2016 – Year in Review

img_9560Why do some people feel the need to review past events?

I don’t know the answer to that question – so I will use this platform to explore why I feel a need to review the last year…

This isn’t going to be a chronological listing of events – this won’t be a rehash of my FB posts or favorite Tweets.

I do not want to talk about my feelings towards world events – I think we have all experienced enough of that.

I do want to share a significant event from my 2016 that I feel exemplifies the journey we all face as humans.

My life’s journey has been colored by a syndrome some of us may experience once, twice or thirty times in our lives – the Grass is Greener Syndrome.

blog-pics-1200x675-greener-grassYou know what I’m talking about…

It may be the there-must-be-a-better-place-to-live-than-here syndrome.

It may be the there-must-be-a-better-job-than-this-job syndrome.

It may be the there-must-be-a-better-partner-than-this-partner syndrome.

And so on and so on – you get the picture.

I personally think this type of questioning is positive. It allows us the opportunity to reevaluate our lives to figure out what needs changing or what needs a little readjusting. I wrote a post in July that describes how I feel restless when the need for change arises…

This syndrome may be manifested by that nagging voice in your head or on your shoulder that sometimes is so loud you can’t think straight.

I have realized this voice is a reflection of a part of me that isn’t satisfied.

In 2016 an event helped me let go of those nagging voices.

giphy.gif Helped me brush them off…

For years, I wondered what it would be like to live in Hawaii. For years, I have thought Seattle is not my home. For years, I thought there must be a better job.

My restlessness was quieted by an opportunity to work for my employer on a 3-month project in Oahu.

I lived and worked in what many believe is paradise for 90-days.

I not only had the amazing opportunity to live in a place I have dreamed about since I fell in love with Magnum P.I. in the 80s but work in a different part of my organization. I got to see how green the grass was on the other side.

I fell in love with the Ko’olau mountains. My favorite drive was from Kaneohe, on the windward side, north to Kahuku along the Kamehameha highway. My favorite little grocery store  Ching’s in Punaluu, was on the way, where they have the best butter mochi and spam musubi on the island. The best curry is at Fiji market in Kahuku.

But that’s not all.

img_9337In March of 2016, I found out I got accepted to an MFA in creative writing program.  It was the next step in my lifelong journey of becoming a writer. So while in Hawaii, I not only worked full-time at my job, I had a full course load of homework assignments to do. All this while on an island my brain considered as a vacation spot.

It was hard.

After two months, I missed the Pacific NW, my cats, my fiancé, my house, and all things familiar.

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I got island fever. But, being isolated, or sequestered, on a rock in the middle of the planet’s largest ocean gave me time to reevaluate and refocus on those things that are important to me. I no longer have that nagging voice telling me life is better somewhere else. Life happens wherever you go.

I realized rainbows are created at the interface of sun and rain – you need to walk through a storm to get to the rainbow.

I have quieted my Grass-is-Greener voice – for now.

I’m still open to opportunity and change.

In the words of the poor man in the Holy Grail – I’m not dead yet!

I am thankful to work for an organization that created a program where employees can apply for opportunities to work in other parts of the organization to gain skills and work in different cultural landscapes. My organization not only has an amazing mission but truly respects and appreciates its hardworking employees. If you want to check out a little more about what I do for work – see my LinkedIn page.

Did you know life happens in paradise? I wrote about my experience in a blog called 90 days in paradise. Please check it out.

 

 

Day 69 – Thanksgiving

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Today I give thanks to this happy couple. My parents – circa 1969 at Banff or Glacier NP. They represent what the United States of America is all about.

A country of compassion.

A country of opportunity.

A country where an economic refugee from Germany and a political refugee from Cuba, could meet, fall in love, get married, and carve out a life and raise a family.

All of that happened in a little neighborhood on the far north side of Chicago called Rogers Park.

They embodied the American Dream.

My dad, a craftsman, opened a business with his brother and my mother went to school to become a registered nurse. It took them a little over 20 years to buy a house, which by that time my brother and I were in college.

But it wasn’t all peaches and cream – if I may use that cliché.

My little nuclear family was a place where two very different cultures collided.

Yes, collided. No melting happened in the pot of my family. Although, you could argue German and Cuban DNA did blend to create my brother and me. But that is another story…

From our little experiment – I am authorized to say the American melting pot is a farce, a fantasy, a disillusioned idea.

What does it mean to melt cultures together?

What does it mean to have no diversity?

What does it mean to have no differing opinions or perspectives?

What if there was only one color in a rainbow? Blue bow? Red bow? Purple bow?

Take a walk in the woods, snorkel around a coral reef, canoe along a river through a rain forest.

In nature there is only diversity. An ecosystem is made up of diverse creatures. From microscopic plankton to huge whales. Life on Earth thrives on biological diversity. Any time one organism takes over a habitat – the ecosystem becomes imbalanced. Disease, mass die-offs, decreased food sources.

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Life on Earth thrives on biological diversity.

Why should it be any different culturally?

In my little family, we didn’t blend cultures. We didn’t create a new culinary genre where  sauerkraut is paired with arroz con pollo, lechon asado, or ropa vieja. Although bistec milanesa or empanisado (breaded steak) was very similar to wienerschnitzel – and this little Cuban/German girl loved both.

Dad never learned how to dance the Cuban son – mom never learned to polka. Neither learned the other’s language. A version of English is what we spoke in our household (although I always say English is my second language).

Dad thought my Cuban family yelled too much. And Mom thought my German family didn’t like her because she was a “darkie.”

For better and worse, my parents stayed together until my Dad’s death in 2013. Despite their outer dysfunction – the communication challenges, the short bouts of yelling, followed by years of silence – deep down inside, they loved each other.

As I approach my late 40s, I have finally realized what my parents gave me.

Cultural sensitivity, an ability to be patient with and understand people with accents, a mysterious morphological make up that allows me access into a diversity of groups, and the consciousness to see the humanity shared by all of us.

So I give thanks for them and for this country that made it all happen.

I only hope I can share their gifts with others.

Aloha!

 

 

Day 67 – Rain + Sun = Rainbows

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Cloudy day reflects the mood at the USS Utah memorial at Pearl Harbor.

I prayed for rain.

I prayed for weather that reflected my mood.

I wasn’t feeling sunny, mostly sunny, or partly sunny.

I wasn’t feeling summery.

I was feeling mostly cloudy.

My mood was autumn rolling into winter.

The rain began Saturday – a trip to Lanai reminded me of my Pacific NW home and I started to feel better but on Sunday the sun came back.

Monday saved me – rain flowing through the gutter of my apartment woke me up.

I danced while I made coffee, I sang to the koi fish in the pond, and I cooed at the doves feeding at the bird feeder.


But folks here don’t know that rain makes for slick roads.

Traffic caused by accidents slowed my commute. Frustrated drivers sped by after passing the firetrucks and cars pulled aside on the shoulder.

I giggled at their frustration. I relished being stopped in traffic within the rain clouds collected on the windward side of the Koolau mountains. My only wish being to be able to get out of my car and dance in the rain.

I was beaming – this was a real rainstorm and not only a passing tropical shower.

Sometimes a good downpour is the perfect therapy for cleansing the doldrums of life.

Sometimes to find rainbows you have to walk through a storm.

Aloha!

Day 65 – Lana’i

A quick trip off Oahu was the perfect cure for island fever. Especially, when the island plus the weather reminded me of home – the Pacific NW.

Tall Cook pines, thick clouds, and misty rain had me wondering what kind of spell I was under all day long.


Perhaps I was on an island in Southeast Alaska?
Alas, the tropical foliage and temperatures in the 70s snapped me back to the reality of Lanai. A sweet little community that deserves a stay longer than a few hours.

Aloha!

Day 59 – Super Moon

90-days in paradise

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Dear Super Moon,

You looked splendid tonight. Your rouge-like aura when you first emerged above the horizon made me wonder if you were a bit angry. Did Mars tell you something that pissed you off? Did he tell you that you are not made of rock, but of cheese?

My sweet, you do look beautiful when you are angry. The rush of lunar blood through your valleys gives you a glow of life – of – dare I say – passion. Was that your energy rushing through me? Spreading a renewed sense of vitality, of clarity.

As you ascended your rouge softened to a light pink then an angelic halo of creamy white draped over you like a beautiful, silky shawl. Did you forgive him?

Oh Super Moon, I need your wisdom tonight. I offer you a gift of plumerias, yellow and white, floating along your beams across the ocean…

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Day 59 – Super Moon

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Dear Super Moon,

You looked splendid tonight. Your rouge-like aura when you first emerged above the horizon made me wonder if you were a bit angry. Did Mars tell you something that pissed you off? Did he tell you that you are not made of rock, but of cheese?

My sweet, you do look beautiful when you are angry. The rush of lunar blood through your valleys gives you a glow of life – of – dare I say – passion. Was that your energy rushing through me? Spreading a renewed sense of vitality, of clarity.

As you ascended your rouge softened to a light pink then an angelic halo of creamy white draped over you like a beautiful, silky shawl. Did you forgive him?

Oh Super Moon, I need your wisdom tonight. I offer you a gift of plumerias, yellow and white, floating along your beams across the ocean. I send you a message in their sweet perfume drifting towards the heavens.

Please teach me how to wax with confidence, to embrace my intelligence, to honor what my eyes see, and to have courage to speak my voice.

Please teach me to take those words I hear from people who wish to keep me down below the horizon of my potential and turn them into wings.

Please remind me to be strong when these events make my energy wane.

If this is too much to ask for one night, I understand.

In the meantime, I will look for you every night, for another lesson.

Aloha.

Day 58 – Botanical Diversity

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Grounding. Solace.

Alone again, after a great weeklong visit with my brother, I felt pulled to take a walk among plant life. I needed their help to remember how to feel rooted on this Earth. I needed their help to remember the diversity of life. I needed their help to remember that life can happen in dry, desolate, and harsh conditions.

Welcome to Koko Crater Botanical Gardens.

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In this 100,000-year-old crater or tuff cone – created from an ash eruption, a consequence of cold seawater entering the hot Koolau volcanic vent – a botanical garden was created to feature plants from arid areas of the world. Le’ahi (Diamond Head) is another tuff cone or, as my brother and I decided to call tuff cones, volcanic farts (you heard it here first!).

East Oahu – or any Lee or Kona side of an island – the climate is hot and dry. This made Koko Crater a perfect setting for this type of garden.

Although I am a card-carrying biologist, I think any curiously observant human who paused at the absurdity of life in places where water may come every several years, would be in awe at seeing the diversity of plants.

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Diversity in size, shape, color, texture, mechanisms to collect water, flower, fruit, reproduce…  The list is long.

They are all different species, different genus, and different families – and that is just looking at the plants from hot, arid climates. These plants over millions of years have figured out how to take root and survive. But why?

To give us humans something to ponder? Or is it something greater?

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Can it be the will to survive, that encompasses the ability to adapt and thrive no matter how difficult an environment may be or become?

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It is how we got to where we are – and it will be the reason for where we will go…

Sometimes it takes a walk in a garden to remind us of this…

Aloha!