Tea Ceremony

After school class selection has become a battle at my house. Ever since our son started school, we tried to keep him in on choosing the classes. One of the other parents told me that they never even let their kid know that there was a selection. They just made it for him. I thought that was mean and undemocratic. In hindsight, they may have been brilliant. They just pick whatever they want their son to do. No choices. No debates. No arguments. Divine.

We have a very different process. It involves cajoling. And give and take. I usually want some type of sports activity. My son usually wants to sit in the cafeteria. I lobby for drama. He wants to sit in the cafeteria. We argue and bicker. We negotiate. And ultimately I usually pick a class and he picks a class. I was going really strong for JV Volleyball this year. It is the first year he is old enough to do it. The school is really small so the sports activities on behalf of the school are limited to volleyball and basketball. I thought that it would be good for him and that he would like it. We were at the office before school started to register for classes and he adamantly refused to sign up for it. He even started getting a little teary eyed. I gave in. I didn’t want to but I did. So in the place of volleyball, I got tennis. And his choice, my son’s selection, was Japanese Tea Ceremony class. I continue to be fascinated by this choice. My first thought was that it would be all girls which he would not like. He tolerates girls and is sort of friends with some of them but generally speaking, he wouldn’t choose to spend an afternoon with roomful of them. And I almost said that he might be the only boy that day we were registering. I almost said that he might be surrounded by girls. And then I didn’t. I felt like, first of all, I was bringing my own gender bias into it by thinking that it would be all girls. And if I did say this, was I then saying that only girls should take the class? That seemed wrong. And if I did say it, there was a strong likelihood that he would change his mind. So I just shut it. I said nothing.

He has been in Japanese Tea Ceremony class for about two weeks now. He is one of two boys in the class and he loves it. They wear kimonos during the class. They start out by having Japanese candy and then partake in some tea drinking. Grape, unsweetened tea apparently. His only complaint is that there are too many girls and not enough boys. But it is a small complaint. And I feel good that I didn’t make some comment to change his
mind. And that my thoughts were not his thoughts. I hope that it stays that way. That he doesn’t choose to do things or not do things because they are labeled as “girl” things. Maybe that will happen as long as I continue to keep my mouth shut.

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I hate the weather that we are having right now. Ever since we have returned from NY it has been so still and humid. When I go out for a run at lunch time, yes lunch time in Honolulu, I get out of the elevator, fresh from my vacuum packed chilly-to-the-point-of-wearing-a-scarf cubicle and my first thought is “ugh, it is hot.” I wonder if it is because I have yet to reacclimate to Hawaii weather. I wonder if it is because I am denial that I am back. Or maybe it is really just hot. I suppose that could be the case.

Since the weather is so still, I feel like the bugs are more active. I know that this is the case when it comes to termites. When it is still they swarm and are attracted to light. There was one crawling on my son’s ceiling the other night. I also feel like the roaches are really enjoying this weather as well. We have seen a few in random spots in our apartment and have managed to terminate them. But the stillness, it just makes you lethargic, sweaty and grumpy.

I think I was particularly grumpy today because I had too many meetings. For quite some time, I have been left alone. It is really spectacular and I highly recommend it. I sit at my desk and I answer questions from people throughout my building regarding health care reform. I am like the Dear Abby of the ACA. And I like it. I like trying to find the answer to a policy question. I like researching the rules and going through the 500 pages of FAQs and searching IRS Bulletins. I know, this mostly makes other people want to run and hide. But this is why my job is good for me. Except when I have to go to meetings. I feel like meetings distract from my work.
Today, in the midst of my meetings, on my schedule there was a bridal workout. Now, I am not getting married but my co-worker is. She invited me to attend her bridal workouts at the fitness center onsite. And I have been going. And it is so fun. I have used more fitness related equipment in the past few weeks than in my entire life. I love it. I feel tired and sore afterwards. But in a really good way. Plus my coworker and I laugh so much while doing our workouts. They are hard. Our trainer is young enough to be my son and we have decided that he thinks of us as the crazy old ladies that he trains. He is always laughing with us and keeps our workouts interesting. We even finally got him to put on the alternative punk rock station for us.

So there I was in the middle of my very grumpy day jetting down to the fitness center. I did not want to. I didn’t feel like it. But I went anyway. I had a meeting immediately after our workout. I think that I had some endorphins going or something because I was a little wired. Someone even asked if I was hopped up on caffeine. And then I realized that I felt so much better after the workout. And then I started thinking about people who just don’t work out and how much better they might feel if they actually did something. How they are just stuck with their stillness. And I was so thankful for the ability and opportunity to work out. To run and jump. Lift weights. Go for a walk. And that is how I want to be. The opposite of still. Unstill.

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Back Where We Belong

We leave to go and fetch our son from NY this week. I marvel at how long we have been without him. I remember our trepidation as we took him and my friend Annie, his traveling companion, to the airport. We were very nervous during the traveling times and were so happy when we received pictures of the JFK meetup with my NY family.

And then we started having this life. This weird temporary child free life. For some reason, I had thought that I would begin staying at work all the time. That since I didn’t have to come home and cook dinner, that I would just work late every night. I would get every large project that was lingering at the bottom of the list done. But it was just the opposite. Instead I joined a two night a week boot camp group and every Thursday I would go walking with LKY around Ala Moana Park before partaking in Taco Bell Thursday (it’s a thing). I blocked off time during my day for running and I joined my soon to be married co-worker for her bridal workouts at the fitness center at work. After all of this working out, you’d think I’d have lost ten pounds. Unfortunately, due to all the drinking and my lack of cooking which led to too much eating out, my weight remained pretty static.

And while I have drank too much over the past few months and eaten on the wild side, I’ve done good things too like hiking on Saturday mornings with one of the boot camp gals (Gigi). She somehow continues to talk us into getting up and being at her house by 7:00 a.m. every Saturday. We hate getting up. We complain and moan but when we are done with our hike and it is before 10:00 a.m. we are loving it. She thinks like a lobbyist because she always exacts our commitment to go the following week when we are in the warm hiking afterglow. That feeling you get from just being outside, walking around and trying not to fall in the mud or break any bones.

One of the best parts of all of our adventures has been the camaraderie we have with the women who participate with and run the Try Fitness boot camp. LKY has become almost like a mascot to the group and has even earned himself a nickname. This was based on a comment he made to Coach Suz when she asked him if we had looked like we were getting a good workout out in the lagoon as he watched us from the beach. His response, “you guys just looked like you were drifting around.” So now water workout is “drifting” and he is “the drifter”. And of course, boot camp would not be boot camp without Coach KC’s workouts, encouragement and good-natured chiding (especially about eating fruit). We really feel blessed to have come to know these women.

But, the kid is coming home. And our lives right now are not our real lives. So when I am asked to do something or go somewhere or commit to something. I can’t. I have yet to determine how, or if, the new fake life can work with my real life. I figure I can make parts of it come together but I just don’t know how yet. So for now, we are in vacation mode and plan on figuring it all out when we return.

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For the Love of Shoes

I have wide feet. This is what happens when you have wide feet and you go shoe shopping. You walk into say, Macy’s. Their shoe section stretches out in front of you, acres of cute, high and colorful shoes. It is spectacular. You pick up a pair and they look suspiciously narrow. You try it on and can basically squeeze in your big toe and that’s about it. So then you ask one of the hovering salespeople if they have anything in a wide width and you are directed to the shoe wasteland way at the other end. I don’t feel the need to disparage any of the brands in that area of the store since I own some. Generally speaking though, they are black. They are not in fun colors. They have low heels if any. They sometimes have Velcro. Sometimes these brands try to be cool. I appreciate that. I own some of these attempts.


If I am not being depressed at the mall shoe section, I can be found on Zappo’s where the wide width section is abundant. I even own a pretty comfortable pair of high heels (high for me) that is cute and came in a comfy width. Thing is that, I always feel like I am settling when it comes to shoes. I never get to select from the entirety of the selection. And yes, I know that folks with small feet have the same kind of problem and folks with bigger feet do as well. I acknowledge that I am not alone.


But there I was, this weekend, at the mall where the Fourth of July sales were in full swing. We walked through a major department store’s shoe section on our way out into the fray. I looked at some 15% off shoes and felt like they kind of fit and they were pretty reasonable. So after trolling through the mall, we headed back. I planted my significant other on a couch and headed out to pick out some shoes to try on. A very friendly local girl ended up chatting with me and she brought out the shoes I requested plus a couple of suggestions. I had told her of the wide problem. She confided back that she wore a size eleven.


While I waited for her to bring shoes to me, I happened to look up and (cue angelic music) saw a fabulous pair of shoes. They were a strappy green wedge. And on a whim, I tried them on. And shockingly, they fit. They did not only fit, they were comfortable. I was in love. It was a feeling that I never have with shoes. I buy shoes because I can’t wear my slippers to work. I buy shoes because they have to be black, or flat or, tan. Not because they are cute. Or because I like them. I was having a moment. And then there was the price. They were outside of my price point for shoes (which is in reality is around forty dollars) but I felt like I could not not buy them. I knew that if I didn’t, I would regret it. I would think about them and think about them until I finally went back to actually get them.


So I just did it. Bought the cute green strappy shoes along with a salesgirl recommended wacky, flat, oddly smelling pair of jelly shoes. And then at the register the cute-I-love-you-shoes rang up for sixty dollars, actually cheaper than the other pair. It was like winning the lottery. I wondered if the salesgirl had played me. Did she know that they were on sale? And then I decided that I did not even care. I had that shoe love moment, one that I never get to have. So the fact that it came on sale, was just a bonus. And I wore them as soon as I got home yesterday, while I did my housework.

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Running Through the Cloud

I often run during lunch at work. Everyone asks if it is too hot. Sometimes it is. Like yesterday. But most times it is fine. I like to get out. To get away from the office for a bit. When I am running my mind empties out. Sometimes a random song will pop into my head, out of nowhere. My own subconscious Pandora. A lot of times I get really good ideas when I am out running. Maybe there is something at work that needs to get done but I’m not sure how to go about it and then, while out running, I get the solution.

When I run, always go the same route. Most people who run at work tend to head down to the ocean. Maybe go in for a swim and then run back to the office. Running at Ala Moana is unappealing to me. That was where I ran right after I gave birth to my son. I was overweight. Clunky. Running was not fun. So I don’t like to run there anymore. Instead I run towards downtown and then up the big hill at Ward. If it wasn’t for that big hill my time would be killer but I have yet to be able to truly conquer it. Some days I feel like a runner but I never feel like kill that hill.

Part of my route takes me past the Honolulu Design Center. It is an architecturally interesting building that sells furniture which is generally out of my price range. It also houses a café, a restaurant and a wine bar. There are tables out front with umbrellas right off the street. For the past couple of days this week there has been an older gentleman sitting out front smoking a pipe. And each time, part of me wants to stop and sit down with him. Or near him. To smell that pipe smell.

When I was a child my great grandfather on my mother’s side of the family was a wizened old man who ultimately lived to be over 100. I remember him being short and bald with a prominent nose. His name was Earl. He purchased the house that my mother lives in now but back then it was only a summer house. It had no insulation and no heat. My grandmother would take him out there for the summer. I would sometimes stay with them. My great grandfather smoked a pipe. The smell of a pipe is nothing like cigarette smoke or the smell of a cigar. It is juicy and prominent with no hint of unhealthiness. I loved it as a child and I still do. I think that air fresheners should come in pipe scented smells. So there I am running and then out of the blue I run through this big pipe scented cloud of memories. I can see my great grandfather sitting on the chair in the house. I remember having to shout for him to hear. I remember that he slept on the bunk bed in what is now my sister’s room. And that he was always reading. And as quickly as this smell has stimulated these thoughts, they are gone. It is all so fast. And that is why I want to sit down next to the man with the pipe. Because running through the cloud is just not enough. I want to steep in it. Bask in it. Let it soak into my pores. To have more than a moment to live in the past when so much was still yet to be.

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For the Love of Love

So we sent my nine year old son off to spend the summer with my mother in New York almost three weeks ago. That day was super-duper stressful. He traveled with a close friend of mine to JFK and my family met them there and whisked him off to the far reaches of Long Island. We worried and worried till we received text messaged photos of them at the airport in NY. My mother has said, since practically the day he was born, that she wanted him to come and spend summers with her at her place. I was never against the idea. Her house is a boys’ summer paradise. On the bay with a large yard, house stocked with three dogs and all the home cooked meals you can handle. It helps that my mother has more energy than I do. She is close to her mid-seventies and frequently registers in running races for age groups well below her own. She does not like to win by default (being the only one in her age group) plus she loves it if she actually beats someone in the younger age group (which happens often). She hates being inside more than anything and prays for short winters. So having my nine year old son around for a few months is no big deal for her.

With our son vacationing, his dad and I spent the first week acting like young adults whose parents have gone away and left them alone in the house. We started doing crazy things like seeing an adult movie at 7:30 on a weekday evening. I stopped cooking dinner and in fact have not really gone food shopping since our son left for NY. I joined a boot camp class that meets two weekday nights a week and had wine in someone’s yard last week Wednesday after the workout and came home when it was dark out. As we continue to transition to our new place, we have dumped a bunch of stuff in our son’s room as we work. The mornings are quiet with no nagging about breakfast, getting dressed, brushing teeth and putting on sunblock. We have been doing a lot of walking outside after work around Ala Moana Park. And, while all of this has been nice, and I realize that other parents may find the tales of our shenanigans scintillating, at this point, in the third week of our son’s vacation, I am over it.

I talk to him every day. I give him a call when I get out of the shower in the morning. It is around lunch time there. About a week in, he started calling me three times a day or so. Some calls he was sobbing. He said that he wanted to come back. He said that he couldn’t stay there without me. My heart broke a bit every time we had this conversation. This lasted about three days. Since then, he has said that he misses me. He has said that it is not as much fun there without me. But he has not said that he wants to come back. I am glad.

I am glad because the past few days have been tough for me. I feel like I would gladly trade in all the time drinking and hiking to snuggle up with my son and read a book to him. Give him a hug and see his most excellent smile. The thing that helps me get through is that, well, the time for us to go there and fetch him back is getting closer and closer. That, and the pure and indescribable happiness that my son is bringing to my mother. Every time I talk to her on the phone she thanks me. She thanks his dad. She says it is the best gift we could have ever given her. She is amazed by him every day and, if it is possible, I feel like she loves him more now than she did before. And I only hope that he feels the same. That, even if, he doesn’t know it now, that when he is older he will remember this time as an invaluable and irreplaceable gift. And this is what is helping me to get through till we go back and get him.

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Lovely Vampires

I had to have blood taken today. I had it taken by a very skilled and friendly phlebotomist (admit it, that word is gross). In my, luckily, few and far between blood draws, I seem to always have a woman performing this function. I wondered today if it is because women are gentler. Or maybe less squeamish. I don’t know. I do know that it is not a job that I could perform. Or maybe I could. Maybe sticking someone else with a needle is something that I would be able to do. Sticking myself, not so much.

This morning as I sat down in the chair, I warned the phlebotomist that I have the potential to be a fainter. And while this is true, it has happened less than five times in my lifetime and the last time was more than ten years ago. It happened when having blood drawn for my Peace Corps physical. It happened in Thailand when I was getting one the millions of shots they made us have. It happened once when I gave blood in college. And although I seem to have found ways around the actual fainting, the entire process still makes me a bit nauseous. There is something about the actual needle piercing my skin that just makes me ill.

So I told the woman today and she asked if I wanted to lie down while she did it but I said no, and I told her that I would be fine. Because if you say it, it will be true. She put the giant rubber band thing on my arm. She told me that I had a really good vein (blech!). She looked at my paperwork and told me she would be taking four vials. I thought that was a lot but she told me that once she took seventeen from someone. I told her that I thought that seventeen seemed like a crazy amount but she told me that those blood vials only hold one tablespoon’s worth of blood. And that is hardly a thing.

I feel like once you tell someone that you may pass out on them, they tend to be pretty chatty. It is definitely helpful when trying to not think about the feeling of that needle. I asked her how long she had been doing this and she said for one year. She said that she loved it. And that she couldn’t drink coffee because it made her shake. I remarked that that probably wasn’t good to have happen in her line of business. She agreed. And then it was finished. Four vials. Four tablespoons. And she told me that I could go have my first coffee of the day. And thanks to her, despite my best fears, the entire process was relatively painless and faint free. Phlebotomists. Word.

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