Unstuck, Unwasted, Unbroken

I snuggled into bed last night with the understanding that I was, quite possibly, the happiest woman on the planet. His arm heavy across my body, skin warm against my back, breath soft and slow on my shoulder. There is no place I feel safer or more loved. I click through the happy of the day. The kids – all six of them – are still thrilled with simple boxes of chocolate. We all made it to Dairy Queen Wednesday. My teenagers still like it when I play Xbox with them. My beloved wrote me a poem for Valentine’s Day. Even the residual hormonal yuck that is shark week and the hot flash that tried to take me out were a beautiful reminder that I am alive, balanced, and not pregnant. (Seriously, we have six children, I am holding out – in NO hurry – for grands at this point)

My writing for the day crossed my mind and I was satisfied with it. It feels good to work out some of that brain stuff in a way that feels both real and responsible enough to allow public consumption. It did occur to me, however, that maybe I give the wrong impression. I come back to the details of the work so often that maybe I don’t give play to the big picture in my writing. I know the big picture is well served in the other places I am. My happy is no secret. But in the pages, is it as documented as the other stuff? I don’t think so. I woke up this morning feeling a need to be more clear.

I live in a constant state of wonder. My brain is constantly creating open loops. Like, I wonder

  • is pink still my favorite color or has it finally become purple
  • am I being intellectually honest on my 2nd amendment position
  • should I go back to creamer in my coffee
  • could I learn more about plants
  • was Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam really that great
  • how do you discuss systematized racism in a way that allows for productive discussion
  • does he think my butt looks good in these jeans
  • how much time have I wasted
  • what’s for dinner
  • am I fucking up my kids
  • am I fucking up myself
  • did I put the clothes in the dryer
  • where are my keys

I could keep going. I just had to stop myself at the last one when I realized the next one was, “I wonder how many wonders I can wonder.” It’s a thing.

My distaste for open loops is also a thing. I spend an inordinate amount of time attempting to close the loops before they get overly distracting  or tangled up with each other. And, at the risk of offending my loops, some of them are more fun, others are more interesting, a few are actually productive, and some are just unfortunate.

The productive ones are my love/hate loops. I really love the work that comes from learning more and going deeper. I really hate the effort and the realness it sometimes requires. I understood a long time ago I am wired to want to be the best version of myself. More accurately, I would really love it if I could figure out how to become a better version of the best version of myself.  There are a bunch of reasons for this I am sure – but the root is love. The better than best version of me gives love people can receive and is able to receive the love people give. And, sitting here in this chair on this morning, I think I may have inadvertently answered the question, “How would you define success?”

The biggest challenge and opportunity in this journey is chicken/egg. I have all the wonders about myself as a person and in relationship to other people. Those wonders allow me to understand myself and relationship better. They also open me up to influences, both positive and negative. They do not guard me against mental sabotage, either from others or myself. So while I am always getting better, the tangled pieces require a lot of attention and that’s where the nouns and verbs tend to be the most helpful.

So you’ll see the messy that is the byproduct of my wonders regularly. But let me be clear so that there is no mistake made – either by you or me. While the appearance may sometime suggest otherwise, I am unstuck, unwasted, and unbroken. I am not shackled by past transgressions or perceptions.

For a minute I thought I was stuck. I had the toxic on loop (or so it seemed). I talked about it a lot with my closest people. I journaled it regularly. I sat alone with the hum on many occasions. In honesty, I got to the point where I realized I was dangerously close to wallowing, “picking scabs” if you will. Pushing the bruises so they stayed at the surface instead of allowing the wounds to heal. But I was not stuck. I was healing. And healing takes the time it takes and the path that it will. That is the opposite of stuck. That is progress.

The trick is to be mindful of the time it takes. The balance there is delicate. You can’t rush it, you have to give it the room it needs to do what it does. I did not find myself in the place where I had no clue about myself overnight. I was not going to figure the pieces out overnight either. To drift took time. To come back will take time. But time is finite and limited. Worse, we don’t know what those limits are. We are all just guessing at the time we have. To allow time to pass unfettered is to resign your life to the whims of chance. I just can’t. I have already lost a huge amount of time and watched myself allow waste to consume. But waste is redeemable. I understand the process of upcycling.

And I was out for a while. I yolo’ed a bit (I really dislike that term but it so frustratingly fitting in this concept), I ran a while, I hid for a minute, I bloomed slightly, I tangoed mostly. I can see how an outsider would consider those thing indicative of a broken person. I myself had moments of feeling brokenness. But I have come to understand the bones are solid even when the cosmetics look to need a little work. Dislocated and strained maybe. But not broken. Strength in our bodies comes from hard work, moving more than you thought you could, enduring more than is comfortable. When that workout is done, you may be sweaty, sore, and tired – but not broken.

So I am going to continue writing my wonders. Some may seem more painful than others, but they are not wonders  independent of other wonders. All the wonders touch each other in some way. It’s like “Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon” for the thoughts of the many. I wouldn’t trade any of them. I just need to acknowledge that I often have more than I have the opportunity at times to address here.

Started 2/15/2018
Completed 2/18/2018

#TeamGnat

I don’t think I have ever been so excited to see a sand gnat in my entire life as I was Sunday. Kids were slapping themselves silly and the adults were reaching for sprays and remedies.

I sat on the bench of the picnic table in my backyard and felt like a kid at Christmas 4th of July.

Weather is not my favorite. I like it one way – hot and sunny. I will tolerate warm and sunny. My face starts distorting at rainy (don’t even ask what my hair does). When the mercury dips south of 70, I get nervous and it is all downhill from there. Fall is my least favorite time of the year because it’s the furthest away I ever am from summer.  Hurricanes? Snow? Just. No.

This aversion to a wide range of weather patterns is not new to me. I’ve known this about myself for a long time. I typically get more moody in the winter and have to pay a bit more attention to my general outlook during those months. I live in southern Georgia for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is our milder, shorter winters.

Listen, I have been known to occasionally have the ability to pull my shoulders back, put my head down, and bulldog my way through situations that are less than fun. I am no stranger to the harder things and I can carry my own in the physical toughness/mental fortitude department. I am typically a pretty positive person with a seemingly deep reservoir for optimism. All that being true, this winter has seriously kicked my ass.

I didn’t realize what was happening until pretty late in the season. I have had a lot going on. There is way more change happening in my life than I am typically accustomed to. I am at this interesting moment in my life where I am happier and safer than I have ever been and that translates into more movement of environment and self than I can keep up with most days. My life resembles a drunken game of speed Yahtzee. Just when I think I have found my groove, I lose it again.

Since I came off the corporate payroll in October, every single strategy I have attempted to employ in my life has had roughly the same life span as a lovebug with about the same level of usefulness. And I have worked really hard on strategies – time blocking, goal setting, accountability, schedule keeping, free range, lists, reminders, affirmations – you name it. But, none of those things have helped. This all get pretty frustrating especially when the things I am attempting to accomplish aren’t even new to me. I would simply like to be a better caretaker of my family (food, chores, availability), a better friend (time, attention, support), and a better steward of myself (health, writing, self care). That’s it. That’s not a lot. I’ve done it before.

I have, surprisingly enough, been pretty gentle with myself in the process. I am very careful to watch how I talk to myself. Even those “better”s in the last paragraph gave me pause as I was worried how others might view them. I know that I don’t mean I think I am less than. I have come to a comfortable place where I know I will always want to be better and that’s okay. I can want to be better while still being happy with the present.

Except when the present looks like me last week, playing Call of Duty, in my pajamas, at 1:30 in the afternoon, hands wrapped around an Xbox controller being the only thing that kept them from being thrown up in utter defeat. I had completely given up on even trying to figure out why I couldn’t get the gumption to go to the gym, why I couldn’t noun and verb, why the laundry pile up was unphasing, why brushing my teeth seemed like the biggest chore in the world at that moment. Seriously, hadn’t I gotten my whole family up, out, and on time? That’s something.

But, the universe loves me and I have the best friends. A text came in completely unrelated to my life or Call of Duty. But because I have friends who think the deeper thought and love without judgement, I found the space to think about it for two seconds longer in a slightly different way.

Holy shit! It’s this effing weather. This is my first winter without a regular job. I have no frame of reference for being prepared to go through this particularly off putting time without a pretty rigid foundation for things I just have to do. I can’t find a center because I have been unable to spend any real time outside and I don’t have the crutch of the job. I wasn’t prepared to go into this season without a plan. The whole thing had caught me off guard.

I was encouraged by the realization. I instantly felt better. There was nothing I could about it at the moment. As good as I am, I cannot change the weather. But there is comfort in knowing. I took solace in that and felt a little better killing zombies.

We had a multi family potluck Sunday. The sand gnats showed up and I couldn’t have been more excited to see them.

 

Daring Greatly and Running with the Wolves

I have become the kind of person that reads multiple books at a time. There was a period in my life where I would have believed this to be unthinkable. How do you pick which one to read and when? How will you keep track of what you are doing? How will you ever finish anything if you are doing multiple things?

The first two questions sorted themselves out so easily I am almost embarrassed that they were even concerns. That last one? Now that one is valid. I do find myself leaving books unfinished. For instance, I started reading One Amazing Thing by Chitra Divakaruni over a year ago. It’s not a hard read, at 219 pages it isn’t long, and the story is pretty great. I just finished it last night. However, I have found that I don’t waste a lot of time on books that don’t interest me. In the days of “one book, then another” it was common for me to slog through a work I found less than interesting simply because I already felt pot committed. I felt compelled to close the loop before I moved on. Now, I just don’t pick it back up.

However, the danger of getting distracted is real. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown has easily been one of the most effective books I have ever picked up. I have gone back to this one again and again. I have yet to finish it. I am working on resolving that now.

My multiple reading habit is not what I sat down to tell you about. It just kinda happened that way. I sat down to tell you that I am reading Women who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. I can’t say if it’s the work or the timing, but it has catapulted itself into the top 5 of books that have rocked me at my core. I was only on page eight when I encountered

Wild Woman is the health of all women. Without her, women’s psychology makes no sense…She is what she is and she is whole.

She canalizes through women. If they are suppressed, she struggles upward. If women are free, she is free. Fortunately, no matter how many times she is pushed down, she bounds up again. No matter how many times she is forbidden, quelled, cut back, diluted, tortured, touted as unsafe, dangerous, mad, and other derogations, she emanates upward in women, so that even the most quiet, even the most restrained woman has a secret life, with secret thoughts and secret feelings which are lush and wild, that is, natural. Even the most captured woman guards the place of the wildish self, for she knows intuitively that someday there will be a loophole, an aperture, a chance, and she will hightail it to escape.

And the whole damn thing just gets better and better.

One of the clearest insights for me, so far, pertains to creativity. I won’t be coy.

Writing lately has been rough. Because it has been hard and I have the ability to distract myself with so many other things, I haven’t done a lot of it. As that creativity gets squashed, it becomes harder to find my center. The weather doesn’t help. I have gotten lost.

You can call it writer’s block. I don’t. I believe in writer’s refusal and I have indulged in a good bit of that lately. I needed focus. I needed something small, manageable, measurable, interesting, productive. I needed a blog series. Wolves is the perfect book for that – later. It is too much right now. I am still curled up with it in my private brain. But the idea is still a good one. Daring Greatly could work.

I sat in the Thinking Chair and opened up my copy. Incidentally, it looks like it has been read a hundred times up to page 157 and exactly zero times anywhere after that. It’ll indeed work.

Again, I don’t know if it’s her work or my personal headspace, but the book feels different in my hands from all the other times before. Instead of starving for the words, looking for some sense of explanation for what goes on in my brain, there is encouragement, understanding, and comfort. There is a sense of not just seeing the map, but knowing you have already, to some degree, successfully traveled this way before.

I’m sitting down with Brene again. I am gonna share those Thinking Chair moments here. If you aren’t familiar with her, may I suggest you find 20 minutes and 13 seconds for this awesomeness.

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If You Don’t Believe in God

I am Catholic. There are some who would argue with me because there are a lot of things about me that are very unCatholic. Well, they wouldn’t argue with me, they would argue at me as this is not a debate I would entertain. You don’t get to tell me what I am and what I am not. Folks are entitled to their opinion. To that I will simply say: 1) I am Catholic & 2) I am not perfect.

I have amazing relationships with folks all over the “what is the space made of” spectrum. The diversity of belief is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. It tells me that my faith is not programmed. It shows that the human brain is what I thought it was – special and unique. It shows that humans, at least as far as I can tell, are led by something more than biological programming.

This diversity also lends itself to interesting conversation concerning inclusivity, tolerance, connection, and the general Venn diagram of how non overlapping beliefs have overlapping consequences and are held by folks who require some kind of lap. (Yeah, I’m not even sure what I just did right there, but we are going with it.)

I had one such conversation today. We were discussing the idea held by some that love is nothing more than a biological reaction to hormonal stimulation. This coincided with a atheistic belief system.

I don’t believe that’s true. At least, I don’t believe the whole truth. I proposed a different idea.

I started with a fundamental belief that I have shared before – all emotions are rooted in and can be traced back to either love or fear. Additionally, I believe biology is real. I also believe that biology, while broad stroke standards exist, functions in the minutiae (which matters greatly) differently for each of us.

I also believe that there is an extraordinary characteristic to being human that is different from all other biology. I believe it cannot be tested explained, quantified, denied, or proved. I believe that is the soul. I believe that is God.

This conversation has been in my head the rest of this afternoon. There is a reconciliation that I have in my head that I am usually comfortable with. Occasionally however, I have to revisit. Conversations like these often require the reconsideration.

I believe in the God of the Bible. I believe in Jesus. I believe in the Red Letters.

I do not feel any kind of way with others who do not believe those things. I do not believe it is my job to convert them. I do not believe those things are required to be a good person. Moreover, I know that believing those things do not make you a good person. Assholes are assholes regardless of their relationship to theology or biology.

I realize there are red letter believers that disagree with me on this point. That I am soft or uncommitted. That I am turning a blind eye to the salvation of souls. That I am okay with damning people to hell because an earthly checklist has not been followed. To them I say they should reconsider how comfortable they feel holding that kind of opinion so far outside of their paygrade. I’m not privy to the Trinitarian annual board meetings. I don’t pretend to begin to know how all that works. All I do know for certain is Jesus always loved and he was never afraid (no, I don’t think fear was the motivator in the garden of Gethsemane) and he let God’s business be God’s business. Oh, and he loved his momma and daddy. So I do those things and leave the rest up to who’s really in charge.

I realize there are those who find faith and belief in God to be a ready characteristic for ridicule, condescension, and judgement. To them I say welcome to the world of the asshole proselytizer that you claim to hate. The message is different. The behavior is exactly the same. And trust me, it sounds the same and is just as effective when you do it.

I am still noodling an slip of an idea that I have that suggests that hypersensitivity and shallow judgement are directly proportional to manufactured diversity, but I don’t have it all flushed out yet. What I am pretty confident in is that if we continue to scream diversity and conversation while beating alternative thoughts until lips are swollen shut, we lose connection.

The truth is, was a time in my life I wouldn’t have had that conversation or written this post due to fear of offending. This is not the only topic that sparks that type of reaction and most people I know have those things they are not comfortable talking about for that very reason. Consider the wealth of ideas and progress we have effectively burned down because our pearl clutch barometer is set to “everydamnthing.”

So this is me opening up a discussion about religion, ideology, belief structure. I used to talk politics all the time. Maybe sex will be next.

 

Picture from http://davidshrigley.com

Thinking Deeper

Dig a little deeper.
Think of something we have never thought of before.

~A. A. Milne (1882 – 1956)

It is no secret I am a huge fan of social media. I have engaged online since the very early offerings. It has been a lot of fun connecting with old friends, making new ones, learning about different places, and finding new ways to photograph food. I enjoy almost everything about it – almost.

With this ability for virtually anyone to say anything to anyone anywhere, there has also been a few setbacks in our growth as people. I blame the meme. Don’t get me wrong, I love most of them. But this trend toward the bumper sticker, shallow idea has begun to thwart our vision of our best selves and hindered real connection with others.

Those two things – vision of best self and connection to others – are, in my opinion, where nearly all the magic happens. It is where challenges are overcome, goals are realized, new adventures take shape. It is, essentially, where life happens. When we give in to less than in exchange for the easy, when we allow the fluff to take the place of substance, we zap all the amazing out of what it could have been. Kinda like window food. Sure, some of it is great, fast, and easy. But it can’t begin to compete with the smell that comes out of a kitchen when someone is wearing an apron and the anticipation of what is coming next.

Today I want to encourage you to think a little deeper. Pick any topic you want. Current events, social issues, a work project, a recipe, anything. Take a minute and consider all the things you think are a given about that idea – no white after labor day, salting the water before the potatoes, why democrats are considered liberal – you get the idea. Think about those things and consider them in a new light. What if we turned them around just a bit, maybe attempted to imagine our background was different, our worldview was altered, anything to adjust the thought and dig a little deeper. We may still think the the original thought, but the practice of thinking actual thoughts and having actual conversations will encourage our best self and greater connections. Promise.

Thanks for the coffee,

~A

“Lilac Girls” ~ Martha Hall Kelly

Lilac Girls ended up in my Audible playlist after a desperate plea went out to one of the online book groups I belong to. I, as usual, was having a particularly hard time choosing my next audiobook. I decided to put out the call and read the first suggestion that came in regardless of title.

I’m glad I stuck to my resolve because Lilac Girls would have been a work I may have passed over. While I enjoy works that delve into the relationship and perseverance of women, I have to feel pretty certain that it is going to be magnificent if I pick up one that couples that with a historical backdrop.

Lilac Girls uses the alternating voices of three women to tell a nearly true story of the very real Ravensbrück, the largest German Reich concentration camp exclusively for women. Caroline Ferriday, Broadway actress turned French consulate pro bono liaison, Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager that doesn’t get to stay young long, and Herta Oberheuser, a German doctor who makes Annie Wilkes appear mildly sane.

I will share with you that, while I understood the historical places and events were real, I did not realize the story being told was also based mostly from actual lives. Since I was sold on the idea of reading whatever book was recommended, I didn’t look into the summary. The end of the novel contained an author’s note that explained the history behind the women, sources used, fictional liberties taken, etc. It occurred to me that the book may have read different had I known that going in. I decided the book may have read differently for a whole host of reasons – that one is neither special nor a spoiler, ergo, I will include it.

The plot moves quickly through travesties and graces that eventually allow the journeys of these three women to intersect. Quick stitched in are honest feeling accounts of ordinary women attempting extraordinary and unthinkable things. As a result, this is a satisfying story with slightly unsatisfying character development and detail.  However, I would not count this as author or story flaw. This undertaking was massive in scope and I can only imagine what it took to tell the story in 17.5 hours of audio (under 500 hardback pages). Kelly could have expanded the work, but to what end? It appears that at some point in the process Kelly realized she had a choice to make – tell the story in a way that kept the readership consistently engaged, or create a debut novel of epic proportions that, although complete, required a dedicated reader to commit to the task.

I think she choose well and the result is an enlightening piece of history, spirit, and illustration of just how good and bad we can be to each other.

 

TTNY 5 – What I Like About Me

As a part of the “This Time Next Year” journal writing, I am supposed to write about what I like best about myself. However since I have not followed one single suggestion of this journal yet, I am inclined to not force myself to now.

Here’s what I will say. I have no fucking idea what I like best about myself. I am hoping this time next year I will have a better idea. Right now I feel like I don’t know myself at all. That’s a scary place to be because if I don’t know me then how does anyone else. And if the folks I have relationships with don’t really know me, what are the relationships based on. And once I do get to know myself what if those people don’t really like me anymore. What if I don’t like me anymore. So do I really want to get to know me? Do I really have a choice?

The answer to the last question, obviously, is no. I do not have a choice. Getting to know me and who I am and what makes my gears go is essential to moving forward with my life. I have made some pretty life altering changes recently. What a shame it would be to make moves like that, to create the freedom and the space I need to understand myself and then waste that time sitting around in falseness.

What a shame indeed.

But I have come to one conclusion. I will like me. I can’t believe that a person, when living their truth, is wired to not like that truth. It may be uncomfortable for a minute, but when the dust settles, I think the answer to “is this really who I am” can be found in the way the soul feels full by the idea. To start small, I know I love food. Food makes my soul feel full. I am a person who loves to cook, feed, eat, smell, learn, food. I know this is a true part of who I am because participating in it sets my soul right.

Is food a small thing? Sure it is. But I can hold on to it as that benchmark of truth and what it feels like to discover who I am.

I have always been who I am in relation to another person. A daughter, a wife, a mother, an employee…I am not sure that I have ever taken the time to figure out who I am as a stand alone feature. Running is probably the closest I have ever come to figuring that out. Even while you are with people, running is solitary event. Folks can be with you, support you, motivate you, but they cannot take one step for you. I am the kind of runner I am based solely on what I do in and of myself. My training. My technique. My desire. My ability. My body. My brain. It is just me.

And I think I like just me. I think I like who I am and what I am becoming. There are so many things I wish I had done different. But sitting here at this computer, sifting through the fragments of me, I am starting to realize that maybe all this mess was purposeful. That maybe there is something to my idea of puzzle pieces and spirit animals. That caterpillars are on to something with their butterfly making ways.

TTNY 4 What would I change about myself – I hate being afraid

Let me go ahead and put this out there (already knowing that it is going to sound some kind of way). There’s not a whole lot about me I would change. I mean certainly, I think I can always improve. There’s always a faster time, a better way, more knowledge, more ability. There’s always the opportunity to be better today that you were yesterday and even better tomorrow.

But if we are talking about things I would fundamentally change about myself, there’s not a bunch going on there.

Save one I suppose.

I really hate being afraid.

The problem is I am afraid most of the time. Now don’t get me wrong. We aren’t talking about Freddy Krueger afraid. I’m talking about pit of the stomach nag, fuzzy head afraid. That fear you get when you think you may have said the wrong thing, worn the wrong shirt, picked the wrong restaurant, gave the wrong advice, picked the wrong stratedgy…just being wrong in a way that affects other people period. That kind of afraid.

And I stay that way pretty regular. Just today I bought a few gifts and looked for a few more. Petrified. What if I picked the wrong thing, wrong size, wrong store, wrong price? What if they just generally don’t like it? And it was damn near paralyzing. In fact, it was so overwhelming that I damn near went back and returned everything 45 minutes after purchasing them. Ridiculous, I am aware.

I’m a little afraid right now because this little collection of words isn’t doing what I want it to. Or maybe it is. But I really think not. They feel corny and indulgent. damn near pointless.

But I am going to keep putting the nouns and verbs together because behind the fear is something else. There is a nagging sensation that two things are happening…

One, I am working through and being honest with the fact that I do get scared an awful lot. That’s a big one. It isn’t any part of the person I want to be. It is the one thing that I know limits every other wonderful thing in my life. Fear, at least the kind that I am talking about right now, does nothing to promote my best life. It isn’t keeping me safe from bodily harm. It isn’t protecting others. It isn’t shielding doom. It is just making shit that doesn’t need to be hard, really fucking hard.

This fear makes me feel less than. It makes me behave and accomplish less than. It really makes me want to crawl back in the bed right now so that I don’t do anything else today that might have consequences that are a little uncomfortable.

I actually did just crawl back in the bed just then and take a nap. It was wonderful. The most amazing thing is not that I actually got to take a nap (as bizarre as that is) but that I actually still remember what the second thing was!

Two, as in most things that I chew up in my brain, I don’t think it’s just me. While I am sure there are boatloads of people who do not experience this type of fear regularly, I am also sure there are a bunch of us running around with this characteristic that we just never talk about. In fact, I am also willing to bet these are people who, if they told you, you would be shocked.

And, because it does me good to keep processing through in a way that puts words in the universe, I am continuing to work through it on this keyboard.

The truth is I feel much better now. That nap was pretty amazing. Maybe more sleep is the answer. More probable is the idea that just listening to my body is the best answer. It just so happens that in this instance my body said nap and I was able to comply.

But that isn’t always the case. I can’t always do what I want to do; or at least not without some unpleasant consequences. So the fearful living at some point has to give. But, that didn’t develop over night so I am certain it won’t dissolve itself in one journal entry or one nap…but it sure has been a start.

This Time 16 Years Later (TTNY 3)

It is time for me to write the obligatory “About Me” post. Interesting concept, the “About Me.” Isn’t really that the whole of what is going on with every post? Small little insights about the person doing the writing? But I suppose leaving it that way would be intentionally divergent without accomplishing purpose. There is a lot of value in providing the overview of background for context.

Because I am a writer, I have written a lot of these over the years. Whenever there is a new situation, writing space, or drought, this topic is always the easiest to go back to as it is the one that I am usually most familiar with.

16 years ago, give or take a few months, I was a seriously active Toastmaster member. I loved that stuff. If you are familiar at all, you know one of the first talks you give is about yourself. That talk became one of the favorite things I have ever written. I’ll put it in its original form somewhere.

But I have decided I am not going to start all over for my “set a timer for 5 minutes and write about yourself” exercise from This Time Next Year day three. (Yes, I skipped day 2. I can’t draw for shit and nobody wants to see that.) Instead I am going to break all the rules from day three and edit the shit outta what I already wrote and take whatever time I need to do it. I do what I want.

Interesting note (if not for you the reader then to myself for reflection later) ~ I haven’t read through this in quite sometime. Therefore, I am not real sure what’s gotta be changed, updated, added. In other words, I really hope this turns out.

Without further ado ~ the 2016 edition…

My father’s people call me Hapa Haoli. The words are Hawaiian; Hapa, meaning half, and Haoli meaning, white or mainlander. My mother is a beautiful Georgia Peach with the hair and freckles of the Irish and my dad is strong Hawaiian with salt water in his veins and sand in his hair. Both cultures are so rich with family tradition. You could say that I am a southern transplanted Hawaiian with a strong sense of family.

I am a southerner by heart, by speech, and by eats. There is nothing about the south I don’t like. From cornbread to grits, a hundred degree weather to 100 percent humidity. I have a drawl, I say ya’ll and a cook with so much ham hock and butter my vegetables are unhealthy. I say ma’am and sir and I can tell you, with pretty good accuracy, where yonder is. I love family reunions, weddings at the bride’s Grandma’s house, and azaleas in the springtime. I love the way southern people don’t move to fast, the way we take the time to say hello and smile. The way we take things easy – we really have no choice – most of the time it is too hot to do anything fast. Most of the colleges aren’t as big, but the football is great. Most of the doctor’s aren’t as rich, but she knows my history without my chart. My history, my momma’s, my two sisters my aunt, our neighbor – you get the point. I wouldn’t give up my Southern roots for all the tea in China – because we drink ours sweet and I don’t think they do.

I am Hawaiian by birth. My father comes from a family whose tree is planted firmly in the sands that are Hawaii. My father makes it a point to impress upon us the importance of the Hawaiian blood. Its traditions are rich and family important. I don’t have any Hawaiian friends. They are all family. They are not Mr. and Mrs. They are Auntie and Uncle. Our strength is in our Mana, the life spirit that comes from our ancestors before us. The force in our spirits that connect us to the land, the water, and each other. When the Mana is strong, there is nothing a person can’t do. The Mana of my dad, the mana he has passed on to me, is the central force of who I am.

In Hawaii, you are of the land or you are a visitor. There is no place in a Hawaiian’s heart for disrespect of the islands. The land is sacred. It is a part of the history of the people and as such has embedded upon its children the love and respect due to an honored parent. My father has done his best to keep traditions alive. It has been hard since we live so far away, but he has done well. My sisters and I can cook some of the more common dishes such as luau luau and lomi salmon, and we all dance the hula (albeit some better than others). The distance between the place I was born and the place I was raised is great, but they are both home.

My family is my rock. I believe that even without oxygen, my family could sustain me. The people in my tree define who I am. My mother has given me the courage to withstand all things. She has taught me the meaning of integrity and perseverance. She showed me how wisdom was important and that taking a stand was cool. She gave me the permission to open my mouth in protest as long as I remember that everyone deserves respect. My father gave me the backbone to follow through. He taught me that who you are is shown more by what you do than what you say, who you know or what you have. Together they showed me that nothing is more important than waking up every morning knowing you were loved unconditionally. I now have my own children to love unconditionally.

My two oldest children are nearly grown. One is already an adult child who has launched into the world in beautiful fashion I could not be more proud. The other is an amazing free spirit who is still changing and growing. Watching this child become the person she was meant to be has been like watching one of the great transformations.  My two littles are only 11 months apart. As close as they are in age, they are like sun up and sun down – both beautiful and glorious yet on completely opposite ends of the earth.

These children feed me life. As much as parents are supposed to teach their children, they have taught me more. They have showed me that most answers are simple and most hurts can be cured by a hug and an ice cream. I now know that folded clothes, if left unattended for a second, will need to be folded again and dirt has radar. I have also learned that their best chance of becoming wonderful adults involves being around wonderful adults. In this they have shown me the kind of person I strive to be.

I have the best friends. They are like a bouquet of flowers – each different and colorful and bringing incredible life into my world. I love them dearly. They are more than friends, they are fellow journeyers. They walk with me down my life’s path and allow me to experience theirs.

My personality evolves everyday. With each new experience my repertoire changes. I grow and learn and increase myself. But who I am, where I am from and the things I hold important are as certain as Georgia Heat, Hawaiian Surf and the roots that have been nurtured by each.

This Time Next Year

I bought this cool little journal. It’s titled “This Time Next Year~365 Days of Exploration”  by Cynthia Scher. It’s this neat little set up that is full of prompts that move you through this look into yourself and different pieces of you each day.

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The funny thing about me grabbing this book is the only thing I think I ever constantly done for 365 days straight is breathe. I’m trying to think of another thing. Right now, I got nothing. Maybe we will come back to that.

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But I am in the middle of a divorce so I think I am going to give this a real shot. This next year is going to be a life changing one. I think I kind of owe it to myself to pay a little closer attention.

The first day is supposed to be kinda easy. I am always kinda suspect of any writing idea that appears on the surface to be easy. But who am I to borrow trouble…

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Your name. That’s supposed to be the easiest thing right? Mental note to wax poetic about how that isn’t the case at some later, more appropriate time.

The story behind my name is ~ See, not easy. My name is about as story filled as it gets. So I am going to make a long story short and make yet another note to myself to come back to this later if I run out of time this  morning (this is in honor of my commitment to write everyday, whether I can publish it or not, whether I complete it or not, whether I delete it or not). My first name just is as far as I know. It was not the only option, but it did win out in the end and I am thankful as I am not sure the other contestants were completely thought through.  I share a middle name with my paternal great grandmother (story goes my name was decreed, not suggested). My soon to be former last name comes from one of the best families I’ve ever known and given to me by a young man who rode in on a white horse (that looked a lot like a pickup truck) almost 20 years ago.

Your nickname is ~ Momma? People typically just call me by my name. I had a nickname once many moons ago. Honey. That’s a cute story all its own as well and the face of the sweet little toddler that gave it to me is still fresh in my brain.

The story behind your nickname is ~ Guess I got ahead of myself up there 😀

Your secret name that you you wish you had ~ Ummmmm? I dunno. Siri calls me Queen Bee. My oldest spawn has me saved as “Giver of Life” in her phone. Since this is my journal, I guess that counts.

The story behind that name is ~ My kid is super funny and creative. I heard the Lordes lyric “You can call me Queen Bee” and loved it.

You are a (quick what pops into your mind ~ whole person. Yet another thing I’m going to have to come back and expand on.

The most important thing anyone should know about you is ~ That I am a whole person. A sum greater than the parts. Some of them match, some of them contradict, some are static, others always changing. If you don’t know me today, all you really know about me is who I was yesterday.

You are passionate about ~ Words and food. Both matter.  Both convey emotion. Both provide connection, community, opportunity. Words and food. So many possibilities in those two little things.

#nobow