Jenny Boots

It has been quite the week. Yesterday the school called me. It was one of the two kinds of calls that you never want to receive from the school. The first is the one where they are calling to tell you that your kid did something bad and the second is the one where they are calling to tell you that your kid is hurt. I got the second one. It was raining all afternoon and my son slipped while walking and bumped his head on the concrete. When the woman from the office called, all I heard was head, dizzy, tired and nausea. I left the house with the turtle’s basking light on, forgot my sunglasses and got my son’s birthday wrong at the ER when they asked me. I did not want to go to the ER but……his head. It was definitely bumped. It definitely hit the concrete. He definitely did not lose consciousness.

 We got right in. I suppose that is something that occurs when you are in the ER in the middle of the day. I considered going to our pediatrician but then I thought she might just send us to the ER anyway. The pediatric resident came in and ran through a bunch of tests on my son. She seemed to think that a CAT scan was unwarranted but we had to wait for the attending. Funnily enough, the attending doctor reminded me of the very socially awkward heart surgeon from a few season’s past on Grey’s Anatomy. She was just like that. She launched into this very long description of concussions and brain bleeds. The most unfortunate part of the entire thing was that my 12-year-old son, who was terrified in the car on the way over after googling concussion, was getting kind of freaked out. Then she started telling us that he was low risk, and I thought we were getting out of the woods until she relayed information about a case where a teenager had fallen like my son and experienced issues two days later. Ahem.

 A nurse spoke to us right before we left and told us that it was okay to let him go to sleep contrary to what most people think. It wasn’t the sleeping that we had to worry about apparently but the waking up. I still wonder how that works. When we got home my son ate like there was no tomorrow. He did not really have a headache and seems to not be suffering any ill effects from the head bonk.

 This is all great since we are a headed to a Doctor Who convention in L.A. next week. Last year, my son twisted his ankle the day before we left and he flew out of Hawaii on crutches. This year in preparation, we are in the throes of assembling our cosplay outfits. Last year my son was the Silence but he did not love his costume. I did not dress up. This year, I am going to be the Doctor’s daughter (aka Jenny) and my son is going to be one of the Hath. If you know, you know, if you don’t you don’t. As part of my outfit, I decided to invest in a pair of Doc Marten’s. I haven’t owned a pair in a long time. So I did it. And they came today. And then I put them on. With my shorts. Here in Hawaii. bootsAnd went to pick up my son from school. I was relatively certain he was going to think that I looked completely ridiculous. But when we got out of the car at home, he looked at my feet and said, “are those your Jenny shoes?” No shade. I was appreciative.

 We spent part of the weekend at the swap meet at Aloha Stadium. Not the part that sells crappy tourist stuff but the part that is more like a garage sale. I love it. We were able to get my son a used military jumpsuit for $12. It is ridiculously large but the $5 knee pads will help keep it from dragging on the ground. The most expensive thing was his vest for $25, which he decided to pay for. All we have to do this weekend is work on tailoring the T-rex mask that we got to look more Hath-like. It has been a great family activity for us.

 With the seemingly daily doses of dreadful news, I am looking forward to a weekend of getting away and letting my freak flag fly. Of wearing ridiculous outfits. Of not matching and not caring. Gallifrey One is a place where we are with our people. If you are there, be on the lookout for me, I plan on wearing my Jenny boots every day. And if you miss that, look for the Hath, I’ll be with that guy.

 

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Mourning Obamacare

It has been a rough few months for me culminating in today, inauguration day. And I know there are plenty of folks out there that say that it is just sour grapes for me. That the guy who freely talked about grabbing women’s parts won the election fair and square so I should shut up and try to unite this country. Maybe that is the case but it is so much more than that for me. And a lot of it has to do with the Affordable Care Act otherwise, known as the ACA or Obamacare.

 Implementation of the ACA has been the focus of my job for seven years now. I have lived through seven years of reading through rules in the federal register. Through assessing sub-regulatory guidance on things like preventive services. Through participating in a ridiculous number of phone calls at all times of the day since the federal government does not give a hoot about my time difference issues. I have created enough overviews on the ACA for my organization that if I printed them out I could wallpaper my entire apartment and then some. I have had countless meetings starting with trying to get the state’s exchange, the Hawaii Health Connector, up and running. My throat goes dry just thinking about all the presentations that I have given on the good, bad and ugly of the ACA. I have lived and breathed and supported much of its intent over these seven years. It is not easy for me to see it go away.

 So, I feel like I am in mourning. Mourning for a really large and complicated piece of legislation. One which, aggravated me, irritated me and caused me endless grief. But one which, I could not help but admire in its pluckiness and its continuing attempt to make things better. Not for insurers. But for consumers. No, it is not perfect, but given its scope, nothing that large and comprehensive ever could be. It made so many changes for the better, especially for individuals, to obtain health care coverage. It has decreased the uninsured rates by leaps by making individual coverage accessible and expanding Medicaid. It has slowed the number of Americans filing for bankruptcy due to medical costs. Again, it was never perfect. And it was too bad the partisan politics prevented any changes from being made which could have actually improved it.

 And maybe, to me, the saddest thing of all, is that now, now that people may actually lose the coverage that they have gained through the ACA, it actually has a favorable approval rating. The Obama Administration never had a great handle on the messaging around the ACA and when exchange platforms faced problems and a great cry arose that it was not possible to “keep what you have”, there was never a great response. Never a response that resonated. And the media war was lost. Until now, now that it looks like the ACA may actually be repealed in some fashion. I will never understand it nor will I pretend to. Why the ACA did not have the support. Why, as a nation, can’t we be worried about health care coverage for our neighbors, loved ones and the guy in the store you don’t even know. Even the guy sleeping on the street. I can only hope that the rallying cry to Make America Great Again will mean something to me someday. Today, it makes me look back to a time when most individuals could not pass a pre-existing condition screening and could not obtain health coverage at any cost. And if they did, there was no way for them to have drug coverage. No way. Literally.

 I will try to remain optimistic but the Executive Order issued today does not provide me with much hope. It seems that hope has left Washington, DC today and it feels like it may never come back. I will try to keep it in my heart. But at this time, it is a barely glowing cinder which may extinguish at any moment. I am in mourning, yes. For the ACA, for the country’s health policies and maybe for myself a little bit. Pity party? Maybe. But I feel like I deserve it. If not just for today.

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Characters

My son’s birthday is one week before Christmas. We have always tried to keep the two separate. I try to wrap the birthday presents in non-Christmas paper. We try to wait to get the Christmas tree on his birthday or the day or so after. This is a score for me since then we only have the tree for about a week. I personally love that. Sometimes we do crazy birthday things that take time and money and put my holiday planning more on edge than it would be otherwise. This was one of those years.

 It has been a tough year. There has been some death. There has been a dad who is working two jobs which makes us miss him quite a lot. There have been school troubles. Car troubles. And well, it felt like we needed a bit of a family vacation. So I planned a trip to Aulani, the Disney resort on the other side of the island. I checked the rates and they were outrageous. I made a couple of calls to see if I could finagle a better rate. I could not. I sucked it up and booked it anyway. Two nights, the week before Christmas. But there I was, scheduling dinners and character breakfast. I figured that my son is turning twelve and may soon not want to hang out with us. He is painfully close to being a teenager. We just wanted to have fun before all the hair and hormones.

 I checked the Aulani daily schedule online to see what great things we could participate in while we were there. It turns out that my significant other’s Uncle would be playing at the ‘Olelo Room on Sunday night, the night our son turned twelve. And this seemed fortuitous and special. My son’s great uncle is a famous local musician (Jerry Santos). Not only is he a famous local musician, he actually gave us our son’s Hawaiian name. It is a tradition that a kupuna (family elder) provide a child’s traditional Hawaiian name. We had asked Uncle Jerry to do this for us when I was pregnant. And he did. And my son’s name is very long and very beautiful and very meaningful to me. He sometimes struggles with it. It’s length (we had a fight with the social security office to get it on the card in its entirety). The fact that almost no one can say it. The fact that it is hard to spell. And, I suspect, he will continue to have these types of problems as his need for filling out forms increases. He will never have enough boxes for all of those letters. I only hope that as he grows older he will recognize how special it is. uncle-jerry

 We arrived at the venue where Uncle Jerry would be playing early to get a good seat but almost all of the seats were taken. We ended up towards the back near the bar’s noisy entrance. When Uncle Jerry arrived, my son and his dad went up to say hello before his set started and he waved back to me. Uncle Jerry’s music is wonderful and he has a beautiful voice. During the set, he talked about celebrating special occasions. He said that his nephew was in the audience celebrating his birthday. He sang happy birthday to him. My son was alternately touched and itching to leave and go night swimming. It was a struggle but he realized that he needed to stay. And that, in the grand scheme of things, staying was more important. When the first set ended, we all went up and shared hugs. And I took a great picture of the two of them. It was truly magical.

 The rest of our time at Aulani was fun. We got to “meet” Moana which, in the grand scheme of moanacharacter meeting, was a real score. But, I think that the highlight of the trip was the time spent with our family. Reconnecting. It felt like it was meant to be. On that day. At that time. It helped ground us and remined us of, ourselves. Our family. And that was……everything.

 

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No Peaches. No Cream.

Sometimes online, I think that we post only the sunshiney goodness of our lives. Or we post the ranty bits. Or the angry ones. Or maybe that’s just me. I rarely post about the bad bits. The disappointing bits. I suppose that part of that has to do with not wanting to publicly diss other people. It seems unseemly. Unsightly. Just wrong. Especially when it is about my son. It seems even more wrong to write online about my son’s badness. But maybe it is my badness. Maybe not his. So maybe that is all right.

 I was out of town during the first week of the new trimester at school. When I am home, I try to keep on top of all the homework. It is a lot. I have a whiteboard that I use so that we can see the work. So nothing is forgotten or dropped. I know what you are thinking. That I should just let him sink. That if he was failing everything then maybe he would be more responsible. That is a really nice theory. When I was away for five days, no one used the whiteboard and when I came back the grades for the four core subjects were three Fs and a B. Not grades on work mind you, but the actual grades in the classes.

 These super bad grades are still lingering, weeks later. I was struggling to understand why. I discussed this with my son, specifically the work for Language Arts. I received three incomplete notices that day for work that he had told me was done. For one, he told me that there were technical issues and everyone was having them and the technology person was working on fixing it. For another he told me that he had done it incorrectly but had fixed it. I asked if he had emailed the teacher and he said yes. And for the final one he told me that another boy had used his word and basically stolen his work. I decided to email the teacher myself. I should have known that when there are too many stories, there are too many stories.

 Basically when the teacher responded, it turned out that all of these were pretty much tall tales. He had not had a technical issue with the program, he did not email her about fixing the assignment and he had not logged onto the word site for two weeks so that other boy could not have “stolen” his work. I was kind of surprised. Mostly at the extent of the lies. So many. And so easily said.

 We had a bit of a confrontation. I told him that I was really disappointed in him. I told him that no one likes a liar. I told him that he had lost all screen time. Lost use of his phone. And I told him that I felt like I could not trust him. It was harsh. But that was how I felt. He got into bed without a word that night and went to sleep.

 I wondered if what I had said had made any impact on him. I remember that when I was young, the absolute worst thing that my mom could say to me was that she was disappointed in me. It was like stabbing me. I wondered if me saying that to him had made a similar impact. The next night when we were talking, he told me that when I had told him that I was disappointed in him, that it was the worst thing ever. He told me that it made him feel awful. I can’t lie, that made me feel glad.

 And he turned it around yesterday. He was positive and enthusiastic about his work. But the shine has dulled today. I am hopeful that there can be a happy medium. Somewhere between lying and not doing work and being super bubbly and enthusiastic.

 Maybe next week we will have peaches and cream. Or maybe just peaches. Just peaches would be all right in my book.

 

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Love is All You Need

There are so many things that I could write about. There are more than one blog posts which I started but never finished. I could write about my dad unexpectedly passing away of a cardiac arrest while at a simple doctor’s appointment. I could write about how this type of event firmly places you in the adult camp while at the same time making you feel like a two year old. I could write about how important it is to have a do not resuscitate order in place so your family knows what to do. I could write about the awful things that people say when someone dies about the deceased’s stuff and their property. I could write about how people I did not know took pictures of my dad at the wake. What is that all about? There are one million things that I could write about but what I really want to write about is how much my family was there for me when I went back to NY. And how much I love them. And how much it meant to me.

First of all, there is my Aunt Beverly and her husband Uncle Andy. She is not really my aunt. I think we are cousined in some way but I’m not entirely sure. What I do know is that I haven’t seen her in a really, really long time. It turns out that she is co-executor of my dad’s will. Apparently this title also turns you into superwoman. She has gone above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to this role. And I think it is really mostly because she is a kind and generous person and not because she has this role. I also really appreciate the fact that I feel like I can say anything to her and she does not judge me. Things like, “why do we have to buy $500 funeral flowers”? I actually said that and she didn’t hang up on me. I have so much love in my heart for her and Uncle Andy that it is difficult to express. Plus, she pours really, really large glasses of wine.

Then there is my cousin Holly. I only have two first cousins. My dad was an only child and my mom has one sister. I always think of Holly as the wild child. She is the kind of person who, if she is on your side, will fight like hell for you. She turned up at the second viewing for my dad and then the next morning for the full church service, time at the cemetery and back to my Aunt’s house. When we were leaving the funeral home they told us to pull on the side of the road and when the hearse pulled out, we would follow. Holly was in her car behind my Aunt and Uncle and when the hearse pulled out, a woman almost pulled behind it. We saw Holly yelling out her window and pointedly giving her a talking too while waving her finger at the woman. It was awesome. She also managed to drive out to my mom’s house and met us, with her husband, to do some wine tasting before I left to come back. Her spirit is indefatigable. And I love her to pieces for it (and a shout out to her mom and dad too, my Aunt Sharon and Uncle Al, because they are awesome. And supportive. And I love them to pieces too).

My two best friends, Joe and Mary, who put up with my neurosis. Who drove in for the wake. Who wine tasted and ate pizza. Who let me lie on their couch and watch Doctor Who and cooked dinner and fed me cheese. Who drove me to the hotel in dreadful traffic. Who was brave enough to come to my Aunt’s house and eat pizza (although it was actually a great evening and not scary at all). Who let me stay at their house. Who were just there. Because that is what I needed.

And then my mom. I ended up staying at her house three nights while I was there. I usually stay at Joe’s house but his work schedule had him gone from very early in the morning to late at night on numerous occasions and I just didn’t want to be alone. So I was there, in my mom’s bed, with her and the dogs because that’s how small the house is. I have derided this arrangement. Dreaded it. Swore that I would never do it again. And I volunteered to do it. Three times. My mom was ecstatic that I was staying at her house. And, it was not nearly as bad as I remembered. Maybe it was because I just needed to not be alone. Or maybe it was because I just needed my mom.

I can’t lie. The reason for being at home was dreadful. It was a difficult time. But without the love and support that I had while I was there, it would have been ten times worse. So, during this Thanksgiving week, I am feeling very thankful for the love that I experienced at home. Old connections and new connections. I can still feel them trailing behind me, that long, long distance between Hawaii and New York. And it makes it, not so far.

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Not Simple

I have embarked on a potential volunteer gig. And of course, I can’t do something simple like walking dogs and picking up poop at the Humane Society. No, I have to go and volunteer to be a guardian ad litem (aka court appointed special advocate) for children who are in the civil court system. It is not for the weak. I am still not sure that I am strong enough to do it. But nonetheless, I keep attending the trainings. Every Saturday at the courthouse in Kapolei (which is like the other side of the world from where I live) from 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It wears on me.

This past Saturday a therapist with Catholic Charities spoke to us about trauma. He works with children. At the end of his presentation he made us do this activity. He told us to write down a secret that no one, or hardly anyone, knew about us and then to fold it and put our name on it. The attorney at the training wanted to know what he was going to do with the notes. He would not give any additional information. You could tell that this exercise was making everyone very uncomfortable. I can’t lie. I have secrets. Who doesn’t? But I decided that I really couldn’t write the absolute worst. I picked the third worst and even that was dreadful to write down and put my name on and hand over. It was so emotionally wrought that the person next to me was tearing up and needed a tissue. Then he took all the secrets and left the room for about five minutes. I was relatively certain that he was going to flush them down the toilet or bring them back. And sure enough, he brought them back and returned them to us. It was a relief. And the point was that the way that we felt, is the way that children feel who are asked to recount their trauma. It was pretty effective. So that is what my Saturdays have been like this month.

Along with the training, I have got to meet a bunch of interesting people. There is one woman, who is maybe a bit older than I am, who moved here about five years ago from Thailand. She lives in a small house in Waianae and her husband works in Kapolei. We were chatting over lunch this past weekend and she was telling me that she had not been to town in weeks. This, of course, amazed me. I am a townie. I have always been a townie. So to not come to town was completely foreign to me. Then I told her that we had got to eat at Piggy Smalls, the Pig and the Lady’s little sister restaurant that just opened. She had never heard of the Pig and the Lady. Again, amazement on my part. P&L is my favorite restaurant by far.

I have been thinking about that conversation. Thinking about my friend over on the west side of the island. Thinking about her non P&L life. And then it dawned on me that I am not living a simple life. I am not living a simple life by my definition or likely by anyone else’s definition. And that kind of made me sad. And I started thinking about what I could do without and it seemed like there could potentially be a lot. And maybe when I think about that, maybe there is the possibility to make some changes. To make changes that will make me a happier person.

It is a small thing. But it is a thing. It is a thing that I will keep in my mind. Roll it around. Take it out for a test drive maybe, to see how it goes. Perhaps taking the simpler path till help me to make difficult choices. To plan for the future. To figure out my path. It very may well be much simpler than it is today. And maybe I could be OK with that.

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Fifty

My friend Mary is turning fifty years old today. I believe that it is quite a feat. And one that I hope to match next year. It is one of those birthdays that truly feel like a milestone but maybe not in the way that you’d like. Of course, the alternative does not seem all that great, so what is there to do except grin and bear it?

 I met Mary at the environmental lab that I was working at after college. It was so very long ago and kind of a blur but I remember that at some point she invited me over to the house that she was living in at the time. I went for lunch and she made the best grilled cheese sandwich that I had ever had. I am pretty sure that it was the first time I ever ate sun dried tomatoes. Mary is a great cook. She is one of those people who can just make something. I don’t recall her ever looking at a recipe except maybe for Thai food but that’s only because there are 500 ingredients in every dish.

 Mary is the only person who came and visited me while I was in the Peace Corps in Thailand. She even came and stayed at my land settlement with me. Some of my most vivid memories from being there are when she was there. My boss at the land settlement was not the nicest guy and he did not want to give me time off while she was visiting. I remember arguing about taking time to travel down south so there was no way he was going to let me take a day trip with my co-workers. But they insisted. One of my co-workers arranged the transportation and on the way, up on the main road, we got a flat tire. I just remember being super paranoid that my boss would see me out on the side of the road and I would get in trouble. It didn’t happen. We ate at least one dinner with my co-workers while we were on the land settlement. And they were lovely and gracious. And Mary just rolled with it because she is like that.

coworkers

Mary in front, me behind, co-workers and German volunteer.

 

When we finally left to go down south, we took a train. One of the sleeper ones. sleeper-car I remember the train conductor asking us why we were so fat. It wasn’t meant in a rude and mean way but sometimes it was hard to remember that. We got to our destination and had a drink. Mary’s was in a pineapple. I remember we met a man who owned a Thai restaurant there who also owned a Thai restaurant in the town my dad grew up in. Sometimes the world is small.

 

Mary is a no nonsense kind of person. She is also quick to give you the shirt off her back. When I moved back to NY for six months with my son when he was in second grade, she was in between jobs and I worked at the town marina. Once a week we tried to get together to be ladies who lunch. We would go to the lunch truck and get grown up grilled cheese sandwiches and fries and head to one of the local wineries. It is more difficult these days to find one that will let you bring outside food in but we always managed to find one. We often found ourselves sitting outside with our food, with a lovely local wine (almost always white), looking out over the vineyard. I loved that time of year. When I go and visit during the summer these days, we always try to relive those times. But it is not that simple. The weather is too hot. The wineries full of tourists. Our schedules too busy. We try to recreate it. When it felt magic. But it is hard.

 When people are over Mary cooks and she cooks a lot. And she cooks well (I may have mentioned that). She has fed my family more times than I can count. When my son goes to the beach with her family, she gets him breakfast and makes sure there are sandwich fixings that he likes. She makes sure that the vegetarians never go hungry and she freely shares her wine with whoever shows up. And she is always up for the fire pit and s’mores making. pineapple

 My sad attempt at doing something for her big day falls way short in my mind (in fact, if it gets there by her actual birthday, it will be a miracle). But maybe a big to-do isn’t really what she would want anyway. Maybe just a trip to one of the local wineries and a nice dinner that she did not cook herself. Maybe just a little something so that she knows how much we love her and how grateful and blessed we are to have her in our lives. Because we are. Happy fiftieth friend! May your day be even more wonderful than you are.

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