Desperately Seeking Something

Our son is on spring break this week. And I am embracing the selfishness of the week. I do not have to worry about frantic calls from school requesting I bring some forgotten item. I did not go food shopping and I will not be cooking at all this week (I confess to sautéing some mushrooms for my salad but that’s the extent of it). I do not have to wait for the notification regarding what time school pick up is. I am just being. And I love it. And I hate it.

This past weekend we did more things than we have done in the previous six months. We dropped our son off in Kahaluu at around eleven and hit the road at noon. We visited touristy locations and native Hawaiian cultural sites. We hightailed it back into town just in time to attend a 5:30 church service at a local Episcopal parish. This is shocking statement coming from me. I was raised Catholic but when my parents divorced we basically became godless heathens. That may be an exaggeration but my mom was suddenly a single mom who had not worked ever. She had more things to worry about than the upkeep of our Catholicism (not her religion, thank you very much). I had been to the local church we visited in the past for funeral services and it is really pretty. We have both had some death in the family recently which has affected us. I thought it would be something that could not hurt. Us attending was something that could not hurt.

We arrived at church right before the service was set to start. We snuck in and sat in a way back pew. One of the members came down and invited us to sit right in front of the altar where the choir normally sits. Because that’s where everyone else was. And when I say everyone, it was no more than twenty other attendees. I felt a little uncomfortable, in that small space, with people who all knew each other. And I can’t lie, the heavy bible stuff kind of turns me off. But I really liked the sermon. I liked that the bible verse was translated for today. And that the Pastor gave us personal stories. I did not take communion. And yes, I was the only one. I am not there. I may never be there. And I’m okay with that. My significant other, who grew up on the Episcopal church did. He told me that the service was just as he remembered. That the prayer books were the ones that he used as a child. I think that the entire experience was good for him. And maybe good for me.

After the service, a woman in front of us turned around to chat. She told us when the services were with the choir because we had discussed how nice it would be with singing. This woman reminded me of one of my best friend’s moms. She did not look like her but she had the same shape of hair and the same type of glasses. And then she told us that she was from New York (like me). And that her name was Susan, like my mom. And she told us all these things about the parish. And it was nice. We felt connected.

I have definitely not come around when it comes to the whole religion thing. I have some issues with it. But at this point in my life, in our lives, we are searching for something. We are. And I am not saying that religion is going to be the thing for me. I can’t say that I’ve found God. I can’t say that I had a come-to-Jesus moment. It is more like a mid-life/existential crisis looking for a cure. Maybe it is more for the sense of community and belonging than anything. Maybe I will decide that it is not for me. But I think that we will keep going. We may try the mass with the singing. I feel like we may continue going. It helps that I confessed my anti-bible-no communion stance to my church going Aunt and she said that it was okay. And who knows what else we may be trying. This might just be the first thing. Because we are trying to make sense of something that doesn’t seem to have much sense around it. But there are so many questions that we can’t seem to answer. So we will continue seeking. Who knows what we may or may not find.

 

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This is Me

I go through ebbs and flows of television watching. I have to really, really be invested in a show to stick with it. And even then, even if I love it, I might stop watching it. Take Sherlock for example. After the “Sherlocked” episode, which was fantastically great, I felt like there was no way an episode could be better. And I kind of stopped watching it. I love Orange is the New Black but I watch it and then I don’t. I watched the first season of Penny Dreadful which was fine. One of my closest friends told me to keep at it and the second season was fabulous and scary and those witches, I could go on (Ms. Ives, I swoon). But I haven’t started the third season because I am afraid it won’t live up to my expectations. So it goes like this. I watch and I don’t. I’m kind of in a don’t at the moment. 

Then I remembered that I was behind on This is Us. It’s funny because it is a regular TV show and most of the shows I watch are on an online streaming service. But there is something about this show that has dragged me in. And I binge watch it. Crying my way through many episodes. And yes, it is the story and because it is so sweet. But it is the relationships of the characters because they seem genuine. And for me I think that there are two main characters who draw me in and those would be Jack the in the past husband and Kate and for very different reasons. 

Let’s start with Jack. I love Jack. I love that Jack just does things. Completely unbelievable and over the top things. Like renting out their first apartment for one night. I feel like that is not possible. Or the adoption on that day. Just doing it. And I know that we will know Jack’s fate soon. And I don’t think that there are enough tissues in my house for me to watch that episode. And it is a testament to him that he can still be hot with that moustache.  

But really, for me, it is Kate who is the character who I connect with the most. In my past, when I was growing up I was a bit of a chubby kid. I was the kid who hated going to the pediatrician because he would make me get on the scale and tell my mom that I was too heavy. It got to the point where I would refuse to get on the scale. The nurse would try to pick me up and put me on it. I would spread my feet out and not stand on it. I am certain that these visits did nothing to help me with how I felt about myself. Then there was the back to school shopping. I always loved the changing of the seasons in NY. Any season. It didn’t matter. I loved the leaves turning and the air becoming crisp. We would go back to school shopping but this I did not love so much. Every year we had to buy me new clothes because I had outgrown the ones from last year. And not outgrown in a good way, outgrown due to my weight gain.

 And while, now, people may not be able to see that girl. That girl of long ago. I think that there is no real way to leave that behind. That deep inside, part of that girl is always with me. The way you think about yourself. So in the episode at the pool, the episode where Kate is so excited to be there, so not ashamed to be in her bathing suit, just wanting to hang out with the other girls. And they are so mean to her. And they make fun of her and they steal her self-confidence. And I hated them so much. And in that instant I can remember those feelings. Those feelings of self-doubt. Were just there. And I couldn’t remember ever seeing something that was so real. So real to me. And I appreciate that. Seeing that.

 And so today I watched three episodes. I hate to be a spoiler but it was the episode that ended with the ducks. And I was kind of sobbing and my son asked if I was all right. And I was. And I feel like I will keep watching. Because it is sometimes so real. And that is not a bad thing.

 

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Running my Heart Out

It was a long weekend for us. We hosted two Japanese exchange students for the weekend. It seems so short and yet so long. We picked them up on Friday from school with our son. They stayed at our place on Friday and Saturday nights and we returned them to school Sunday afternoon.

Friday evening I was out of the festivities since I had a haircut scheduled. Haircuts with Pamela can not be rescheduled. We actually schedule out an entire year’s worth of haircuts. Cancelling is not an option. Plus, I needed a haircut. LKY, the significant other like no other, took the boys and ours to the UH men’s volleyball game with a bunch of the other host families. There is safety in numbers. Fun was had by all.

Saturday we met the other families at Ala Moana Shopping Center, ate lunch together and then went over to Ala Moana Beach Park for some outdoorness. The kids ended up staying in the water for over two hours. The Japanese students and Hongwanji Mission School kids gravitated into their own groups, mostly due to the communication issues, if I had to guess. My son, despite having been in Japanese language class since kindergarten is unable to say much of anything. Most of his “Japanese” consists of placing odd accents on English words, like “ready”. It is amusing and not that helpful.

On Sunday morning, I left early to go and run the Hawaii Pacific Health Women’s 10K. I love this race. It is all women, which you think is not a big thing, but then it kind of is. An added bonus is that my bootcamp coach, KC, is the race coordinator. She is the one who speaks, with a bullhorn at the start, which I thought was her favorite thing but she admitted on race morning that really she loves riding on the back of a motorcycle during the race. But I think that her second favorite thing must be yelling at people through a bullhorn. At the beginning of the race, KC stands on something high to address the runners. In the past it has been a van but today it was a very tall ladder. And of course, she teared up a little. I like to think that it is because these events are sort of like children and she loves them. And she has put so much of her heart in them. You can feel it when she is talking.

A friend and I did the race together and we both decided that today was the first time we remembered it raining during this race. But rain it did today. My poor running shoes had just dried out from a 5K volunteering stint on Wednesday with the infamous KC. Now they are soaked through again and as I sit here and write this evening, the stank of wet shoes keeps reaching me. It is not pleasant. So it kind of rained a good deal as we stood at the start line this morning, ensuring that everyone was pretty much soaked through. I wear an old pair of glasses when I run and the entire race they were a) wet and b) fogged up. I basically could not see anything the whole time that I ran. The only good thing was that it was not overly humid out while the race was going on.

I ran like I always run. And I am a good runner. I could totally be a better runner if I actually trained and stuff. But I don’t. I managed to finish the course in just under one hour and ended up being 13th in my age group (out of 127) which made me feel pretty darn good about myself. Side note: when we went to pick up our numbers that morning in the dark and the rain. The guy asked my name and I told him. He showed me the sticker on the back of my number with my age division on it and asked if it was correct. I said yes. He asked me if I was sure. I said yes. Then he told me that I in no way looked like I could be the age in my age group, that I did not look that old. It was funny and complimentary. But I was standing in the rain and it was dark. Maybe that helped put an extra spring in my step.

We took our students to Bishop Museum in the morning after my race and to Zippy’s for lunch before dropping them off at school. I can’t lie. I was glad to not have them with me anymore. It is a lot. I think about it from the perspective that I have someone else’s kids who I am responsible for. They did not drown. They were not sunburned. They were well fed. Having strangers in your house, makes you change so much of what goes on there. No parading about in your underwear. No changing clothes or going to the bathroom with doors open. It is nice to be able to feel more relaxed at home.

And now it is the day after and my shoes are still super stinky from being soaked through again. The borrowed sheets are clean. I am peeing with the bathroom door open again. I am happy with my race results. I am sad that another one of my friends is leaving Hawaii, my favorite boot camp instructor and race director extraordinaire. I have come full circle with the leaving. It used to be people left because they were young and here temporarily for jobs or school or the military or on a whim. I remained and now it is because they are older and they are far from their families and their parents are older or sick or dying. Or all of the above. The leaving, it makes me sad in my heart. And it makes me wonder. The small voice questioning staying. Fearing going. All I can say is that getting older is definitely not for the weak. And I hope that I can be strong.

Posted in Aging, family, Hawaii, midlife crisis, New York, Parenting, Relationships, running, Uncategorized, volunteering | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

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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