball tan or that perfect bikini tan. Often, we have many different tan lines for the various types of clothing we wear outdoors during our summer activities. I recall my friend Crystal once had three or four different tan lines from the different pairs of shorts she had worn recently.

Plus, tans are sexy.

Adventures

What would summer be without adventures – and shenanigans? 🙂

Summer is the quintessential time for road trips and national park hikes and fun in the sun – and on the water! Summer is for bonfires on the beach, and barbecues in the backyard and block parties.

Last summer I told myself I wanted to go to Big Bend, but it didn’t happen. This summer I’m not so motivated to go, I’d rather do day trips for experiences, but I think next summer I’m going to hack it.

My mother has said she wants the two of us to go to Costa Rica to experience everything my brother was a drag about. (In his school, which is only K-8, the 8th graders go on a trip each year to Costa Rica because one of their teachers knows people.)

Time to let down your hair and feel the wind in your face!

Relaxation

The other thing about summer that seems to never come about until summer is the time to just breathe and relax for a bit. Things are slower, less hurried in summer. We want to enjoy the long, warm days as much as we can.

Being a teacher, my 12 months of work is jam-packed into 10 months, plus another half-month of various trainings, conferences, and workshops. It is truly a job where you can never cross everything off your list, you can never get everything done that needs to be done. Many don’t understand that, and they don’t truly know what teaching in public education is like today. I overhear people talking about students with special needs and how they go to a “special school.” Um…no, no they don’t. They are in mainstream classrooms with all the other children. We are expected to do so much more than is humanly possible. This past year I taught over 170 students. How am I expected to call each of those students’ parents? Even a 10 minute conversation with each set of parents would be 28 hours! Where is that time going to come from? We don’t get enough planning time as it is. I was wearing multiple hats this year: teaching on-level, teaching Pre-AP, teaching an intervention class with no curriculum, teaching creative writing with no curriculum, and conducting the circus show that is yearbook after school. You know, like a club. In my “free time.” HA.

Please be kind to educators you know – and even those you don’t. One of my sweetest friends left teaching this year. She was actually my high school freshmen science teacher. She left teaching, sold her home, and moved down to the ranch her boyfriend has. He was a judge, so he’s very knowledgeable, but even he made some outlandish comments about how we teachers could just take our 80 state days that we’ve saved since the beginning of teaching. Yeah, let me get right on that…Hey, Superintendant, I want to take my 80 state days – consecutively. They’d laugh in your face and not renew your contract. In Texas, teachers get 10 days to use throughout the school year – five local days, which are used first, and five states days that roll over and follow you. However, you never get your state days back and you don’t get compensated for them in any way, so you might as well use them.

Also, teachers in Texas don’t pay into Social Security, apparently. Something they don’t tell you about when you become a teacher. Good luck if you have a workman’s comp injury or go on disability leave! Let’s not even talk about drawing Social Security or the fact that the state changes all of the law regulating pay, retirement and education funding each year.

So summer is necessary for relaxation and to recharge. Imagine your kid on their worst day when you lose all your patience with them. Now imagine your kid – on that day – being with the kid they don’t get along with at school. Now picture that duo multiplied by two or four or six and having that in every class, one after another after another, and parents expecting you to be raising their children and blaming you for everything but not stepping up to be accountable for the outcomes of their parenting – or lack of – or their child’s behavior. And then all the meetings (often unnecessary) and paperwork and planning and phone calls and referrals and documentation and it just gets out of hand. You literally can be at work at 7 or 8 at night and still not be finished for the day, but you’ve got to leave. You have to just leave and go home.

This is why summer. 🙂 Ahhhhhh.

Naps

The other thing about summers is naps! When I interned at IBM, I’d sometimes find people would nap on their lunch hour. Seemed legit, especially if they have a Lazy-Boy type chair in their office, or better yet, a couch!

Naps can do phenomenal things for our body. A 20 minute power nap can rejuvenate you to power through and get things done. With the teaching schedule we keep for most of the year, it throws off all of the natural processes of the body. Can you imagine your bathroom time being dictated to you? Your eating time? It’s not very good for your body. Add the stress levels, increased cortisol and weight gain and it’s the pits.

So when summer comes ’round, I try to take advantage of naps when I can. I just feel so much better after a nap.

Besides, nobody likes a cranky butthead.

Happyness
Summer = Happiness.

To me, summer is pure happiness, like a bottle opened up to the world. I love summertime.

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