Next Up: Staying at Home and Other Updates

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 I am welcoming September from a new vantage point in life. Life has been a mass of changes and transitions in the past month. I’ve resigned from my job. Panda has received her green card. Shortstack has started third grade. Changes. Evolutions. Progressions. Transitions. And yet some parts of life remain our comfortable routine: the start of the fall semester with chaos on the campuses, back-to-school shopping and settling in, the start of athletics seasons with our return to football, soccer and volleyball games, coordinating the pick-up/drop-off scheduling for the week’s soccer practices and games and ukulele lessons, homework and lunch-making. Yes, our routines remain the same. And yet so, so, SO different! 

For the first time in my adult life, I am unemployed and not going to school for {another} degree. It feels weird. I feel weird. And at a bit of loss for how to move through my days as a home wife. When I made the decision to resign from my job, Panda agreed, supported and encouraged me to take the leap into the unknown “next.” My constant cheerleader (oh, she’ll hate that descriptor), Panda was concerned about my well-being and sanity if I continued in my job. We both knew that the transition phase between ending my job and finding my next position would be challenging and we’re both anxious about that. But, she affirms my decision every day and encourages me to pursue the projects that interest me while continuing to search for a job that will fuel instead of flail me. 

But, of course, best laid plans are … well, they may be well-laid but that doesn’t mean that the follow-through is smooth or hiccup-free. I ended my job and I don’t have my “next.” As of yet. You see, I’m hopeful. In fact, I’m gut-sure that my “next” will be a pretty interesting adventure – whenever that doorway opens up. Now, don’t think that I’m not doing all the things you need to do when you’re looking for a job – networking, applying, revising and refining my resume, actively searching for new pathways to explore and creating back-up plans as best I can. 

In the meantime, I’m having a whole new experience – as a stay-home mama and wife. I have A LOT of respect for stay-at-home partners/mamas. The demands of keeping the home running smoothly is challenging for all families, but stay-at-homes partners seem to be expected to live up to a higher level of provision for home and hearth. I am feeling a lot of mixed feelings about my new role in our family and how this new role – or, possibly, the lack of my “old” role – is affecting my identity. In the week and a bit that I’ve been unemployed, I have been feeling a lot of guilt for not having a job. Even though the decision to resign my position was made with the support and encouragement of my wife, when I send her on her way in the morning and I know that she has a crazy day ahead of her, my gut clenches and I fleetingly wonder if she resents that I’m standing before her in my casual clothes with a cup of coffee in my hand, getting ready to walk our boy to school.

Growing up, my maternal role model was not very domestic. My mother, for all her perfectionist tendencies in how she kept the house, was not one who desired to stay at home and revel in the duties and pleasures of “keeping” the house. She is a remarkable woman who ran her career on the fast track and made sure that every room in our house was up to her expectations. Staying at home was never a path that would bring her fulfillment or contentment. I, on the other hand, love to funnel my energies into creating a home space that is welcoming and comfortable. I love to putz around in my kitchen creating off-the-wall menu ideas that are quick and yummy; I could spend hours working my way room-through-room in the house reorganizing and deep cleaning; I am so thankful for the time that I have to walk our boy to school and do homework with him in the afternoons (even if 3rd grade math is beyond my capabilities). BUT, I have learned in the last two weeks that I do not want, nor am I fulfilled or challenged by being a stay-at-home mama and wife. If a stranger were to look in our front window by 2pm in the afternoon, they would be baffled by the sight of me having a fully engaged conversation WITH MYSELF about only the fates-know-what. I have deep cleaned almost every room in the house (minus Shortstack’s room because, well, apoplectic fits are not necessarily good for my mental well-being). I have purged and organized closets and the fridge. I have launched my Etsy shop (www.kekaicreations.etsy.com – after all, why not talk it up here? It is my space after all!) I have read books … many, many books! The library and I have become close friends again. I have gone for walks, watered plants, sat on the steps and brainstormed who I think I am and who I think I want to be. I have sat down with hours ahead of me to write ponder and journal and rewrite and reconsider and create. I have started a substitute teaching course. I have gone on one interview and have revised (and revised and revised) my resume. I have done all of this and more because I have time. 

This time I’ve been given is a boon and a luxury. I know how lucky I am that my wife is championing my choice to walk away from my career and take the time to figure out what I want to do next. I have 20 years (well, realistically, 30 years unless we come into a windfall of money somewhere down the line … and, no, I don’t think that we’ll strike it rich in Vegas) of work ahead of me and I want those years to be enjoyable and purposeful and fulfilling. Every day, I continue to search for a new job, all the while, keeping it foremost in my mind that I want my job to have a reason and be meaningful as well as providing an income and security for our family. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. In fact, I know it isn’t. I think that we’ve been persuaded into believing that it is unreasonable for us to believe that how we make a living can be part of the reason we enjoy life. I haven’t figured out all the details yet. But I’m learning …. I’m muddling my way through … and I’m doing my best to take care of me and mine as I get a grasp on this whole “Next” thing. 

So, our family is good. We’re settling in and continually creating our life. We cuddle together when we get tired or things get rough. Hell, we cuddle together when we’re busting out in laughter over the daily life things that kick our funny bones. It’s a whole new world and, when it comes down to it, I’m a hell of a lucky woman …

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Hurricane Update: Iselle and Julio breezing through town

photo credit: NOAA

photo credit: NOAA

It’s been 22 years since Iniki blew through Hawaii. Besides being a reminder of just how old I am, these incoming hurricanes are a reminder that Mama Nature is her own woman and she can be unpredictable and temperamental.

Isleen and Julio are headed for the island chain. Isleen is expected to make initial landfall by 2 pm this afternoon on the Big Island. Our poor Big Island people will likely absorb the brunt of these systems.  Iselle is predicted to move across the Big Island and fall south of the rest of the islands; those of us on Oahu, and likely Kauai, will undoubtedly suffer the effects of severe weather, but the eye of the storms aren’t forecasted to pass over us. Isleen is making her entrance as a category 1 hurricane and Julio is still classified as a category 2.

As for what to expect on Oahu – we’re thinking that our winds will definitely pick up and the rain levels will be pretty intense. For our little ‘ohana, we’re not so worried about the stormy weather, but we are concerned about the effects of flooding and loss of power. We’re well-prepped; water (self-bottled, by the way – the lines and crowds at retailers are OUT. OF. CONTROL.), food stuffs, batteries, flashlights, candles, beer/wine, chocolate, tape for the windows, gas in the cars. We’re taking the storm threat seriously, but we’re not freaking out.  And we hope you won’t either. At this point, all of our institutions have informed us that our schools will be closed on Friday (better safe than sorry!)

For our local peeps – give us a call if you need anything. For our non-local peeps – we’ll be keeping you updated via social media (fb and ig – you can follow me here) or by text.

Thank you for all your well-wishes and love. Finger’s crossed, it’ll simply be a stormy day to be enjoyed curled up in a heap at home.

Meditations and Musings: Uncertainty isn’t for the faint-of-heart

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Maybe I should be more worried than I am. I should probably be terrified. I am anxious. I am concerned. I do wonder what’s next. But I haven’t completely freaked out yet and, maybe, that is the very lesson I have needed to learn from this chapter in my life.

I am making some massive changes in my world … which means that we are making some massive changes in our family’s world. After four years at my institution and twelve years in student affairs, I am leaving my well-known and cozy-comfortable career and venturing out into … well, I’m not sure what I’m venturing out into. Therein is the crux that should be terrifying and worrisome.

Due to a convergence of multiple factors – professional and personal – I realized that my job (as I have reached a point where I don’t have any desire to refer to it as my “career”) has been flaying me open daily. The passion that used to sustain me through the rocky times that everyone has in their professional worlds was no longer mineable. Forget mineable. I couldn’t even identify a nucleus of passion for my profession, my students or my institution. What had, for quite a while, been red flags for me regarding my career trajectory had reached crisis mode.

Deciding to make my exit wasn’t as difficult as I expected it to be. As I write this, I realize that once my gut, my heart and my head aligned, recognizing that this chapter in my life is over demanded that I take a step away and a step towards whatever is next. **Lesson alert** AND … I don’t have to know exactly what’s next in order to step away from what currently is. One of my guiding principles is “be still and breathe.” Those four words have carried me through many of the most difficult times in my life – single motherhood, custody battles, career changes, family rifts, personal development – through all of the craziness of life’s trials and tribulations when I had no idea what my next move would be, I would repeat to myself (or write repeatedly, usually in a variety of colors) “BE STILL AND BREATHE.” But this time, being still and breathing hasn’t been helping. In fact, it could be argued that I have sat still for far too long which has wrung the passion for my career out of me.

I have a tendency to not want to move away from what I know until I know what I’m moving towards. Unfortunately, although I knew that it was time to move away from my current job, I haven’t had a clue as to what I’m moving towards: I don’t know if I want to stay in education or student affairs; I don’t know if I want to venture out into an completely unfamiliar arena; I have not yet secured a new job; I don’t know where the second income stream for our family is going to come from. That’s a lot of things to not know. A lot of things you should know – especially when you’re a mama and a wife  and a mid-career professional who has bills to pay, doctors to visit, family to cook for, retirement savings to build, ukulele practice to shuttle to and from, etc., etc., etc. So, yes! The anxiety is fully here. I feel the uncertainty and the concern. I know the creeping fear that my families going to suffer and it’ll all be my fault. But under the jumble of all of that confused “what-the-hell-is-going-to-happen-next?!?” energy is a steady flow of quietly confident comfort assuredness. This is the right decision for me. For this time. For this situation. For my family. I have not only made the correct choice to step away, but I have taken the right action to step away right now even though I can’t tell you what I am stepping towards.

Uncertainty truly isn’t for the faint-of-heart. Being uncertain and unsure of what is coming next in your world, for yourself and your family, can weigh on you and you can find yourself stewing about how to line up plans of action as you try to make your way to the next plateau of comfortable certainty. But, for me, I am learning a life-altering lesson about allowing myself to vulnerable and at ease with uncertainty. I am discovering that, when I allow uncertainty and the haziness of my “next” to have space in my life, a strange phenomenon occurs: options and opportunities that would never have been on my life radar begin to appear. There’s a tenuous beauty in uncertainty. So, yes – the faint-of-heart, beware, if uncertainty approaches your threshold; luckily, though, we are all much stronger of heart and will than we realize.

For those in my circles, I wanted to share a brief update on this time of change for me: I have given my institution courtesy notice of my departure and I am working with my students and programs to, hopefully, ease the transition. Every day, this crazy-wonderful world sends me a little message in some form or another which validates my decision and reminds me to persist fearlessly into the next chapter. My wife and son are graciously supportive and are my most fervent cheerleaders in my quest of the “next.” I have been searching and applying for positions that I call to my interests and experience and in which, I feel, I could make an meaningful impact in a community or organization. I’ve had friends and colleagues reach out to me with support, ideas and insight – all of which have been valued and thought-provoking – and several of our people have helped or presented me with possible opportunities. Although my next step is not chiseled in granite as of yet, I am pushing myself, every day, to look at my future through a new lens – allowing my options and possibilities to expand beyond the traditional boundaries that I have instilled on my career growth for the past decade. I am even considering looking into a transitional position until I find a role that I believe I can serve fully and passionately and that will fuel me instead of flay me. My family and I appreciate all of the love and kokua that we continue to receive from you as we make our way through this period. And, if you have any ideas, suggestions or insight into possible opportunities or pathways that I should consider and explore, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

I suppose you can say that my motto for right now is, “when it’s time to move, do so fearlessly.”

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discovering my me-voice

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I sometimes hear whispers from my self that comes from far deeper in my soul than I realize exists. I know my inner voice. I know my patterns and  thoughts and reactions. But every once in a while the unfamiliar voice out-of-the-deep, shadowed unexplored spaces of my self comes in a whisper with a message that seems random an out-of-sync with my inner workings.

I opened a new chapter in my career. My choice. My decision. And good god – it’s terrifying! After spending years in a position that became a comfort zone – one that has left me wanting something more, something else – I resolved to move on. And beyond. Unfortunately, I don’t know what that on or beyond is.

The roundabout conversations with my wife bemoaning my current situation and my frustrations kept leading me back to the same point – nothing is going to change if I don’t make a move. And if i don’t make a move, it’s time to shut up and suck-it-up. But making a move is scary. It’s especially scary when you don’t know where you’re making a move to.

I’m not one of those people that can find ease in the midst of change. I don’t deal well. I get all cranky and worked up. My temper whittles down to a razor-thin tolerance zone and I become hypercritical of myself and everyone around me. But this time around, I’m finding the exact opposite: I am completely at ease within this time of transition. Even though I don’t know what I’m transitioning to. And I’ve figured out that my deep-down unfamiliar me-voice is what’s keeping me flying steady into the unknown. It was that deep-down me-voice that stopped whispering into the chaotic void of confusion and unhappiness that I was mucked down in; my me-voice started speaking up a little louder. And I turned a deaf ear to what my me-voice was saying – told myself that I needed to make the wise and practical decision and stay put in my job because we need to provide a known income to our family, told myself that I couldn’t leave my position in higher ed because this is what I’ve done for over a decade and it’s what I went to school for and it’s what I know and what my professional passion and purpose has been, told myself that mamas don’t walk away from a solid position in an organization just because I questioned the organization’s treatment of their employees as long as I received a steady paycheck and benefits. And my me-voice started yelling riotously. My deep-down me-voice was tired of being ignored and questioned; it was out of patience and tolerance. It grabbed my soul and shook it violently. My me-voice dug in her heels and shook my body until I vomited. Literally vomited. Over and over again. And in the still moment after being physically ill and emotionally worn-down, my me-voice quietly, calmly and steadily told me, “It is time to move on. You’ve served your purpose here and your time here has served it’s purpose in your life. Being well and whole will not happen here. Stop being a chicken shit. There is SO. MUCH. MORE.”

Over and over again, as I’ve yielded space in my head to my me-voice that has been so unfamiliar to be – that I didn’t knew existed – my worry about what’s next has been transformed into excitement. I have tried to shut up my inner life-director that usually fools me into believing that I know what’s next in life and which moves to make. I have spent more of my minutes asking my me-voice to speak clearly and help me figure out what I want these next chapters to include. You may not be surprised to hear that the more I listen to my me-voice, the deeper I’m led into understanding why I am continually pulled towards certain interests: community education and advocacy, writing, story collection and a few other areas. I’ve gravitated towards and experimentally waded into these areas for years. But never committed. How could I? I have a job – a career – a family – a life. All of that doesn’t allow for experimental wading. Silly woman! But when the next chapters become ones of your own crafting, how do you continue basking in the comfort of excuses that your inner-director told and re-told to the quietly-submerged, unfamiliar, deep-down me-voice? All of the excuses that drowned out the unexplored passions and purposes in the daily rhythms of the practical and known are being deconstructed and my bullshit is being called. Big-girl decision time. Keep on going on a road that is in front of me because it’s nicely paved and clearly marked or create a new way for me to be. Not sure if it’ll be a road – a path – a superhighway or a grassy-rocky unmarked trail.

I’ve chosen the latter. Not sure where this option will take me. Don’t know if this risk will result in an adequate reward. But I don’t feel shaken anymore. I have been physically ill or even ill-at-ease since I made my choice. The unknowns are terrifying for me and mine. We know when I plan to exit my current role. But we don’t know where I’m going. We know that we need a second income source (come on, people! We live in Hawaii! One income simply doesn’t cut it.). But we don’t know where that second income is going to come from. Not yet. But I know it will come. I know that these nexts will be pretty spectacular. As long as I let them be. Because, the truth of it is simple, this little life that we live is only as great or mundane as you make it. There are the things that we have no control over and, don’t get your panties in a bunch, we’ve had our share of those uncontrollables and, I’m sure, we’ll continue to. But the rest of it –  its the rest of it that is yours to make great. Or not to make, for that matter.

My me-voice is getting stronger every day. I wake up with a little more clarity of what I want to do with myself and my time. I have a stronger voice in declaring what I need and want and much more comfort in releasing what I know is not serving me. I have opened space in life for the new to come in … and boy-oh-boy! The new is definitely coming in. Possibilities and opportunities that I could never have imagined are starting to pop up from many unexpected and surprising places and people. I don’t know if any of them will manifest into my something-next, but I know that they wouldn’t have even been known to me if my me-voice was ignored. I don’t know what I’ll be writing in this space 8 weeks from now. I don’t know if I’ll be cursing my me-voice or if I’ll be celebrating my new risky self. But, I do know that right this second I feel good. I feel hopeful. I feel sure that the nexts will be more beautiful than my lasts and presents. And this ain’t a bad place to be. Not a bad place at all.

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5 REAL Lessons to Learn from Hawaii Locals

I recently read Shannon Kaiser’s article, “12 Healthy Habits The World Can Learn From Hawaii Locals”. I appreciated Ms. Kaiser’s perception of how life rolls on through the day for Hawaii locals but I’d like to offer up an alternative list of lessons that people could pick-up from local Hawaii residents. I’m sure Ms. Kaiser meant well and was convinced that she was conveying the guiding ideals of local island residents but, I think that many of us who live daily life in our beautiful islands are impacted by the realities of living in one of the most expensive places in the nation (i.e. the median home price in March 2014 was $679,000 and the median household income was $66,259 in 2012). Hawaii has a ridiculous cost-of-living; the stories you hear about people spending over $5 for a gallon of milk are not exaggerations; we pay more for most commercial goods, the current price of gas in my neighborhood is $4.36/gallon, the cost of childcare and private schooling is outrageous and the cost of travel off or between the islands for a family of 3 rivals the cost of a down payment for many homes on the continental US. All of that aside, there are five ideals that I know local Hawaii residents have figured out and integrate into our lives, often without even realizing it.

1) ‘Ohana and Food: As Lilo so wisely said in the Disney classic, ” ‘Ohana means family and family means nobody gets left behind.” in Hawaii, the concept of family is elastic and fluid. Beyond those people who you happen to be biologically related to thanks to a random genetic pool of luck, the concept of ‘ohana is often extended to include the people that you are emotionally and sentimentally tied to. Family structures ten to broadly span generations and geography. Friends who have become intimately entwined into daily life are embraced and claimed as ‘ohana. The fluidity of ‘ohana also allows locals to count their neighbors and communities as part of their ‘ohana thus deserving of the same demonstrations of care, respect and aloha. ‘Ohana permeates every part of our lives here in the islands; many of us reside with or remain close to our parents, grandparents and extended family, many of our hanai family (friends-turned-family or otherwise “adopted” or “absorbed”) spend time together at work, after work and throughout our weekends. For some families, the only way to navigate through the daily demands of jobs (often, multiple jobs to compensate for the extreme cost-of-living in the islands), family life, and everyday reality is to lean on one another – sharing the responsibilities for child care, shuttling services, household expenses (multiple families or roommates sharing one residence is not unusual). Although this lifestyle may not be popular, convenient or preferred by our counterparts on the continent, there are many of us who couldn’t afford life in paradise without these connections. On the other hand, one of the favorite ways to enjoy the company of family and friends is over food. Always. Embracing the multi-cultural and multi-ethnic culinary legacies in Hawaii, combined with the abundance of excellent produce and seafood and meats, every gathering – be a simple extended or hanai family meal or a deluxe first-birthday luau – is anchored by an abundance of food that would overwhelm the most  discerning foodies and likely put them in food-recovery coma for a week. We never show up empty-handed to a part. And, I promise, you won’t leave empty-handed either. Local style: always contribute with aloha and you will always be taken care of. Usually with a plate or two of leftovers that will carry you through the week.

2) Hawaiian Time: Many think that Hawaiian Time simply means you always run late. I would suggest that Hawaiian Time is more a recognition that there are only 24 hours in a day and there is no way that we are going to get through everything on our gotta-do list in those 24 hours so prioritize, linger over the moments that are truly pleasurable and don’t rush the small stuff – like those moments when your 8-year-old is trying to body surf one more wave or your wife is lingering over her coffee as she looks at papayas growing in the front yard or the 4.5 minutes it takes to talk-story with your neighbor while walking the dog because, at the end of the day, those moments that ran over on Hawaiian Time are the ones that you’ll probably cherish while, in a week, you’ll probably forget what appointment you we late for or where you were trying to rush off in the first place. **note** I am in no way condoning chronic lateness. I am pretty anal about being where we need to be when we need to be there – on time and ready. But, I am learning to embrace the value that enjoying and lingering in the simple, special moments are, ultimately, more valuable.

3) Diversity and Ha’aheo: We used to say that there was no ethnic majority in Hawaii, that it is a state comprised of minorities. And, while the number may prove that to be statistically inaccurate, the essence holds true; Hawaii is home to a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-national populations so it isn’t surprising to find that the local shave, over time, found a way to create a unique “local” culture that blends elements from the peoples and places all over the world. Acknowledging and respecting differences and the fact that no one’s experience or background will mirror that of anyone else’s has helped many local communities create a life rhythm that embraces, if not celebrates, diversity. Along with the appreciation of diversity is the ideal of “ha’aheo” or pride. Pride is not arrogance. pride is a respect and the value of honoring who and where we have come from.

4) History and Ho’oponopono: Because the local population of Hawaii comes from such diverse backgrounds, the history of the people of Hawaii as well as Hawaii herself is complex, complicated and emotional. These islands were the only lands in the USA that operated as an independent kingdom. The Kingdom of Hawaii, with it’s rich and storied existence was eventually overthrown; the islands became the fabled paradise for commercial ventures, religious missionaries, political power struggles – all confined to a very small, isolated land mass. It is no surprise that conflict is bound to arise and Hawaii has endured (and continues to endure as demonstrated by the current ongoing debate about the official recognition and status of the Kingdom of Hawaii by the United States) more than her fair share. But, the take-away lesson is the concept of ho’oponopono – the practice of reconciliation and forgiveness. Bearing in mind that humans – and therefore communities – are flawed and that our experiences and histories are viewed through emotional lenses and personal perspectives, the practice of ho’oponopono is a process – it is not necessarily product-focused. It is the striving for a space of reconciliation and re-gathering or re-forming as a single unit, be it ‘ohana or community, after a time of conflict or fragmentation. The only way to truly achieve this space of reconciliation is through outreach, discussion, restitution and forgiveness. A high ideal, to be sure, but one that that we should all aspire to.

5) Mälama ka ‘aina: Hawaiian culture is rooted – physically, emotionally, spiritually, societally – to the land. Yes, the physical land. At it’s very core, the people of Hawaii, native and locals, are charged with caring for the land. For practical reasons, we need to take care of islands because we live on an itty-bitty isolated island chain in the middle of a big-ass ocean. We need to take care of our islands because our largest economic driver is tourism and tourists won’t pay thousands of dollars to lie in the sun on a dirty, polluted, trash-riddled beach. We need to take care of our islands because the beauty of this land is so overwhelming I am so often struck speechless – and, if you know me, you’d know that is quite a feat. We need to take care of our islands because this land has a spiritual soul that will sneak into your own soul, possess your heart and brand your memory with the rhythms of the waves and the whispers of the tradewinds.

I’m sure that there are many more lessons and ideals that are found in the people who call Hawaii home that could benefit the health and well-being of others. Or maybe even just add a little bit more breathing room into our normally busy, chaotic or insane lives.  There are definitely several from Ms. Kaiser’s list that I’d like to see integrated into our everyday world (put your digital devices away, release expectations being two that jump out at me screaming for attention), but the five items that I have shared are the ones that touch and structure the daily life rhythms of me and mine. Hawaii is not only a place, it is a way of living – a way of being. Be well, friends, and be welcome in sharing bits and pieces of our Hawaii life.

HawaiiLife

Reminder

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check-ins:

  • CA family vacation was fun and the perfect get-away for all of us
  • drop-off happened and the countdown to our boy’s return is underway
  • we’ve been celebrating with our friends – weddings, kicking cancer’s butt, daily life … so many moments of awesomeness
  • date nights have been good for us
  • library wonderings have allowed me to discover new-to-me writers
  • beach walks and sunsets are soothing to my soul
  • i haven’t cooked a meal in a week … not sure what to thaink about that
  • soccer rules our world right now (a little thing called the “World Cup”). i have some making up to do as my wife watched only one game of the last World Cup … and, yes, that was totally MY fault
  • i’ve been looking at a blank page quite often lately. the words just aren’t there. and that’s ok. i’m ok.
  • papa’s chemo/radiation cycles are almost pau. when baby gets home, we’ll celebrate BIG
  • sleep is a challenge for both of us – but we keep on keeping on, hoping that things will get a bit easier in our jobs in the second half of this year

ok, my angels … keep our boy safe and happy …

my peeps … hope all is well with you … xoxo