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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I Knew a Girl Named Nikki

I have been running early in the morning lately. I truly, truly hate it. More than just about anything. Have I mentioned how comfy my bed is? I have the comfiest bed. And it is very difficult to leave in the morning. But I have been. I’ve been getting up when it is still dark. I try to get out before six. About ten to fifteen minutes into the run, the sky starts to lighten. It’s nice. It’s cool and that is a significant plus for me. I have had some issues with migraines this summer and I feel like I need to blame them on the heat. The humidity. Not being hydrated enough. All of those things do not come into play at six in the morning. It is cool and there is less traffic. And there are the regulars that I see when I am out there.

There is an older haole man who walks up on Nehoa Street and always says good morning. There is another man who is at the other end of my run who I see on Wilder Ave. He does not say good morning and seems to be wearing the same outfit whenever I see him. Although I could be mistaken. And he might think the same thing about me. There are many dog walkers and a few other runners. Some that I pass on my way down into Manoa Valley.

It had been raining in the night so the overgrown grass in Manoa this morning was wet. That is one thing that I don’t like about earliness, the ground has yet to dry so I end up with wet feet. I am not a fan. But it is a small drawback in my mind. I never feel not safe. I know that my significant other does not love my new running schedule but it is good for me. After my post run panic attack in August, I like knowing that when I come home my family will still be there. That is good for me.

Today when I got to Punahou St. on Wilder, there was a woman running ahead of me. I knew that I would catch her up and I did. The sidewalks do not make for good passing so I jumped in the street. We greeted each other as I ran up next to her. And then she asked if she could run with me. One of the reasons I like running is the aloneness of it. I find that I come up with some really good ideas while I am running. I do not listen to music. I am just in my head. Sometimes my brain provides a sound track. This past Sunday it was “More Human Than Human.” I have no idea where that came from. But it was there. And I had a great run.

So this girl, on Wilder, asking if she could run with me. What can you say to that? Our pace was close. It wasn’t like I was going to take off and lose her. So I said yes. And then, we chatted. And, I kind of liked it. She introduced herself, her name was Nikki (spelling assumed). She lives over by Ward. She was running three miles. She has a seven month old. But the baby is actually her fourth child. She does her long runs on Saturday down into Manoa. This was the conversation that took place between Punahou and Pensacola (my turnoff) along Wilder. This morning before seven.

And, as much as I want to run alone, there was something about this that just really made me happy. Just the small act of reaching out to a stranger. And it was so small. And it is not something that I would generally be inclined even to do. But it really made a difference in my day. And I felt like I should return the favor. To someone, somewhere, in a small way, a small connection. Not easy for me. But I think that I will try.

But now I have an early morning run comrade. And I will be hoping to run into darling Nikki again one of these mornings. And maybe, if I run up on you, I will make you run with me. And I will make some small talk. And it will make your day. Maybe.

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Love You Terribly

Technology. Sometimes it is good. Sometimes not so much. Our son’s school uses a system called Gradelink. Through it we can check his assignments (most, the Social Studies teacher does not post them there), we can check the lunch menu to see if home lunch is required that day (shoyu chicken is a no go for some reason) and we can set up grade alerts. Basically the system allows you to set it up so that it will send you an email every time your child gets a grade that is above or below the threshold that you choose. I get alerts when my son gets a grade below a “C” (I do not condone a “C” but we have some tough math issues that we are trying to work through so for math, a “C” can be all right). I get alerts for grades that are higher than a “B”. Some days, there are a lot of alerts. Like yesterday.

 Yesterday was a banner day for super bad alerts for science. It started sometime in the afternoon. One “F”, two “Fs” and more. I think the total was five. The science grade went from somewhere around a B+ to a “C”. Thing is that I knew that he had done at least some of the assignments that the teacher thought had not been submitted. My son, after a bit of an anger issue where he blamed the teacher, emailed her and they are going to meet to sort it all out. He calmed down and took responsibility. I had told him that any “Fs” mean a loss of all screen time. I think that is what he was really angry about.

 And then, he was over it. He declared that it would be family game night instead of finishing up RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 5. He baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies for me using my mom’s recipe. They came out great. Then he made dinner for us for one night this week (we cook weeknight dinners on the weekends). He chose a vegetarian recipe from the Portlandia (another of his favorites) cookbook that included mushrooms, quinoa and kale. I helped a little but it was mostly all him. He even toughed out mincing the shallots even though he was quite teary.

For dinner, we ate Thai food that we had picked up that morning at the temple in Pearl City. They cook and sell food that is very authentic. Then the three of us (his dad too) played a couple of rounds of Uno, and Old Maid and Dr. Who Clue. I don’t think that I won any of the rounds but we had a really good time. After his initial irritation about no screens, he recovered wonderfully. terribly-2

 Lastly, I had asked him to write a short note to my mom to put in a box we are sending to her. He is lending her a series of graphic novels. She had read one that he brought to NY over the summer. He thought that she would like to read the rest. On loan, of course. He wrote the note before leaving for school this morning. I decided to take a look at it after he left for school. He got down to business explaining that the books are on loan. He told her that he missed her. He missed her dogs. He missed my sister. But it was the closing that really got to me, it was, “love you terribly”. It wrenches me up and squeezes my heart. And I know that this one, fell super close to the tree, in a really good way.

 

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Worst One

So I confirmed the other day my dad has not passed away. He is not in a comatose state in a facility. As a matter of fact he was described to me as “doing pretty good.” I know that this type of information seems sort of no brainerish. But it’s not. And we are both to blame. We try, but not too hard. We reach out but we are easily defeated. If you asked us, we would both likely admit it. It is like a dance where neither of us wants to lead.

Over the summer, I had called the home of the family my dad stays with. He has a house but it is two stories and he is frail. The last time I spoke to him he was in a wheelchair. He moved in with the family of the woman who was coming to his home and helping to care for him there. The last time I called there, I left a message and I did not receive a call back. The time I called before that I did get a call back from the care facility that my dad was in. It was literally a five second phone call. He did not sound good. I could not really understand the woman that cares for him. She has a heavy accent. We communicate about as well as my dad and I do. So I never got a good handle on what was exactly going on.

The other night I had about of insomnia which, let’s be honest, is of the devil. While trying to sleep I thought of my dad. I thought that I did not know where he was. Or how he was. Or anything. The day before I had done what any grown up shirking their responsibilities would do, I called a family member to see if she knew anything. She did not but she knew who to call. There were no promises. There were threats that it may take a while to hear back. Of course I got the scoops right away. That morning as a matter of fact. My Aunts are the best. Seriously.

So I heard today that my dad is doing all right. That he sends me some hugs and that he lost his phone book which is why I have not heard from him in a really long time. This news made me pretty happy. I am glad. I am thankful. Maybe I will try to do better. Maybe he will find his phone book.

Aside from information gathering on my dad, I also had a really great conversation with my sister over the weekend. Again, I know what you are thinking, that is also a no brainer. But I am not a good sister. Like I am not a good daughter. But I am trying to be better. And on the phone the other day my sister and I had kind of an honest to goodness conversation. It was not me with my ear half on the phone listening to my sister talk about the Mets and the Giants. I was there. I was in the conversation. And I felt really good about it afterwards. It was so small for me but it’s really big for her. If I could be even half of how great she thinks I am, I’ll be doing really well.

So I am continuing to strive to be a better person. I can only chalk it up to the fact that I am approaching a large milestone birthday next year. The kind that makes you question many things in your life. The kind that makes you reflective and nervous about where you are. That’s where my head is at. Maybe these actions will help to make it all seem better. All seem all right. I figure, it can’t make anything much worse than it already is since there is so much room for improvement. Who knows where this could lead. The possibilities are endless.

 

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