My Next: Committing to a New Path

Next1It never fails – we get to the last couple weeks of the academic year and I feel off-kilter, surprised by how quickly we’ve arrived here and feeling as if we need another six weeks to catch up with everything that I have on my elusive “should-get-done” list that exists in some dimly-lit and narrow hallway in my brain. Doubling-down on this insanity is the realization that the collegiate athletics calendar has wound down which signals the {continued} busy season for my wife and her crew.  I know I shouldn’t be surprised with how quickly our year moves – I cross out our days on the calendar one-by-one. I schedule all three of us up to our noses with things to do, places to go and people to love. Nonetheless, here I am again, wondering how on earth we’re closing down the year and getting ready for summer visitations, making mama-only plans while Shortstack is at Dad’s house and talking about big changes for our upcoming fall.

Nine months ago I left my higher ed world. I haven’t missed it much since. In fact, I can’t say that I’ve missed it at all. That may partly be because I will always have a foot in higher ed via my wife and my friends, but I haven’t had a longing to work with college kids at all. My plans to substitute teach really started kicking along in the past several months and although I have my preferences in the DOE system down for middle or high school, I’ve found myself pretty well ensconced in a couple of elementary schools working mostly with first and third graders. These past months have been quite educational for me. I’ve learned …

  • K12 teachers are my heroes. A day in the classroom is NEVER quiet. There is rarely 2 consecutive minutes of peace when teachers are not being called, touched, talked to, asked questions of, repeating themselves, regrouping, directing, nurturing, comforting, whistling, trying not to yell, sending a prayer up to any deity that may or may not be listening in a plea for sanity and restraint. Seriously. After my first few sub days, I’d come home and tell my family to not talk to me. I’d lie down on the sofa in the quiet living room and just soak in the noiselessness.
  • To be fluid with my day within an inflexible structure. There are class periods that can’t and won’t change – times when your class needs to be with another teacher or in another location. PE, computer lab, May Day rehearsals, lunch times, and on and on and on. Within the hours that these kiddos are mine, plans don’t always go as expected – kids choose not to listen, more time is needed to explain and review fractions, the simple task of collecting journals blows up into a test of wills – so you need to be able to flow. Make changes on the fly, be aware of time, try to pace yourself while being mindful of the receptivity of the students as well as the tasks and goals that need to be achieved.
  • Dry erase markers rock! And always have an extra set on hand. And, yes, I’m as addicted to color options in dry erase markers as I am with my writing pens and pencils.
  • I want to do this.  For my NEXT, I want to teach.

So, our next year will open up with even more changes, more items on the gotta-do list, more days of our calendar blocked off with scheduled items, more evenings that there will be one mama at home taking care of what can be taken care of as I jump back into classes for my post-baccalaureate certificate to teach.

It’s a relief to have made a decision about what I want  my NEXT to be. It’s another ball in the air for Panda and I to incorporate into our circus-worthy juggling routine but it’s reassuring to know that I’m not feeling inadequate or directionless in my professional life. I’m confident that I can continue to explore my endeavors in community education for family and LGBTQ diversity, and continue to write. My novel hasn’t had much love from me lately but it will.

I can’t say that my time figuring out what’s next has endowed me with profound life truths but it has helped me to become more cognizant of creating and curating a life that allows me to do more than one of the things I want to do. I am not just mama – not just a student affairs educator – not just a wife or a housekeeper. There is enough time and energy in a week to pick up a paintbrush and play with watercolors, to go to the library and borrow a stack of books to read through over the next several weeks, to make meals for friends that drop in on a Thursday, to gather a bunch of awesome peeps at the beach for relaxation and catch-up, to have a mini-marathon of Scandal watching with my wife, to create a mini lesson plan for a bunch of third graders and to kiss my baby at night before he goes to sleep, to sit in front of my laptop and write stories. There’s enough time and energy – that’s the lesson these months of unemployment has taught me.

This year closes out like all of our others have; end-of-school year parties, gifts, tidying and purging. Packing up for summer trips – pleasurable and work-related. I’ll pull out the calendar and start looking at the fall – NCAA meetings, back-to-school open houses, soccer practice schedules and, now, class schedules for me. We’ll drift through our few summer weeks, cheer when one of our own gets married, soak in some beach time and watch some sunsets. Maybe my wife and I will get a date night in once or twice. And then it starts again.

21/52

“The underwater sand squished down as I found my footing and dismounted. Placing the paddle on the board, I unwound my leash and lifted the board under my right arm to head in. Gage dropped in step to my left and we walked up to the tents where Mama was lounging in her beach chair. Reclined back and book in hand, Mama looked rested for the first time in months. It hit me just how out of sorts she’d been lately and I started to wonder just how drawn out she was from this move and all the crazy changes that we’d been hit by.” {Shelter in Place}

21a 21b 21c Honor and respect
21dFrom the very beginning, the aunties have gifted books to Shortstack and we still enjoy reading them all … even our beginning readers
21e The dry side21f He stands EXACTLY like his Mama Panda. EXACTLY!!21gSolar oven construction … keep it green,peeps!
21h Lights & lines21i This is how I beach day {photo credit to Aunty Kat}21j I am so thankful that Aunty Kat captured this moment – as I lay there with our boy on my shoulder, just taking a moment to check in with each other and soak in the warm quiet, I thought to myself, “I hope I never forget this moment.” 21k Baby Avery’s first ‘Ohana beach day … and Aunty Panda was in heaven holding that little love bug21l

Shortstack has 7 days left of 3rd grade. Two weeks until he heads to the mainland for his summer visit. Yes, time flies … and I’m doing my damnedest to soak in the everyday moments that make up this beautiful life.

 

Welcome Home, Baby: Gifts for New Parents

Our circle welcomed a sweet baby girl into the world a couple of weeks ago. Baby Avery made her way into her parents arms and, of course, the hearts of all her hanai (chosen, not biologically-related) aunties, uncles, honorary grandparents and cousins.

Those first days and weeks as a new parent are overwhelming. I actually don’t remember much from those days because I was too damn tired and emotional to add up the pieces into a cohesive and comprehensible experience. What I do remember was a my out-of-control body doing things that seemed unnatural (post-birth womanly functions are horrendously unpleasant and nursing isn’t natural for all mamas & babies), I was functioning on the dregs of adrenaline as sleep was not happening and coffee was still on my banned-from-life list. Hormones and emotional tidal waves made it difficult for me to find a still moment in which I didn’t feel incompetent or insane and ALL THESE PEOPLE were around me when I needed a moment to find a little slice of solitude.

On the other hand, thank god all those people were around – they wanted to help me and baby out, they were the ones who knew how to hold a newborn and change a diaper, they were the ones that handed me kleenex when my blubbery nose and eyes were being rubbed raw from the rumpled bed sheet that had become my default hanky. Those people were the ones who reached out their arms for baby and then pulled me from the couch nest that I had retreated to with marching orders to take a hot bath and find something clean to wear. Those people were the ones who forever changed the way I send welcome wishes to a family with a newborn because, without those people, I would never have made it through the first 14 days of being a new mama.

Baby Avery worked hard to get here and she will be cooed and aaahed over for days and months and years to come. As she should. And, don’t you worry,  Aunty Lisa will get in that game pretty quickly (after she gains a few pounds and I, possibly, get over my fear of holding babies under 9 months old). But, for now, it’s mama and daddy that are on the receiving end of my attention. When we found out that Baby had arrived, I got to work and prepared a few gifts to take with us to the hospital for our visit with the family.

Gift Bag 1:

  • Kleenex: the tissues in the hospital are horrible. They are scratchy and thin and you end up with chapped noses and red eyes (not only from the crying). Choose your favorite tissue brand (soft and moisturized is my my suggestion) and include a box or two. The new parent(s) will be crying at unexpected moments and its not unusual for visitors to leak a tear or two as well
  • Lotion: FOR MAMA! Baby will have all the care products needed (and more!) but Mama will likely forget to put a little lotion on after all the hand washing/sanitizing or on her body as a little indulgence. I loved coco butter lotions after pregnancy but found that fragrances I used to love would make me nauseous so I typically choose fragrance-free or mildly-fragranced lotions for new mamas
  • Lip Balm: FOR MAMA! Seriously – there is some sort of switch in the new mama brain that makes us forget to take the simplest self-care actions. After all the crying, kissing, talking, labor, sleeplessness and emotions, Mama’s going to need a little bit of lip moisturizer, I promise!
  • Super soft PJ set with built-in bra: FOR MAMA! If you haven’t yet noticed the trend, let me point it out – yes! These goodies are for mama! She’s the one who pushed a person out of her body. And built-in bras … BRILLIANT! I would suggest that buying big is not insulting at all – unless Mama is the kind of woman who would be insulted by that. In my experience, most new mamas don’t want to wear anything fitting for a while anyhow, and the key here is comfort and ease
  • Post-It notes and Sharpie pens (fine-tip and regular): New parents will be receiving A LOT in those first days – gifts, forms, information, memories … and having something at hand to make quick notes can be sanity-saver
  • Feminine hygiene produces: Good quality personal cleansing wipes and pads – okay, here’s the deal … if you don’t feel that your level of friendship opens the door to gifts like this, just leave these items out. But, for those of you who are gifting to friends that are family, trust me – these items will not only be used, they will be appreciated. Again, hospitals provide them, but the quality isn’t always the greatest

Gift Bag 2: (for spouse/partner and support peeps)

*Recommendation: use a soft-sided insulated cooler bag that can be reused in the future

  • Snacks: Hunger will inevitably strike when the cafeteria is closed, the remaining food is disgusting and vending machines are empty. Take into consideration your people’s personalities and likes/dislikes or lifestyle. I put a few healthy-ish snacks in the bag: popcorn, crackers and cookies
  • Candy: Chocolate CAN heal what ails you … and sometimes all you need is a snack-sized chocolate candy or M&Ms to give a little sugar boost and a smile
  • Drinks: Small bottles of water and juice boxes – again, any way to cut down the number of trips support people need to take out of the room, may be helpful. Also, it’s not always easy to find a vending machine in an unfamiliar hospital at 2:15 AM. As for the juice boxes – parents might as well start getting used to them
  • Gum: New parents often forget that they have to go to the bathroom, so indulgences like teeth-brushing can be postponed a little longer with highly-effective gum-chewing
  • FOOD!: We texted Daddy before heading to the hospital and asked what Mama and Daddy were craving for food. Acai bowl for Mama and burger combo for Daddy. After labor and delivery, something satisfying to eat is a simple reward

We got to meet and cuddle Baby during our hospital visit. Shortstack completely fell under Baby’s spell and is more than a little bit in love with her. We chatted for a bit, asked about the highs and lows, I watched my beautiful wife hold and sway with Baby and then we wrapped things up pretty quickly. In and out in 20 minutes or so. I don’t like to stay long during hospital visits; everyone is exhausted and strung out and I think those first days are precious and sacred. But the following weeks – those are fair game, to me.

A week after Baby was born, Shortstack and I visited the family at home. We came bearing gifts of food and help. After I had given birth, one of my people showed me just how much she loved me by coming over to the house, checked on me and baby, bundled us up in our couch nest and then sought out my broom and swiffer. She proceeded to sweep and clean the floors in the house, grouped and gathered all the STUFF that had collected over the week that I had been home, threw a load of laundry in and cleaned my kitchen. OH – MY – WORD! When I looked up and saw that the chaos and messiness had been reigned in, I leaked a whole ton of tears out of relief and pure gratitude. Lesson learned! Whenever I can, I try to visit new parents bearing a stash of ready-made food (this time: cooked pasta with marinara and pesto sauces, chicken adobo and individually-wrapped and frozen breakfast burritos) and time to tidy up the house a bit. Daddy had to head out to work and practice, Shortstack oohed over Baby for a few minutes before I settled him in with his homework, Mama and I chatted for a few and then they drifted off and I dove in. Sweeping, kitchen cleaning, straightening things up, watering and cleaning up the bouquets and plants gifted to them, taking out the trash. All those little, everyday things that new parents don’t have time for. Those are the little ways that I know I can help out – even if it’s only for a little bit.

Parenting is fucking hard. No matter how prepared you are, the transition into parenthood is overwhelming and scary. So there’s no reason that you have to do it alone. There’s a reason that  the proverb exists, “… it takes a village to raise a child …” and I do my damnedest to take that to heart because I know, deep in my bones and etched in my foggy memories of the days and weeks after becoming a mama, it takes a village to raise the amazing boy that we have the honor of being mamas to.

Congratulations, Herman ‘Ohana! Welcome to this beautiful world, Baby Avery! xoxo

Hawaiian Time/52

Keep  holding my hand, baby bear … I’d love for you to never let go20.1

Red sunsets … and puffer fish 20.2

Iconic visions of my home
20.3

Sometimes you need to bend in order to grow20.4

We had Aussies in town … love!20.5

20.6

Shortstack & Mama selfies on our trip taking our Aussies around the island
20.7

Our island20.9

She humors me and my picture-taking self far too often20.10

May you always explore and adventure20.11

We maze explored and I suggest that people follow my lead and take shortcuts whenever possible
20.12

Aloha kakahiaka
20.13

We celebrated our boy … and then told him to put his clothes away so that his drawers can close20.15

House envy
20.16

He’s a bit of an addict20.17

Good & meaningful work being done at a conference providing the LGBTQ basics for youth service professionals 20.18

Pinoy pride, peeps! Did I mention how haole I felt?20.19

Life Hawaiian style … take the time to enjoy the world around us til the sun sets
20.20

Celebrating all the amazing women in our lives on Mama’s Day20.21

Time with our Aussies is so important to our boy – he is so damn loved … and spoiled!
20.22

He is so damn proud and excited about his baby cousin
20.23

Old hands (mine) and beautiful flowers20.24

Playing with creativity and watercolors20.25

Chaos is an indication of genius, right? Yes – the desk needs to be cleared
20.26

Zoo visit with my loves20.27

Congratulations, Aunty Michi! You are a remarkable woman!20.28

Last baseball game – last UH athletics game – for the 2014-15 season20.29

Lower campus is beautiful … took me a while to figure that out
20.30

16-17/52

“I didn’t know that wounds and scars were what we find welcoming, because they are like ours.” (Anne Lamott ~ Small Victories: Spotting Improbably Moments of Grace)

Soak in the light
week1617a

Parallell life
week1617b

Treetops and umbrellasweek1617c

Reflectionsweek1617d

Path into the wild blue yonder
week1617e

Shadingweek1617f

Stripesweek1617g

‘Ohanaweek1617h

Remnants of battleweek1617i

Wahine Soccer players know how to make our boy smile week1617j

So do the Wahine Basketball players … all of them, awesome women!week1617k

Its good to be silly week1617l

We do beach days well week1617m

SHAKAweek1617n

East side
week1617o

Hanabata day memoriesweek1617p

Bibliophile-in-training (and Mama was, once again, correct! Harry Potter books are better than the movies!)week1617q

Color outside the linesweek1617r

Handsome bugga! At the most random moments I catch a glimpse of the man he may becomeweek1617s

We had to beat the heat with Jamba Juice and a library visitweek1617t

Hawaiian style
week1617u

Mama and Baby Bear – birthday smilesweek1617v

Shortstack made sure Mama Panda had beautiful birthday flowers
week1617w

2-handed desserts. Unfortunately, he’s figured out that Aunty Kat’s world-famous cookies are world-famous for a reasonweek1617x

Proof that I’m taller – and that I look like a giant week1617y

 

“Trappings and charm wear off, I’ve learned. The book of welcome says, Let people see you. They see that your upper arms are beautiful, soft and clean and warm, and then they will see this about their own, some of the time. It’s called having friends, choosing each other, getting found, being fished out of the rubble. it blows you away, how this wonderful event happened – me in your life, you in mine.” (Anne Lamott – Small Victories: Spotting Improbably Moments of Grace)

Thank you for being in my life, me friends.

15/52

“… everything is ordinary and extraordinary.” (Natalie Goldberg)

The Easter Bunny showed up … it was a surprise visit for all
week15aDuring Shortstack’s first Easter, the EB started a tradition of using the same basket every year. Hey – even the EB knows that being eco-friendly is a good thing! After stashing all his Easter goodies, he was excited to use his basket for our farmer’s market shopping.
week15b I’ve been driving across the ko’olau range daily these past couple of weeks to spend time with my dad while he’s been hospital-bound. With views like this, it’s difficult to get frustrated with the time spent in the car. week15c Water and shadows.week15d Ka pua ‘o naupaka … I love these plants. The flowers bloom in a semicircle; these flowers carry a story of separated lovers (you can find a version of the story here)week15e THIS! This is the memory I want to hold of my boy at 9 yo.week15f I covet few things in this world … but I covet this houseweek15g Final Four watching and cocktail hour. Cocktails for mama, not Shortstack. I promise!week15h Have you seen the “He>I” bumper stickers? Good on you if it’s your thing … this one is more our thing. Kudos to Honolulu Beerworks!week15i Shortstack was our photographer this week. He was loving the yellow shower trees. No, I don’t know if that’s the proper name for them … only what I grew up calling them so that’s what Shortstack is calling them as well. week15j Study hard, baby boy! And soak in the greatness of this space! At the Main Branch of the Hawaii State Library system.week15kWho knew that we’d be the mamas of a graphic novel addict. Never was my thing, never was Panda’s thing, but it sure is Shortstack’s thing!
week15l This little guy kept me company for a 45 minutes while I spent time on the University of Hawaii’s Manoa campus. His eyes were painted with the prettiest sea foam green. week15m My sister loves – and knows – me. If you haven’t tried it yet, PLEASE find a dark chocolate & seasalt bar. It makes life good. week15n We escaped to our favorite camp site this weekend. We usually are set up within an hour (pretty quick when you’re setting up a glamping site, I assure you) and we have our feet in the sand and a beer in our hands very soon thereafter. Not a raindrop in sight. week15oShortstack had SO MANY friends to play with this weekend – we rarely saw the boy except when we required him to sit down to eat something and when it was time to go to sleep.
week15p This is my version of the tree of life. week15qMother nature is a pretty spectacular artist.
week15r Weathered and worn and still standing. week15s One of those rare selfies that I felt compelled to take because my soul was so happy.week15t Change your angle – see things differently. week15u A hallway of sun-kissed leaves.week15v Camping trip success!week15w

May is a few short weeks away. My wife and sister are celebrating their birthdays next week. Our boy has less than two months left as a 3rd grader. It goes too quickly. So squeeze the bliss out of every day, friends.

 

Do more of this …

bluewalk

beach walks with the Shortstack
evening stretches
listen to Hawaiian music in person
pupus and cocktail gatherings with our people
be loving towards my wife
breathe and be still
paint
write short stories