Monday, August 14, 2017

Trial By Social Fire

“I am alone. I am utterly alone. How did I get up here in front of hundreds of bar goers singing “Bye Bye Miss American Pie” at karaoke night alone?” I was screaming this in my head as I was trying to belt out yet another stanza during the longest song in the world.  You know those nightmares you have about being naked? That is how I felt that night in New York City during an evening out after attending a business conference all day.  The ring leader of the group, a fiery beautiful redhead, had suggested it. Of course she did, because she could sing and be the star. I did not know this woman before the conference, but now, five years later, I have gotten to see her rising star in social media.  Back then we were still on a rather level playing field. Or so I thought.

It started out with a group of women from different regions of the country coming together to meet in person after developing friendships on social media. We greeted each other with hugs and laughs and then the sizing up started. By lunch time, I had been relegated to the “support for the industry and not the leader” in the group. But I didn’t care, as I enjoyed my support role in marketing and PR and I was just damn happy to be in New York City, learning more about social media, without the responsibilities of family. However, I was there alone and clearly, by lunch, I knew my next best friend was not in the group.

A few men decided to join us after dinner and the plan to go to a bar off of Broadway for karaoke night was hatched. I was game, as it’s always fun to sing in a bar with a group of people. A GROUP of people. The ladies started putting their names in for various songs while I sat back with my glass of chardonnay enjoying the atmosphere of the joint. The redhead was an amazing singer and she soaked up the spotlight. Then someone asked me what I was going to sing. I wasn’t going to sing anything, I thought, since I firmly believe I am a backup singer at best or a song leader, like my days in the sorority at college. A cheerleader for music, you could say, but not the main attraction. So, the men we were with really started goading me into doing SOMETHING, so I suggested a group song that the entire bar could sing along with. And Don Mclean’s anthem to the past was a good choice for a group sing along, or so I thought.

The MC called my name and I was giddily pushed to the stage by these new social media friends of mine. The music started, “Long long time ago,,,” and then I realized that NO ONE was singing along with me. I kept going. God help me, I kept going. I was thinking, “Surely, the whole bar will jump in when it gets to the “So, bye bye, Miss American Pie” part. Oh no. Those rat bastards did not raise their voices to help the poor struggling soul in the middle of the spotlight on Broadway. I looked imploringly to my group of people and saw the “What the hell!?” look on their faces. I refused to quit and walk off that stage. So, I kept going.

Painful is a word you may use for the last leg of an Ironman. Or childbirth or setting a broken leg. But what I experienced up there, warbling at a TV screen on the wall, while hundreds of drunk people were wishing I would shut up and get off that stage is whole new world of what pain feels like. Finally, an actually musically talented man jumped in to save me. He stood next to me and we hammered out those last two stanzas together. And for a moment, it was fun. And I could breathe. I thanked him profusely as I left that stage and I approached the group of my new friends. The shock and dismay on their faces was evident. I had embarrassed myself to such a degree that I had sunk to a level of social low that there was no recovery. The red head suggested that it was time to hit the next bar down the street and as they hurriedly walked away, I realized I was shunned.

Alone in New York City, I walked towards Times Square feeling pretty shitty. There is a reason that being shunned was the ultimate punishment for rule breakers in the Native American tribes. I got to Times Square, and looked up at the crystal ball that rings in the New Year. The decorations were still up, as it was January. I felt the crisp air on my face, a rather new sensation after spending a few years in Kona’s warm weather. I thought of my friends on the island and what they would think of me if they had been there. Then I envisioned them singing along with me and I felt better.
I wasn’t going to waste precious time, standing in one of the most iconic places in the world, feeling sorry for myself. I asked a tourist to take a photo of me with my arms outstretched in the middle of Times Square. As she snapped the photo, which I have on my shelf to this day, I was thinking, “I did it. I got here to New York City. I survived a horrible trial by fire socially and dammit, I sang on Broadway”. Then I walked back to my hotel, alone, but with my head held high.

Monday, July 17, 2017

A Big Life: Feeling the Feels

Now that I am getting older and have experienced enough in life to understand how it feels to: lose a baby, lose parents, lose a job, be a child of divorce, be there to watch life start and life end, hold an infant and know what it will look like in 15 years and kissing its sweet face because it's a fleeting moment, be abused, be admired, have my heart broken to the point I am crawling on the floor, be so head over heels in love that I thought I was floating on air, be trapped in disappointment, be uplifted by life's miracles, cry happy tears at my friend's weddings and triumphs and cry bitterly sad tears at my friends losses and frustrations, be scared, afraid and anxious, be joyful, hopeful and light, work so hard for something that when I signed the mortgage papers, crossed the finish line, held my newborn baby, moved to Hawaii, I burst with pride and tears.
I know what it's like to ride out a hurricane, watch the devastation of a tsunami, a lava flow, a wildfire and a 7.9 earthquake. Swim with a dolphin that looked into my soul and cradle a dying kitten. To feel the shame of losing a home (or two) and our credit rating to the camaraderie with others in the same boat. To feeling so lost and alone it felt that I could not go on, to being surrounded by so many friends that there were not enough high fives and toasts for everyone. 
A life made up of just about every up and down beside war you can imagine. That is why today I didn't question why I would cry watching 70 people linking themselves arm and arm to save a family in the ocean in Florida, or cry when a friend who is a NICU nurse said she experienced the loss of a baby girl today, or hear that a friend got out of the hospital after thinking she was going to die of liver failure. This is a big life. We have been given this gift to fully experience such heartbreaking downs and such ecstatic ups. I never could have known that when I turned 52 that I would have the level of empathy, compassion, and love for humanity that I do. It's painful at times and I am also deeply grateful for 'the feels" as my friends say. It's what binds me together with so many of you. #FeelingTheFeels#HoldingMuchInMyHeart #HoldingSpace #WiseFinally
I wish all my fingers were thumbs, so I could give you TEN thumbs up for one of the most heart-centered posts I've ever read. Hope you feel me wrapping my arms around you for all that you've endured and accomplished and shared so bravely.  Reminded me of yet another quote: "The more that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain." - Kahlil Gibran

Friday, May 5, 2017

From Sand to Snow And The Lessons Learned

 Journeys are inherently adventures where part of the fun and the learning is in the not knowing of what is going to happen once you take that first step.  Now that first step can either be on a soft sandy beach or off the top of a snow covered cliff. Let’s just say that we should have brought some parachutes for the journey we started on last summer.

 My family and I moved off of Hawaii Island last July, after moving there in July 2010,  to seek exciting job opportunities, mainland travel, and better education for my kids and to get away from the heat and humidity of Kona. My kids were bored of the island after six years there and when we couldn’t sell our small condo that we purchased at the height of the housing market boom and where all four of us were living in 750 sq feet, we felt Pele, Goddess of the Volcano, was telling us it was time to leave and I agreed wholeheartedly with her. I had other things to do and places to explore on the mainland, so we moved to South Lake Tahoe to live in my father in law’s vacation home.

Fast-forward 10 months. We have survived the great winter, or commonly known as the “Snowpacalypse” of 2017 in Lake Tahoe with 25 feet of snow in our neighborhood and 50 feet in the mountains. We survived the rainiest October in 113 years, we have been through avalanches, mudslides and landslides which have damaged highways that shut off all traffic coming into the Tahoe Basin for days, flooding and wind storms. It feels as if Pele herself reached her hand out across the Pacific ocean to slap us for taking her beautiful island for granted.

Sitting on my 100th or so day in the biting cold, looking at another day of white in our front yard, I knew I had had enough. In January and February, the sun set by 4 pm and the dark came in each day with its freezing temperatures and usually more snow. Have you even considered snow as the ultimate four-letter word? We do! It lost whatever charm and appeal it ever had for us by the second week in February when
weather forecasters were warning of yet another “Pineapple Express” or atmospheric river event. As people in the SF Bay Area were being warned of flooding, we were getting two feet of snow each time one hit us. Sure we have loved skiing – but there is not much else to do when it’s 30 degrees outside and all the paths you love are 4 feet deep in snow. The boots, scarves, puffy jackets and mittens that we had longed to wear in Kona, were now uniforms of daily life.

   Longing for Hawaii really started in January and has now reached a fever pitch. Taking a solo trip back to Kona in late April was the extra kick in the ass I received by Pele. As I hugged my friends, I realized how important community is. I had taken it for granted.  In Kona, I had volunteered extensively for my children’s school and produced and promoted events for the island over seven years, which created a circle of hundreds of friends and an enviable network of community members.  In Tahoe, we have met very few people and have a few adult friends who are the parents of our children’s school friends, but they have not developed into close friends. Coming to Lake Tahoe, I thought we would create a new hub of community, but when it starts to snow in October and the weather does not get better until late May, opportunities to invite people for beach picnics and drinks on the patio for networking are slim.

When I lived in Kona, I had started taking everything for granted. I didn’t jump into the ocean anymore. Why? Because there would always be tomorrow. I spent more time raising money for my kids school than wandering through gardens and along beaches giving thanks to the universe, spirit and Pele herself for the bounty and beauty everywhere. I worried about how expensive the food was, and forgot that many things available on the island never show up at grocery stores on the mainland.

I went snorkeling in Ka’ahalu’u Bay during my time back on the island and I just was not just delighted to see Yellow Tang and Moorish Idol fish, I was elated to swim down and see the sand! In Lake Tahoe, the water is so cold that you can barely stand in it, let alone swim in its frigid water long enough to see what is floating along the bottom. The extra sensory opportunities in Kona are everywhere from the flowers to the food to the aquamarine ocean waters. Take for instance the fresh papaya with lime I enjoyed each morning for breakfast, savoring each bite like a death row inmate’s last meal. As you can imagine, fresh tropical fruit is not found in the Sierra. Each time I smelled a plumeria or gardenia, or left a friend’s house after talking story, I whispered to Pele to let her know how much I loved her island and to please let me come home. The lesson of the journey has been learned.

 My husband has decided the journey needs to end, as well. He is working on finding a job back on the island.  As of May, he has had three job interviews. Excited about the possibility of another job offer showing up soon, he has itemized everything in the house to either put on Craigslist or store for a quick escape back to Kona. Back to Kona where you don’t walk out of your house after putting layers of clothing on and wondering if your tires are going to hold today on the black ice, back to where Aloha is a way of life and people take the time to talk to strangers and share a laugh. Where you don’t flip off a another driver simply because they don’t have their right hand turn signal on when making the turn so ten seconds of life is lost. The new focus of our journey is finding a way back out of the cold; the cold that has had its grip on our lives for months. The cold that sucks the joy right out of us. The cold that makes it impossible to eat outside and enjoy the sun and nature with friends-if we had any.

 Do I regret all of this? No. I don’t because I have something invaluable. I have perspective now and I needed it. I have had perspective beaten into me like a sadistic circus master. When I sprawled out on the sand with warmth surrounding me on my April visit to Kona, I know I’ve changed. I love it there. I miss my friends, my ability to make a difference, the fresh food grown by happy local farmers, the spirit of the people, and the energy of the land.

   I feel blessed that I’ve had this horrific learning lesson-I mean soul-finding journey! Now, when I come back, I have gratitude in my heart and in my actions and the journey now is making it a reality.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Why Would Anyone Move Away from the Big Island?

How could you possibly leave this? 

Why would you leave a place that made you feel young and kept you healthy and fit and always on the go to new adventures? 
A few things....a falling housing market does not help. We have had our condo on the market for a year. We thought we would sell our condo and get a single family house here in Kona. Living small in a beautiful resort has been its own kind of adventure, but with growing kids, we were ready to move onward and upward here on the island. The universe has other plans.  

 We arrived in the summer of 2010 for what would be a six year discovery of ourselves and our surroundings. The kids grew up slowly and we became happily involved in the school community and the overall Kona community, as well. I traveled off the island a few times a year until 2014...and then it got harder when the airfare went up. But I dug in and just did more within the islands instead of going to the mainland for conferences and events. 

Then there was the pull of my career and I missed traveling in the fast lane. 

And I missed my friends who would go to wineries with me in the Santa Cruz Mountains for my birthday. And have impromptu dance parties in their back yards. 
Then after my mom died in 2014 and we had our last family reunion in the summer of 2015 to bury her, I realized I was missing my cousins and watching their kids grow up. By living on the island I was not allowing my kids to get to know these budding personalities. My aunt moved to Oregon this past fall so she would be near all of of her kids...and she is basically my "hanai" mom after my mom passed..

But most of all...after spending time in the forests of California and Oregon last summer, I felt a pull. I have a yearning to be surrounded by forest energy. I want to mountain bike, hike, ski and teach my kids the mountain sports that Eric and I love. (and get them off their tech toys and out into nature!) 
We came home last summer and started toying with the idea of moving to the mountains. But we knew we had built quite a community of friends here in we said perhaps we could just get our forest fun within the two weeks we had each summer. 
But the pull was strong. And when the condo did not sell, we thought of new plan..a new adventure. So we approached Eric's dad and asked if we could live in his vacation home in South Lake Tahoe..the home we have gone to vacation in since the third week I met Eric. It sits on the last street before the national forest and its only a 1/2 mile walk to the lake. He said yes and gave us a great deal to live there. We thought about getting away from the constant pressure of how expensive it is to live in Hawaii for awhile...and we looked at the high school and middle school for the kids and were impressed with the new facilities and technology labs and classrooms. The adventure started to take shape. 
So we asked the kids. Caylin said it was a great idea! Devin said he would miss his friends...but Eric got him pretty excited about learning how to ski, snow board, mountain bike and go with us on hiking adventures. 
He remembered the great times we had at the lake as a family and said he would give it a go with us. 
Caylin and I said it would be so fun to take ice skating lessons together and to sled and enjoy the mountains and being so close to our family and friends in the Santa Clara County. And I could get involved in the local writer's community and start on a new book..
With that, we made the decision to move to South Lake Tahoe. We fly out on June 30th and after visiting friends and family around California this summer, we settle in around August and begin life in a new town and see where our next adventure takes us. I can't wait to run mountain trails, enjoy the cool air, and start a new blog. We invite our friends to come visit and drink a Rum Runner with us on the lake, take a 4WD adventure in Eric's truck and enjoy some wine or a hike with us at sunset in a quiet meadow surrounded by the Sierra. We will miss Hawaii, and especially our friends and the energy of the island. We will be back eventually. And I am taking my mom's table to Lake Tahoe. And moving it back to the island when we return. 

Change is certain in life. It's managing it to your advantage that makes it fun.