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

Happy Thanksgiving

I have messed around for about an hour an a half trying to decide if I was ever going to touch these keys this morning. There is too much personal emotion to even think about my book. It is Thanksgiving, so while personal emotion is appropriate, I don’t feel like getting too heavy is appropriate. That same Thanksgiving gratitude is bringing me back to matters of the heart. I start to wonder at what point do I really need to write about something else.

I guess the answer to that question is simply when I don’t feel like writing about it anymore. In truth, that is one of the beautiful things about writing for yourself. You can really write about whatever it is you want. The downside of being overly concerned about what people think is that, in order to write about whatever you want, you have to spend two paragraphs explaining yourself before you just say…

Can I tell you how Thankful I am right now? My eyes popped open like a kid on Christmas morning. This IS my Christmas morning. It is Thanksgiving Day. It is my favorite holiday of the year.

The smell in the condo is perfect. Proof that the turkey is in the oven makes it all the way back to our room. It’s early, but there is no way I am getting back to sleep; not this morning.

But I do lay there for a minute. There is no reason to rush. He is so warm when he sleeps, the closeness is comforting. The ease in his breathing, the safety his form provides, the reach for me even when he is dreaming; there is no desire to move from this place quite yet.

The stark contrast to the Thanksgiving morning  a year ago is not lost on me. The thought feels a bit disloyal. That’s strange, I know. That is one of those feelings that I always get, right or not, when a condition of this life overcomes a condition of my life from ago. Like it is unfair to ask this life to make up for the other. But it happens and there’s no stopping it. I have come to the conclusion that the attempt would actually be worse. While it is true that it is not the responsibility of the others in the present to repair the others of the past, it is their gift.

Gift is so much different than responsibility. I have no expectation or right to a gift. The gift giver has no requirement or obligation to tender it. But, because love does what it does, it is there. Just what I needed, just for me, just because. And I have always thought it bad form to refuse a gift.

It is with this perspective that I choose to frame this morning’s recollection in tandem with the comfort of my present. The recollection is painful. It was the only point in the whole of the scorched earth that I cried.

I awoke Thanksgiving morning last year with a lot to be thankful for. There was a freedom I had never experienced before. The burdens that I had carried for so long, the eggshells I navigated were gone. My life was mine again, even if I wasn’t yet quite sure how to live it – it belonged to me. I had found what I hoped was going to prove to be unconditional forever love in the most unlikely and unexpected place. I had gratitude, I had love, I had hope.

I awoke Thanksgiving morning last year to an empty, quiet, smelless house without any prospect to the contrary. Preparation had not been needed. Cooking was not my responsibility. There were no children eagerly awaiting their next helpful task. No timers, no oven schedules, no setting up, no thawing out. Just me, in a house. I sat in my thinking chair and sobbed.

As the tears came to an end and I began to sort through the hurt, there was still gratitude. I was grateful that I still had the ability to be soft (I had begun to wonder). I was grateful for the prospects I did have. Although it was not the Thanksgiving I had come accustomed to (three days of cooking, mimosas, full house), there was a beautiful day planned with family, a road trip, a reunion, and the promise of connection. There was a lot to be Thankful for. Even though the heartbreak over what was no more was real, the gift of what I had and what was to come was worth it.

This Thanksgiving season, we have been on holiday since Friday. The children have had a excellent time taking in all the uncrowded, off season wonders to be had in Gulf Shores. They have been a delight and are delighted in. There are always smells and sounds and preparation.

This Thanksgiving morning I awoke to a full, anticipated, aromatic condo with all the promise that those things suggest on this, my favorite holiday. In truth, this is still a bit different from the Thanksgivings I have carved for myself in the life from ago. And, in the spirit of being completely open and transparent, there is a part of me that mourns just a bit for the rhythm that is familiar.

I have no guilt in that feeling. There is an understanding I have that I am not sure I am skilled enough to convey here. There are pieces of happy that I created in the life from ago. They were the things I clung to waiting for the rest to sort itself. I am appreciative of the work I was able to do there, the memories I was able to make. To miss those things that, not unlike a child’s security blanket, gave me comfort and normalcy, does not seem unreasonable to me. Missing the baby does not require the missing of the bathwater. That’s nearly terrible but I am at a loss to explain it any better. At this moment, I don’t feel compelled to.

This Thanksgiving morning I have prepped and planned. My heart is full. My children are asleep. My thoughts are sorted. On this, my favorite holiday of the year, I wish you and yours all the happiness in the world. I am going to go back and enjoy a few more snuggles from my happiness and steal a second Thanksgiving awakening with smells and anticipation. May your turkey be perfect, your mimosas mixed right, the pies free of calories. From our family to yours.

Living in the Thinking Chair

I live in my Thinking Chair.

I don’t mean, obviously, that I am confined to or spend all my time in said chair. 

So, I just gooogled “live” in preparation for my next sentence after the crossed out one above. Funny how concentrating on semantics will lead you to a really neat insight. This. This is why I love to write.

 

I remain alive in my Thinking Chair.

Nearly my whole life I have desired a space, a corner, a chair. It would be only mine and it would be a safe haven for those things that restored my heart. It would be uniquely me with purpose and obvious function and feeling. It would remind me of those great movie scenes where the self assured, self confident, successful woman wore her too large, off the shoulder knit sweater that still made her look amazing and not frumpy, with her piping hot coffee sending steam in front of a beautiful non makeuped face and impossibly put together bed head, as she settled in to her well deserved Sunday morning in her space. I don’t even know if that’s a real movie or one I created. I’ve played it so often in my head it’s hard to tell at this point.

In this, the last year of my 30’s, I got my space. I got my Thinking Chair.

The search for the chair started out as a hunt for a reading chair. I wanted something that would fit nicely in the empty bedroom corner and was designed for long periods of comfortable book snuggles. I had a decent budget. So I started sitting in chairs. My older children joined in the hunt. The giggles at mom as she sat, lounged, floundered, threw legs over chair arms in the middle of furniture stores were plenty.

“Mom, seriously?”
“She has to make sure it’s comfortable!”

I indeed did.

Let me tell you there are some beautiful reading chairs out there. Round ones that swivel. Super soft ones that recline. Convertible ones that turn into a bed. And I loved many of them.

But I couldn’t pick one. While they were all within the budget, they were the whole budget. And while they were all beautiful, they all felt manufactured. It’s weird trying to describe this inanimate object as lacking because I felt it had no heart, but that’s exactly what was going on. I couldn’t find a chair with personality. I have a hard time spending time with people without personality. I guess that spills over into my chair preference as well.

Declaring the search over for the day, we stopped by the mall on the way home so the girls could get some craft stuff. I rarely find myself at the mall, so I had no idea that a large, second hand shop had opened up there.

And there it was. My chair.

I sat, laid, lounged, curled. I asked the associate if it was new as it looked like it had never been touched. She said technically no as it had come from an estate sale. However, I pulled cushions and unzipped covers; the thing looked brand new.

“Momma! It’s the Thinking Chair!”

 

Madison was absolutely right although I had not noticed originally. But her childhood nostalgia registered the similarity to the famous Blue’s Clues staple immediately.

And now, the Thinking Chair helps me put my clues together.

In this space I have my space. Just sitting in it suggests that I have made time for my soul and that is good. Being here gives encourages freedom from responsibility, permission to let my mind wander, safety to let my thoughts roam, comfort for the exercise of The Many.

I remain alive in my Thinking Chair.

I will tell you…but we have to talk about this first

So a really cool thing happened on my Facebook page a few days ago. I posted this

After 5 pregnancies, 4 deliveries, nearly 36 birthdays, I NEVER thought I would look this way again. Stronger than I have been since I was in my early 20’s and my washboard is back (although with some new tiger stripes). Melissa, Tanisha, Marc, Victoria, Dan, Shannon, Tony & Allison, Lisa, Sabine ~ and a host of others I can’t tag because of facebook’s stupid tag limit ~ Thanks…the hard work, attention to food and body, focus and spirit connection, is not only paying off now, but is proving to be a shift in lifestyle and not another tangle with fad diets and sporadic exercise activity. I really appreciate y’all. My future grandchildren thank you as well!!

And my friends showed out to the tune of 117 notifications!

**Are most of the comments made by folks that liked thus not actually resulting in 117 individual people? Yes. Did that change the number of notifications that came through and actual instances of encouraging moments to me? Not on your life.

Almost immediately my friends came to my side, encouraging and congratulating. The amount of happy conveyed was immeasurable. I hoped one day to return the favor. I quickly discovered how.

There are a bunch of folks out there just like me who want to make different choices. They want the results I am getting. They want me to tell my story. And I will. In a minute. This conversation has to happen first.

I hit a ton of roadblocks in my journey. I am still hitting them. I do not do everything “right”. Quite frankly, I don’t even know what that means. In all honesty, if I did, I probably still wouldn’t do it.

While researching, talking, and listening, I encountered quite a few folks who obviously did know “right.” And if it didn’t feel right to me, conflicted with a different piece of research I found, or just didn’t factor high onto my personal priority list, well, I was obviously the uneducated dolt who just didn’t care enough about my well being to hear what they had to say.

I can’t function that way. Good on folks who can. That ain’t me.

I am going to go back to last year and tell you my story thus far. Please know that I made no decisions haphazardly and my choices may or may not fit for you. That’s okay. We are all different. We all have different perspectives, resources, priorities, desires, and lives.

Here is what I can tell you.

  1. We aren’t talking real estate, so I am not trying to sell you anything 😉
  2. Every word of that Facebook post is true.
  3. I am happier than I have been in years.
  4. Your choices are not my choices and vice versa. So there is no judgement here. You do you, I do me, and maybe we can help support and encourage each other in the process.
  5. I am not a professional dietitian, nutritionist, sport medicine, whatever ~ I know some, but I ain’t one. All the information I give you will be solely anecdotal with references that stand on their own.
  6. Thanks for everything. I can use all the help I can get.
  7. In appreciation for that help, I offer all the help that I can.

So, that being said, I will post about my health choices. But you have to know, you are probably already mostly awesome 🙂 Your path may have different things in store for you. I can’t wait to hear what they are!

Hallelujah is Our Song

Do not abandon yourselves to despair.
We are the Easter people
and hallelujah is our song.

~Blessed Pope John Paul II

Thanksgiving is next week. I have been blessed to be around a bunch of folks who are taking this time of the year to intentionally reflect and name those things for which they are thankful. It is a glorious season.

Interestingly, this time of year also magnifies difficulties. Financial struggles become more pronounced. Estrangements and distances between family and friends become more noticeable. Fears about tomorrow and angst over yesterday occupy more of our minds.

There has been quite a bit of suffering, illness, tragedy, and death lately. I don’t know if it the hurts are increasing, if they are hitting closer to home, or I am just noticing them more.

I don’t have many words today (you are shocked I know). But even the chick who turns around Tuesdays finds some Tuesdays more heavy than others. In fact, I almost skipped today. If I myself have no words, then what is there to put out?

I can embody those things I always try to instill in others.

Today I encourage you remember the Easter, participate in the Thanksgiving, and be glad in the Advent, the new beginning that we are each afforded with every single breath. We cannot help others heal the ills that hurt our hearts if we wallow in our own. We cannot offer comfort to those afflicted if we constantly require comforting ourselves. We cannot carry on the mission of those who have gone before us if we are plagued by grief. We are human and we hurt. We are blessed and we sing the hallelujah song. Sometimes we just have to do them at the same time.

Gratitude and Generosity

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

Sir Winston Churchill, (1874-1965)

I hope everybody has had all the good food one can handle. Here’s also hoping the leftovers are just as good in your house as they are in mine. My mom still cooks the majority of our holiday meals. Those leftovers are wonderful.

We always have leftovers because Mom cooks for two armies – the one we know is coming and the one that might. Lucky for her, she has two refrigerators and a deep freezer. But we don’t usually have that many leftovers, being from the South and all.

I say from the South because I don’t know how they do it in the rest of the country. But down here, everybody goes home with a plate – either for yourself or somebody you know that couldn’t make it. Many times it’s both.

The end of Thanksgiving traditionally marks the beginning of Christmas. A season of gratitude followed by a season of generosity – what a wonderful tandem. I hadn’t thought of it until recently, but what better symbol of this time of year than the giving of leftovers.

The Christmas season can be chocked full of anxiety – business, personal, physical, financial, emotional – everything seems to be happening faster with a great urgency and significance.

Today I want to encourage you to remember that generosity provides the best stress reliever if we remember its true characteristics. It expects nothing, it can cost nothing, it can be just a little something, it can be a huge thing, and it is always born in your heart.

Thanksgiving is a Verb

Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.
– W.J. Cameron, (1878 – 1955)

There is no sincerer love than the love of food.
– George Bernard Shaw, (1856 – 1950)

You get a “Thanksgiving Two-fer” in the quote department (but GBS get the honored photo spot all by himself). Why? Because I couldn’t decide between meaningful and funny. Then I realized it was in fact my newsletter and I didn’t have to decide – you all would probably appreciate both.

I, like many others, have been incredibly busy lately. We knew this 2-3 day work week was coming…then the cooking…then the shopping…then the decorating…then everything else that comes with time of year. Makes me wonder about the madness of the holiday’s.

And therein lies the problem – we see the madness and forget the purpose.

Today I want to encourage you to be kind to yourself. The people who are thankful for you – and I am sure there are quite a few – do not feel that way because of your cooking skills, party planning ability, or dessert choices. They are thankful for you! Stress will only cause you to miss out on all the wonderful opportunities to enjoy each other as friends and family gather to remember how truly blessed we each are.

In other words – if you realize the smoke billowing out of the kitchen is in fact your prized turkey, don’t let your day be ruined. Grab a video camera, take some real funny shots, mail it to that video reality show and try to make a couple of bucks. Life is too short to let a crispy bird upstage your holiday time.

About Me

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 Hawaiian with salt water in his veins and sand in his hair. Both cultures are so rich with family tradition. So, 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 and from 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 he 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.

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. 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 girls are like sun up and sun down – both beautiful and glorious yet on completely opposite ends of the earth. My littles are not quite so little anymore.  11 months apart in age, they could have been born on different planets. Watching these creatures go from my womb to the world has taught me more about following the journey of life than any other thing I could imagine. The past year has blessed me with bonus babies. A stunning, dramatic girl, and a full of life, big hearted boy. If you had told me a mother could love babies not from her body as much as she did those that do, I may have thought that a huge feat. Not anymore. The joy these six children bring to my life is to much for words. They 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.

The lover of my soul, the other half created just for me, has given me a part in a love story that would rival any in the history of love stories. I had long given up on the idea that a love like this was in the cards for me. I have rarely been this wrong. In his arms I have learned the true meaning of strength, forgiveness, honesty, partnership, selflessness, and forever.

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.

Updated 12/10/2017