Tuesday, June 14, 2016

It's "just" a trip.

Old Lahaina Luau 2004


I fell in love with Hawaii instantly. The first time I went was in 1996, and I felt like I was home, even though I knew that didn't make any sort of logical sense. I attributed this feeling with being young and not having had much travel experience. I figured it was normal that I fell in love with such a beautiful place if I hadn't been to too many other places. I wasn't sure when or how, but I knew I'd be back. Fast forward 8 years. I had been divorced, remarried, and had a few other really beautiful places under my travel belt. I surprised my husband for his 30th birthday with two tickets to Maui. I worried he would not love it as much as I had, and I worried even more that I would not love it as much as I thought I had. Like so many other things we fret about in life, both of those concerns were pointless: I loved it even more than I had the first time, and he had the same exact reaction to the sights, culture, and feel of the island.
Watching sunrise at 10,000 feet at Haleakala Crater 2004

At this point in our relationship, we had been struggling to start a family for a while, and while on our trip we both agreed that we would give it one more year. If after one more year of trying, we could not get pregnant, we would take it as a sign that it was not meant to be and we would pack up and move to Hawaii.  We returned from the trip feeling homesick for a place we weren't even really from, and started investigating cost of living and swapping our Florida teaching certificates for ones from the State of Hawaii. We discovered we were pregnant 8 months later. Raising a child away from our families and the grandparents (Hello...free babysitting!) was not an option. We shelved the "We Are Gonna Move To Hawaii Life Plan" for a bit. When Ben was 18 months old, we left him in the very capable hands of his grandparents and returned to Hawaii--this time to the island of Oahu--for a glorious getaway for our 5 year anniversary. Little did I know that my husband had been planning a surprise renewal of vows ceremony, complete with a minister and professional photographer.

Renewal of vows ceremony at Halona Cove Beach 2007

That night was the beginning of yet another magical few days spent in Hawaii. At the conclusion of that trip, sitting on the most amazing white sands of Lanikai Beach in Kailua, we decided two things: we wanted to have another baby (even though we had sworn we would only have one child) and once they were both old enough to appreciate it, we would return for a summer in Hawaii with our kids.

That was almost 10 years ago.

Tomorrow we leave on that trip.

We've been talking about it for years, and actively planning it for three.

It's only a trip, I keep telling myself. It's only a trip.

But really, who am I kidding?

This is not just a trip.
This is a dream.

And we made it happen.

We rented a little house on the sand on the North Shore of Oahu. We will be there for half the summer--a whole month. We are flying for 3 days in the middle of the month to Maui. We will take our boys back to all those places we loved and hope they love it as much as we have. There have been many sacrifices made for this trip...big decisions and little ones. And for a long time I wondered if this would ever happen. It's hard for me to explain how important this trip is. Making this a reality is proof to myself that I can choose the kind of life I want to live: that I can prioritize what is really, truly important and make it happen. Although I understand that this is not really an accomplishment, I still feel a sense of pride that we did it: we made it happen. We're really doing this.

I have wondered what my reaction to the islands will be this time around. Can they possibly meet my expectations yet again? Will I get that same feeling...like I'm home? Will I again feel homesick when it's time to return to my real home? Or will I realize that, after all the traveling and cool places I've been to in the last decade, Hawaii is just one more wonderful, amazing place? Will I feel like: okay, I'm good now. No more longing for a Hawaiian relocation...?

I wonder. I don't know. But I do know one thing for sure: after this month, I will be able to say I spent a summer with my kids in a little house on the North Shore of Hawaii.

No big deal. It's "just"a trip.
Aloha...


Mai Tai-ing It in Waikiki 2007

 P.S. Like I did last summer, I'll turn this blog temporarily into a travel blog. I'll post updates and pics throughout the trip, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Look who's on Mamapedia today!


My simple and happy post about my simple and happy life is being featured on Mamapedia today!

Needless to say, I'm quite happy about it.

It's funny: when I wrote that post, my only intention was to get my feelings down on paper. I was sitting in my backyard, listening to music, watching my boys playing in the pool, and wanted to capture the simple bliss I was feeling at that moment...the feeling of gratitude and contentment. It was one of those experiences I have sometimes where I just put pen to paper and go. The words sorta come out of me without any effort or self censorship. I was happy when I finished it, and here's the thing: I almost didn't post it on the blog. I was worried it would seem boastful or pointless. And then I had to remind myself that my blog is, first and foremost, for myself. A couple of days later, I was contacted my Mamapedia. It was another reminder that I shouldn't second guess myself and my words so much.

So yeah, no big deal...just go on over to Mamapedia...'cause I'm right there...ya know....where it says "Mamapedia National Voices" and "Mamapedia Miami Voices"


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Frantic



I get frantic. It's what I do. I think, unfortunately, it's just how I am.

I get all jittery inside: like a pinball machine. Or, better: one of those bouncy balls my kids get out of coin machines. You know the kind...a tiny, rainbow-patterned swirl of rubber boing!-ing around all over the place. Your kid bounces it "just once," and then it's gone...each time it hits a surface--the wall, a kitchen counter, the TV table--it seems to gain more speed...and pretty soon it's going in so many different directions, you can't keep up with it. Until, someone finally wrangles it into containment. That is usually one of my little boys, pouncing on it, throwing his whole body onto that little extra-bouncy bouncing ball, as he giggles so loudly and uncontrollably that it makes the "It's-going-to-break-something!"-situation worthwhile.

Yep, that's me. The bouncy ball.

I'm working on the containment part.



Good. Bad. It doesn't matter. I get like this as much (possibly more) with Good Stuff, as I do with Bad. But the Good Stuff...it can be minor, silly, stupid stuff that really...really...does not need all this frantic, frenetic, bouncing energy.

My kids' pre-k graduations.
A Mother's Day show.
My favorite band's concert.
A vacation.

C'mon. I mean, these are all really awesome things. But I suspect that maybe, just maybe, I would enjoy them even more if I calmed down a bit.

And it's not like a logical thing. It's not like "Oh, I'm frantic inside because I forgot and did not get the tickets for the show." or "Oh, I'm only this frantic because there is a traffic jam and I may not make it to see my 4-year-old looking incredibly cute as he wears a teeny tiny cap and gown and walks down the aisle to the graduation march."

No, no.
I wish.

'Cause, really, then maybe it would make more sense. Like, I could actually explain why I'm all jittery inside. Then my friends and my husband may not think I was totally crazy. (Truth is, I don't care too much about that, but I do know that I am, in fact, a bit crazy, and it does, actually, drive me totally crazy.)

No, it's not logical. Sometimes, I don't even realize I'm all bouncy inside. And then, when I do--because I notice my face feels hot, or because my heart is racing, or I'm talking waaaaay too fast--I pause and ask myself "Why?" I check in to see what it is, exactly, that I have missed or forgotten to do or is still pending that has put me into this State Of Emergency Feeling.

And, the answer?
Usually?
Nothing.
Not.
A.
Thing.

'Cause here's the thing about me, too: I'm not just frantic. I'm Type A. ("Diligent" my therapist once called it, thank you very much.) And diligent people tend to get shit done in a timely and organized manner. So diligent people don't usually forget to buy the tickets. Diligent people take into account possible traffic jams when calculating the time it takes to arrive to a destination. Diligent people don't usually have a valid reason to be frantic for a big (good) event.

So.

At least I'm checking in on the bouncy ball frantic feeling, right? At least I'm asking myself what's going on? At least I'm catching myself and becoming aware and noticing the ball boing!-ing all over the place on my mental surfaces?

And so.

The containment part...

I'm working on it.

I had not been too successful in the past. I would either dismiss any accusations of unnecessary crazy, or defensively claim "That's just how I am!" (and secretly wonder, "Why aren't you like that too?").

"I can't help it." I would say, in fact.

"I can't help it"?!?

Really?  I really said/thought/believed that? Really?

Yes.

(Disclaimer: And sometimes, I still do.) But mostly, I have realized that more important than actually being able to "help it," is wanting to.

I want to help it.
I want to calm myself down.
I don't want to be in a nearly perpetual state of emergency and claim that it's my intensity or my passion or my writer's head.
I have realized that, for me, at least, there is no glamour or glory in this.

I used to like drama and all that. It made me feel, I suspect, important. Like: I must be pretty important and my life must be pretty important if I make this fill-in-the-blank THIS big a deal.

But who the hell wants to live like that?

Not me.
Not anymore.

I'm so much more into mellow, now.

(Another disclaimer: I'm not saying I am mellow--at least not most of the time--but I do like mellow.)

I have come to realize that I can enjoy Good Stuff just as much and get through Bad Stuff even better if I am mellow. Calm. Present.

So I attempt to contain the bouncy balls these days.

I breathe. A lot.
I talk to myself (in the good way). A lot.

I am not always successful. I have realized, too, that this really is "just how I am," but there is no judgment or beating myself up for being frantic. And although there are more times now than ever before that I can, in fact, pounce on it, throw my whole body onto that little extra-bouncy bouncing ball and stop it, there are also those times when the ball keeps going...gaining speed as it hits that damn kitchen counter or that living room wall.

But it's okay. because like my little boys, I will keep chasing after it as it keeps boing!-ing around, and I'll make sure to remind myself to giggle loudly and uncontrollably along the way, so that it's all worthwhile.




Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A simple, happy life


This may be the happiest I've ever been.

I feel like I've finally settled into myself...into the Life I Was Meant To Have.

I can stop--probably for the first time ever--truly stop and collect myself. Stop the noise in my head, when I need to.  Stop the frantic-ness that can be Me.

I have created this day-to-day life where I am outside a lot. In a bathing suit. Barefoot.

My yard is filled with palm trees constantly threatening to drop concussion-inducing coconuts. I fall asleep on especially windy nights to palm fronds hitting, swishing, lulling.

My boys are almost always sun-kissed--their long manes lightening with the sun. Vitamin D, this family is certainly not lacking.

I listen to country music now--a lot. I find it soothing and it makes me smile.

My back patio double doors are often open.

I do yoga and I meditate on pavers warmed by Saturday morning sun, overlooking the turquoise water of a pool that is quite worn--everything but fancy.

We know our RV is always sitting in the yard--an escape, freedom--available any time.

I have good, good people in my life.  A full house on New Year's Eve (after thinking "no one is coming...we are living too far East now") with family and friends and kids, dancing The Wobble in hysterics, singing every Florida Georgia Line chorus, dancing merengue to the songs of my childhood.

I am happy in my own skin--in spite of its weathered, far-from-young-and-smooth surface.

I am married to a man who, even after nearly 15 years, I can't believe I was actually lucky enough to find and coerce into attempting to put up with me.

I live in a cozy little house--with walls the color of that pool water and shelves made from driftwood we found on beaches and collected through the years.

Yes, I've been lucky. But I've made choices. I've taken chances. I've trusted. I've dared.
And this--this is the happiest I've ever been.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Why your soulmate has got to be yourself - Throwback Thursday



When I got divorced at the ripe old age of 25 and moved into my first-ever apartment of my own, I put up a poem on the back of my bedroom door. That door eventually morphed into a sort of inspiration board. I taped torn out quotes and pictures and images that were meant to inspire me. What they did at the time, actually, was help me get through a really rough, disorienting stage of my life. Sixteen years and 3 different homes later, my messy back-of-a-door pseudo board is now a real bulletin board with completely different clippings and quotes and even purpose. Luckily, my board now just makes me happy and reminds me of moments and thoughts and a little bit of who I am. The only thing that remains is still that poem.

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

~Derek Walcott


Now, it's more of a reminder of the stranger I was to myself, and the "elation" and gratitude I feel still today at being able to "feast on" on my own life. But back then, here's the story behind the poem:


Why Your Soulmate Has Got To Be Yourself
*Originally posted here on April 12, 2013




I tore that poem out of the back of an Oprah magazine so many years ago, that I can barely remember. I laminated it and taped it up to my bedroom door, right next to my full length mirror. I didn't particularly reread it often; it just kinda stuck there. Every once in a while, I would read the lines: "The time will come when, with elation you will greet yourself arriving at your own door...". 

When I moved out of that little apartment, the only place I ever lived in by myself, during the most difficult time in my life, I carefully peeled back the tape's edges, packed it up along with some race numbers and quotes that had joined it on what had become my Inspiration Door (if you will), and took it with me.

The poem, once again, was carefully taped back up in my new home: the starter home I was now sharing with The Love of My Life. I was happy. I was fulfilled. Yet, the poem went back up. I didn't read those lines so often anymore, but I couldn't part with them. They needed to be there.

After a few years, one child, more joy, I untaped the laminated page once again, and packed it up to my Corner Lot Home in Suburbia (how the hell did that happen?!?) with my  Still Love of My Life, and up the poem went.

Those words, with me, for so long.

I barely remember the girl who needed the reminder...the girl who I used to be.

So very long ago, I would not have greeted myself at the door. I certainly would not have invited myself to sit and eat and drink.  I'm not really sure why. I just know that I couldn't own up to who I was. I couldn't really be proud of myself because I was too busy worrying about who other people thought I should be.

At some point, when the shit started hitting the fan inside my head, when I could stand the self-imposed repression no longer, I started to break out, little by little. Eventually, my little acts of rebellion turned into full-fledged metaphorical kicking and screaming and clawing. I needed out of that cage. I needed to fly.

I'd love to say that when that moment came, I simply went. But I didn't. I was hesitant and unsure and unsteady. In general, I was a fucking mess. The few people who I was blessed enough to have at my side suffered right along with me. They stood by me. They listened. They advised. They nodded their heads. And, when necessary, they'd shove me out of the cage I would occasionally fly back into to cower.

As rough and tenuous and unstable as that time was, I remember I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Those were the days when I'd read those lines: "The time will come when, with elation you will greet yourself arriving at your own door" and I actually believed it. I  knew the time would come. I just wasn't there yet. So I'd hang onto that when I felt frustrated or low or dark or worthless.

What happens in our lives that we start to feel that way about ourselves? What combination of events have to happen that some of us get to the point where we do not smile at our reflection in the mirror...that we would rather sit and have wine and bread with anyone else but ourselves...that we look to someone else--a spouse, a boyfriend, a child--to fulfill us, to make us feel whole and worthwhile? We depend on someone else's acceptance because we can't find it for ourselves.

The poem is still there, but I almost never even notice it anymore. It's just one more slip of paper on my closet wall. And certainly, there are days that I don't like myself so much. That I question whether I did the right thing or said the right thing or looked the right way. I second-guess myself. For a moment, I wish I could be more like (fill-in-the-blank-here) or a little less like myself. But on most days, I am able to invite myself in, open a bottle of wine, and feast on my own life. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Little Miss Understood

Drawing credit: artprojectsforkids.org

sometimes I wonder
if
being misunderstood
often
and chronically
is actually a good thing

a sign
that you are
different
headstrong
passionate
your own person

that it really does not
occur to you
that what you
said
did
or how you chose
to live your life
was not
The Way You Were Supposed To

if perhaps
instead of it
being a curse
or a burden
it is
in actuality
a
beam
of light
that dances inside of you
all the time

you were born with it

and it is that light
that sometimes
blinds
confuses
frightens
Everyone Else

but that beam
is a lighthouse

it signals to the others
that are not Other
but
just
like
you

Recognition.

and it lights the way
as you stumble
second guessing
doubting
trying to
fit in
be more this
less that
definitely always much less that

that dancing guiding light
it is there
even when
you have to squint

because
no matter
how inconvenient
it is
to be
misunderstood
by so many
so often
it
is actually a good thing


This poem was inspired by a little fairy who walks around with a light so big inside of her, it's most definitely blinding (in the good way); but it's really about myself and everyone else who is just a little different and often misunderstood.

Monday, March 28, 2016

We.



no one

is as happy

as We.



we have

grown

together



Somehow



we are always

on the same

page



wanting

the same things

rearranging

the same priorities



at the end of the day

it is always

each other

at

the

top

of

the

list



amidst all the bullshit

that comes

with

every day


We.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

My sister HAD breast cancer (Or: Time to pop open the sangria)


This one has a happy ending.

Usually, I don't like to know what happens at the end. No spoilers. But this story...this one I prefer starting with the ending.

My sister battled breast cancer. And won.

I hate those terms, even as I write them: battled, won.

What does that mean? That the people who didn't end up with clean pet scans three years later didn't battle? Didn't fight? If she, God forbid, had not made it, would I have said she had lost?

The truth is, I suspect, that she was lucky. Or that it wasn't her time. Or it wasn't meant to be.

Whatever it was, whichever cancer cliches I choose to use to describe it all...the ending is a happy one.

On November 3, 2012, my sister had an elective double mastectomy. I sat in the waiting room, cross legged in a scratchy chair, trying to shut out my parents' terror and my brother-in-law's fear by writing about my own. I haven't reread that post, ever. I plan to when I'm done with this one, but I will force myself to wait until I hit the "publish" button here before I go there. I want this post to be a clean purge, one based on what I am feeling and thinking now, and what I have thought the last few days, and what I have learned from her cancer; not a post that is reminiscent and dramatic because of that one.

Today, my sister received the news that her full body pet scan--the one her oncologist said would serve as her "closure"--was clean. Three years after a diagnosis, what seemed like a million surgeries and complications, a bald head, plenty of follow-up blood tests with good news...the final test. Her closure. Supposedly, she is now just like one of us: her statistics are pretty much almost the same as mine. Maybe yours. Maybe the guy in the cubicle next to her. She is...what? Cured? Done? A survivor? Regular? I'm not sure what to label it, exactly, but I like when an oncologist tells my sister this is her closure. I like when they use a machine so powerful it can look right into her body and find any chance of cancer, and then tell her: Nope. You're good. 

A happy ending.

Her cancer changed her. That is for sure. But it changed all of us, I think. I know it changed me. It was like I had that post war shock thing: it vibrates inside of me harder now than it did then. Back then, I was all head-down-get-through-it-taking-care-of-business-matter-of-fact. But later, it was like I lifted my head and looked around, confused, dizzy, shaky, like: Holy fuck, what the fuck was that? My sister had fucking cancer. My sister had fucking chemo. My sister could have fucking died. 

The reality of it: that cancer had actually touched one of us...not like a story about someone at work, or a parent of a friend, or a third cousin, or my 80-year-old grandfather. No, this was real. This was my healthy, loud, always-looked-younger-than-her-age, not-even-fifty-years-old sister. This was one of Us.

It made illness, frailty, mortality all real.

I have always tried to live life Big. My husband and I, we don't wait around too much on things we really want to do. We don't wait for the weekend to have fun. I have always tried to see life as finite and urgent.

But this...This...this just made me see that way of thinking as a Necessity more than a Philosophy.

And even the way I see my sister has changed. When the shit truly hit the fan, she did what she had to do. When she had drains sticking out of her body for days, she'd call them her "balls" and swing them around and make jokes. When she admitted that losing her hair scared her more than anything else, she shaved it off. When she was done with the physical fight, she turned inward and made her Self truly happier. When she was told it was better to stop thinking about it, she got herself trained as a volunteer to help other women going through it. She has been brave and real during all of it.

When she was waiting for these results, I really truly believed they were going to be okay. Something inside of me told me she was done with this. She had come out of it on the other side.  Today, this chapter of her life is closed, as far as I'm concerned. She deserved her happy ending.

**Follow-up: So yeah, I went back. I read the post. And now? Well, let's just say I'm gonna drink a lot of fucking sangria on Sunday with my sister.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

A Routine Life: A (Poetic) Throwback



Routine. For me, it brings on
.
Dread and Calm. Resentment and Certainty.

Routine allows for Life to be

Still. Easy. Expected. Smooth. Contained. Controlled.

But along with routine, comes the

Boredom. Restlessness. Tedium. Complacency. Stagnancy. Depression.

Routine has become almost a requirement.

Without it, the day to day

Becomes unmanageable. I lose my grip.

And so, Life becomes a series

Of rushed timelines, deadlines, and bedtimes.

Within these tight constraints of Life

I've realized the necessity, the power

Of veering away. Defying the restrictions.

A spontaneous night with wine, conversation

Becomes almost like a rebellion against

What Life has required of Us.

An occasional alarm clock ignored becomes

A snub at responsibility and reality.

The routine, I've realized, is only

Effective when I'm willing to bend.

Break away, every now and then,

And remember what my Life is

And who I am without routine.



This poem was originally posted here on December 3, 2010

Monday, October 19, 2015

I think I might be a mermaid

"I don't know why I'm so happy today."
"Because you spent the last two days on the water." 

My husband had, as usual, pointed out the obvious. I hadn't even made the connection.

We spent the whole weekend on or near water. Saturday, we participated in (get this) a local cardboard boat race. We spent the morning at a marina, along with several other local families, building and decorating boats made out of nothing more than cardboard, duct tape, and lots of imagination. When it was our turn, I thought surely the boat we had constructed, The S.S. Ohana, would either buckle, tip over, or immediately sink.
But, nope...much to our surprise (and admittedly, glee), the Ohana stayed afloat as we paddled not one, but four laps, and won 1st place for Overall Design and 2nd place for People's Choice (I'm sure it didn't hurt that we had a small mob of friends and family cheering for us).
The boys lifted those trophies in the air with such pride, you would have thought they were Superbowl tropies. By the time we left, we were all sunburned, salty, and soaked.

Sunday we woke up early and spent the day on our friends' boat. I couldn't believe that in spite of being major beach bums and living near the water our whole lives, we had never spent the day on the water like that. Our friends must have thought we were pretty ridiculous: I took pictures as if I were a tourist on vacation, we oooohed and aaaaaahed at every sight, and the four of us couldn't stop grinning all day. At one point, we were speeding along the intracoastal ("Go fast! Go fast!" the boys would chant) and I was sitting up front. The wind was so strong, if I turned my head, my sunglasses would fly off. The boys were up on the bow, their long surfer dos blowing like lions' manes. Hubby was back by our friend, who was driving. One of my favorite Kenny Chesney songs was blaring. I looked back at Hubby, who flashed me a very satisfied grin, and the look on his face reflected exactly what I was feeling: pure, absolute joy.




It didn't matter that the skies were a little overcast or that the water at the sandbar where we docked to swim was a little chilly. All that mattered was that feeling: I wasn't worried about bills or cleaning the house or what I was going to cook for dinner that week. There was no room in my head for the silly and not-so-silly anxious thoughts that so often plague me (or should I say with which I plague myself?). They were all pushed out by the wind and the music and the feeling of being on the water.

I have always loved the ocean...the beach is where my soul is happiest. It's funny how I had this feeling of contentment last night and didn't initially realize it was because of how I had spent my weekend. Life is, even during the best of times, busy and hectic. It's easy to fill your weekends with errands, must-do's, home projects, and hours on the couch with mindless TV because you're too tired to do anything else. The days are long but life is short. And if you're not careful, you spend too much of it getting things done rather than really living. We measure the quality of our lives within the constraints of our achievements: promotions, raises, bigger houses, better cars, nicer landscaping, those last 5 pounds... But I'm pretty sure the greatest achievement is a life filled with as many moments like the ones I lived this weekend: playing, laughing, feeling free. I refilled my soul this weekend...
...with a little salt water.