Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Zen Enough

I'm all done with my venting-fest! Yay for me! I had a good cry-fest yesterday which helped, too.
I'm continuing to tap into my happy resources (prayer, scriptures, meditation, exercise, healthy foods, spending time with my boys, keeping things slow-paced) and I've even decided to add one more:


As I was riding my bike up the canyon yesterday my head started to clear from the fog. It seemed the farther I rode away from civilization, the clearer my head got. As I stopped at a bench to rest and  look around at God's phenomenal creations I couldn't help but feel happy, calm, centered, and at peace with my life. It was the first true Zen experience I've had since I left Hawaii and I want more! I realized that I don't need to vent anymore, or feel overwhelmed, or cry to the often unresponsive Internet; I need to surround myself with the loving mother and drink in her beauty like one big cup-full of warm tea after another.

So adios for now www, for I will be taking some much needed intoxicating sips of nature until I feel Zen enough to come back to the modern world.
The bike path heading up the canyon that takes me up, up, and away.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Venting 101

Vent: a means of exit or escape; an outlet, as from confinement. To relieve pressure, release or discharge. -Websters Online

This is it! I am venting. I am sick and tired of trying to be and feel positive and optimistic right now and fighting against it is only making things worse. I needed a reminder the other day when I stumbled across my friend Tracy's post about her recent Grumpfest. Her honesty and real-ness was refreshing and I realized that maybe a grumpfest was exactly what I needed, too. (Only I'm not going to list everything I'm grateful for afterward  because let's face it, I'm not in the mood) Before I begin my personal venting session, here's a little lesson in Venting 101 to remind myself why it's important to vent:

First off, blessed be the woman who has a husband who will let her vent without negative repercussions.  To have someone that will just sit there and act as a sounding board instead of offering advice or debate over your problems is the best thing next to dark chocolate. I've learned over the years, however, that before you unleash a good venting session on your partner, you need to announce it first. For example: "I am feeling like crap right now and need to vent about a few things that are bothering me. Will you listen?" With this approach it will keep from  quickly turning into a battle of personal attacks as partner is being side-swiped by complaints he probably wasn't even aware of. Believe me, I've learned this through trial and error. 

Next, venting is a form of release and should not bring on feelings of guilt. (I have a hard time with this one.)  We vent when the negative pressure is so extreme that we need to release before we burst or do something really stupid.  Venting is not something we condone for everyday living because wallowing in our misery and disappointments isn't very healthy for the soul, however it is pretty darn amazing when you need it! The release I feel after a good venting session is how I imagine Mount St. Helens felt in 1980 when she finally burst her top off.  Freaking awesome, I bet.

Last, allowing yourself to vent doesn't mean you need immediate solutions. Sympathy and understanding is always nice, but more often than not, the path back to feeling happy again takes time. Give me another week and I'll start feeling optimistic again, even if all of my problems haven't gone away.

With all that said, here goes my long list of complaints:

*I'm tired of being ill. I've had one nasty virus after another the entire month of August and  I'm sick of it. I want to be %100 better and have my energy back!

*I'm feeling worried again about living here. I love it, it's beautiful, but the culture is feeling difficult for me again. I am feeling homesick for Hawaii and longing for it's  free-spirited, happy-go-lucky-whatever-goes nature.

*I haven't had  vigorous exercise in over a month and I feel BLAH. When I don't get exercise I start to fall into the pits of depression.

* I'm stressing over the weather. I'm worried it's going to start getting cold soon and we don't have enough warm blankets or coats.

*We are all out of money. I mean, completely wiped out. We are now spending money we don't have and I really hate that.

* My three year old is driving me bonkers. I feel completely burnt out on his illogical, unreasonable, daily tantrum fests, and it's driving me over the edge. I need a week-long BREAK from the demands of toddlerhood but I don't get one.

*It feels like I've been feeding my kids non-stop grilled-cheese, hot dogs, and pizza since July, and I feel guilty. I need to get back on planning healthy meals but I don't have the energy.

*I'm feeling disorganized and cluttered as a mother. 

*I miss the ocean. I need it's healing, calming powers but it is out of my reach.

*I need a haircut, a chiropractic adjustment, a deep-tissue massage, and I'd also love to get that Plantar wart removed from my foot that's been plaguing my life for the past 5 1/2 years. Often my needs are placed last, and it's frustrating.

*I feel tired, overwhelmed, and burnt out on being me right now. 

* I agreed a week ago to speaking in church tomorrow about Faith, and I have nothing so far. I'd love some quiet time alone today to ponder and pray.

*It seems the last several weeks I haven't been very successful at tapping into my happy resources..i.e. the things that bring me peace in life. I was doing really good but now I'm falling apart today.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Welcome to America, Immigrants!

I've found that I make sense of the world best by comparing it to my own life experiences. 
As I've been thinking a lot about the immigration issues facing this country, I wanted to vocalize some thoughts and experiences I've had, yet I won't pretend to know anything about politics. Afterall, my political education comes from watching the Steven Colbert Report on hulu late at night with my husband while we eat ice-cream and laugh our heads off.  I will, however, admit to knowing a few things about the heart. In my heart of hearts and from the deepest, most sincere crevices of my soul, these are the things that I know:

I was born in California, yet I don't consider myself from there. My parents both grew up in Long Beach  and I spent some childhood years living in Huntington Beach, but the vast majority of my lifetime and memories are from Hawaii. My Dad served an LDS Christian mission in the Hawaiian Islands in 1968, then moved our family there in 1982  when I was 5 years old. I was raised in Hawaii, but I am not a Native Hawaiian. All my growing up years (except for that one year my parents moved us back to CA when I was in 5th grade then moved us back to HI in 6th grade) were spent on the island of Oahu, yet rather than nurturing my deep cultural roots and heritage, I left when I was 23 searching for something more. And now as I am raising my family in Utah It is obvious and clear that I am not, and never will be, a Utahan. I don't have a strong connection to Pioneer History, or Utah farming culture, or even mainstream Mormon culture. I am LDS, yes, but not a Utah Mormon built of Pioneer ancestry.
With all this said, for some reason I often struggle with feeling a strong sense of loyalty and belonging in these United States, yet I am a born American. I can't deny that however awkward and displaced I have felt at times that wherever I move within these 50 States, I will always belong here. This is a privilege and a right I am grateful for because I love this beautiful country, even though I have struggled to find my identity at times.  
I think my struggle came from growing up in vastly different cultures and then trying to find a place that "matches" me. With growth and maturity and a lot of moving around (I think) I've discovered that I can  live anywhere and carve my own niche. I mean, I never though in a million years I'd call Utah my permanent home, but there are parts of Utah here that match me, that call to me, that tell me I am home. Despite the different culture, I feel inspired here, I feel peace here, and I feel freedom, unity, and prosperity in my surroundings. This is the America that I love.

 With that said, It deeply saddens me to think of the people among us who have come to America seeking refuge and peace, yet still they feel displaced and alienated in this American ideal of freedom, unity, and prosperity.  The one group of people in particular that has been weighing heavy on my heart are the Micronesian people from the Marshall Islands who have immigrated to Hawaii. 
When we first moved to the Big Island of Hawaii 2 years ago I noticed right away a culture of people I didn't recognize. Having grown up on Oahu I was used to living among the immigrant cultures settled there-- the Filipinos, the Chinese, and the many Polynesian islanders that either came over for work or education over the past 200 years. However, this group of foreigners was very new to me. 
Our first encounter with the Marshallese was on a camping trip to the other side of the island. After the sun went down we would bring our little family into this big pavilion overlooking the ocean to cook dinner, relax in the quiet peace of the night,  and let our kids run in circles until they got tired. One night as we were setting up for our dinner, several men walked in to set up a large electronic keyboard and drum-set. I remember my husband and I were laughing at the incongruity of it all! Imagine a dance party while overlooking the ocean on a quiet, starry night like tonight! However, after several minutes the pavilion started to fill up with families. One family after another piled in, smiling and laughing, while wearing colorful, patched skirts, and chattering away in an unfamiliar language. Even though I didn't know who these people were, I could sense immediately a group of people built of tight bonds, unity, and strong family values.  Pretty soon the pavilion was filled with melodic electronic keyboard music, rhythmic chanting,  and line-dancing. I had never seen anything like it! Watching those families that evening celebrate their families and their culture was one of the sweetest experiences I had while living on the Big Island.  

Over the following several months I would run into bands of these Marshallese women out running errands during the day. They were always wearing long, flowery skirts with T-shirts and flip-flops, while toting around gaggles of children in mini-vans. They seemed friendly and smiley, but also reserved and keeping to themselves. However, this image was vastly different in the public schools. My husband was working at a junior high school at the time and reported weekly outbreaks of fighting between Marshallese and local cultures. The fighting had escalated so badly throughout the island that Micronesian specialists were contacted in trying to help teachers and students alike understand the cultural clashes that were happening within the schools. 

My personal understanding was broadened when I ran across an article explaining an independent documentary filmed on the Big Island. It was about the Marshallese immigrants there and is called The Land of Eb. I admit that my first arrogant conclusion (before I read the article) was that these families must've chosen to come here for a better life. Afterall, most non-Westerners think America is the shiz, and come here to pursue the American Dream, right? Afterall,  I've seen the Marshallese maids scrubbing toilets at our hotel and so figured this was just the start to something better down the line. But upon discovering the truth, I choked on my own thoughts. In fact, I felt downright sick to my stomach that these people had very little choice in coming here at all, and furthermore, they are next in line to take on America's unwanted dirty work.

The story of these particular immigrants began in 1948 when the American military moved them from their island home on Enewitok, and placed them on a small island called Ujelang. They were left without food or water, or homes. Many of them starved to death. Their former home of Enewitok then became the world's largest nuclear testing grounds. The American Military carried out forty-three nuclear tests on Enewitok between 1948 and 1958. Then they spent years scraping off the irradiated topsoil and nuclear debris, finally encasing it into a massive, concrete dome still located on the island.  In 1980 the island was cleared for residents to return to live on it. However, the island was abandoned, desolate, and still carrying traces of radioactivity. Many residents returned to their former island home, however, life would never be the same for them. Everything they had had was destroyed or left for dead.. I'm sure you've heard of the similar devastation that happened on the Bikini Atoll, which also displaced thousands of Marshallese.
Soon enough a political agreement formed between America and the Marshall Islands, giving  all Marshallese citizens the right to immigrate to the United States.
Many of them scattered throughout the mainland U.S., congregating in small cities across the nation, however, a large majority of them came to Hawaii. 
And now, as the newest immigrants to Hawaii they are dealing with discrimination in the schools, harsh living conditions, poverty and low-wage jobs, and a struggle to retain their cultural values in a new country. 

 It's good to remind myself that everyone has a story. I didn't know who these people were or why they came to settle in Hawaii, and now that I do, I have more respect, empathy, and understanding for their livelihood. Information is empowering! In my husbands previous school they are trying to understand how they can be better friends and teachers to the Marshallese immigrants there. They are trying to help prevent the fighting and cultural clashes happening on the island by better understanding their culture. Some interesting facts Micah shared with me are:

"Over 80% of the Micronesians who come to Hawaii are considered homeless because of their living situation. For example, a 2 bedroom apartment has 6 official residents, but 20 people live there (so 14 are considered homeless).  In the Micronesian cultures, you are considered an adult at 10 or 11.  By the age of 20 or 21, your family is set and your life is considered complete.  So, 12 and 13 year old parents are a part of the culture which means there is no such thing as teen pregnancy. 

There is also no such thing as dating or marriage in many Micronesian cultures.    They have no legal ceremony or paperwork or name changes, which is why so many are considered single parents, and welfare rates are increasing in Hawaii.
 In many households, once the students leave for school, the eldest child becomes the 'parent' and the parents are considered "off the clock" when the students are off at school or out in public without them.  This  attributes to how close knit and loyal the group seems in public.  They are taught from early on that they are to look out for one another. For many ChuukesePohnpai, and Marshallese students, they are not allowed to perform in anything other than their cultural dances.  Sports are considered a performance.  Sometimes students act out to save face because it is against their culture to be in the spotlight."

 I feel strongly that America needs to become more of a country based on tolerance and acceptance for all races, peoples, and cultures. True there has been too much unfairness and bloodshed in the past, and cultural differences will often come between us, but I see a lot of unnecessary judgement towards recent immigrants and it really saddens me. More often than not we don't know everyones story, we are too quick to judge, and most of the opinions we hear are based on pure ignorance or refusal to find out the truth. Like I said, I don't know much about politics, but I know my heart. And my heart tells me that we are all God's children, and we all deserve a chance to be accepted and to have a place we can call home.  My personal feelings of displacement will never compare to someone who is painfully trying to find their new home in a country full of judgement and abuse. I hope I can always look at others with compassion and understanding, and never misjudge anyone wrongfully. 

This great country was founded upon the hard work and determination of immigrants and I believe that our diversity can be one of our strongest attributes if we can learn to work alongside and accept people gracefully. 

So welcome to America, immigrants!  My ancestors were immigrants, too. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Dawdling in the Desert

How beautiful it is to do nothing, and then rest afterward.
                                                                                                       --Spanish Proverb

Due to the unexpected, delayed shipment of our vehicle from Hawaii, our family has experienced some unexpected changes in our overall settling-in situation! Our initial plan was to arrive to our final destination of Cedar City Utah on August 2nd, which we did, and then planned for our vehicle to arrive in Long Beach California on August 10th! Then we were going to send Micah on a quick road trip to California in the rental car to pick up our vehicle, which he would then return to us rapidly to begin work. However, upon arriving in Cedar City we found out that our vehicle was still sitting at the Honolulu Seaport, and hadn't even shipped out yet! To make a long story short, the estimated delivery date of our vehicle was switched to August 19th, which meant we could no longer afford to keep renting a car and had to do something quickly!
So, next thing I knew I was on an 8 hour,  solo-Mama-road-trip to California with my 3 boys, heading to Micah's parents house, while Micah stayed back in Cedar City to start his new job. --The new plan being to drop off the rental car here in CA on August 12th, and then wait at my in-laws house for our car to arrive on the 19th. 

So here I am! 
Here we are!  
In the middle of the hot, dry, high desert county of San Bernardino, California. 
Micah's parents live on 2 acres of wild desert, surrounded by cactus, sage, sand, and dirt. 
Without my car to drive anywhere on these long, bumpy, dirt roads, I could literally feel stranded out in the middle of nowhere! However, we are finding things to do and having fun! We've been hanging out here for 5 days now, and despite everyone getting sick, we're gratefully, still smiling!

I admit I wasn't thrilled to leave Cedar City right away after just arriving. I really wanted to start getting settled in! After all, I have a new house to furnish, new friends to meet, and future activities to start planning! But somehow I feel deep down that this car situation is a blessing in disguise.....
The last three weeks before we moved from Hawaii I was way busier than I felt comfortable being. Every single day when I woke up I had a never ending list to cross off and accomplish as we were selling, cleaning, packing, and getting ready to leave. It was exhausting on me physically, mentally, and emotionally. The one thing I wished I could do more than anything else was to just stop and play with my kids. 
I missed them.
I didn't like all that running around and couldn't wait to get to a point where life would be quiet again; where we could take the time to snuggle, read, laugh, cuddle, talk, and dilly-dally around the house together, with nothing on our agenda but each other.
Out here in the high desert, with no car and nowhere to go, we've been doing just that. 
Yes, time slows down here in the desert. With nothing but the sun above us and the sand below us, we are free to dawdle between, and create our days with love! 

I love swinging in the hammock while listening to Zadok ask me again and again what super powers I would like to have if I could have any at all. I love reading to him and then guessing the ending plots of Harry Potter. 
I love exploring outside with Odin, catching strange-looking insects and digging holes in the dirt. I love watching him smile in the sunshine. 
I love morning cuddles with Jonah, then taking him to watch the Iguana. I love his enthusiasm for stomping ants to pieces. I love going on walks with all three of them, as they excitedly point out large, black crows, Joshua Trees, and the beautiful colors of the desert sunsets. I love these boys with all my heart and love doing nothing with them, and then resting afterwards, as one of my favorite quotes implies. 

Below are some pictures of our California desert adventure:

With nothing on our agenda we are also spending quality time with Grandma, baking cookies:
We are also getting to know the other little cousins who are here visiting:
We are digging in the dirt and sand:
And finding scary bugs:
It's 100 degrees out, so we are swimming daily in the cold jacuzzi, which never seems to get old:
We are fascinated by Uncle Aaron's pet Iguana, which he found one day sitting up in a tree on their  property. (No they don't live here naturally, so someone must've abandoned him):
We are eating Rainbow Sherbet on the back porch:
And last of all, we are hijacking this antique milk can from my in-laws backyard. For some weird reason I've always been fascinated by these jugs, and want to bring it back to Utah with me. It's going to make a great front porch urinal flower pot.

Most of all, we are enjoying the blessings of time on these long, Summer days with loved ones.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Goodbye Hawaii

 While I was swimming with the tropical fishies the other day, exploring these amazing underwater coral reefs near Maumae Beach, I couldn't feel sad that I was leaving Hawaii. Instead I felt blessed beyond reason that I have lived my life passionately for so many beautiful things. I've allowed myself to open my heart to unimaginable possibilities (unimaginable to me) for myself and my family and that's no reason to feel sad. I have had guidance from above all along my entire life even when I didn't realize it was happening, and that guiding light still leads on. 
So goodbye fishies, and corals, and beaches that I love. Goodbye dear friends that have touched my life for good. Goodbye my beautiful, breathtaking Big Island life-I am moving into a new direction that calls to me from the deepest corners of the Universe and straight to the warmest chambers of my heart. 
Now move over a bit fishies, and make room for red rock mountains, rolling rivers, and orange desert sunsets! There's more than enough room in my life for all of you!



I wrote the above paragraph on facebook a week before we left Hawaii. I decided to post it here because it is still true. 
During this move I have felt the powerful, guiding light from God lead our way, as we've led our family across the ocean to our final destination in Utah. 
Moving is scary. Moving is stressful. And moving takes a leap of faith that I often feel takes all the faith that I have!
When we arrived to the Big island 2 years ago I told myself (and anyone else who would listen to me) that,"I am NEVER moving again. EVER." I insisted that Hawaii my last stop before I died, and you'd have to peal my dead body off the black lava rocks to ever move me again. Yet here I am, moving again. You can chalk this move right up there with, "I will never get married, I will never homeschool my kids, and I will never be a Mormon, again."  Check, check, and.....check--I called my own bluffs three times in the past 15 years, and can't imagine my life any differently.

The morning of our departure from Hilo I was a crying wreck of a woman! I cried when I said goodbye to our chickens, I cried when I said goodbye to our little house, and I cried when my 3 year old asked me if there were Honus living in Utah. I was finally tired of feeling sorry for myself when I opened my scriptures to a scripture that would end up carrying me through the day. It was in Doctrine and Covenants 50: 41-42:

"Fear not, little children, for you are mine, and I have overcome the world, and you are of them that my Father hath given me; And none of them that my Father hath given me shall be lost."

I felt for certain in that moment that Christ was speaking to my soul, reminding me that He would never allow me to be lost. Wherever I go in life, He will guide me, be with me, and move me where I will be happiest in that season of my life.
 I thought about that scripture all throughout the day and night as we went through all the chaos of moving our family. When my mind would start to worry about how much I would miss Hawaii, I immediately knew I would not feel lost. When my mind started to spiral into  negative thoughts about how I would adjust again to living in rural Utah, I was reminded again that I would not be lost--that I would make new friends, and find ways to use my talents and abilities to bless my family and community. 
I know that I cannot be lost with the Lord by my side.

This is the creek next to our new house here in Utah. It is beautiful. 
Watching my children splash and play in it this past week has made me so happy. 
They've been making stone knives and cutting down branches:
They've been collecting dinosaur eggs and building dinosuar nests:
They've been swimming in the creek on hot afternoons:
I truly really love it here. Thank you Lord for never letting me get lost. I am right where I want to be.