Category Archives: counting my blessings

Stepping out

1st stepsTwenty-one years ago, days shy of her first birthday, I let go of her chubby little hand and away she went.

Then she kept on going. In preschool, she was queen of the monkey bars. In junior kindergarten, the most popular girl in the class. In fourth grade she had a reputation on the soccer field as being the player who made the most spectacular tumbles but popped right back up and raced down the field to get the ball back.

With a sense of her own gifts as a leader, she seemed to relish being in the middle of the action, wherever that was. And whether it was orating in the Damon Speech contest, or portraying Viola in Twelfth Night, or the many times she stood, bedecked in paʻu, lei poʻo and kupeʻe on various kahua hula — to be on stage was like being home to her.

When she was four, she was in her first performance on an elevated stage at the Waikiki Hoʻolauleʻa. After their final number, the little dancers left the stage to great applause. Eager to praise and congratulate her, I raced backstage to find her dissolved into tears. “I want to go back up there!” she wailed. “Why can’t I do it again?”

When it comes to stepping out on her own, my girl is just getting warmed up. At 22, having long since let go of my hand, she has all the confidence she needs to make her own way in the life that lies before her.

So today I blow her a virtual kiss, and with a heart full of pride, watch her step out into the adventure of adulthood.

Happy Birthday, my angel. E kūlia i ka nuʻu: strive for the highest.

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29 years

Every year on December 5th, The Coach and I celebrate our anniversary.

And by “anniversary,” I don’t mean our wedding anniversary. It’s the anniversary of our first date.

And by “celebrate,” I don’t mean we actually have a celebration of some kind. More like we remember the day, or recognize it, or briefly acknowledge it.

And by “every year,” I don’t mean every year, exactly. Often, in the past two or fifteen years or so, only one of us may have remembered December 5th and gotten a card or something (this year: yours truly). I have to admit that some years both of us have forgotten the day. More than once, several days will have gone by when one of us will say, “Hey, wasn’t December 5th a few days ago?”

Anyway, 29 years ago, The Coach and I went on our first date. It was not your conventional dinner-and-a-movie type of thing, which may have been part of why it was so much fun. And why we still celebrate it. Only, not exactly, er, celebrate [see above].

This is where I could probably throw in a whole bunch of cliches about how 29 years ago I never could have imagined what my/our life would be like at this point, blah blah blah. It pretty much goes without saying, right?

I mean, today I’ve washed a whole bunch of dishes, done a load of laundry, scrubbed two bathrooms, washed some windows, and gotten the spare bedroom ready for a houseguest. And that was before lunch. But after I had made breakfast and The Coach’s lunch, read the paper, did the crossword, walked the dog and paid a couple bills.

On my “anniversary.” Somebody bust out the champagne.

So, yeah, maybe not exactly the future I pictured 29 years ago, but whose is? And anyway, you know what I think is the point of celebrating/recognizing/acknowledging (let’s face it: HAVING) a 29th first-date anniversary? It’s that it serves as a reminder that, no matter what the ride has been like for nearly three decades on our roller coaster of life — we got off to a pretty good start.

This was not our first date, but maybe four days later. Good grief, we were young

This was taken at a party a few days after our first date. Good grief, we were young.

Thanksgiving reflections I

The spring of my sophomore year in high school, one of my best friends, Gail, got word that her dad had been offered and had accepted a job that meant they would moving back to the mainland.

This was all fine and dandy with Gail’s two younger sisters and her parents, but it was not at all fine with Gail. And because it wasn’t with Gail, it wasn’t with me.

So the two of us hatched a plot. We decided that since by the fall of the next school year my older brother would have moved out to attend college in Indiana, Gail could just stay on in Hawaii and live in my house, thus being able to finish her last two years at our high school.

We arranged a meeting of the two families to talk this proposal over, and somewhat to our surprise, our parents agreed. (Then we left it to the four adults to work out the details of figuring out Gail’s room and board, and other arrangements we weren’t capable of wrapping our adolescent minds around.)

I have to digress for just a moment to say: Do you know anyone who would do this nowadays? Just leave their 15-year-old daughter to live with an unrelated family for two years, 5000 miles distant, and trust that everything would be all right? I don’t think I do. Still amazes me, 40 years later, that we pulled it off.

Anyway, although Gail and I were the same age and the same grade and both mostly easy-going individuals, our first couple months in this new arrangement were bound to have their rocky moments, and in fact they did. We struggled a bit to get along until finally we reached a pivotal point where, from then on, all was well.

It happened on Thanksgiving.

My memory’s a bit vague, but as I recall, we had spent the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving just sort of sniping at each other: not flat out fighting, but not really getting along all that great. I’m sure there were tears. My poor mom must have been wondering how she was going to manage cooking for a bunch of guests and at the same time be there for a hanai (foster) daughter who was spending her first Thanksgiving away from home and family.

One of the families that was invited to our home that year was the Wilsons*. Mrs. Wilson was a colleague of my mom’s, and had what you might call a splenetic personality: she seemed to be perpetually in a state of ill-humor. At least that was our teenage perspective; I’m sure she was probably a totally decent, happy person.

Anyway, we were barely into the first course when Mrs. Wilson, after asking several questions about our temporary adoption arrangement, pronounced that it would never work: “By the end of the two years, they most certainly won’t still be friends,” was I think how she put it.

Gail and I looked at each other. At that moment, we could see in each other’s eyes, we had the same thought. The two of us, not in any kind of athletic way, but in more of a psycho-emotional way, are deeply competitive. (I don’t have time to go into our online Scramble games; suffice to say that neither of us likes to lose to the other.) And the gauntlet had just been thrown.

We determined then and there that no matter what, we would stick together and make this thing work, if for no other reason than to prove Mrs. Wilson wrong. I’m sure Mrs. Wilson had no idea that she became the motivation for the success of our relationship going forward. But that day, with our plates before us piled up with turkey and trimmings (because we had also planned some sort of challenge to out-eat each other — competitive; told you), was the beginning of Gail and me becoming not just best friends, but sisters.

Because in the end — and we had a private little commemorative moment on our graduation day — we could proudly tell Mrs. Wilson or anybody that we had weathered those two years and most certainly were still friends. Now, every Thanksgiving day, Gail and I make a point to call each other to say Happy Thanksgiving, and we always remember Mrs. Wilson and the challenge she put before us, and how it changed everything.

Happy Thanksgiving, Sister!

*names changed to protect the not-so-innocent

Counting my blessings

a countable blessing: sunrise from my deck

So the other day when I was whining mentioned that Halloween is my least favorite holiday, it occurred to me that it’s actually closely followed by my most favorite holiday, which is Thanksgiving.

The thing that’s so great about Thanksgiving, well, two things really: number one, it’s all about the food — who’s gonna ever complain about a holiday that revolves around food? — and number two, it isn’t only about the food, it’s also (duh) about being thankful.

I mean, every November in America, you’re practically forced to stop and take stock and acknowledge the things you’re grateful for. And in my opinion, that’s one thing it’s good to be forced to do. So it seems kind of a shame that for the most part we only gear up to do it once a year.

Of course, that’s not true for everyone. Oprah for one is famous for her gratitude journal, which lots of people have decided is a good idea and put to use in their own lives. There’s even an app for it, which is kind of a clever 21st century spin on your grandmother’s admonition to count your blessings.

Which is what I’m doing today. Just since I woke up this morning, all sorts of little things I’m thankful for have popped into my head. Here’s a sampling:

  • that our boy finally, after months of searching, was able to trade in his gas-guzzling truck and get a practical, four-cylinder car that had all the specs he wanted and was in his price range (now The Coach can stop with the obsessive late-night searches on Craigslist);
  • that our girl is on her way to Chicago today for a volleyball tournament, having made the cut for the traveling team (Go Bearcats!);
  • that tomorrow I’m finally getting this weird thing taken off my tongue, which may mean a few days of liquid meals following the surgery, but that could be a positive if it translates into losing a couple pounds;
  • that The Coach (so far; knock wood) has had a relatively drama-free season with his team. Truly a blessing that he has a pleasant and easy-going group to work with, which is no small thing to be able to say about a gaggle of teenage girls;
  • that a Pilates studio recently opened up in my neighborhood, and I’m going back to Pilates classes again a couple times a week. I feel better already!

I could go on, but that’s good for now. What sorts of blessings are you counting today?