Posted in Family, Home

A Tattooed Chicken-Farmer in Heat (Wait, that didn’t come out right…)

Keoni’s thermometer at work last night. No, it’s not stuck in a hot dish—the KITCHEN was 118 degrees F!

Okay, okay: “A Tattooed Chicken-Farmer in THE Heat.” That’s what I meant. (Though our teenager, who has learned to approach our door warily if he arrives home unexpectedly, might vote for the original…)

Point is, it’s HOT in high-desert Idaho in the summer. Too hot to think. Too hot to remember all the, um… the little thingy-words that should go in the title. (Too hot to remember what we call the little thingy-words… Oh, articles! Yeah, those.)

It’s just. Damn Hot.

Elena Grace avoiding “bad form”

As if to psychically second what I was just typing… Christian is giving his sister instructions for using the iPad’s App Shopper to find new games: “There you go, yeah. For device you pick ‘iPad,’ for the price you pick ‘Free,’ and for categories you pick ‘Games’.”

I piped up with the motherly suggestion that the “Education” category also includes a lot of games, to which he replied with narrowed eyes, “Mom, it’s Summer! That would be bad form!”

[Who taught this mouthy kid to talk like that, anyway?   …Oh.]

Did I mention that it’s too hot for thinking?

Using my fancy watering-can to try and keep plants from shriveling with heat. Thinking of trying it on My People as well.

So today, here’s a mishmash jumble of odds-and-ends that haven’t made it into the blog in the last few weeks. Along with thanks to my friend Le Clown for the “tattooed chicken-farmer” moniker, which had the whole family giggling this morning!

The Art of Scrounging

I wrote recently about the much-maligned art of Packrat-ism, but hadn’t put a name to the activity that precedes Packrat-ing—namely, Scrounging.

Scrounge, v.  Finding cool shit in unlikely places.

our “scrounged” beach cart

Keoni is a master at this. Particularly if you expand that (highly technical) definition to include creative use of materials-at-hand to meet needs for which they weren’t originally designed… (Witness, for example, my “watering can” above.)

Just for fun, here’s a (partial) list of his scrounging-successes just in the last few weeks:

  • A folding cart that’s perfect for rolling our beach-stuff (cooler, portable BBQ, chairs, towels) from the car to the beach. Or, for that matter, from our house to the beach when the car has accompanied Keoni to work. There used to be a roadside vegetable stand near us, and this cart was among the things they abandoned when they closed up…
  • A 55-gallon soy-sauce barrel from a restaurant supply company, which is now destined to become our compost barrel. After we finish the chicken-house.
  • Christian demonstrating a Taekwondo move with his raft-pole

    Basaltic boulders (cleared from a construction site) to build our planned backyard fire-pit.

  • A metal fence-post for Christian to use in poling his inner-tube around the lake. (He tried a tree-branch walking-stick but punctured his ride almost immediately with one of its branch stubs…)
  • A bicycle. When he offered to help our neighbor Chuck, a disabled vet, to assemble the bike-bits leaning against his porch, Chuck said he intended to donate it… Well, we’ve been looking for a bike!
  • All the wood for our chicken-house project (including the house-shaped end pieces, from the same abandoned fruit stand). He came home on several occasions with two-by-fours strapped to the side of the car as if the Buick had taken up jousting…
  • …And speaking of Bessie Buick, several replacement bits for her dinged front end—and a pair of jumper cables!—from the “Jalopy Jungle” junkyard…
  • I appropriated one of the firepit-rocks to paint this “warning” for our front steps…

    Leftover wooden fence-post pieces from a ranch down the road, now sliced into different heights and standing on end to edge the boardwalk leading up to our house…

  • Stackable plastic soda crates (our grocery store let us take them) which have served in turn as craft table, fan stand, outdoor seating, and sawhorse…
  • Leftover tar paper from a nearby paving-job, perfect for use as a weed barrier underneath…
  • …the starter beds of wildflowers we’ve dug up from various places, and herbs we’ve transplanted.

In my previous life I would have gone straight to the store when I wanted any of these things—even the damn landscaping rocks—but this is WAY more satisfying.

Father-Son Bonding & Glitter Nail Polish

how Guys remove nail polish

Our teenage son stood in our bedroom doorway the other night and announced that he had to ask us a serious question.

[Parental attention engaged!]

“Do my toes match my outfit?”

As it turns out, his girlfriend had painted his toenails for him. And as it turns out, glitter nail polish is a bitch to remove. My nail polish remover was no match for the stuff… but luckily the stuff was no match for Dad’s pocket knife.

How [not] to Repel a Brother

Christian pointed out to Elena Grace the other day that she might want to re-think how she labeled her diary if she really didn’t want anyone to read it. I noticed the next morning she had done some editing:

Before & After the Brotherly Advice

Tent-Forts

Christian reading in his tent-fort

I think it’s been about four months since either of the younger kids have actually slept in their beds.

Around Spring Break our daughter and her wife visited from California, and we shuffled around the sleeping arrangements for a few days with the younger kids in “tent-forts” in the living room. Christian’s tent-fort, under a U.S. Marine Corps blanket draped across the corner of the room, has been there ever since. We moved Elena Grace’s tent-fort into her bedroom after the Cali-kids left, draped between her desk and chair. We laugh about the fact that she’s not using her perfectly-good bed… But it did make things easy when my mom visited—Elena Grace was already installed in her tent, with the unused bed waiting for Grandy.

Christian’s tent-occupation is, to some extent, a matter of privacy. That might seem counter-intuitive, since he’s planted right in the middle of the household now, but unlike his sister, he had a shared room—and suffice it to say that the sleep-habits of 11-year-olds and 16-year-olds are not a perfect match. Christian wakes early to read, but didn’t want to disturb his brother by turning on his lamp. Kapena comes home late from work or friends’ homes and was less observant about how his entrances affected Christian’s sleep.

Elena Grace in her tent-fort, before it got too HOT for flannel pajamas

Even at his dad’s house where he has a room to himself, I don’t think he feels it’s HIS room anymore. He has never been a guy who enjoyed surprises, so he was kind of traumatized when he arrived after a weekend with us to find his furniture replaced, his favorite reading-chair sitting in the street with the trash, and some of his favorite things mysteriously missing. (The kids have noted several times how assiduously their stepmother erases traces of ME in that household… And the reading chair had belonged to my grandfather.)

So bit by bit, Christian has been bringing his most Special Things to this household, and setting them up in his tent-fort where they’re safe.  Remarking on the fact that we allow him the permanent occupation of a living-room corner, he told me the other day that I’m “not really a traditional kind of Mom.”  Um… Thanks?

When it’s TOO HOT…

There’s only one place for a tattooed chicken-farmer and her family to go. We pack up our little scrounged cart and get our scorched butts to the beach.

Living in a climate that ranges from (Fahrenheit) five degrees in the winter to one-hundred-five in the summer, we sometimes think wistfully of the consistently temperate weather back in Hawai’i… But we’ve also learned not to lose out on the joys of Today by living in our  heads anticipating something different. Just think what we’d miss!—Today. Hot as it is, still a day with our ‘Ohana.

Posted in Family, Home

Summer, Synchronicity, Sewage, Stones, & Super-Powers

My “Radio Silence” over the last week is (I’m happy to say) the result of having been quite thoroughly engrossed in the activities of a first-week-of-summer-holidays with the kids…  I started to write a few times, but never got as far as hitting “Publish,” so here it is, all at once…

Christian's 6th grade graduation
Our freshly-minted Junior High Kid!

Sat, June 2: Summer Holidays, and Synchronicity

On the list of things that make me feel old (for just a moment–and then I go back to just feeling like ME again)… We only have one grade-schooler left in the house, as of yesterday’s sixth-grade “graduation” ceremony for our son Christian. He’s now officially a Junior High Kid. And it’s now officially Summer Vacation!

In typical enthusiastic kid-fashion, the mugwumps have been trying to cram an entire summer’s worth of celebratory summer activities into the first 24 hours of freedom–we’re all having fun!

painting spors
Our front-porch summer craft spot… Painting pots for Keoni’s kitchen herbs

First project: Keoni is starting to grow kitchen herbs to use in his cooking, and he asked everyone in the family to paint one of his pots. Christian helped me carry one of our coffee tables onto the front porch, so we’ve established our summer craft-spot–which is already covered with paints, beads, spills from sand-art, and wood-shavings…

3 whittlers
three story-telling whittlers (our three youngest kids): Christian, Elena Grace, & Kapena

The wood-shavings are due to the fact that we gave each of them a pocket-knife to kick off the summer–both of them hand-me-downs with a history. Elena Grace has the Swiss Army Girl Scout knife, which my mother bought for me when we visited the international Girl Scout/Girl Guide center in Switzerland. And Keoni cleaned and sharpened a knife of his for Christian–rather a fancier model than mine, with more gadgets, and with inlaid polished wood panels along the handle.

first pocket knife
first pocket knife (and a shirt signed by her classmates on the last day of school)

We don’t have the budget to buy them new things very often, so I’m tickled by how much Christian loves this knife. It fits perfectly in his hand, he says, and its dents and scratches from previous use “just go to show that it’s not the kind of knife a person would throw away.” He often refers to himself and Keoni as “peas in a pod,” due to their similarities ranging from shared pack-rat tendencies to shared humor, and Christian’s uncanny ability to finish Keoni’s sentences. Particularly given how often he feels neglected by his own dad (Today’s comment: “Sometimes it feels like a lie when Dad says he loves me”), I’m grateful to see him bonding so strongly with Keoni. When Keoni hugged him goodbye before heading out to work today, Christian wouldn’t let him go! This from the kiddo who tends to be the most reserved of our seven…

Elena Grace is pleased by her knife as well, and has been wearing it clipped to her belt loop (as I used to when we went camping!) since we gave it to her. It’s her first pocket-knife, so she got the full safety-lesson before picking out a stick from our woodpile to try her hand at whittling. The point on that stick is positively scary, and she’s talking about trying her hand at spear-fishing in the lake by our house…

swimmers
swimming in “our” lake this afternoon

Today’s walk to the lake, however, was for swimming! And some play with Christian’s remote-control boat, which he bought last month with his yardwork-money…  And yet another example of Synchronicity striking in our lives… But for this story I have to back up a bit.

When we owned our Hawai’ian BBQ restaurant, there were four couples from Hawai’i who “discovered” us in the first couple weeks, and who became close friends: Joe & Adele, Tedi & Larry, Wally & Esther, and Jeff & Val.

launching the boat
launching the boat

Joe worked for Honolulu Police Department the same time as Keoni’s dad, so we put him on the phone with Dad the first time we met–they’d worked different divisions, but had a lot of cop-friends in common. Tedi’s maiden name was Ka’anapu, the same as Keoni’s mom, so we put her on the phone with Mom the first time we met, and they puzzled through the family tree until they found the connection–yes, they’re related. Wally is Portuguese-Hawai’ian, and his cousin makes Portuguese sausage from their great-grandpa’s recipe (a Hawai’ian favorite, and the same type Keoni grew up with); we added their sausage to our menu, so Wally & Esther would sometimes show up with sausage in the morning and we’d all have breakfast together before the restaurant opened. Jeff crafts wakeboards, and gave us one (autographed with thanks for the food & Aloha) which took a place of honor on the restaurant wall.  We have stories and memories with each of these couples, but haven’t been seeing them in the year and a half since our restaurant-days. Until the last two weeks.

Our phone numbers have changed (my cell used to be the restaurant’s number) but Joe decided to track us down a couple weeks ago, used his cop-connections to find our new phone number and gave us a call to see how things are going. He stopped by the house  and we shared Tahitian Lanai banana bread and hugs and “talked story.” The very same day that we got Joe’s call, we ran into Tedi & Larry, shopping for the materials to make leis for graduating grandchildren. A couple days later Jeff pinged Keoni on Facebook to ask if he could cook for Val’s graduation-celebration. Her party was today, so Keoni was up at four this morning, cooking. By the time I woke up (thanks to kids climbing into bed with me, followed by Keoni with a very welcome cup of coffee) the house smelled amazing. It smelled like our restaurant.

trampolineWe took all three kids to help with set-up (though when they discovered their services weren’t needed, the younger two accepted Val’s invitation to use the backyard trampoline), and Keoni sang a traditional Hawai’ian song for Val before we had to head out so he could get to work.

The kids and I packed our beach bags and ambled down the short stretch of country road toward the State Park and the lake, when Wally and Esther pulled up alongside us, waving like crazy.  Turns out–as if to complete the quatrifecta (is that a word?) of reconnecting with these friends–they too had decided this week to track us down, tried our old numbers (they’re not Facebookers), driven around our neighborhood (they knew we lived right by the Park, but Keoni had already left with the KANAGRL license plates that would usually mark out our home), and decided as a last resort to inquire at the Park if I were still working there. They were pulling away from the Park-entrance, deciding they might be out of luck finding us, when Wally realized he’d just passed red hair and a dragon tattoo walking along the roadside, and turned the car around…

To put this timing into perspective, I haven’t walked to the Park since my last day of work there in September, and it only takes us about four minutes to walk that stretch of road–so the fact that we were ON that stretch of road while they were there specifically seeking us is nothing short of Pure Synchronicity. My favorite kind of story. :) I’ve had a warm glow all day–all these reconnections with old friends!

Mon, June 4: Super-Powers

swimming at the lake
Goofing Around–a family specialty

With Keoni off work today and the weather hot and sunny, the family (minus 16-year-old Kapena, at his first day of Football Camp) spent the day at the beach! Though it’s easily within walking distance, we also have the gift (from my parents) of an unlimited State-Parks-pass stuck to our windshield, so we happily loaded folding chairs, snacks and picnic, inflatable inner-tube (bought on sale after last summer) and other “beachables” into the car.  We stopped momentarily to chat with Lareen (with whom I worked last summer) in the entrance booth–noting that this was the third consecutive day she’d seen us, she wondered if this would be a daily meeting. “That’s the plan,” we all grinned–Family Time is precisely why I’m not in that entrance-booth this summer, as voted unanimously by the three kids…

marooned
Pushing Keoni to the island–Marooned!

Here’s a moment that any parent will recognize… When a pair of siblings, usually squabbly purely out of habit, have a moment of instantaneous and wordless communication with one another and they’re suddenly “in league”… You’ve seen it, right? It was one of those moments today, when Keoni decided to try out the inner-tube…  Christian and Elena Grace had one of those connecting-moments, and with matching shrieks of maniacal laughter, the pair of them started to tow him across the small lake to “maroon” him on its island. (Pirates of the Caribbean has thoroughly pervaded their consciousness, as evidenced by Christian barking at someone on the beach, “Oy! No littering, you Scabrous Dog!” I swear I’m not making that up.)

Over Keoni’s own laughing objections that they couldn’t maroon him without at least a pistol and a single shot, I heard Elena Grace taunting him teasingly, “Where’s your kitchen NOW?”–which only goes to show that she has correctly identified the source of his Super-Powers… The Kitchen!

swimming at the lake
looking forward to a whole summer of this!

Wednesday, June 6: Symphony and Stones

This evening’s thunder-and-wind storm didn’t arrive in time to break our consecutive string of days-with-lake-visits, at least for Christian and myself. While Keoni took Elena Grace to Karate class (where she did not, at least today, cause any boys to cry), and while Kapena was finishing up Day Three of Football Camp, Christian and I walked once again to the lake. Too chilly today to tempt Mom into the water, but I sat with my writing-notebook and iPod and watched him–or his feet, rather, given his apparent interest in the lake-bottom today…

poling
he’d intended to pole himself across the lake–but after an accidental puncture (of the tube, not the child) he turned to surveying the lake bottom instead…

I’ve been corresponding this week with a Boise composer who is working up a program with the Idaho Dance Theater, and looking for poetry by Idaho women (preferably about Idaho and its rivers) for use with a vocalist as part of the current project. He had come across my earlier mention in this blog of an anthology of Idaho women poets and contacted me to see if I knew where it could be found. Sadly, the only place I’ve seen it in recent years is on my own shelf, so I offered him the loan, and listed some other anthologies and Idaho writers that might bear looking into. I used to teach an “Idaho Writers” lit course–so in my enthusiasm, it grew into rather an extensive list… He also kindly stated that he’d be interested to look at some of my work if I turned up anything that might fit the theme.

So I was watching my swimmer in this Idaho lake, and musing on my children’s Idaho roots (I was the first in my family to be born in Idaho, but they’re sixth-generation Idahoans through their paternal grandmother) and I ended up with pages’ worth of poetry… I’m still letting it simmer in my beach-bag (I usually find it’s a good idea to leave new poetry alone for a few days after it first hits the page) but I’m still mulling over an odd bit of synchronicity. Maybe it’s because I’d just finished Mrs. Dalloway and still had Virginia Woolf on my mind, but whatever the reason, my mind kept wanting to add a pocketful of stones to my son as I wrote about him. Not in the same morbid fashion as Mrs. Woolf, and I couldn’t figure out why the thought was so persistent, but it worked into what I was writing and I let it stay… An hour later when I beckoned his blue-lipped form out of the lake, he emerged, emptied his swim-trunks of a whole pile of rocks, and announced happily, “I’m collecting stones!” Hm.

The wind-storm began to kick up as he and I walked home, so we arrived (rather breathlessly) at our front porch–he with his swim-goggles donned against the wind, and his beach towel streaming behind like a Superhero’s cape.

Fri, June 8: Sewage Moat

readers
Our go-to Rainy Day activity…

Rain and wind continued through yesterday and necessitated a break from the lake… But I’ve always enjoyed a stormy day when I can stay cozily curled up with a book–AND a couple cuddly other readers…

We woke this morning to find ourselves possessed of a landscaping feature that’s not common in this neck of the woods…  A Moat.  Unfortunately, it has a strong smell of sewage, and appears to be connected with our septic system.  (This is one of those days when I say a prayer of thanks that we’re renting!) Of course, sometimes the difficulty with renting is getting any action from a landlord, especially in our case where the actual landlord lives in Arizona, the delegated manager lives a couple towns away, and the on-site fix-it-guy (our favorite neighbor Bill, with whom we’re collaborating on a vegetable garden) isn’t empowered to make any decisions that involve spending money.

chairback reader
this Monkey will drape herself anywhere with a book…

We’ve already run into trouble with this septic–as the weather warmed up in late April and the potty-smell around our place went from occasionally-noticeable to overwhelming, we called the manager to say the septic probably needed to be pumped. (A side note for those of you across the Big Water: “potty” here in the States means toilet, rather than crazy–I have to mention this after the hilarity of a British buddy some years back when I expressed delight that my newly-trained toddler was “going potty”…)

Four (smelly!) weeks later, a guy finally came to pump out the tank. Said he used to do the rounds here twice a year, but hadn’t been called in for almost three. Three years, that is. Come to find out, the pump was broken, water was flowing into the tank even though nothing was running in our house, and the grass around the tank, he told us, was “saturated” with…  Ew.

Well, the pump got replaced, the tank got emptied, and here we are two weeks later with a full tank again, and a suspiciously smelly moat.  We won’t be hosting any badminton tournaments till this gets sorted out!

Posted in Home, Writing

Food-Stamp Kitchen Chemistry #1: Jewelry Cleaner

tattoo commentary

I don’t know the original source of this newspaper clipping, which I found (wouldn’t you know) on Pinterest, but it speaks to some of my own feelings about tattoos. I consider my own tattoos as my permanent “accessories,” or “jewelry” with stories… Though (despite my love of sailing) I hope they won’t be put to use for “identification in case of need upon Land or Sea”…

I do wear some other jewelry, though–particularly some pieces with my children’s shared birthstone, which I’ve worn for years–and I’ve been making some jewelry of my own this week, repurposed from old pieces I hadn’t been wearing…  And that brings me, in a round-about way, to the first promised installment of Food-Stamp Kitchen Chemistry: recipes for household cleaners, made from kitchen ingredients. Although we’re deeply grateful for the state assistance we currently receive in the form of Food Stamps, we’ve found ourselves, at times in the past year or so, without items like soap or shampoo–so I’m currently on a mission to test out recipes we can make for ourselves, for those items we haven’t always been able to purchase…

Of course you needn’t be in our particular financial situation to enjoy and make use of these recipes, so I’m sharing in hopes that they’ll be useful to some other folks as well. (And I would hope it goes without saying–but to head off any potential misunderstanding, please allow me to add that the jewelry in question–and for that matter, the tattoos–were paid for at a time in our life when we weren’t in need of state assistance, and didn’t expect to be…)

Enough with disclaimers–on to the good stuff! I’m still in the testing-stages with many of those recipes, but we can start with a brilliant success in this make-it-yourself jewelry cleaner!

ingredients
the ingredients…

What you need:

  • a glass bowl
  • a piece of aluminum foil, big enough to cover the bowl bottom
  • 1 Tablespoon of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 Tablespoon of dish detergent
  • 1 cup of water
  • the jewelry you wish to clean–metals, gemstones, anything goes!

What to do:

  1. Heat the bowl of water for a couple minutes in the microwave.
  2. Place the aluminum foil in the bowl.
  3. Add the baking soda, salt, and dish detergent, then drop in your jewelry.
  4. Let the jewelry soak for five minutes, then rinse.

I had an old toothbrush on hand, expecting some of the rings would need some gentle scrubbing, but I didn’t even need it. All the dulling soap-and-lotion scum was gone, and even the tarnished silver was sparkling (without that horrid sulfur-smell of the commercial silver cleaners I’ve used before).  Brilliant! Literally…

cleaned jewelry
As Rain Man would say, “Very shiny, very sparkly”…

Coming soon: laundry detergent, fabric softener, shampoo, hair conditioner, air freshener, dishwasher detergent, and more… In the meantime, Stay Sparkly!

Posted in Travel

History of a Helm-Hog

jib sail
© Kana Tyler 2008

I got hooked on sailboats at a fairly young age, with some “teasers” of experiences growing up. I was nine when we visited family friends in the Netherlands, and their teenage son took us in the family’s little wooden sailboat, poling from their back-yard canal to the nearby lake where he raised the sails… (My little sister and I followed up that experience by holding a coronation ceremony for the “Queen of Idaho” in their living room, with their hand-tatted lace doilies on our heads.)

sailing rigs, tall ships sailing, sailboat cruises caribbean
© Kana Tyler 2008

I was thirteen or so when we took a sunset-cruise on a historic three masted sailing ship along the coast of Maine… I spent the evening sitting on the taffrail and leaning on the rigging, and I didn’t want to get off that ship, ever. A few years later I applied for a Girl Scout “Greater Opportunity” experience crewing another tall ship–I’d sold enough cookies to fund the trip, but only made the “alternates” list among the nationwide applicants. Our youth minister in high school was a captain who took us out on the motor yacht he was “boat-sitting” and filled my head with sailing stories.

The summer I graduated from high school, my sister and I finally got to crew a bareboat sailing charter (“bareboat” meaning you rent the boat and crew it yourself) with our uncle, who took us for a week-long sailing cruise on Lake Michigan. The Uncle takes his sailing seriously, and no one crews for him without studying up beforehand and being ready to work. Precisely what I wanted to learn, and to do. I came back from that week with a journal full of sailboat sketches, and a head full of sailing dreams.

cruising sailboats, sailing Caribbean islands
© Kana Tyler 2008

In the decade following, I went off in pursuit of other ocean-related ambitions, earning advanced certifications in Scuba diving and studying marine biology at University of Hawai’i–but I didn’t have many sailing opportunities, aside from taking the University’s little sailboat out for the occasional day-sail with my research buddies.

Then, the winter before my son was born, the Uncle invited my sister and me (and my first husband, if he’d agree to learn as well—no ride-along slackers allowed) for a Christmas charter in the Florida Keys.  Somewhere I have some video footage of myself on the beach in my maternity tent swimsuit, with a voice-over commentary about beached whales by my amused sister–but despite my seven-month stomach, it was a blissful week.

sailboat cruises Caribbean, ship masts
© Kana Tyler 2008

Snorkeling off the back of the boat (I couldn’t dive due to my pregnancy), feeding lettuce-leaves to manatees, raising a drawbridge on the radio so we could sail beneath, rocking to sleep on the waves of an anchorage, enjoying excursions to shore (most notably to visit Hemingway’s favorite bar in Key West, which is now bedecked with bras hanging from the rafters)… But more than anything, the sailing itself.

I feel alive and invigorated when I’m at the helm, responding intuitively to the wind, adjusting the trim of sails to put the wind to work for me, the finesse of gliding up to a dock with precision, the appeal of nautical charts and sail canvas and lines and rigging. I love everything about a sailboat.

sailing in Caribbean, sailboat cruises Caribbean
© Kana Tyler 2008

Three years later, the Uncle invited us for another Christmas of Caribbean sailing–this time from the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Childless himself (not to mention fastidiously O.C.D.), the Uncle had reservations about including two-year-old Christian, but he was generous enough to give it a go. But then, even at two Christian had the vocabulary and seriousness of a college professor, and was immediately as enchanted by sailing as his mom. (And even the fussy Uncle ended up pretty enchanted with Christian’s mannerly behavior).

I was once again pregnant–no Scuba and no rum for me!–but thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to apprentice my little Padawan sailor. Interestingly enough, Christian (now age 11) has some sailing-memories which could only be from this trip, and which he didn’t pick up as “second-hand memories” from photos or parental story-telling…

sailing boats, boat sails
© Kana Tyler 2008

I’d been aching for ages to get my own Skipper’s papers, so the first husband and I saved up for sailing school, and spent a week on a live-aboard in the San Juan islands north of Seattle. Our instructor Gary (a gruff retired Army colonel with an impish sense of humor beneath the stern exterior) told me privately that he would have hesitated to certify my husband, except he figured we’d always sail together anyway–and my skills would make up for his lack. He didn’t want to cause a rift by hurting the husband’s pride, so we both walked away with certification….

bluewater sailing school, sailing boats
barefoot at the helm… (with a piece of rope holding up my pants!)

The Uncle’s next invitation for another Christmas of Caribbean sailing included the offer to list us as the Skippers for the bareboat sailing charter, in order to build our “sailing resume.” This time we chartered a bigger boat–our crew was growing to include my sister’s new husband and our two children.We sailed from the British Virgin Islands, with some time in Puerto Rican waters as well. We went ashore to explore some local markets (and an open-air bar with rum drinks–I wasn’t pregnant this time!) and took a local bus around the island to a postcard-perfect half-moon bay lined with a pristine white sand beach… I dusted off my rusty Spanish to order food from a beach vendor, and introduced Christian to snorkeling.

Anchored off Culebra, we met a family sailing around the world with their two young daughters–the same ages as our two–and they invited us aboard for a “play date,” since the girls didn’t have many opportunities to play with other children. The grownups sat on the deck drinking beer while the kids played dress-up below decks with the girls’ extensive wardrobe of costumes. Christian’s favorite memory of this trip is our anchorage in a bioluminescent bay, where the toilet water (pumped-in from the sea) even made the “head” glow blue.

sailing anchorage, sailing schools, sailboat cruises
© Kana Tyler 2008

Possibly my favorite-ever week sailing was our first solo charter. We invited my mom, and I absolutely loved sharing the adventure with her, as well as with the kids (then aged seven & three). My mom is the most adventurous soul I know–she’s game for anything!–which makes her the perfect person with whom to share an adventure. I’ll take credit for convincing her to learn to Scuba dive, but I can’t take any credit for how thoroughly she’s run with that–she takes dive trips every year to exotic locations, where she meets new people (and sometimes meets up with adventure-met friends in new locations the following year).

sailing instructor, sailing schools
Colonel Gary, my sailing instructor

At the time when we took this trip with her, our marriage was on the rocks, though no one besides the two of us knew it–and even we didn’t yet know that I’d be leaving six months later. But aside from the husband’s moody tempers, it was quite possibly the perfect week. Gorgeous weather, wonderful adventure-buddies in my mom & the kiddos… and lots of time at the helm. Seeing how happy I am at the wheel, my mom gave me a canvas tote that Christmas, embroidered with the words “Helm Hog.”

We hiked on the islands, soaked up sun from the deck, sailed among pods of breaching Orcas, and admired Pacific sunsets while sipping wine in the cockpit.

sailing kids
my sketch of the kids on our 2007 cruise

Christian learned some basics of charts and navigation, and squirrely Elena Grace practiced sailing-safety-rules. And I took an accidental swim, fully dressed, when I leaned too far to swab the stern of our tracked-in mud after an island hike. (The only thing Elena Grace would tell anyone about that week, in her piping little voice, was that “Mommy fell off the boat!“)

After I left my husband, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to sail solo. I might have had the better skill-set, but I hadn’t sailed without the husband as back-up. I had the feeling that if I didn’t get back on a boat right away, I might let sailing slip away entirely–so I signed up for an advanced course and navigation certification, requesting a class from our original instructor Gary.

It was a magical week… and although I approached it with a great deal of trepidation–my first solo vacation, ever!–I was reassured to realize that I was in my element as soon as I took the helm again. I had bought myself a digital camera (the photos here are all from that week), and the experience inspired me to believe, deep-down, that I was going to be okay. Not just sailing, but navigating Life solo.

anchor tattoo
my anchor

My sobriety coin, which I now have tattooed on my back, bears this bit of wisdom: “I can’t control the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails.” It’s a nod to the topic I addressed yesterday, the need to let go and let God.  Phrased in words that this sailor understands.

And I’ve been additionally blessed by the unexpected gift of a co-navigator in Life.  I had forcefully insisted that I would never re-marry, but I recognize now what a jinx that word–“never”–carries with it. And I’m glad to be proved wrong.

I think, though, that I needed to arrive at being “okay” solo before I was truly ready for him.

My tattoo of Keoni’s name is a sailboat anchor and wheel–because he is my anchor, and my co-navigator. The kanji beside the anchor translate to “Our New Life.” A new life in which we fully intend to get back aboard some sailboats.

Here’s wishing you fair winds and a following sea!

© Kana Tyler 2011
Posted in Family

The Curious Significance of STUFF

Yesterday I was stowing some papers in our fire-proof safe, and I paused for a moment to contemplate the odd assortment of items tucked into it.  In theory, an inventory of this little fire-proof box should answer the question people sometimes ask: “If your house were on fire (and the PEOPLE were all safe) what item would you grab on your way out?”  In actual fact, however, the things in the safe aren’t the items I’d grab on my exit in such an event.  Sure, they’re “important” in their own way–passports and social security cards and birth certificates and court custody orders and even my sailing certifications–but everything in that safe could actually be replaced. It would be a hassle, of course, but nothing in that box is truly irreplaceable.

my Irish great-grandma’s shamrock–older than I by almost a decade…

The burning-house query operates on the underlying assumption that there’s some stuff from which each of us couldn’t bear to be separated, and asks us to contemplate what stuff that would be. I’ve had one opportunity to answer the question in practice–though not on quite as tight a timeline as that proposed by the burning-house scenario.

After I left my first husband, he gave me a four-hour window in which to return to the house and round up my things. I had the advantage of being able to think it through in advance (as well as the assistance of several gentlemen co-workers and their trucks)–and the personal guideline that I wasn’t going to take away anything that wasn’t strictly mine.  What I came away with that day were my own books and journals; clothing and personal items; my lathe & pen-turning tools; my Scuba gear, snow-shoes, and hiking backpack; four pieces of furniture that had belonged to my great-grandparents; and (with the agreement of the soon-to-be-Ex) one of the two beds we owned.  A few other items were already out of the house and decorating my office–my favorite wall-hangings, and my shamrock plant, the seeds for which my mother bought on her 1965 trip to Ireland, as a gift for my Irish great-grandmother.

After fourteen years of jointly accumulating stuff–from camping equipment, canoe and tent-trailer to the furnishings and decor of the house we’d owned and improved for a decade–none of that community-property stuff seemed more important to me than simply getting out.  Despite the love and attention and emotional investment that had gone into hundreds of items I’d added to that household over the years, none of that stuff passed the grab-it-on-my-way-out test of attachment, or the test of being worth-fighting-for.

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. My thesaurus doesn’t have an antonym for the word “packrat,” but whatever that nonexistent word would be, it’s a word that should be applied to me.  I have this almost compulsive urge to continually streamline, simplify, consolidate–and get rid of things.

several decades’ worth of journals… All digitized and stored in the “clouds”

“Cloud computing”–digitizing and storing things online–is a concept that seems positively made for me.  Where previously I had shelves and drawers and boxes and storage cupboards full of journals, yearbooks, photo albums, movies, and books, the digital copies of those things are now all accessible from the little iPad that fits in my purse.  So I suppose if the house were burning down, I’d grab my precious Mac and the iPad.

Although even if I didn’t manage that, I could log in anywhere to retrieve everything stored out there in the “cloud”… I’m becoming increasingly “portable”–and our next move should be far easier than the last.  (Which is just as well, since we’re actually intending to leave the continent when the kids are through with school here in Idaho, and move back to my husband’s native Hawai’i.)

Come to that, our last move was easier than the previous one, thanks to the “emergency yard sale” we staged as our house headed into foreclosure and our overall financial situation crashed around our ears…  Anticipating a move to a much smaller living situation (and trying to keep our power turned on and our cupboards from going bare in the meantime), we offloaded everything from furniture and wall hangings to movies and (for the first time in my life) books.  To my oddly anti-packrat nature, an intensely satisfying “purge” of extra stuff.

©Mark Parisi, image from offthemarkcartoons.com

My recurring urge to purge makes for an interesting dynamic in our home, because my husband definitely does fit the “packrat” category.  A few months back he was pawing and rifling through his bedside drawer, muttering over and over: “I know it’s in here somewhere.  It’s got to be here somewhere…”  I inquired what he was searching for, but he just went on digging and muttering the mantra, broken at last with a triumphant “HA! I knew it was here!” Intensely curious, I asked one more time what it was that he had finally found.

“The bottom of the drawer!” he announced with a proud grin. Later that day (with his permission) I staged an intervention, tackling the drawer with a garbage can. It was jam-packed with sales receipts. For things we’ll never be returning–like groceries and tattoos.

He generally doesn’t object to a purge–he just can’t bear to do it himself.  He leaves the room and busies himself elsewhere whenever I go into clean-out mode and start tackling drawers and closets with my give-away bin and a garbage can.

I should take a moment for a disclaimer…  You might expect, given my habit of regularly getting rid of stuff, that my house would be spotless, spit-shined, and utterly uncluttered. Not so! For one thing (for reasons unknown even to myself), I’m more often moved to target drawers, cupboards, closets, boxes, bins, and storage units than the things that are out in the open.  For another thing, three kids live here (and a pack of teenage boys spend a lot of time here)–and it’s okay with us that the place looks as though we’re LIVING here.

At any given time, you might find the living room floor dotted with segregated piles of Legos for some building project, the coffee tables invisible beneath Beyblade battle arena, Bakugan pieces, doll clothes, stacks of kids’ books, an in-progress game of Monotony (pardon me–Monopoly), Crayola markers, and pieces of unfinished kid-art…  The corner of the living room has been draped in blankets for some time now, as the semi-permanent “tent-fort” in which Christian has taken up residence in preference to his actual bed.  And because we have no one to “impress” but ourselves, we don’t ask the kids to interrupt their kid-living or clear away its evidence for the sake of a clear coffee table.

But back to the subject at hand…  Given the tendency on my part to offload stuff, any item that still remains with me through several years’ worth of clearing-the-decks episodes must be something that tugs on me in some way.  I may have a tendency toward offloading stuff, but I’m not immune to stuff-attachments either.

I just went wandering through the house (not a time-consuming stroll, as we live in a double-wide trailer now) with this question in mind, and I conclude that the things of which I’m most fond aren’t the useful things.

Willow Tree carving mother with childrenThere’s a bowl of dried rosebuds from the first summer we were married, when Keoni used to cut a bud from our backyard bush every morning for me to tuck into a pigtail.  (On the left side, according to Hawai’ian culture, signaling that I’m married.)

And the Willow Tree carving of a mother with two little ones, which I bought when my own Squirts were precisely that size and shape.

A memento booklet I made when my favorite poet, Naomi Shihab Nye, gave a reading here in town. Her reading coincided with my daughter’s sojourn in Neonatal Intensive care, and the book’s pockets contain items from the hospital and some of my own verse, along with Nye’s “Different Ways to Pray”…

Great-Grandpa’s camera, my frog, and Great-Grandma’s teaching certificate hanging behind
prayer beads
prayer beads & hiking hat

There’s my great-grandmother’s New York teaching certificate, dated 1913, and my great-grandfather’s camera, which he took with him on a tour of Europe about the same time.  A little frog with a book, which my parents gave me. The turquoise prayer beads Keoni strung for me, and my straw “hiking hat,” which I like to wear when we go adventuring.

These are all things to which I’m attached, and which won’t be subject to my clearing-out impulses.  But if it really came down to it, I’d be content enough to have photos of these things if I lost the things themselves. (And I guess I’ve just taken care of that by including pictures here…)  There really aren’t that many things from which I couldn’t bear to be separated.  Only two items actually come to mind.

The first, I wouldn’t be in danger of leaving behind–it’s my wedding ring.  A traditional Hawai’ian-style band, with “Keoni” engraved among maile leaves on the outside, and “We will be amazed” (from the A.A. Ninth Step Promises) on the inside.  I wear it with my great-great-great-grandma’s diamond–one of a set of three, with the other two on my mother’s and my sister’s hands.

Toots & Co.

And the second, my battered teddy bear, Toots, about whom I write in “(Used) Lions & Bunnies & Bears, oh my!”  And yes, Toots is definitely a “who” rather than an “it” (despite his puzzling physiology), which is no doubt why I can’t imagine leaving him behind.  That raggedy item has a little piece of my soul in him… not in a creepy Voldemort-black-magic-horcrux kind of way, but in an I’ve-loved-him-till-he’s-real kind of way.  Toots is the stuff I would grieve if I lost him.

In contrast to my stuff-collecting window of time at the end of my previous marriage, Keoni experienced the loss of everything at the end of his. He exited his last marriage by ambulance after hanging himself, and when he left the hospital a few weeks later, he had literally the clothes on his back, his eyeglasses, and the iPod he’d had in his pocket.  (He jokes that I married him for his money–he’s sure he had thirty-seven cents in his pocket.)  Despite the court-order requiring his Ex to relinquish his personal items, he never got so much as his wallet back.  And while there are a number of sentimental items he dearly wishes he had, we have proof that Life goes on without the stuff.

wedding rings
The ring I love–but the GUY I need!

Keoni has been putting away a clean load of laundry while I write, and (not knowing what I’m writing about), he just paused in the doorway to offer the bemused observation: “You know, those towels have been with us a long time. When I see those striped towels hanging there, I just know I’m home.”

So there we have it–we DO get attached to Stuff, even seemingly insignificant stuff like our towels.

But we also know that “Home” can be recreated in a new place, or with new Stuff.  At the end of the day (literally), I’ll be HOME if I fall asleep with his arms around me–wherever we are.

Posted in Family, Recovery

Grittier Resurrection Stories

The Harry Potter series of books finally ensorcelled my daughter last week over Spring Break.  She has watched all the movies (in fact, I’m sure we have Harry Potter to thank for her utter lack of hesitation about wearing her new glasses) and I figured she just needed a jump-start on the books, so we snuggled up with the first volume, reading aloud.  She protested when I halted at bedtime, but (as I’d hoped) asked if she could continue on her own during her Reading Time before lights-out.  Score!

rice pudding
be careful how you answer… “Mommy, is it okay if I have more than ONE rice pudding?”

She spent the entire next day reading in the tent-fort we’d constructed in her room, emerging only for meals and for rice-pudding requests–and by the morning following that one, she already had Book Three in hand. She’s very keen on winkling out the differences between the films and the books, as well as her own misunderstandings in viewing the films.  (My favorite? Her belief, until now, that Fawkes the Phoenix was called Fork.) And she’s full of insightful questions, which she mostly saves up for bedtime in hopes of stalling the lights-out moment.

“Mommy, Why does it say Snape will never forgive Harry’s father for saving his life?”  I floated the theory that Snape was probably glad to have had his life saved, but probably resents the fact that he owes it in particular to Harry’s father, whom he hates so bitterly.  A discussion of school bullying ensued, and then she returned to the topic at hand.  “Is that why he hates Harry so much? Because Harry’s dad bullied him?”  Yes, I imagine so. “But Mommy, it’s not as if Harry was his father reborn.  He’s not like Fawkes the Phoenix that keeps getting born again.”

A fitting topic this Easter week, when we celebrate the ultimate in Resurrection stories.  Easter has always been my favorite of the Christian holidays, and I embrace the essence of what it celebrates, though I’m not entirely “sold” on the history of it. Don’t get me wrong–I’m a firm believer in God’s miracles, having experienced more than one in my own life (see “Amazing Grace, how sweet the SOUNDS” for an indisputable example), so it’s entirely possible that the Resurrection literally happened.  But whether or not the guy was walking around again the week after his murder, the teachings and example of the man Yeshua demonstrate that he was a guy who was connected to God–and the Easter holiday celebrates the “second chances” we can gain through finding a connection to God ourselves.  I suppose my objection to the catholic (small-c or big-C, take your pick) presentation of his story is the revisionist history and censorship imposed after the fact.

It’s an understandable and human impulse (though regrettably short of divine) for the powerful people within a young church to consolidate its power base by compiling a canon of gospels from the texts that can be read as pointing to the church itself as the only acceptable route to enlightenment of salvation.  It just doesn’t jive with what Jesus shared about his own enlightenment–and there’s my objection.

Jesus said, “If your leaders say to you, ‘Behold, the kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds in the sky will get there before you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will get there before you. Rather, the kingdom is inside you and outside you. When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and will understand that you are children of the living Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you live in poverty, and embody poverty.”

follow Jesus Twitter
Not quite what I meant about being CONNECTED to God… (But God has a sense of humor too, so here it is)

That’s from the Gospel of Thomas–one of the extant texts the church didn’t choose.  The man Yeshua understood that he had God within himself–that each of us does–and that all that remains for us to do is to connect with God where God already IS. Within ourselves.

As for resurrection, in the sense of the revival of something from a state of decay, disuse or death–as a member of the Addiction Recovery community, I’m surrounded by examples. I AM an example. (And come to think of it, no few of these folks have been “resurrected” from a state of clinical death as well…)

If you’re not familiar with the Twelve-Step program (A.A. and others), its cornerstone is a spiritual connection to God.  A person needn’t be religious, in the sense of subscribing to any particular doctrine or dogma–in fact, the generic term “Higher Power” is used in Recovery literature, with the understanding that each person might substitute whatever name they personally apply to that Higher Power. (A common saying in A.A. is that “Religion is for people who fear hell; Spirituality is for people who have been there.”) But to Recover from addiction in this program, the only answer is to find your connection with God.

In a sense, we Addicts (those of us who have made it to Recovery, at least) are fortunate, in that we were each provided with a driving and desperate need to hook up with God.

Faced with Alcoholic destruction, we soon became as open minded on spiritual matters as we had tried to be on other questions.  In this respect alcohol was a great persuader. It finally beat us into a state of reasonableness.

That’s from another “scripture” of sorts–the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous.

If a mere code of morals or a better philosophy of life were sufficient to overcome alcoholism, many of us would have recovered long ago. But we found that such codes and philosophies did not save us, no matter how much we tried.  We could wish to be moral, we could wish to be philosophically comforted, in fact, we could will these things with all our might, but the needed power wasn’t there.  Our human resources, as marshaled by the will, were not sufficient; they failed utterly. Lack of power, that was our dilemma.  We had to find a power by which we could live, and it had to be a Power greater than ourselves. Obviously.

phoenix tattoo addiction
“Out of the Ashes of Addiction–Renewal & Growth”

The only thing more powerful than Addiction is God, and we need him to revive and survive.  Or, as the A.A. old-timers sometimes bluntly tell a resistant newcomer: “If you don’t get God… You’re fucked.”  Not precisely how most churches would word the precept, but at its heart, that IS the Easter message. If I don’t look within myself, my life will embody poverty–as it DID when I was rolling in money and drinking away my soul.

Whether we find our own connection with God in a church pew and through the example and teachings of that murdered man who found his own connection to God a couple millennia ago–or whether we find it in a folding chair and a cloud of cigarette smoke through the words of a grizzled and tattooed ex-Hell’s Angel with a hell-to-angel journey from Addicted Possession to becoming God’s gritty messenger…  It’s really not a long journey to get to God, because (as Yeshua pointed out) he’s been hanging out with each of us from the get-go.  Some of us just over-complicate the journey.

My husband Keoni’s first tattoo out of Rehab was a phoenix, with the inscription: “Out of the Ashes of Addiction, Renewal and Growth,” along with the date when he hanged himself and was transported by ambulance to the rehab hospital.  That fierce-looking fellow is our own resurrection symbol…  Although we’re now referring to him as Fork.

Posted in Family, Writing

Mother-in-Law or Fairy Godmother?

Actually, I’m writing today about my mom-in-law and my dad-in-law, but “Fairy Godfather” just has a wrong ring on several levels…  I’m getting ahead of myself, though. This is a story about the tool of my trade–the laptop–and a miraculous magical rescue.

leopard-print duct tape on the power cord

Since I took to writing full-time, I’ve spent anywhere from ten to twenty hours a day with my fingers on the keyboard of an ancient PC laptop.  It’s a cheap one I bought years ago, just basic functions even when it was new, and if computer-years run like dog-years, this thing is older than I am for all practical purposes.  And it was beginning to show its age.  Some of the keys would take a few taps before I’d get the corresponding letter to show up on the screen, the “click” button on the tracking pad only worked about three quarters of the time, a virus had wiped out all the .exe functions and made it almost impossible to open new documents or the internet browser, it regularly overheated and ate the files I was working on, the battery was shot (so it had to be plugged in to function) and the electric cord was getting too loose to hold.  I’d have to wiggle it around to find the “sweet spot” and then jam it against my leg while I worked to keep it in place.  We tried duct tape, but the machine was clearly limping along on its last legs.

my Mac-compatible (comPAWtible?) iPad

So I’d been nursing it along and praying it would hold out until we could afford a replacement.  My hubby Keoni is back to work after his December knee replacement, but he has the second knee scheduled for April, so we’ll have another couple months of living on just what I make at the laptop–no room in the budget for a computer until after that.  And Keoni was very insistent that we’d be choosing a good computer when the time came.  “This IS your office,” he reminded me.  I’d been thinking of making the switch to Mac–knowing there would be a steep learning curve, but also knowing the Mac would be great for website creation and editing my photography, and not susceptible to wipe-out by virus…  And compatible with my iPad, which I “live in” when I’m not on the computer.  So we’d been doing a little “window shopping” on Amazon, picking out the computer we’d get… later.

Out of the blue a few weeks ago, Keoni’s parents called us from Hawai’i to say they wanted to buy me a new computer, and which one would I like? I can’t remember the last time I’ve been so stunned. My in-laws aren’t Christmas-and-birthday people, but they occasionally step in–generously!–when they perceive a need.

two days early, and just in time!

Did I mention I was stunned? I stammered out the specs of the Macbook Pro I’d been looking at, and they called back that afternoon with the tracking number for shipping.  I instantly became the impatient kid who can’t wait for Christmas! I knew I’d have my face pressed to the front window on delivery-day, waiting eagerly for the UPS truck to show up.

God has a sense of humor and timing–have you noticed that? Two days before the new computer was due to arrive, the old one breathed its last breath.  No amount of computer-CPR could revive it again. I’ve used the iPad for back-up before (like the day that virus hit, when I had 8,000 words due before I could take the time to resuscitate the thing)–and I’ve been grateful to HAVE it as a back-up–but the iPad really isn’t designed for flipping between research websites and word-processing, and I can’t work nearly as efficiently… and I had another ten thousand words due that day.  I don’t mind admitting I was pretty stressed.

Less than two hours later, the UPS truck pulled up. Thank you, God–and thank you, Mom & Dad in Hawai’i! As my mom-in-law said to me on the phone when I was stuttering my stunned and sincere thanks: “God works in mysterious ways, Kana. Today, this is how God is working.”

Making the tech-leap! Compared to the Mac, the old laptop might as well have been cardboard…

Wow.  So I’ve been happily “moving in” to my new Mac–and relishing the fact that for the first time, all of my music library and photo library and software and apps and documents and calendar and to-do list and everything else are actually compatible across all my devices, synced up and available whether I’m on the laptop or the iPad or even my phone.  Too slick for words–I’m loving it!  My OCD-organizing-impulses are intensely satisfied by this tidiness.

I have to say (despite my familiarity with the iPad, which turns out not to afford much advantage in “learning” the laptop) that Mac was a Mystery to me!  It was time to bust out the climbing-gear, because this was a STEEP learning curve.  Even the most basic of functions–like scrolling or right-clicking–take a different action on the Mac.  As I figured out how to do each individual thing, I was thinking–without exception–that the Mac approach makes better sense. Mac was definitely designed with usability in mind. At this point, it’s still just a matter of learning how to do everything. Everything. I consider myself pretty “techie” (I used to teach online and design online curriculum, I design websites on the side, and when we owned a restaurant, I handled all of our internet marketing myself) but I have zero formal education in technology.  I’m simply stubborn enough to keep “playing” until I figure out how to make a computer do what I want it to do. So that’s what I’ve been up to–gleefully getting familiar with an all-new environment.

That’s a partial explanation for my absence from this space over the last few weeks (and I’d like to thank all of you who pinged me to say you missed the posts, and hoped everything was okay).  There has actually been a lot going on–including a lot of writing work. (Last weekend: thirty thousand words in two days–and this from the girl who didn’t even manage to finish NaNWriMo…) I’ve been thinking the last few days of the “complaint” I often have when traveling: When you have the most stuff to write about, THAT’s exactly when you don’t have enough time to write any of it! True in regular life as well, as the last few weeks go to show..

Steve Jobs would be proud… calling tech support on an iPhone and tech-chat on the iPad, getting the Macbook up and running

But.  I’m re-evaluating my writing-priorities, and what comes to light today is my previous insistence that writing in THIS space on a regular basis is what keeps writing FUN.  I don’t want to get so “ground down” with writing-on-demand that I lose the joy-in-writing that made me want to do it full-time in the first place.  So my pledge to myself is not to treat my own writing (here) as “lower priority” than the writing that comes with deadlines.  To borrow from Hamlet‘s Polonius: “This above all: to thine own self be true.”  I don’t think Polonius was referring to blogging, but that’s how his advice applies in my life today.

And I recognize on a daily basis how blessed I’ve been in the support of the people around me. I chat on IM daily with writers from our team, and a regular theme of those chats (including with our editor, and my boss) is spousal resistance to time-spent-writing.  I’m thinking, in contrast, of Keoni nudging me to take the leap into writing full-time, even before we knew if I’d be able to make any money with it. “You’ve wanted to do this for years–you need to do it.”  Period, end of discussion.  It probably helps that I’m not away from him when I’m writing–my “office” is our bed, which we treat like a couch in the daytime, and he’ll stretch out beside me and read, or we stream Netflix movies while I write. I’m grateful every day for the supportiveness–and that extends also to his parents and the vote of confidence represented by the generous gift of this computer.

Pue’o on his perch

My writing-mascot is the owl–I have a little guy (named Pue’o, the Hawai’ian word for owl) who perched on the old laptop’s screen while I wrote… In Hawai’ian culture, the ‘aumakua, or guardian spirit, is represented by an animal of the islands.  My husband’s family is guarded by Mano, the shark, and he remembers learning about the ‘aumakua from his Tutu Pa (grandfather), Hawai’ian musician Kamuela Ka’anapu, who also taught him traditional cooking, and to combine his love of music with his love of cooking. (When Keoni is singing in our kitchen, I know that all’s well in my world!)  Tutu Pa told him that whenever he saw a shark, “either something good or something bad will happen.” Kid-Keoni’s irreverent response (which earned him a cuff across the back of the head) was, “Well, Tutu Pa, that depends wheddah you IN da watah or OUT!

Anelahikialani & Kapena with their brother-sister matching ‘aumakua tattoos

Our son Kapena, who turned sixteen on Valentine’s Day, has been wanting a tattoo for a couple years, and we told him we’d sign for one when he reached legal age (sixteen with parental consent in Idaho), provided he went to our artist (whose art we love and whose judgment we trust), and that the tattoo itself be something meaningful to him.  So this week he got his tattoo: the family ‘aumakua with our last name printed in the curve of its body. Our second daughter Anelahikialani and her wife Sarah were visiting from California this last week, and she and Kapena went in together to get matching ‘aumakua tattoos.

Hawai’ian families have ‘aumakua, and an individual can also have a personal ‘aumakua. You don’t choose one–it chooses you, and a person who pays attention might recognize the relationship.  Last summer when I began writing for an Idaho travel magazine, I was seeing owls every time I was out on the road on assignment. Daytime, night time, it didn’t matter–owls were crossing my path every time I hit the road to write. I can take a hint–the owl is my ‘aumakua. And if I reach back to my own Irish roots, the owl is a common personal totem in Celtic culture as well, so that seems suitable. This is why my Twitter handle is @KanaOwl, and why the literary magazine I’m launching (more about that in an upcoming post) will be at ThirteenOwls.com, and why the protective cover Keoni ordered for the new laptop is adorned with an owl (in “my” colors, no less)..

On the Owl-Mac with my “office staff”–Christian (holding Pue’o) & Elena Grace…

Our ten-year-old Christian just registered for junior high, and as we watched Harry Potter the other night, he was lamenting the fact that “speaking Owl” isn’t among the available electives.  He’s quite enamored of Harry’s owl, Hedwig, and whenever he’s in the house, you can guarantee that Pue’o will be somewhere on his person.  (He doesn’t know it yet, but his birthday present in 10 days will be a full-size Hedwig look-alike made by the same company that created Pue’o…)  He also points out that the owl on my Mac is an appropriate symbol for what I do, since owls in Harry Potter’s world carry written correspondence.

Christian and I agree that the UPS man was really a brown owl in disguise.  And as for his delivery… well, even Harry Potter getting his Firebolt broom by owl-post was not more excited than I was when this Owl-Mac arrived.

To Mom & Dad in Hawai’i: THANK YOU for enabling this writer to keep writing so happily! And I hope you know that this isn’t the first time God has worked through you to provide a blessing in my life…  I thank him every day for my biggest blessing: the man who married me. Thank you for “authoring” that gift as well…  And my thanks again for providing me with such an awesome new “office!” If I haven’t needed a fairy godmother, it’s because God’s always got my back.  And yes–as Mom says–he works through other people.