Yours Is Not Ours

A couple of days ago, the self-help, passionate living guru, Elizabeth Gilbert, posted a deeply personal piece on facebook. In it, she shared with the masses how she has realized that she’s in love with her best friend, who happens to be a woman, had recently been diagnosed with pancreatic and liver cancer (incurable), and that it was not coincidental that she announced her divorce from her husband this past summer as, upon closer inspection, it will be noticeable that the timing of divorce and her lover’s diagnosis were linked.

In her post, Ms. Gilbert asks her readers, and the facebook public to “receive [this news] with grace.” Oh, Ms. Gilbert, I receive your news with so much more than grace … I receive you news with indignation that you feel you must share this intensely private news with the world because you believe that you need to explain your life as you live within the public eye because you’re an author who’s “made it” big. I receive your news with exasperation that, in 2016, it is remarkable and newsworthy that a woman has fallen in love with another woman. I receive your news with hope that you and your love will savor the time and life blessings that you have without being affected or infected by the public glare of the lives that you lead. I receive your news with sadness for everyone involved in this shift in your life as heartache, heartbreak and change spare no one and, no matter how valiantly truthful we are, the emotional tremors of human relationships carry pain as well as love. I receive your news with excitement as the realization and recognition of the depth of feeling you have for your person is a beautiful, heart-fluttering journey. I receive your news with bafflement that it is now seemingly necessary, for public relations and marketing purposes, to share the most intimate details of one’s life with a mass of perfect strangers on social media. I receive your news with fury as, within the hour of your facebook posting, a deluge of news stories, opinion pieces, commentary, blog posts and comments sprung up across the internet critically commenting on your life and love.

This morning, after re-reading your post several times, holding my wife’s hand through a challenging week and remembering the start of the many love stories in my life, I receive your news with wishes and thoughts of divine synergy, as I light a candle for you and yours. For whatever reason, your life is being lived in the public eye, and you have have moved through your love and life stories with an uncommon grace and openness. You have, obviously, touched the thoughts and hearts of hundreds of thousands of people and many of those people feel connected to you enough as to feel that they we have the right to comment on the who’s and why’s and how’s of your life. This life, as determined by our momentary choices as by our divine purpose, is beautifully orchestrated and sublimely chaotic; may the life you continue to lead bring you rainbows and blessings and enough love to outweigh the pain.

 

Pass the Years

I hope that you’re one of the lucky ones who has that person in their world. You know the one – the one who’s seen you at your worst, who knows all your secrets – especially those from the deep, dark days of adolescent angst. Yep, I’m talking about the one who can tell you that you to go back in the house and change because the dress makes you look like a skank and then laugh with you 20 years later when you both realize that most of your fashion choices were just plain wrong. That’s the person who will call you chicken shit because she knows you hate to be challenged but who will also tell people to leave you alone because she’s the one who gets that you need your space to sulk before putting on your big-girl panties. I have that person. She’s been around for far too many years to count so, instead, we drink wine and make dinners, look at each other every once in a while and know, “yeah – I got your back.”

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Friendships are difficult for me. I suppose that sounds ridiculous considering how many people I am blessed to call, “friend.” It’s more accurate to say that deep friendships are difficult for me. For years I thought it was because I don’t like to be vulnerable, but I don’t buy that anymore. I’m vulnerable to anyone of the people I call “friend.” I think it has more to do with not knowing how to share all the pieces of me with a person in a way that they’ll “get” all the twists and turns, mazes and obstacle courses that make up the complicated chaos of who I am. But I have that person the one who I don’t need to explain myself to and she just gets it … and, could likely explain it to others in a way that I can’t. IMG_20150718_115636784

Today is that person’s birthday. We love to celebrate birthdays around here, and this one is uber special … for Shortstack, Aunty Reech has been the constant source of rationale and sanity in his life, the one who spoils him in the ways that only another beach baby knows how; she’s the one who he can depend on to sit in the back seat of the car with him, talk about whatever they want to talk about and then ignore mama when she asks’s what’s being talked about. In fact, she often tells mama to mind her own business. For my wife, Reech is the person who can explain all the ridiculousness and mysteries of me and my life; she’s the one who my wife can laugh with because they are the ones who most intimately know my craziness in all its glory. For me, Reech is … sister, friend, confidante, shoulder, therapist, co-chef, partner-in-crime, cheerleader, inspiration, pain-in-the-ass, most-infuriating-adversary, moral compass … the word to wrap it all up doesn’t exist to my knowledge. I keep searching for it. Long ago I stopped referring to her as my “best friend” because that just isn’t enough; it doesn’t hold all that she is.

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Another year has passed, my sister … and another birthday is here. The idea of a simple birthday wish does not convey that amount of love that we have for you (but that rocking birthday melody this morning was a pretty good start, don’t you think?). We want this day and this year to be bigger and greater and fuller (yes, I can and will make up my own grammatical rules!) than all the combined wishes of all the people who love and appreciate you could ever create.

Happy birthday, Reech – pass another year in the ways that pleases you most! And, while you’re at it, pass that bottle of wine as well … we have some celebrating to do!

Chromebook Review: An adventure in technology

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photo credit: toshiba.com

Disclaimer: I am technologically inept. I fully own my modern era shortfalls. Whenever I start a new job or connect with a new organization, my first outreach is to the IT people; I introduce myself and I give them the head’s up that I will likely be a regular visitor or caller and I ask for patience. I also tell them that I will be the first one to raise my hand and admit when I screw up and I do my best to keep detailed notes about what and how I did what I do.

The time has come – my beloved Macbook is dying a slow and painful-for-me death. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised; I first purchased it in 2009. So, hmmmm. Yep, it’s served me and the family well. Last week, I sat at my desk, pounding my head (literally) against my fist, trying to dreg up enough patience to wait for my document to attach to my online assignment. In the meantime, iTunes (which was not even open) had a schizophrenic episode and Excel “closed unexpectedly.” I had to come up with a creative budget-friendly alternative pretty quickly. Realistically, purchasing a new Apple laptop isn’t in the family budget anytime soon.

I knew what I needed: something that allowed me access to my online class platforms. I needed easy and comfortable internet navigation for school, pleasure, and blog writing. I wanted to be able to easily access the pictures I take from my phone, which happens to be an Android and uploads my photos directly to my Google account. And I wanted something that I could comfortably continue to write on; I have sixteen chapters of a novel written and I want to keep it going.

I was first introduced to Chromebooks by our son; his school had purchased and been gifted Chromebooks for most of the classrooms. As a substitute teacher on his campus, I had the opportunity to see how the kids seemed to comfortably navigate the Chromebooks to do their online lessons and web work. Last year, when we started to consider a device for Shortstack to use for his homework that was largely web-based, I had looked into the cost comparison of tablets and Chromebooks. I was shocked to find out that many of them were priced  less than $300. Seriously!

I texted my wife and told her my computer was dying. Not that it’s a surprise to her – but I’m that kind of spouse who likes to whine and whimper when I’m frustrated. I had pulled up the brand comparisons for Chromebooks as I was texting her and spent some time looking at the functionality and reviews for the ways in which I would use it. Web access – check. Umm, it’s (somewhat) required – we’ll get back to this point. Easy navigation – check. Yes, Chromebooks use Google Chrome. Well, mine does. I’m sure smarty-ass tech people can get them to use other stuff. I’m familiar and comfortable with Chrome. All of my main email addresses (family and personal) are Gmail accounts, my UH account is Gmail-based, Shortstack’s school uses Google Classroom. It works well for me. Photo access – check! My photos from my Android phone upload directly to my Google account and I can pull them directly from there. There does seem to be some fancy-shmancy photo editing and organization options that I haven’t explored yet, but I’ll get to it at some point or another. The only requirement that I was wary of was the writing piece. Up until now, I’ve been happily using Scrivener. The only problem is that Scrivener is device-dependent. You purchase it and can only load it on to one device. I appreciated that I didn’t need web access to utilize it, but there were obviously restrictions. Scrivener does not have a version that is compatible with Chromebooks. So, after so research I found a couple of possible alternatives that I could explore: Google docs, Novelize, Scriptito and a handful of others. So, armed with that information, and with my wife’s encouragement, I made my way down to Best Buy ready to spend some money.

Okay, I suppose I should say that the idea of me walking into Best Buy alone, without one of my tech gurus (Scott, Shawn – I’m looking at you!) is probably a recipe for disaster. My saving grace is that I know how to shop with purpose. I did my research. I knew the brand and model. I knew the SKU. Yes, I knew what I wanted and how much I planned to pay for it. $279. Not a penny more. Until you walk into Best Buy in Hawaii and find that the price is $40 higher. I did what anyone in their right mind would do – I messaged my wife to grumble at her because, of course, this was an issue that she needed to fix.  Obviously. And – she did! Reminder: Best Buy has a price match practice … and they not only price match with their own advertised prices, they price match with other retailers as well. And, looky there … Amazon had the very Chromebook I wanted for $269. So, 20 minutes later I walked out the owned of a Chromebook.

I got home, opened up the box and looked at how simple it was. The device and two charger cords. I couldn’t mess this up, right? And I didn’t. I plugged the sucker in, opened it up, was prompted to log into my Gmail account and all of a sudden, everything worked. So, here’s the nitty-gritty of working with this gadget in my everyday life – it’s Google Chrome. I don’t need to get used to anything that is web-based (i.e. web browsing, accessing my online classes or Shortstack’s online school stuff). I had not worked with Google docs or slides or spreadsheets extensively before (i.e. I opened them up by mistake when logged into my Gmail account on my old laptop but then closed it because I had no idea what I was looking at). In the week that I’ve been working with these programs, they’ve been easy to move through. It’ll take me a bit to learn the ins and outs (let’s face it, it’s taken me years to familiarize myself with Word and Powerpoint) but I do love the ease with which I can share documents. The Chromebook is ridiculously lightweight. It doesn’t get hot and the battery is long-lived (granted, this is it’s first week of use). I did purchase a case for it because life in our house is never without it’s dangers.

Here’s the tough parts … I miss iTunes. I’m one of those writers who create playlists for my writing time. I haven’t yet figured out a fix for this one. I finally settled on Novelize for a writing program. Truth be told, I haven’t spent much time with it yet – partially because family craziness (spring break, men’s and women’s basketball games headed to the Big Dance, my own homework and projects) and partially because I’m not loving how Novelize LOOKS. That sounds stupid, I know. But I love Scrivener – the feel of it, the structure, the corkboard and pins and index cards. <sigh> I have scheduled writing time for myself this weekend and I have promised to give Novelize a true chance before I get pissy about it.

One common concern I’ve read is that Chromebooks need to be wi-fi connected for functionality. Well, yes. And no. Chromebooks are created to be web-connected for full functionality of programs. Fortunately for me, I live in a wi-fi dominated world. The places that I will most likely use my laptop (home, the university, public libraries, coffeeshops, my parent’s house, etc.) mostly have accessible wi-fi. For those rare times when I am not wi-fi connected (when I’m subbing at a school, on an airplane, sitting in a park) I can access and edit a selection of documents via Google docs; any changes I make offline are saved to my drive and when I connect again, everything automatically updates. Don’t ask me how it happens, but it did just this very thing today! WOOHOOO for technology! And for smarter people than me!

All in all, this Chromebook is a VERY affordable option to fit my immediate needs. I know (and have already informed my wife) that when I start teaching I will need a Macbook replacement. But for right now, this Chromebook is ideal. Look, it’s not an Apple Macbook … it’s not all fancy-shmancy. It’s a simple workhorse that will carry you through everyday simple tasks. Would I recommend Chromebooks to others? Yes. Without a doubt. Just know what you’re using it for, recognize its limitations and appreciate it’s simplicity.

 

Getting Better … & Older

… it’s the way things go, isn’t it? I turned 41 several weeks ago. It was a rough week leading up to my birthday; one of those weeks where I had to monitor my emotions and reactions closely because I was easily triggered, those weeks that each day was more frustrating than the one before and my only, constant prayer was “give us a break. please.” It was the week that I faced one of my biggest fears – letting down my person in a major way – and confronted a big fuck up that I had made that negatively affected my family. But it was also one of those weeks that grace and love carried us through; a week that silent communication through our love bond was profound. It was a blessed week. As my life has been.

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I’ve enjoyed getting older. I’ve never had a crisis due to age. I haven’t felt that my birthdays are curses. But, this one. This birthday has me unexpectedly introspective.

I’m in a season of transition; I’m starting to think that I’m always in a season of transition. But, really, I am. I’ve been taking classes in pursuit of my teaching certificate after a 12-year career in student affairs. I have not had a comfort zone since August 2014, when I left my last job. I am substitute teaching – which means I am often in different classrooms on different days during different weeks with students of different grades. I am taking classes with students that are half my age. Literally. Half my age. Some of them have called me “Aunty” (a sign of respect in Hawaii, as most of us call our elders “Aunty” or “Uncle”) YES. Elders. I’m an elder. Apparently. One of my classmates even started calling me “Mom”. Sweet, but a bit unnerving – especially when you’re already a bit uncertain about making such a massive career change in the first place.

3.11.3Being so far out of my comfort zone has made me seek out what I believe I know. The list isn’t long. It’s not revelatory or profound. But, right now, at 41, sitting on my couch in our home in Kaimuki, this is what I know and believe …

  • there is a difference between what is “right” and what is “perfect.” i much prefer right. but right does not mean easy
  • i have an unhealthy and complex relationship with food
  • becoming is more vital than being
  • sleep is elusive. appreciate it when you have it
  • affection and intimacy needs to be cultivated. sometimes that means you have to actually make an appointment with your person. sometimes the most difficult thing is to keep that appointment. but do so. affection and intimacy are necessary in the relationship
  • i’m a learning nerd. seriously – TED talks and NPR. i’m an info junky
  • “Done is better than good.” (Elizabeth Gilbert’s mama)
  • there is no muse. there’s work. sometimes work will open the door to good stuff. sometimes you just need to get a lot of crap on the page and try to find a way to piece together something good out of all the crap
  • libraries and reading are and will be part of my everyday life
  • i’m a terrified – petrified – writer
  • “… follow your curiosity …” (Elizabeth Gilbert) vs. your passion. it’s less intimidating and more realistic for those of us who are unsure about what our passions are
  • reading glasses in every room and every bag is a must
  • i will cuddle with our boy at night whenever he asks me to because the day is quickly coming when he won’t ask me to again
  • being a stay-at-home-mama is tough … maintaining partnership equality when one partner is a SAHM is difficult because earning money matters
  • climbing the stupid hill is a requisite for me to maintain a minimum level of physical comfort
  • BLACK coffee. always
  • being an introvert means that quiet time is non-negotiable. and making sure i have quiet, alone time is vital
  • i need dates and romance in life
  • more time with art is good for the soul ($25 annual membership at the Honolulu Art Museum  the best deal in town)
  • i’m addicted to social media – and that isn’t a good thing
  • i don’t like to be drunk – i do like to enjoy a drink with friends and my love
  • i don’t miss higher ed
  • i’m not skilled at following through with goals i set for myself
  • clutter will always be a part of my life and our home
  • as i get older, my parents’ offenses are less important than having a relationship with them
  • forgiveness is not the same as moving beyond
  • making our bed makes me feel better about the day

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my days close with this … lucky me …

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“So, I close my eyes to old ends and open my heart to new beginnings.” ~Nick Fredrickson

Sydney is a city of the historic and the modern coexisting seamlessly1.1Chandelier envy1.4 Damn veggies … keep up with the potato1.2Another day – another pub
1.31.5 Never be afraid to climb high, Shortstack 1.6 The Bar. Darling Harbor. Check it out!1.7Ride into adventure
1.8 Talk story catch-up, Sydney style1.9 Local boy sharing the aloha, everywhere we go 1.10 Aussie-Aussie-Aussie1.11Up close and personal with an icon
1.12People on top – I’m perfectly fine with my view from below
1.13 Photobomb by Mama1.14 Backpack brigade 1.15 Manly – oh how I love thee1.16

Aussie ‘Ohana 1.17Hello, 2016 – Sydney, Aus
1.18 Mapa the Wombat – our newest family member 1.19 Apparently my father needs this book – he finally has a smart phone … and has found emojis1.20Family photographer
1.21 A much-needed beach walk yielded Aussie beach treasures1.22 Paterson dudes1.23 The best traveler EVER1.24 Get them zzzzzz’s 1.25

Another year closed, another one opened. I hope that all of you had a blissful holiday season. Be gentle with yourself as we slide into 2016. The years – our lives – are not competitions. I’m thankful that 2015 has come to an end and I’m searching for a guiding thought to carry with me in 2016. As always, this year is bound be filled with change and growth and I can only hope to be ready to flow with the tides.

Hau’oli makahiki hou, my darlings … may it be a good one.

10 Years

10 is a good round number. It’s easy to count by 10s. It simplifies things.

10 years ago today, the most amazing person pushed (literally) his way into my life. It wasn’t without some chaos and uncertainty. But, in a surprising way, he simplified my life.

Shortstack chose me as his Mama. I believe that. He chose me to love him. I am lucky enough to have that honor and privilege.

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Hau’oli la hanau, baby boy … your mamas love you to the moon and back a gajillion times over!

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I Choose Me

We spend a lot of our in-between time in cars. From home to school. School to practice. Home to events. Over the Pali to Papa’s house. School to the library. For short bursts of time, after all, we live within a 14-minute commute to most of our usual haunts, the Shortstack and I often have the most entertaining and insightful conversations as I battle traffic and he reminds me that I don’t need to yell at other drivers. {Sidenote: I’d stop yelling at other drivers if and when they learn how to drive well.}

Escaping the relentless icky-sticky heat and humidity, Shortstack and I were headed to yet another library so we could get through his homework while simultaneously cooling down before soccer practice. As I wove my way around the parked cars down hill on the narrow 1.5-lane street, Shortstack walked me through his awesome day and we debriefed about the family schedule for the week.

“Mama, you have class this week, right?” {I recently returned to school to pursue my teaching certificate}

“Yep, baby. I do.” {2 weeknight evenings – usually after dinner is prepped and a significant dent in the homework is made}

“Mama, do you wish that you could never have to leave me?”

“What do you mean, baby?”

“Well, if you could choose, would you choose to go to class or stay home with me?”

Whoa. Huh? Since when did I raise a needy child? Since when had our love been dependent upon the amount of time spent holding hands? Since when was this ever a realistic conversation to have with my child?

“Oh, baby. I love being with you. And with Mama. You two are my favorites but …”

Okay – how was I going to answer this without sounding like a selfish bitch? How would I talk our sweet boy – the one who usually wants nothing more than to hang out with his people and have fun, hold hands and give kisses, curl into his mamas and be together – yes, that sweet boy – how was I going to tell him that right now, yes. I choose to go to school and I DO NOT regret it one bit. In fact, this Mama not only needs to go to school, she WANTS to go to school. Yes, of course. to learn. To change her career. To become more of what I want to be. But also, this Mama wants to go to school to have a little bit of time in her day when she feels a bit more than just Mama and wife. When she feels like the time spent on herself is not selfishly-taken or needs to be accounted for to someone else as justification. When she has conversations with people who don’t know her but want to and who see her in different ways and roles. She wants to step out into a space where having dinner ready and doing 4th grade homework isn’t the only tasks on her calendar because what happens in her brain is as valued as whether or not the Costco shopping has been done and IXL has been conquered.

How was this Mama going to answer this question, say all of these things and still reiterate that there is no way that I’d rather be doing anything in this life more than being Mama and Wife – being nurturer and home chef – being PTA and soccer parent, cheerleader and open ear? How to answer this question so that he understands that I am so crazy-blessed to have this life and to be loved so completely by my little family and I know it. And still, be selfish enough to want more. To need to be a bit of just me. To have those few hours a week that I’m not Mama and Wife and I can become better? And that little bit of selfishness is NOT A BAD THING.

“Baby, you know what’s pretty cool about love? When we love someone, we don’t have to ask our people to choose. We don’t have to tell them, ‘you need to choose to be with me or go do what you want to do.’ When we love someone,  we say, ‘we love you – and we know you love us, so go do what you want and be a better you because that’s all I want since I love you. To be happy.'” 

Not the most eloquent of answers, for sure. But he seemed to get the gist.

“Oh, so because I love you, it’s okay that you want both?”

“Yeah, baby.” 

Because I love you baby, I want you to do what you need to do – make the choices you want and need to make, explore the paths that open up to you, take the chances that you think are right, go the ways that you feel pulled all so that you can become the best version of you that you wish to be. I want you to be with or away from me as much as you need to so that you can figure out how to become the person that you wish to be. That, my baby, is how much I love you. I love you so damn much, I’m going to fight the bone-deep inclination to hold you tight to me forever so that you can come and go as you need to and I can get to know the soul of the man that you choose to become.

Now, if only these deep conversations could happen when I’m not driving so that I can continue to employ the highly-critical  grumpy-ass driver persona that I have refined over the years. And you can love me for that as well.