Boxed In

When you move it is all about the boxes. A while ago I started sending random things to my mom. When you are moving and you know you are moving, it is best to put things aside to send as you go. Otherwise you may forget something. Like the stockings for Xmas.  Or your favorite ornaments. And when I was packing boxes to send to my mom, I thought that numbering and tracking them would be a really great idea. So smart and prepared and unlike me. Well, now we are here, in NY and some of the boxes are in my mom’s attic and some of the boxes are in my Aunt’s basement. And we needed to find the stockings. Of course, for some reason, I can only find the list of contents for boxes 6-9 and the Christmas items were not listed in any of them.

That meant we had to open boxes 1-5 to find what we were looking for. We started at my Aunt’s house because those boxes are easier to access. She had some of the 1-5 boxes but none of them were the right one. We went to my mom’s in the afternoon before family dinner at a friend’s house. We got up in the attic and literally the last box we opened (box number one) had the stockings and ornaments in it. Success. We also took the box that had DVDs of our favorite movies (think Grease and The Breakfast Club). One day all the boxes will come and live with us.

Along with the moving boxes from Hawaii, my place is currently full of 18 or so boxes from my Dad’s house. It is all that is left of the home that he grew up in. Of his life. Of all that he was. There may be some things of nominal value but the things that were in the house for living, the everyday things, seem to have disappeared. The things that hung on the walls like all of my grandmother’s photos. The things that my dad assembled while he was really active in the veteran’s association. The furniture. All of the things that made up their lives. The things that made that house, a place that I loved when I was a child. Those things are mostly gone. It is unclear what happened to everything. Suffice to say that I could have definitely done more. There is no one to blame. There is no one to ask. Going through my dad’s boxes is my winter project. It is not one that I am looking forward to.

And with Christmas so close, my PO Box has been filled with Amazon boxes. And then, yesterday, I received a box from a friend who I would liken to a guardian angel. She seems to always know what to do and when to do it to make you feel really cared about. When I was going through a rough patch with school she sent me a bouquet of flowers. Not just any bouquet but the most beautiful one I had ever received. And that is true to this day. So this guardian angel friend sent me a box. When I saw that it was from her, I barely made it to the car before crying. I texted her and told her that. She told me to just open it. She told me that she had put something in there that reminded her of when we met. When I got the box home, I put it under the tree. Later in the day, I tried to open it. I managed to slit the tape and peek inside. I saw a card and that was about it before I had to set it aside and cry some more. I swear that I will open it one of these days.

Don’t get me wrong. Being home is great. Seeing my mom almost every day is great. But I was in Hawaii a long time. And when you are anywhere for a long time, you assemble a lot of people. I left behind a lot of people. So as happy as I am to be with my entire family on Christmas day, I still find myself crying over the “I’ll be home” songs sung this time of year. I don’t think that can be fixed or changed. I think that it is what it is. And I think that maybe I will always just be happy/sad at Christmas time.

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Dead Bunnies & HIPAA Violations

Earlier this week it was cold but at least the wind was not blowing. I really wanted to get out for a run so I waited until around 10:00 a.m. because maybe it would be warmer and finally got myself out there. I’m not sure that it was warmer but it made me feel better about the whole thing. When I got back and walked up to the stairs leading up to our place I noticed little bits of white fur strewn all over. I stopped for a minute and thought that it looked as if my cat had exploded. Then when I looked closer I saw some tan colored fur in with the white and realized that the white and tan bunny that my son had named Letitia had likely become a tasty treat to some wild animal. We can see the woods out of the bedroom window. Sometimes there are wild turkeys. We have seen a ground hog. And recently my son saw a fox. I think that is likely what got Letitia.

In the afternoon my mom stopped by before she picked up my sister from work. When she left, I went out with her so I could go to the post office to pick up my mail. I often forget that I now live in a small town. In Honolulu, my son’s private school classmates lived all over the island. If they wanted to get together outside of school it was a logistical nightmare. I rarely, if ever, ran into parents that I knew. Here, my son’s classmates all live here, in our small town. I do like it. I feel like we are all in this together. There was a package in my box when I got to the post office so I had to go to the counter. For some reason it always takes way longer than I think that it should in the post office. I finally got my package and ran over to get an ice coffee (I know I should switch to hot but I can’t). While waiting I absently opened my mail. One was a bill. And the other said that my mammogram showed something and that I had to come back. My first reaction was panic. Then I realized that the letter was a from a local doctor’s office and that I had not had a mammogram here yet. And then I looked at the name, which was not mine. Can you say HIPAA violation?

And then I felt badly for this woman. This woman whose bad mammogram results I knew before she did. I looked at the address. The box was mine but the name was incorrect. The envelope was one of those self sealing ones so I was able to put it back. I was so flustered by the entire thing that I left without getting coffee and went back to the post office. I had to wait in line again. And I gave it to the woman and told her that it was my box but not me. I wanted to tell her that it was really important and that the woman who was supposed to get it really need to get it. That she needed to get it. I hope that she gets it and that it is really nothing.

That evening my son, my friend’s daughter and I went to a variety show at their High School. I had tried to convince my son that he should be in the show. Tried to get him to dance the hula that he had danced when he was in the court for May Day. He wasn’t having it. But we went tonight. It was a very scaled back show. And there was some real talent. And there were some parts that went better than others. But I kind of loved it. They were all so young. And had enough confidence to get up on stage and do something. One girl played ukulele and sang an original song. In front of an audience. Think about that. When I was a teenaged girl, there is no way I would let anyone read anything that I had written. Forget about any type of audience. So I was impressed.

And sad. Because if I ever had that. It is gone. And I don’t know how to get it back. That optimism. That belief that you could do anything. That you could be anything. That you could be a bunny flitting about without being eaten by a fox. Maybe not even knowing there was a fox. Or knowing that there was a fox but not caring because you could do anything. I am not that bunny. I am the bunny that is afraid and hiding. Because I know about the fox. And I desperately want to forget about the fox. And not because I am stupid but because worrying about the fox constantly is no way to live.  I know that I need to be aware of the fox so I don’t end up like Letitia but I can’t be so afraid of it that I stop living.

Today my son discovered four new bunnies hanging around. He warned them about the fox. And told them to not be Letitia. Maybe he should have told them to live like Letitia but not be Letitia. Good advice.

Posted in Aging, fear, midlife crisis, New York, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

So Far Sadness

Before I moved from Hawaii, I started attending church. It was not so much a faith thing for me but a trying to sort out life thing. I chose St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. Partly because I had gone to a very well attended funeral there about ten years ago for a work colleague and had never forgotten how touched I was just being there. Yes the church is really, really lovely and when it is full of people and there is singing, it is something to behold. But for me, it really goes to what the choir master of the Cathedral said during one mass after I had been attending for a bit. He said that the Cathedral felt like a thin place. If I can quote directly, “a thin place is a term used for millennia to describe a holy place in time where the space between heaven and earth grows thin and the Scared and the secular seem to meet…..a porthole into the spiritual world.” I feel like this is why I was drawn to the Cathedral. I would sometimes go alone during the day on the weekend. To just sit and be. If I was downtown for some reason, I would go by. I always felt drawn to it.

My significant other and I settled into going to Saturday evening mass. It was, well, short. That was appealing. It was also very informal. Frequently our pastor would be attired in shorts and slippahs. His sermon would be off the cuff with shades of his more formal Sunday sermon. But more folksy. More relatable. And that really worked for me.

As we continued to attend Saturday service, we got to know our fellow attendees. It was a really small bunch. We rarely numbered more than a dozen unless there was a christening. When someone did not show, they were missed. I was sad to leave my little church family. It was something that made Honolulu feel sticky to me. A place that I wanted to stay in.

Recently our Pastor wrote about the fire in Kaimuki that killed a woman and her nine month old daughter. He mentioned that there was a connection to the congregation. I looked at the picture and did not recognize the woman.

Today, I found out that the woman and her daughter were the daughter and granddaughter of the couple who sat across from me in Saturday mass for over year. They were always friendly. She often brought treats for our little group. She was thrilled about her baby granddaughter. They were babysitting. She would say that she would bring the baby to service but she would cry and she didn’t want to be disruptive. I told her to just do it. That we would not mind. That we could take turns holding her. Because everyone loved babies.

And my heart is broken for her. For him. For the husband. The words that everyone says spring to mind. Platitudes. But there are no words. There is nothing. And the life that she was projecting for herself, her daughter, her granddaughter is just gone.

So yesterday I made a giant lasagna and drove out to my mom’s. We went for a long walk. It was cold but not too cold. When we got back I put the lasagna in the oven and cooked it. My mom, my sister, my son and I ate dinner together. And chatted. And had mom’s homemade chocolate chip cookies for dessert. It was the best I could do. As I continue to struggle to live a more meaningful life.

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I Could be the Doctor

I really like Doctor Who. I was introduced to the series with the 9th Doctor but my gateway episode, much like many others, was Blink. It is the quintessential episode that introduces scary monsters and clever plot lines. It also features my favorite Doctor. The Tenth Doctor portrayed by David Tennant. I loved Ten. Ten is my Doctor. He had many companions, Ten did. And a lot of times, I felt like I could be that companion. I felt like I had a crush on Ten. I had a crush on Ten, like Rose, and I could be Rose. I could travel in the TARDIS. I could be that person. That companion. Dressed in that one dress. With those cute shoes.

There was a lot of opinions in the Doctor Who universe when it was announced that the newest Doctor would be played by Jodie Whittaker. A woman. Some fans were appalled. Some were thrilled. Some argued that there was evidence that Time Lords could be women in other episodes. At first, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. I felt like I didn’t need a female Doctor. I felt like I had a place in the TARDIS. I could be that companion. I loved the Doctor. I did love the Doctor.

There has been a lot of talk about role models recently. About diversity. About how children need to be able to see themselves. They need to know that they could be that person. The leader. The healer. The actor. The Doctor. I didn’t think that I needed that. I didn’t think that it made a difference. I had always felt like I could still be there. To still be at the table.

And then the Doctor was female. I desperately wanted the episodes to be good. I wanted her to be the Doctor. Just be the Doctor. And as the episodes continue to be broadcast, I realized that the Doctor is female and that makes it completely different. It means that I can be the Doctor. I don’t have to just love the Doctor. I can be the Doctor. And that is huge. And it is different. And it is wonderful. And it is a huge difference.

And I know that this sounds ridiculous coming from me. I am not a young person. Do I still need role models? I would have laughed at even thinking about this. I would have scoffed even. But, I watch, every week. I watch and I am loving Ms. Whittaker as the Doctor. And when I watch, I think that I could be the Doctor. And the characters who she interacts with trust her. As a leader. They follow her. And she is smart and funny and quotable. And I realized that loving the Doctor and being the Doctor are two very different things. And as much as I loved to love the Doctor (sigh, Ten), given the opportunity, given the choice, I will always choose to be the Doctor instead.

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Bad Parenting

We live in NY. We moved to NY from HI. My son started High School in a new school in NY. His graduating 8th grade class consisted of 18 kids. His graduating class in his new school stands at 95 right now. We were supposed to visit Columbia University for a day today. I had gotten him to reluctantly choose classes. I was planning on driving to the train station. And then we would get a train to the city. And then take the subway. It was totally doable and we were going to do it. But by the end of the day yesterday I just felt like I did not want to do it. The whole thing. The whole being in charge thing. But I was going to and I was going to and then. I wasn’t.

My son really was not into it. I bribed him to get him to pick classes. I feel like we are behind. I don’t know if it is Hawaii or if it is his old school but I feel like there has never been a discussion about college. Maybe it is us. Maybe it is me as a parent. Maybe I should have been doing more. But I feel like we are behind when it comes to college considerations. So we really should have visited Columbia today. We should have gone into the city so he could have a college experience. But I just couldn’t do it. Organize, plan, figure it all out. Be the adult. So we played hooky from Columbia. I feel like that we should not have. I wonder what that teaches him about responsibility and doing what you say you are going to do.

I told him that if we did not go, he would owe me another in the future. He agreed to that. I also said that we had to have a mother son day. He agreed to that too. And we had a really great day. Before mother-sonning, I went on a short walk with my friend Mary and her dog Lucy. We went down by the waterfront where the tide had clearly come up a bit high during yesterday’s storm.

My son and I started out our day by picking up some local eggs at one of the farms. The guy who was manning the food truck told us about how they made their own scrapple and then we had a discussion about being from Hawaii. Because, scrapple is spam-like. And of course the owner’s son goes to my son’s High School. Because that is how it works here. It is a small town.

Then we went to the toy store in the next town to get a mask for my son and his friend for Halloween. His friend is new to the school as well and is from Sri Lanka. Being from Sri Lanka, he has never trick or treated before. My son is going to accompany him on Halloween. They don’t really want to dress up. They just want the trick or treat experience. We were able to find two masks that were cheap enough to purchase two. So they are good to go. We also stopped at my mom’s favorite candy shop and got something for us and my mom and sister.

We went to the next two towns and picked up lunch for the both of us (two separate stops naturally). We were planning on going to eat at the park in Orient at the end of the island but after the Nor’easter that came through yesterday, the park was closed due to storm damage. Instead we ate out of the back of my car where the ferries to CT leave.

We stopped at my mom’s house on the way back where she was plying her puppy with peanut butter on her grooming table. She took us around to the front of her house and showed us a tree branch that had come down that was resting on the electrical wires. She told us she thought that she could just get on her ladder and get it down. She said that she thought she could do it. I pointed out that her friend’s husband had been badly injured when he fell off a ladder. I told her that sometimes I thought that I could be a trapeze artist but that didn’t mean I could do it. She called me a coward. In the end she agreed to call the power company about the branch.

We then stopped at my friend Joe’s house. He was able to open a container of oregano for me. I honestly could not get the cap off. He had to use one of those silicone things to do it so I didn’t feel that bad about it. We sprawled out on his couch and watched QVC for a bit while chatting. We left with two homemade chocolate chip donuts and a loaf of bread. I am spoiled.

When we got home, I took a walk in the woods. It is barely wild. It is surrounded by homes and a road, this small preserve. It borders the property that we live on and most of the time I can see houses through the trees. All of this does not make it any less walk-in-the-woods scary for me. I hear things moving around and see Leatherface in my mind. It is a squirrel. I see a discarded Bud Light can and worry that a bunch of drunken teens are harbored somewhere. I am alone. And that is scary. It seems that any place can be a place of violence these days. And while I don’t want to live in fear, I don’t want to not use common sense. I just want to walk in the woods. For just a little peace to end the day.

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Upside Down

We have been in NY for about two months, in our apartment for one day past one month. It was our one month anniversary yesterday. In my mind, there are lists of things that I have had to do since moving. Things like opening bank accounts, trading in my HI driver’s license, getting my kid registered in school and registering my car. Most of these things are done. I really wanted to procrastinate and turn in my HI license at a later date but the problem is that I have to vote. Not voting is not a thing. Having been in seriously blue Hawaii for a really long time, there was not much to be done at the local level. But now, here I am in blue NY living in a red streak. Since moving to the town we are in now, I’ve written postcards and I’ve canvassed twice. I hate doing these things. I hate doing them all so much. But as soon as I think about what is being contemplated for health care in this country by this Administration. As soon as I think about the environmental roll backs. Arming teachers. Making contraception more difficult to obtain. And forget about abortions. Then I get really, really angry. And my anger makes me hate this Administration even more than I hate canvassing. And let me tell you, that takes quite a lot.

So I have been out canvassing for the Democratic candidate twice now. The good thing about canvassing is that I made a friend. She is a teacher, a former Deadhead and retains some of that hippy-dippiness I used to have. I really like her. I could have ended up like her. We have spent two Saturdays traipsing through our town, knocking on doors and talking to people. The list of people we get is supposed to be Democrats who have not voted recently and undecideds. So no one is out and out awful. And honestly, I think that most people find it difficult to be awful to someone’s face.

This past Saturday was more interesting than the last time we were out. It was a beautiful Fall day. Not cold enough for any heavy clothes. The air was cool. The sun was out. It is why people love Fall. No humidity. Just loveliness. Anyway, we were on this one road and there was a cluster of houses where the voters we were trying to track down were in their 80s. At one home, the caretaker answered the door and we asked for the woman. She came, and she was frail and seemed to not be entirely aware of what we were saying. She would grasp a thread, but we were unsure when we walked away if she thought we were talking to her about voting or asking her to a party. At one home the woman’s grandson answered the door and she yelled from the couch that she was in and voting absentee. Another door was answered by another caretaker, she told us that she thought that her charge would be voting.

At my favorite stop of the day. The inside door was cracked open a bit and we could smell the distinct odor of marijuana wafting from inside. My counterpart told me there was a loom inside. A dog began barking and soon a woman with a towel wrapped around her head came to the door. It turned out that she was very blue. We asked about her loom and she asked if we wanted to come in and take a look. It was giant. The kind of thing that I felt like you would see in an olden times recreation village. The woman yelled at her dog to stop barking at the “nice Democrats”. She was working on a woven piece that she was recreating from a watercolor painting of an outdoor scene. It was nothing short of remarkable. She told us that some of her work was being sold in a local store. She was lovely. We did not ask about the marijuana.

It is these interactions that make me keep going out. That make the entire process not terrible. That give me hope. In the red swatch.

Posted in family, friendship, Hawaii, New York, patience, Relationships, Uncategorized, volunteering | Tagged , | 1 Comment

What Hawaii Taught Me

I moved to Hawaii a long time ago. I did not really want to move here. I did not have visions of palm trees swaying. I thought that the Big Island was Oahu. I did not know what hula really looked like. Or that men danced it. Or that “grass” skirts are dreadful representations of the real thing. I moved here because my ex wanted to move here. He was stationed here and loved it. I just came along.

When I first came here, I just needed a job. I did things like working for the census bureau, temping at a (now) rival health insurer and Borders Book Store. I met people at Borders that I still see quite frequently and celebrate major holidays with. I found my hairdresser while working there (she cut my hair last Friday). I had a degree in Marine Biology but not a great track record in the field and no local connections. A friend suggested that I apply as session staff at the Hawaii State Legislature. She said that I would really like it. I was not convinced. I knew nothing about the legislative process.  And then, I was there and I loved it. And it is really what I still do. I think about that. I would have never even thought about applying at the Capitol. Government was always physically distant for me. But it is so close here. People knocking on your door. Signwaving on corners. And on the advice from a friend, I ended up there. And I kind of found myself. How many people can say that?

And I was at the Capitol and learned so much. I remember lurking just off the Senate floor, stalking a Chair to get a Committee Report signed. I remember watching the Merrie Monarch festival for the first time in a fellow Representative’s office. I tired squid luau for at my boss’ fundraiser and loved it. I learned how the legislative process worked. I learned about deadlines. I learned about politics. I learned about policy. And I was hooked.

I moved to the private sector and went to an association that dealt with the City Council. We hosted events for our members. Had them meet Council members and issued endorsements. I learned how to deal with a demanding constituency. And many, many members. My boss there was difficult. And that served me well. He was completely atypical Hawaii. But I learned how to decipher the best way to deal with him. I learned how to do a good job and identify my tough boss’ pain points.

My boss sent my resume to his dad for a job that I was not looking for which is how I ended up where I am today. I was hired on a trial basis in the government relations department at the state’s largest health insurer. I fell into a love hate relationship with the state legislature. I remember having a safe haven office to let down the meet and greet façade of talking to legislators constantly. I learned how to work under pressure. I learned how to be discrete. To give and take. To negotiate. I honed my ability to write. Mostly testimony. I was given opportunities that I would not have had. I got in on the ground floor of the Affordable Care Act.

And at some point, Hawaii gave me the courage to write. To write from my heart. To start my blog. To not be afraid. That may be the best gift of all. Because that freedom let me find myself. It let me be myself. It let me be fearless to post myself. And it led to my current organization embracing that writing. To publishing it in their quarterly magazine. And while that did not lead to minor celebrity status for me, it still made me feel like a real writer. How many people can say that? I am hopeful that the ability to have that feeling, will carry me further, in this journey. I learned how to be real and not be afraid

Finally, I work in the Legal department, which is just weird to me. And working in Legal, well, it has taught me that, you can’t judge a book by its cover. Attorneys feel vulnerable and indecisive even if they are uber intelligent. They are giving. They are just the best (and not just the attorneys, the paralegals as well). I learned to be more open. And the irony that it was the legal department that taught me to love does not escape me. That they taught me that letting people into your heart is not sign of weakness. It is difficult but what Hawaii taught me is that it is the people. The people are what matter.

And honestly, this may be the thing that I learned that taught me that I need to go back to NY. To be closer to my mom. To understand that life really is short. It is not a platitude. And I could talk about my church and how much I love it there. Or I could talk about my Doctor Who group. Or my book club. But it is the family. The ones you choose. The ones that you accidentally become part of. The ones who embrace you like their own. And that is how I feel about Hawaii. Embraced. Loved. Part of a family. And always feeling the aloha.

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