Friday, February 27, 2015

The Time I Actually Went Home

Life. Love. Time. We can never get enough of it.

Just last week, I was on a plane bound for Hawai'i, my home. I didn't realize that tonight, of all nights this week, would be the toughest... so far. I returned to Boise on Tuesday, leaving at 8am Hawai'i time, spending a 3.5 hour layover in LA (crying, laughing, eating, and drinking), and finally landing in Boise just before 11pm. A few hours later (only two-and-a-half hours of sleep), I was in the office for an early meeting. For the last three days, work has kept me distracted. I love my job and I booked my week up with shoots and video edits - no time for sitting and thinking. Leaving work tonight and taking the slow drive home, it started to hit. I have to deal with the rest of my life now and the first part of that is understanding where I spent my last weekend.

For the last 26 years, I've gone home multiple times. Every trip to Hawai'i has been a great experience. I visited old places, learned about new places, saw my family, and experienced my history. Every trip has been a blessing and every trip always leaves me longing for my next return. This particular trip, however, which only lasted three full days on the actual island, was the most amazing and breathtaking experience of my life. I finally know the meaning of going home.

On Friday night, my youngest brother and I arrived at the Honolulu airport. The air was hot and muggy, just the way I like it. We exited the plane, hit the restrooms to empty our bladders of the booze we drank on the plane (only one, mind you), then started texting family to let them know we had arrived. We felt and looked at home with our tank-tops, slippers, and *slightly* darker skin. Okay, I'm white, but I'm not as white as most of the people who live in Boise. And my brown eyes and dark curly hair make up for my lack of a Hawaiian tan. But I digress. Our dad picked us up at the airport and took us to our hotel in Waikiki.

After checking ourselves out in the mirror (my brother is so like me, it's crazy), we headed to a local bar for drinks and a late dinner. My dad had been in Hawai'i for two weeks by the time we arrived and hadn't been to the beach once. So, after getting him slightly tipsy, I said, "Let's go to the beach."

"But it's midnight!" My dad said.

"So?" I replied.

And off we went. My dad, my youngest brother, and me. We put our feet in the sand and felt each grain between our toes. We let the warm salt water splash on our feet. We watched the moon move across the sky and the stars come out one-by-one. Life, in that moment, was pretty damn close to perfect. We knew what the next three days would bring, so we soaked up the beach and started our journey of becoming closer to each other, our family, and our home.

On Saturday, after waking up to a beautiful Hawaiian sunrise and going for a run down Waikiki Beach, we headed to see Papa. Papa is staying at a care facility while he recovers from his recent surgery. Our Papa has been battling memory loss for years. In 2013, when I went home for my cousin's wedding, Papa didn't really recognize me. You could see a glimmer of recognition in his eyes, but he never quite knew exactly who I was. At that time, I understood that life is what it is - it continues to move forward, whether we want it to, or not.

When we arrived at Papa's care facility on Saturday, my Papa saw me. He saw me for the first time in years. He smiled as tears poured down his face. I leaned over to hug him, and he held me tight. We didn't want to let each other go. He knew me in that moment and he whispered, "I love you."

My Papa has been my Superman since the beginning of (my) time. He taught me how to love, share, cherish everyone, and live. He taught me how to be peaceful, happy, and respected, all at the same time. To see our (because he's not just mine) Superman confined to a wheelchair, was difficult to say the least. But as with all life, time keeps moving forward.

We spent many hours at that care facility on Saturday, loving on Papa and enjoying time with the cousins and Uncle. I helped Papa eat his lunch, wiped his nose for him, walked with my cousin while she pushed him in his wheelchair, and talked to him about Pearl Harbor. He didn't always know what he was talking about, but when he joked, he raised his eyebrows the way Papa always did, and I knew that man was still in there. He fake-punched my cousin and thought I was his nurse, but his joking smile took me back to the days when we would spend the night at Tutu and Papa's house and Papa would help us build paper airplanes and let us have contests off the staircase to see who's plane could glide the farthest. I would like to say that my plane always won because Papa had been teaching me for months before the others arrived, but that may not be true. Guess we'll just have to have a paper airplane flying contest the next time I go home.

That Saturday evening, after having a necessary family meeting, we went to Tutu and Papa's house to see our Tutu for the first time since the last time. I shared the pictures I took of Papa that day with Tutu, and she and I shared tears of how much he's changed over the years. My cousins, brother, and I laughed at everything and enjoyed being with each other once again in Tutu's house. Slowly, one-by-one, the cousins left to go to their own homes and feed and take care of their own keiki (children). Eventually, it was just little brother, me, and Tutu sitting on the couch. Tutu told me that she loved having us all there and she missed the laughter and the incredibly full house that all the cousins could bring. I had to agree with her. Our holidays (Christmas especially) were so full of family and love. There were so many of us that we could hardly fit into the living room, so we spilled out into other rooms, laughing, loving, and sharing life.

The thing about Hawai'i, is that time doesn't really matter. Ever since I moved to the Mainland, I stress about time. Every excuse is, "I don't have time for that." That is a sad excuse for anything, because there will always be more time, you just have to know how to find it. In Hawai'i, if you're two hours late, you're right on time. You arrived when you meant to arrive, and everything else just falls into place. I have a really difficult time grasping that on the Mainland, but it's true. Whether you're 20 minutes late, or 20 minutes early, you are exactly where you're supposed to be. And all those times we spent at Papa and Tutu's house, was exactly where we were meant to be. This entire trip to Hawai'i, completely unplanned, was exactly where I was supposed to be. I will never regret my decision to go home.

That night, Saturday-party-day, we hung out with our cousins. They managed to find some hotel rooms only .7 miles from our hotel, so my youngest bro and I hiked out to see them with a 12-pack and a bottle of Jack in tow. We invited Dad, but he wanted to sleep - none of us blamed him. We got to their room and the booze started flowing. We shared stories of our childhood - secrets that some of us didn't know. We laughed, we hugged, we cried, but most of all we had the best cousin gathering I could ever imagine. Many of the cousins couldn't make it, but those of us that did, "the bookends" as my dad calls us - the oldest and the youngest of the families - really connected. We shared so many embarrassing stories (and made embarrassing videos about those stories) that I am still reeling from the honesty that that night brought. It was needed. The connections we had with each other were real. Life and love and time were shared. I am at a loss for words and am unable to attempt to continue describing that night. It was precious, it was beautiful, and it was needed. Cousins: This WILL happen again, with all of us.

My dad put it best: Being with your cousins, was like no time had passed.

We woke early on Sunday, and joined the cousins for breakfast at a local (and pretty famous) cafe. Half of the restaurant was cleared for the 16 of us, as we continued to tell stories of our childhood while watching the keiki (my cousin's kids) enjoy their own cousin time together. The meaning of Ohana is being passed down through the generations. After breakfast we went to see Papa again. And again, he saw me. He was never able to call me by name, but he knew who I was. We sat with him, and loved on him, and spent as much time as we could with him. I learned in these three short days that life is what we make of it and we all have the opportunity to make it good. I pushed him in his wheelchair and we admired the local flowers and watched the geckos scurry away as I pointed at them. Although Papa couldn't run, we "ran" together - he in his wheelchair and me in my slippers.

After visiting with Papa, we went to dinner with my Auntie and cousin at a well known place called Zippy's. They're famous for their chili and ever since going vegetarian, I thought I would never be able to enjoy Zippy's chili ever again. But I was wrong. They make vegetarian chili!!!! And I ate it. We had a wonderful time reconnecting with my Auntie and cousin and sharing massive amounts of love that we hadn't been able to share for a long time. She is an integral part of our Ohana and I have always secretly admired her laugh. When she laughs, the world lightens up and life becomes a little bit easier. You can feel it in your heart and her laughter sings long after she's pau (done) laughing.

That night, my dad, brother, and I retired to our room in Waikiki and shared some drinks. Well, Brother didn't drink as he was preparing for a 15-mile run the next morning (he's training for a marathon), but Dad and I took care of his share as well as ours. Although I spent some of the evening working (not because I had to, but because I wanted to), my dad and I spent the majority of the evening really connecting. I never get much time with my dad. There are always other people involved, which is the way it should be - we have a big family and Dad and I are the comedians. (Don't you dare argue that point with me, little brother.) More importantly, my dad is the one who is always giving and in giving, he is usually surrounded by friends and family. So, to have an hour alone with my dad is always a blessing. We talked, I cried, we laughed, and he took me shopping. I made a list of gifts that I wanted to get my friends back in Idaho, a way to give me something to do and think about when I didn't want to be alone in my own head. And that night, my dad and I went shopping in downtown Waikiki... drunk (at least I was) and we had fun. Neither of us are shoppers - just ask the clothes hanging in my closet that I've owned for five years - but we used that time to bond even closer and try not to wake Brother when we got back to the room.

Did I mention that I had to share a bed with my youngest brother? And it was a double! Not a queen, not a king size, but a double. After the first night, any accidental leg touching didn't matter. It's good to know that even in my mid-30's (he's still only in his late 20's) I can share a bed with my brother and we can wake up the next morning and make fun of each other in our PJs and rub sunscreen on the other's back. That's love.

Monday came too soon. Seeing as how it was my last day and I hadn't fulfilled my promise to my mom to take my dad to the beach, we called it a day of relaxing. Dad and I worked for a couple of hours in the morning, while little brother went for a 15-mile run. Relaxing, right? Then I ran two miles to my favorite restaurant to order my favorite breakfast, which I had been craving for months before I even thought I'd be back home. The restaurant was out of my breakfast, but we still enjoyed talking and drinking mimosas, and eating good food. Then, we set out for our family tour around the island.

Every time we visit the island, our dad takes us on a drive around O'ahu. It is only about a two hour drive, less time than it takes some people to get to work, and worth every single minute spent in the car. For this trip, we headed into Haleiwa, an old Hawaiian town on the North Shore of O'ahu. As my dad and brother hit Matsumotos for their famous shave ice, I once again went shopping for the perfect gifts for my friends. Haleiwa has really grown since I lived there and I am so blessed to have been able to experience it in a time before tourist shops and restaurants could pop up, begging people to enter and consume their merchandise.

After eating and shopping were done, we then headed toward Kahuku and Hau'ula, where we used to live, and on our way we spotted two (or three) humpback whales just off the coast. I made my dad pull over - it was more of a screech of "dad, dad, daddy, daddy, dad, pull over, pull over now, daddy, daddy, dad!" but he pulled over and the three of us jumped out to capture the beauty of mating whales. Despite the time I spent living in and visiting Hawai'i, I had never before seen humpback whales that up close and personal.

We rounded the island and headed to our favorite swim spot at Turtle Bay. Brother and I, being the light-skinned people that we are, put on sunscreen and set ourselves up to spend at least an hour on the beach - me in the water and he sunbathing. After helping each other apply the sunscreen, I ran into the ocean, while Brother settled himself comfortably on the sand. I had just entered the water, and exclaimed to my dad how wonderful it was and that I miss the beach so much and I could live in the water, he told me that it was time to go. "But my sunscreen hasn't even done it's job!"

"I know!" He laughed, "I told you you wouldn't need it."

"Well," I said, "I guess I'll head back... as soon as I catch the next wave."

Joke's on him, there are no waves in Turtle Bay.

The salt water in my hair, the sunscreen on my skin, the sand stuck to my feet, were all worth the ten minutes we could spend at the beach. We spent the amount of time that we could afford, and we cherished every minute of it.

From there, we drove to our house in Hau'ula and I snapped some photos of our old property and the house we grew up in. It has certainly changed for the worse and seeing it made me cry. I am of the islands. I wasn't just born there. The land flows through my blood as ancient as the family that I come from. It is not just a place, but a sacred space meant for those who truly grasp and understand the depth of the islands and all that comes with it. Hawai'i is not an easy place to live. Despite the hotels, the manicured beaches, and the fancy drinks, it has it's secrets. It has it's dark places. The secrets and places that people who are from the islands know very well. The school buses we may have lived on, the hidden garage where the neighbor found you, the home that you once knew. This trip, more than any, made me realize how lucky I am to have grown up in such a beautiful place. To have experienced life in the Aloha state, and to understand that time runs at a different pace.

After seeing our old homestead and realizing why I long to live in the country, but ache at the thought of leaving a big city, we headed home to Tutu and Papa's house. First, we stopped to see Papa for one last time. I was wearing a hat, and when I entered his room he didn't know me. I said, "Hi Papa," and he still looked at me with confused eyes. I took off my hat and his tears rolled down his face. We hugged and he said, "I love you." I love you, Papa. Thank you for knowing me.

That entire weekend, Papa would hug Brother, but he never knew who he was hugging. Papa hugged because he had to. He would pat my brother on the back and then continue eating, or trying to talk to whomever was closest. That evening, as we stood over our Papa, he looked at Brother, pointed and said, "You're the one who sleeps with men." Brother and I looked at each other in shock, then started laughing. Yes, Papa knew who his young grandson was. In that moment, Papa knew and we all laughed. We still don't know who told Papa, but whether it was that he was told, or he just knew, he recognized my brother.

We said goodbye to Papa. Leaving him with love, life, and time. We shared dinner with the cousins and hugs with Tutu. My baby cousins taught me how to hula and sang for me with their beautiful voices. We took pictures, laughed with Tutu, and promised each other that we wouldn't wait so long for our next trip home. It was like old times again, all we needed was the Beach Boys to sing Kokomo for us.

We tried to go to bed early that night - dad managed - but Brother and I stayed up, packing and talking, and playing on our phones. Posting photos and Facebook updates about our trip, doing our best to stall and not go to bed, knowing that we would be leaving the next day.

I woke up at 4am, before the sun rose, and left the island. As I sat in the airport, attempting to drink my coffee and eat some fruit, a familiar song began playing on the loud speaker...

I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me
to see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.
I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me
To see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.

You said you'd rock me in the cradle of your arms.
You said you'd hold me ‘til the storms of life were gone.
You said you'd comfort me in times like these and now I need you.
Now I need you...
And you are -
gone.

So, I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me
to see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.
Since you've gone and left me, there's been so little beauty,
but I know I saw it clearly through your eyes.
Now the world outside is such a cold and bitter place.
Here inside I have few things that will console.
And when I try to hear your voice above the storms of life,
then i remember all the things that I was told.

Well, I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me
to see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.
Yes, I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me
To see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.
I think on the things that made me feel so wonderful when I was young.
I think on the things that made me laugh , made me dance, made me sing.
I think on the things that made me grow into a being full of pride.
I think on these things, for they are true.

I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me
to see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.
I thought that you were gone, but now I know you're with me.
You are the voice that whispers all I need to hear.
I know a "Please", a "Thank you", and a smile will take me far.
I know that I am you and you are me, and we are one.
I know that who I am is numbered in each grain of sand.
I know that I am blessed,
again, and again, and again, and again,
and, again.

I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me
to see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.
I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me
To see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.

To my Ohana: Thank you for the memories. I take you and all your love, time, and life, into my own life from now and forever more. My trip home was more than a trip, it was a lesson in love. Mahalo.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Going Home

I did it. I bought the ticket. I'm going home to Hawai'i this Friday. I'm excited, but also apprehensive. I can't wait to see my family and spend some time with them, but I'm also concerned about all the other aspects of this visit. I understand that my Papa probably won't remember me, but I'm not sure how strong I can be when I actually face that reality. I can sit here and write about it all I want, but I won't know what it really feels like to see and touch him and know that he probably doesn't know who I am until I'm right there with him.

My days rush by and I'm having a hard time focusing. People pass me in the hall and I hardly notice them waving at me. This is it. Time to say goodbye. Tickets to Hawai'i aren't cheap and I'm spending a pretty penny on a weekend trip, but it must be done and therefore, I don't know when I'll be able to go home again. So as I prepare to leave, I also recognize that this could be my last trip for a long time.

I pack the brand new swimsuit, and try to decide if I really need that shampoo, or if I can live without it for a few days. Should I take just a carry-on? Or check a bag so I can bring stuff back with me? No matter the occasion, a trip to Hawai'i would be wasted if I didn't bring something back with me. For me and for friends. So, get me your list guys - what do you want from Hawai'i?

I'll arrive Friday evening around 8:30 Hawaiian time. If I'm able, the first thing I want to do (after I hug my dad, of course), is walk down Waikiki Beach. I know that's a huge tourist destination and I've heard countless people tell me they dislike Waikiki, but I love it and my favorite thing to do when I arrive, is walk on that beach, under the moon and stars, and let the warm salt water wash upon my bare feet. That is when I know - I'm home.

Beyond that, I can't predict my days. I know what I want to do. I want to take my cousins out for dinner and/or drinks. I want them to know that I appreciate all that they're doing to take care of Papa and Tutu. I want them to know that even though I don't live there, I've thought about them every day that I've been gone. And even though we have our differences, they hold a very special place in my heart. Also, I just want to get them drunk. I want to spend time with my grandparents. I want to dance with them. I want to look at pictures from my childhood. I want to hear stories of the Old Hawai'i. I want to run on the track at the local high school. I want to go swimming. I want to spend more than three days on that island. I want to spend more than three days with my family.

This will be my first truly family trip since the winter of 2000, when I went home after my cousin's first daughter was born.Tutu helped me plan the surprise. I arrived late, went straight to Tutu's house and went to bed. When I awoke the next morning, I walked down the stairs to find my cousin nursing her newborn. Our eyes met and if she could, she would have screamed, but we didn't want to wake the baby. I think I spent about a week in Hawai'i. Just me, my cousins, and my grandparents. It was such a fantastic trip. 15 years is a long time to wait for a truly family trip. And when I say truly family trip, I mean that there is nothing else that I plan to do except spend time with my family.

Over the last 15 years, I've been home a handful of times. Many of those times I've spent doing things with my family, but I've always made sure to give myself at least a couple days alone. This trip, however, is all family and I am looking forward to every moment that I get to spend with them. As long as at least one of those moments is at the beach, I will leave a happy lady. We can buy some poke at the grocery store and have a picnic lunch in the sand. We can watch the keiki play in the water and watch the surfers ride those waves with ease. We can talk story until we get tired of listening to each other's voices then run into the ocean like we did when we were kids. We can take Papa and Tutu and they can watch us from the shore, calling us back when we've gone too far. We can watch the humuhumunukunukuapua'a swim by and maybe catch a glimpse of a honu. We can shove our toes in the sand and breathe the salt air. We can listen to the waves crash on the beach and stay out until the sun goes down. Watching the sunset, while swimming in the ocean is one of those things we all need to do at least once in our lifetime. I consider myself blessed that I've been able to do that on more than one occasion.

Now, where is my grass skirt? I have to finish packing.

Glossary:
Poke - Raw Fish
Keiki - Children
Talk Story - Tell stories
Humuhumunukunukuapua'a - Fish with a pig-like nose
Honu - Sea Turtle

Monday, February 16, 2015

Slow-Motion Daydreams, Part 2

I'll let our little mash-up video speak for itself. This is footage that we captured over two days of test shoots. We didn't do a ton of testing with different frame rates as we were mostly trying to figure out the timing of our shots. As we discovered, timing is everything. If you drop a water balloon from X height, how fast will it hit the ground and how quickly do you need to hit the record button on the camera? Yeah, we were sciencing big time. Good thing I enjoyed that subject in school. And good thing we all seem to be pretty good at the science part.

I'm looking forward to more test shoots, but until then, here's some fun footage that we captured with our Edgertronic high-speed slow motion camera. Tomorrow, it's back to work as usual, perhaps we'll have more test shoots soon...

https://vimeo.com/user37082870/review/119813892/cc23adcbbd

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Slow-Motion Daydreams

My job is pretty freaking cool. Today, we got to play with the Edgertronic camera. A high speed video camera built specifically to capture action in slow-motion. And it was AWESOME!! We had so much fun and our team did a great job setting up and shooting things in slow-motion. From the network set-up to lights, props, and learning as we went, we all contributed to this epic shoot.

I don't have any video to share yet, because we're going to be shooting more tomorrow, but once that's done I'll put together a little mash-up of all the things we shot. From silly-string getting caught in my hair to those little pop-its you throw during the Fourth of July that didn't actually pop, our studio was filled with very loud laughter and cheers. This camera is really going to enhance the videos we create.

Upon first use of the Edgertronic, whom we have lovingly named Edgy, the set-up was pretty easy. We followed the online instructions to get the network between the camera and our laptop (I won't tell you what laptop we used, but let's just say that it is epic in its own right) working fairly quickly. What makes this set-up perfect for this type of camera-work really is the network. The camera doesn't have a display, or eyepiece, of it's own. The only way to see what the camera is seeing is via the connection with your laptop. Our laptop is top-of-the-line with phenomenal graphics, so we were able to adjust our lighting and focus with ease. Those are difficult to accomplish on their own with most cameras due to the small size of the viewfinder (if you're unable, or unwilling, to use an external monitor), so connecting to a laptop was perfect.

Once we had connection, it took us quite a long time to get the user interface (UI) on the web browser to actually work. For some reason, our connection just didn't quite connect. That's the best way that I can describe it. We kept having to refresh the browser just to exit out of our previous screen and were only able to play back the first bit of footage that we captured, which happened to be six-seconds of dimly flickering lights. And, I would just like to point out, that I did read the instructions, we just couldn't get it to work.

After removing the SD card and inserting it into a different computer for viewing (the laptop we used didn't have an SD card slot), and discovering that nothing we shot in the first half-hour was worth a damn, we re-inserted the SD card and the UI worked perfectly! Maybe it just had to be kick-started. In other words, we probably should have removed the card before shooting anything, which may have allowed the interaction between camera and laptop to run smoothly.

Through our next hour of tests, we figured out what timing worked best - at least for now, we know we could do better in the future - and what frame rate we should set the camera at to really get the best slow-mo footage. In a nutshell, the higher the frame rate, the better. But, when you start upping that rate, your resolution decreases. So, it's a give and take. One aspect for another. Most of the videos we create are 1080p, and the highest resolution this camera shoots in is 1280x1024 at 500 FPS, so you can see that this would present a problem if trying to integrate this camera's slow motion footage with your normal footage that you plan to export in 1080p. Today, we shot in 720p at 700 FSP, and I have not tried to take that footage and expand it to fit 1080p yet, but as with any 720p footage that you convert, I assume there will be some resolution loss. I think if it comes down to exporting in 720p it will be worth it, because this camera produces some amazing footage.

Using Nikon lenses, a Nikon 50mm F1.8 D lens comes with the camera, the depth of field is enough to make me stop and take a photo of the laptop screen that was showing what our camera was looking at. I really stopped our entire operation to gaze at the beauty that this lens produced. I can, humbly, admit that my lighting may have also had something to do with it, but the mad props go to the lens.

I'm gushing. This camera really produces beautiful slow-motion video and once we were able to understand our settings we were on our way to producing art. I cannot wait to experiment with the camera again tomorrow. Because tomorrow, we're using water.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Decisions

I'm sitting here with my finger on my mouse, on the verge of hitting the submit button. But I don't want to. Because submit means it's real. Submit sets another subsection of my life in motion. Submit sends me to Hawai'i.

As my counselor put it this morning, "The end of life is hard." And that's what we're all facing. An end of a life. We all eventually get there in some fashion or another. That is, plain and simple, what happens. I'm struggling with the fact that I NEED to go home and with the fact that I really don't want to. It's not that I don't want to see my family or visit my beautiful island home, it's that I don't want to face the truth about WHY I would be there. I would be there to say goodbye. It costs a lot of money to travel from Boise to Honolulu, and also a lot of time. Neither of which I have an excess of. Do any of us, really? It sounds very shallow to consider the material aspect of going home, but I have to.

If I go now, within the next couple of weeks, am I rushing my Papa along toward the end? Am I telling everyone that I don't believe that he has much longer? It makes me sick just to write those thoughts out. But if I try to wait it out, how much time do I have? How long is too long of a wait before it turns into a memorial visit instead of a family visit? I want to dance with my Papa. I want to hug him, but I don't know that I'm ready. Because the second I buy those tickets I'm telling myself that I know what comes next.

I believe it was back in 2000 that I had the opportunity to go to Arkansas to see my Grandpa (my mom's mom) for the last time before he passed away a few months later. I opted not to go with my family and instead stayed back in Colorado to work. TO WORK. I beat myself up over that decision until 2004. It took me four years to realize that I made the decision that was best for me at the time. I should never regret the past. It is what makes us who we are. Since I didn't visit my Grandpa before he passed away, the last time I saw him was in 1984. I was four years old. There's not much memory to rely on, but what I do remember was that he was a kind man who had a garden and a bee colony. He taught me about the earth, he took us to his favorite fishing spot, and we watched the sun set over the lake near his home. Those memories helped me forgive myself for not seeing him 16 years later. It allowed me to remember him in a way that no one else could - as a kid whose memories are fuzzy and embellished, but perfect all the same.

Although I don't regret my decision to not go to Arkansas to see my Grandpa one last time, I am using that experience to help me make this very difficult decision. Hawai'i is not a half-day drive away. It is a full day flight. It is certainly a destination full of love, life, and ohana. I should probably hit that submit button.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

All it took was a smile

Honestly, I didn't have the best day. I, actually, have not had the best week, but life happens and we either deal with it, or we don't. I have dealt with whatever it is I'm dealing with to the best of my abilities. Life can never give you one thing at a time, it seems to enjoy piling on the stuff. This can be good stuff, bad stuff, or stuff in between, but it always seems to pile.

On the good-stuff side of life: My Papa is out of the hospital and my Dad has safely arrived in Hawai'i. I'm still waiting for him to call, or text me, but I know he's there because my cousins have all mentioned it. I finally made contact with the University I'm hoping to attend this year to start pursuing my Digital Cinematography degree. There are a lot of other aspects to attending school that I need to deal with before it is official, but I'm getting close! And I'm excited.

On the stuff-in-between side of life: There's just stuff. Frodo the Dog wishes it was summer and that I could take him for hikes every.single.day. I am sick with a head cold, but nothing I can't fight. I still have to wash the towels for the week. I keep forgetting until it is after 10pm and I don't want to run the wash this late at night. I accidentally left a load of laundry in the washer all week because I forgot about it last Sunday and I'd rather not do that again. Something bit me while I was at the gym, so I have some nice bug bites on my back. I really hope they were bugs and not something else. You never know what you can catch at the gym. Like a head cold.

On the bad-stuff side of life: Eh... I don't want to write about it.

Today was a pretty mundane day, I just wasn't feeling it. I enjoyed my day, had a some great talks with a couple of friends, and am even waiting for news from another who auditioned for America's Got Talent tonight, my head just wasn't in the game. I arrived at the gym after work, just like most days, walked up to the counter and started entering my membership number so that I could get through the door. I hit enter and the young guy behind the counter gave me the biggest smile and said, "Nice to see you again, Stephanie! Have fun!"

I see him every day and every day he smiles at every single person who walks through that door. What a warm and pleasant young man. He's always polite, always happy, and always makes you feel good. I should probably learn his name, I mean, he knows mine. He turned my day around and made me thankful that I went to the gym. He made me smile.

After changing in the locker room, I headed into the cardio room to find a treadmill. On my way in, I sneezed really loudly and two people shouted, "Bless you!" I looked each of them straight in the eye and they smiled, so I smiled back. They made my day even better! Most people say "bless you" out of habit when someone sneezes, but these two people made it a point to say it to my face. It was awesome.

Then, as I grabbed a towel and walked toward my treadmill of choice, someone waved at me. I'm pretty sure I've never seen him before, but there was a part of me that thought I knew him. I just don't know where I know him from. Instead of waving back, or saying hi, I smiled. I mean, he could have been waving at someone behind me, that does tend to happen, and I wasn't about to turn around and look behind me, so I smiled.

There were smiles being passed around the gym tonight, which made my entire day brighten. And now I'm smiling just thinking about everyone's exchange. It was nice. I got more than a workout at the gym, I also got a few smiles.

I hope you smile at someone tomorrow. It might just make their day. And I know it would make your day, because smiling automatically makes you smile.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

My Superman

My love affair with running began back in the late 80's. 1987 or 1988, to be exact. I would have been seven, or eight years old, depending on the year. I sat in the front seat of a white Toyota truck with my cousins. It was hot, but not devastatingly hot. The wind blew through the palm trees and created the most beautiful music I've ever heard. That rustling in the branches combined with the steady flow of waves hitting the shore of the beach would rock me to sleep at night. Hawai'i sings its own lullaby.

Almost every day after school that year, my Papa (my dad's dad) would pick us kids up at school and drive us to the track at the local high school. By us kids, I mean myself and my two eldest cousins. We would pile into the front seat of his truck, because it was typically safer than riding in the bed. Our three tiny bodies crammed into a seat built for one. Papa would drive us to the track and on our way from the elementary school we would beg him to play the Superman Soundtrack. He would crank that music and we would all pretend to be Superman for an afternoon. Flying through the air, saving the world, and living our lives as best as we knew how. We were children of the 80's and our Papa embraced it with us.

He parked the truck facing the track and would tell us that he'd be back soon. We would sit and talk, or play games, while he ran. Donned in his running gear he ran that track like the younger runners who joined him. A white-Hawaiian man in Hawai'i, in his short 80's cut shorts, sweatband around his head, white socks up to his knees, and bands around his wrists. He was the epitome of the 80's runner and he owned it. As we watched Papa circle the track, the Superman Soundtrack playing in our ears, we admired a man who ran despite anything else going on in life.

Every day after work, in his short shorts, three of his ten grand kids piled into his white Toyota truck, he ran. He taught us that no matter what, we needed to take time for ourselves. We needed to feel the air on our skin and the ground beneath our feet, we needed to breathe deeply and let our hearts race. We needed to run.

Papa has a sense of humor that is unparalleled. His laugh is contagious and he knows how to make his family, especially his grand kids and great grand kids laugh heartily. He taught me about accepting others and that bigotry has no place in this world. That no matter what our skin color we all matter. And that ohana is forever. Even before that movie that played our Hawaiian family lives out for the world to see, we all knew that ohana was, and always is, forever.

Our Papa has spent the last week in the hospital, slowly recovering from an injury and slowly regaining his functions. My Uncle has to help feed him and he doesn't recognize my cousins when they spend the night at the hospital. Needless to say, Papa can no longer run. He probably still wears those white socks up to his knees, but he can't run the track at the local high school.

My dad is flying back to Hawai'i tomorrow to be with our family. He'll arrive around 4pm Hawai'i time. He'll be staying at Papa and Tutu's house. Tutu is what we call our grandma. He's going home to take care of our Papa.

Papa and Tutu's house was always a safe haven. A place we would go after school, or on the weekends. A place we would go to when the hurricanes came and we had to get to higher ground. Papa and Tutu's house always had the best ice cream and the best dance parties. We have pictures of Papa and Tutu dancing with us grand kids in the middle of their living room. Our lives were rich with love. They are still rich with love, even though half of us live in different parts of the US now.

The last time I saw my Papa and Tutu was in October of 2013, at my cousin's wedding. The trip was short and filled with wedding beauty, so we didn't get to hang out much, but the time that I did get to spend with my grandparents was amazing. We held hands, we hugged, Papa talked to me about his wife and how blessed he is to have her in his life. We went to our family cemetery and Papa lit up with memories of where our family came from and how we survived the early years in Hawai'i. How the land belonged to the people and how the mountain ranges were ours.

We took him to the North Shore and watched the waves pound the beach. With the wind blowing the sand around our ankles we laughed and told jokes. Papa smiled and remembered. The beach gave us all freedom to scream and yell and dance.

I may have to plan my own trip back home in the next couple of weeks. To see my Papa and tell him that he inspired me to run and be my own Superman. To grab one last selfie and snag a hug. To bring him to his feet and dance around the living room. To tell him that I love him.

To most people, a trip to Hawai'i is fulfilling a bucket-list item. To me, it's going home to revisit that track. To listen to the lullaby. To breathe the fresh flower-scent sprinkled with salt air. To let the wind whip my hair around my face. And to taste the sunshine with my toes in the sand and the beach in my sight. The thought of going home has never been so terrifying and beautiful at the same time. I'll probably take my running shoes.

   

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Let the Girl Dance

Tonight, I danced. And it felt amazing.

Husband had a "guy's night" with his buddies from high school. (Still, currently, having his fun time with his friends.) I had considered going out myself. Alone, with a friend, or friends, but I chose to stay home. It has been months since I've had the house to myself. Not since November. And I realized that I needed this time, at home, alone. By myself.

After he walked out the door, I turned on the music (very loudly) and proceeded to do the dishes. But I had to stop on the second song, because all I wanted to do was dance. So, I did.

I used to dance a lot. I started belly dancing in 2008, and followed that with modern lyrical dance from 2012 to 2013. And then I broke my ankle. I had stopped dancing a couple of months before the break, choosing instead to focus my energy on my films. It was a good decision, but I immediately missed it. I kept up with dancing in my own way by shaking my hips to a good song every once in a while, but I didn't keep up with the disciplined practice every night. I was once told by a friend (who probably wanted to sleep with me) that I was the best dancer he'd ever seen. That is a HUGE compliment, no matter who gives it. And between you and me, it meant a lot coming from him, in his own smarmy, sexy way. He'd let me high-five him for writing about him if he read my blog.

The song that did it to me tonight was "Say My Name," by Odesza. I just couldn't stop my body from dancing. So, I danced. And I danced to the next song, and the next, and the next, until my heart was beating fast and I was out of breath. It felt so good to work my body in that way. It is much different than running on the treadmill and lifting weights. It is free, and beautiful, and raw. And I noticed something while I was dancing. My animals were captivated. Frodo the Dog and Osiris the Cat just watched me. They were enthralled. I think it was more my energy than what I was doing. Well, possibly what I was doing. I was moving funny, in their eyes. I rarely dance any more. Not since I broke my ankle. It is very difficult to move on my right leg, and my foot locks up every time. But I did it. I danced through the pain. And my animals enjoyed the moment with me. My mood lifted and my energy shifted. I felt good and I fell in love with myself again. That's always a nice feeling.

I had considered doing other things tonight while I have the house to myself, but taxes just don't seem as fun as dancing. Dancing and writing. That's what I ended up doing. And it feels good.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Accepting Help

This morning, I started listening to the book, "The Art of Asking," by Amanda Palmer. It takes me about 20-30 minutes to commute to and from work - the perfect time for listening to audio books. I first heard about her book through Twitter. People have been, and still are, raving about this! And I was craving another honest and open book about people.

She hooked me within the first half hour this morning, so much so, that after listening for another half hour after work, I kept the book running for an extended half hour while I worked out at the gym. I rarely, if ever, listen to books at the gym. I usually turn on some upbeat music that keeps me moving and prompts me to join in the singing, much to the dismay of the other people at the gym. As I listened to her read her book to me for an hour-and-a-half, I realized that she has a lot to share with the world and everything she's said so far has touched me in a very personal way. Her book is about the art of asking. Asking for help when you need it. Something I have a difficult time with. What I seem to have an even harder time with is accepting help. I'm horrible at it.

I have always had this idea that if I accept help, I am showing that I am a weaker person. I am admitting defeat. I am admitting that I need help. Growing up the eldest of four kids, I was left to fend for myself and my siblings. I did the helping. I managed all the tasks and I did it all by myself. I didn't ask for help and if any was ever offered (I can't remember at this point) I wouldn't accept. Obviously, I have something to prove. More-so to myself than to anyone else. I can do this. By myself. I know that everyone understands that I am strong enough to bear my own weight and that of whatever task - be it mental or physical - I am performing, but I still have to prove that I am capable of accomplishing this task alone.

My job is very physically demanding. I make videos and not only do I have to carry a camera around, I also have to schlep all of my own equipment. This morning, I moved an entire cart of equipment weighing (I'm guessing) at least 100 pounds, from one end of the building to the other. After an early morning meeting, it was one of the first things I did with my day, after listening to Amanda's book, of course. It felt amazing that I was able to accomplish this on my own, but now, over 12 hours later, my body is begging me to never do that again. My head is also saying, "you should have accepted help." The concept is simple. Let someone help and the job gets done quicker, plus you have someone to talk to and you're not left with your own thoughts, which can cause their own problems.

People offer to help me all the time and I usually turn them down. Not because I don't want their help, but because I can do it on my own. I want them to know this. The bitch of it is, they already do know that I can handle it on my own, but four hands is better than two, and sometimes someone just wants you to accept their friendly offer of help. I'm the first to jump at the opportunity to help someone. Why then, is it so damn difficult for me to be on the receiving end of help? I do know why and I'm aiming to fix it. Accepting help does NOT mean that I am weak or incapable of doing something. It is the exact opposite. It means that I am capable of allowing others to help me for no gain of their own, but to be a friend.

I am so bad at accepting help that on a recent business trip, my boss specifically told me to wait at the airport for a coworker to arrive so that he could help me carry my equipment from the terminal to the rental car. Guess who didn't wait and decided to go at it alone? Guess who didn't listen to her boss? I made it just fine with all of my equipment - no problems there - but I did get lost on my way to the hotel, which pushed my arrival time back by almost 45 minutes. Yeah... that wasn't very smart. Had I accepted the help that I was told to accept, I probably wouldn't have gotten lost. But, you know, driving around a strange city in a rainstorm is fun too. At least I had all of my equipment.

It is time for me to start accepting help on a real and honest level. To understand that it is not to belittle me, or make me feel weak, but that it is a simple human act of sharing in the difficulties of life. We all struggle and we all need help. It doesn't get much simpler than that.

To those whom I have rejected your offers of help, I deeply apologize. It has never been my intent to be an offensive asshole. I will make it a point to remember to accept your help and if I'm being difficult and not accepting, just smack me. I'll understand.

The Beatles song, "With A Little Help From My Friends," has been running through my head since I came to this realization after listening to Amanda's book at the gym...

I get by with a little help from my friends
I get high with a little help from my friends
Going to try with a little help from my friends

It's true. In that exquisite cliché way, it's true.