The End

When we were in the process of moving from Hawaii to NY, one of my biggest concerns was the living situation. The North Fork of Long Island is suffering through an affordable housing shortage (reminds me of where we came from). There are no apartment buildings. There are apartments but many are not advertised. There are single family homes but many are seasonal only and not year round. The ones that are year round charge, on average, more than $2K per month. That does not include electricity, heat, garbage, water, cable and lawn service. You get the picture. I was very stressed out about where we would live. I was making contingency plans with the people I knew who lived there. My plan was to dedicate the first few weeks on the ground to finding a place to live.

And then, there was, what I can only describe as, divine intervention in the weeks before we were going to actually move. My divine intervention involved a working farm. It is how we ended up living over two donkeys and a horse. I don’t mean that metaphorically. Our downstairs neighbors are a horse (Ike) and two donkeys (Bugsy & Smokey). Sometimes at night the donkeys make a ruckus. Or in the early morning I hear them hee hawing (they really sound like that).

Ike spent the nights underneath us and the days in the pen outside our bedroom window. One time I looked out and he was lying down. I was a little startled and wondered if I should call someone. I googled horses lying down and found out that it did not mean that Ike needed a medic. Ike’s downstairs pen has two quaintly shaped windows in the brick face with wooden shutters that are always open. Every day, whenever Ike was in his pen, as I was coming or going or pulling up in my car at night, Ike would be hanging out with his head stuck out one of those windows. Just last week my aunt gave me a tired apple that she had in her fridge to give to him. I had learned that the best way to get him to take it without freaking out about his very large flat teeth, was to place it flat on my hand.

I had noticed that for the past week Ike had not been in his been but relegated to his stall inside. When I went to feed him that apple, I could see why. He always had a janky back leg but now it almost looked as if it was facing the wrong way and he seemed to not really be able to get around much. He took a bite of apple and part of if fell on the floor. He backed himself up against the gate and twisted in a way that made me nervous, to try to get the piece that had dropped. I enticed him with another piece that had fallen outside his pen. I didn’t think much of it until, just the other night, I went to close the blinds in the bedroom and Ike was lying on the ground in his pen. He had a blanket on him, two of the girls on the farm were crouched over him, stroking his head and the farm owner sat in his truck idling next to the pen. It was obvious that Ike was not doing well. At some point, I went downstairs. I did not really need to ask because you could feel the direness in the air. The sadness. I breathed it in. I offered the girls tea or coffee. In hindsight, it should have been a glass of wine or a beer. The last time I saw Ike alive he was standing in his pen. My son went down and said that he may have been standing but he actually could not move because of his leg. When I woke up the next morning I looked out the window into the darkness. Just beyond Ike’s pen, I could see a mound. As it grew lighter out, the mound became identifiable as Ike, lying on the grass under some blankets.

When I came in the night before, tears in my eyes, my son put his arm around me. I told him that I was sad. He told me that Ike was my first horse so it was to be expected. And it’s true, Ike was my first horse.

A new horse has taken up residence downstairs. We found out her name because that seemed appropriate and we had been calling her “not Ike”. But, truthfully, she is not Ike. And Ike’s face hanging out of his window was one of the first things that greeted me when we got here. All moved from Hawaii and anxious. And I miss him being there. Maybe we will love the new horse as much. But I think that it will take us a bit of time. And I think that she will actually never be Ike.

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Stolen Yoga

When I first moved to NY, I started looking for things to do. My two very best friends live here as does my mom and my aunt. But my one friend and my mom live about twenty minutes east of me (we lovingly refer to where they are as France). My aunt lives one town over but is a very busy person. My other friend lives in the same town as I do but she commutes way up island to work and by the time she gets home and has fed her family, I am likely lying in my bed. I like it in bed because it is very warm there. People from Hawaii (where we moved from) ask me if we have heat, which of course we do. It’s just not great heat and our floors are icy, the insides of the cabinets naturally refrigerate all of the food in them (the olive oil was chunky the other day). So bed is good. Bed is warm. Bed is comfy. And when it gets dark at like four, six thirty feels like it’s time to go to bed.

I work from home so I really need to get out and mingle with people at some point during the day. I signed up for the boot camp class offered through the town that my mom takes. It is $50 for the entire session of two night a week workouts. My mom has been taking the classes for years and years. The woman who runs it sets up a myriad of stations around the gym at the local high school (it is closer to France than I would like). We do some warm ups. And then cycle through the stations twice. A bit of stretching and then I’m headed home. It is good for me. I talk to people. I do some stuff. Worth every penny.

Before we fell back and were plunged into perpetual darkness, I was looking for something else to do. I checked out the schedule at the library near our place. There were so many things. And one of the things was yoga. I have only taken yoga in the privacy of my own home, via Tony Horton. Who knows? Maybe he does his own made up version of yoga? Luckily downward dog is not something that he just made up. I found that there was a Tuesday evening yoga class at the library. I decided to give it a go. I was feeling nervous but assumed that it would be awful. That everyone would be seventy. That the instructor would be second rate. And it was free. What could be better? None of those things ended up being true.

I went to my first class. It is in the library basement. I brought my mat and a water bottle. The woman who runs the class is named Rosemary (my grandmother’s name). The class was well attended and everyone took their shoes off outside of the room and backed their yoga mats up to the wall. And Rosemary talked. And she talked and talked. She told funny stories. She said “today is the happiest day of your life” a bunch of times. She talked through the poses. She described, rather than named them. She told us to thank our bodies and forgive them for anything that they can’t do. She says that you just have to laugh. She mumbo jumbos about apple cider vinegar but I can forgive her this because I love her class so much.

What is it about ohms? I even loved doing them with Tony Horton. It was one of the parts that I would never fast forward through. I love doing them with the class. The class was great for me although I realized during the second one that I was doing weird breathing things on the mat next to my son’s algebra teacher. The pitfalls of a small town.

I liked the class so much that I went back again. That week, I received the library’s schedule in the mail. It had a calendar of the many programs that were offered. And it was there that I realized that the yoga class was not free (as I had so joyously proclaimed on Facebook). I could sign up for the series or pay fifteen dollars a class. Having realized that I had already accidentally absconded with two classes, I was kind of mortified.

When I went back the following week, I confessed to the lady at the front desk. I paid my back fees and for that evening. A friend said that they should just let it go since I was so truthful. But they didn’t. They took all my money. And I was okay with that. And I still go. And sometimes I am still next to my son’s algebra teacher doing weird breathing. But now I always pay. And Rosemary always says that it is the happiest day of my life. And sometimes I believe her.

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Wet February

So I decided, after an alcohol infused December, that I should partake in dry January. The premise is basically that during January there is no alcohol consumption. There are a couple of reasons why I do this. One is that that, I want to make sure that I can. Sometimes there is a fear that the “want” that I am feeling for that glass of wine is verging into “need.” One of the other reasons is that I am always ever so hopeful that if I forsake all alcohol, my caloric intake will drop to a point where I lose the winter weight that I have picked up. It is not quite up to the amount that I had gained last year and Zoned off but it is enough to make my pants uncomfortable and diggy into my sides. I don’t love it.

In case you did not know, January is a very long month. And for someone who has not experienced winter weather in more than 20 years, it seemed especially long. For me, the worst part is actually the fact that it gets dark so early. For a while, it felt like the sun was starting to set at 3:30. Is that even possible? That is what it felt like.  But we hit the darkest day in December and as the month of January progressed, it started to stay lighter longer. Today, when I go to yoga at 5:15 p.m., it is not yet dark. A joyous thing for sure.

I did really well for almost the entire month before I felt like I wanted a drink. Then, the brewery in town which had been having some sort of zoning/parking issue with town opened. And Taco Bell Thursday would roll around and I could feel myself wanting to have a beer with my meal. But I resisted because I was so close. And the month was so long. To go for so long and then not actually make it seemed not right. So I hung in there.

I made it all the way through. Someone asked if I feel differently. But I don’t. Maybe my pants fit a teeny tiny bit better. But I won’t say that because then it won’t be true. I’m happy that I could do it. I’m happy that I could stop and stay stopped. That I could say no. I worry for my son with alcoholism on both sides. I worry that he will start and not be able to stop. He knows that he has a toxic gene mix. We have discussed it. it makes him wary of drinking. I like that.

I sipped some white wine when I wrote this and had some beer during the Super Bowl. I am getting a ride so as not to put myself or anyone else in danger. And while I can stop. I can see the draw of not doing so. I know that when I have bit of wine in me that it takes the edge off. That it makes the worry fade into forgetfulness. And I like it. I can’t lie. So I feel like I have the potential. That potential to go off the rails. And because of that, when I made it through dry January, it really did feel like a triumph. As silly as that may sound. But everyone’s triumphs are different. They are all measured by different standards. And that is mine.

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Great Skate

I am struggling with peeling my son off of his devices. It seems that his eyeballs are glued to a screen. He takes his phone into the bathroom and is on it now while waiting for the game on the TV to load. I cajole and nag and it does no good. It seems that the best way to get him away is to get him out of the house entirely. That is a whole other project.

This past weekend I wanted him to get out and do something. A friend told us that the town up from my mom was opening its outdoor ice rink and that teens could skate for free. The only drawback to this plan was that it was very cold. And not “I used to live in Hawaii fifty degree cold” but real actual wind chill cold. We arrived at the ice rink and my son was expressing his usual teen anxiety around someone potentially being there who he might know. The folks skating all seemed to be too old or too young to be someone who might cause him angst. We cruised past and he was a “no”. Then we continued walking and he talked himself into it.   We went back to the skate rental area to figure out his size. Then he told me that he would not skate alone and wanted me to get on the ice too. I can’t lie. I don’t love ice skating. The ice is cold and hard. So we were a no again. And headed back out.

Out on the dock we met up with my friend Joe and told him our sad tale. It was very cold so he suggested roller skating instead. We were up for anything that was inside. We walked over and the roller “rink” seemed to actually be a ballroom floor. It is in the American Legion building. Around the sides of the skating area there is a skate rental, a snack bar and some seating areas.

The skates are the big four wheeled ones with a giant rubber stopper on the front. We got our skates and Joe and I headed out to the floor. My son, who I belatedly realized has actually never skated before, was pretty reluctant to head out. I was too in a way. I grew up roller skating but haven’t actually skated in some time.

When I first got out on the floor, the skates felt really heavy. My form was really bad. I felt wobbly. I felt like I could not lift up my left foot to push off. It made me feel off balance. There were little children falling all over the floor. And some of them did not follow the rules of the road, as it were. My son eventually ventured onto the floor using a roller skating walker (just like the kind for ice skating but on wheels).  And using this device, which he fought me on initially, he was able to get the skating motion down. By the time that we left, he was feeling a little bit accomplished.

For me, I just kept skating. And kept skating. And soon, my left foot was coming off the ground. And I was feeling more confident. And I just kept skating. The folks on the floor started to thin out. And I just kept skating. The music playing ranged all over the place. And I just kept skating. And it all just smoothed out. Literally and figuratively. And I skated and skated. And it made me really happy. And it was really fun. And I can’t wait to go back. It was just pure enjoyment. Pure happiness. I don’t know if it subconsciously brought back the carefreeness of my childhood. Or if the motion acted like a bit of meditation on my brain. Or if when I go back, I won’t be able to reconnect with that feeling of joy. Like when you have the best meal ever but when you go back for that thing, it is just not as good as you remember. Maybe skating will be like that. But I hope not. I’m going back next weekend (when dry January is over) for the adult skate. To get my joy on.

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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.

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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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