Tag Archives: writing

Who’s that MAN?

[This post will probably provoke a protest of “Mo-o-om!” from its subject… (Have you noticed how a teenager can turn “Mom” into a three-syllable word?) But the fearless family-chronicler forges forward nonetheless. ;) Love you, Son!]

I had a weird moment just a while back, one that other moms-of-sons might recognize… I had taken a few moments to run (OK, drive) the few blocks home from our restaurant in the middle of a Saturday, leaving “the men in my life” (husband Keoni and 18-year-old son Kapena) behind me at the business. Knowing the menfolk were elsewhere, imagine my shock when I opened the front door and heard the sounds, from my 10-year-old daughter’s bedroom, of her voice in conversation with that of a man! I went busting through her bedroom door in a state of alarm, only to find…

Christian & Elena Grace

Christian & Elena Grace… It was HIS voice in her room!

…my daughter and my son chatting together. Oh. Stand down, Mama Bear.

I had noticed, since his thirteenth birthday, that Christian’s voice had begun jumping around from one register to another. But it wasn’t until that Saturday, being startled by an “unfamiliar” adult-male-voice, that I fully realized that this IS my son’s voice now.

At my birthday party a week ago he presented me with a fire-opal ring of two sea turtles—a reference to his first nick-name of “Turtle”—and I found myself lifting onto my toes to kiss his cheek in thanks. It’s been a almost a year already that his arms have been on top when he hugs me, and mine around his chest instead of draped over his shoulders.

with kids at our restaurant counter... Notice the relative heights!

with kids at our restaurant counter… Notice the relative heights!

And there seem to be other changes in the wind. He has insisted for years that he’ll “never” be bothered with girls, girlfriends, or marriage—and I haven’t contradicted him. (Sure, I’ve thought he might change his mind, but who am I to insist that he will? Besides, I’m happy to be The Woman in his life for however long that lasts…) These days, though, there’s a girl surfacing in our conversations. He says she has “friend-zoned” him, but in any case they have lots in common to converse about, and he has been following her fiction-writing on Wattpad.

She may (or may not) have something to do with the fact that he has just launched the first chapter of his own first novel on Wattpad. To put this event in context (because in my mind it comes with several exclamation points!), Christian has hated writing since he first picked up a pencil. He was reading “chapter books” by his third birthday and spoke already like a miniature professor, but when it came to writing, his own perfectionism made it a chore. Even as a Little Guy, each word had to be spelled correctly, each letter had to be formed precisely—and his own demands on himself turned writing into a hassle he hated.

Christian's budding pirate novel, "The Red Dawn"

Christian’s budding pirate novel, “The Red Dawn”

Despite his voracious reading, his tremendous vocabulary, and the treasure-house that is his imagination, he has hated every English class because of the demand for writing. So I’m thrilled at the chance to see what comes of this delightful and unexpected story-beginning.

One of the joys of parenting is watching our kids grow and change and become their own people… That’s true at every age; it’s just maybe accelerated during the teen years. It’s why I’m glad Christian talks to me. It’s why I’m glad he likes to share whatever he’s most recently discovered, whether it be a song or a show on Netflix or a book or an iPad app or a game. (Left to my own devices, I wouldn’t have looked twice at a game of driving and shooting tanks… But I got a kick out of letting him show me how to navigate, and letting him laugh at my inept attempts when we played together on an interactive online team.) It’s why I’m glad he has started working with us at the restaurant, where we have stretches of down-time together and he fills them by telling me stuff.

our man at the register

our man at the register

It’s a pleasure, too, to watch this self-possessed young man (transformed from the kid of a year ago who described himself as “not liking to talk to strangers”) interacting easily with customers at our cash register. Our guests enjoy his humor and his manners, and I enjoy observing the “performance” of Christian’s newly cultivated social skills.

I suppose you could say that my favorite “show” is the ever-evolving people-scapes that are my children… And just like a fan of a pop-star, I’m gratified by any sort of glimpse into their personalities and their private lives.

CRVLaptop

and now… a writer!

I think that’s what most intrigues me about Christian’s nascent story: not just what plot or characters he might imagine, but also the emergence of his writing voice.  It’s a whole new aspect of him.

But then, I was just as fascinated by what he chose to write about himself in the “biography” section on Wattpad. Even where the content wasn’t “news” to me, it’s another thing to see his self-image crystallized in his own words. Take this gem, for example: “I’m partially tone-deaf, meaning that while some people can’t carry a tune in a bucket, I can’t carry the bucket. I do play the cello though, and I am very good at recognizing an artist from their music.” I also found myself grinning at the last three statements with which he wrapped up his bio:

  • My life dream is to buy a sailboat and sail off into the sunset.
  • I work as a cashier and waiter at my mom’s restaurant, Kana Girl’s Hawaiian BBQ.
  • I want to become a Dive Master so that I can lead dive tours around Hawaii, where my mom and stepdad plan to move after I graduate from high school.
yesterday in a carseat, tomorrow with a driver's permit!

yesterday in a carseat, tomorrow with a driver’s permit!

Every parent I know talks at some point about how fast time flies by. (Well, not every minute of it… A night awake with a vomiting toddler lasts at least as long as most weeks… But mostly.) It’s almost cliché even to make the observation—but then, I guess clichés are generally derived from Truths. So here I am thinking that “just yesterday” this kiddo was in a carseat, and now he’s counting the (very few) months till he can get his driving permit. All the more reason for this Mommy not to miss any episodes of “the Christian show” while it’s still airing on our home station!


		

“Life”—a Revised Edition

Milton-Bradley's "Life" board game

Milton-Bradley’s “Life” board game: plastic cars and “people”-pegs and a straightforward, pre-plotted Road of Life

My sister and I used to play the Milton-Bradley board game Life, moving a plastic car along the predetermined path (adding pink or blue pegs to represent spouse and kids), and marking the “mileposts” of American living by paying or collecting money for various events. I suppose this game is intended to represent how life is “supposed” to proceed—go to college, get a job, marry, buy a house, buy insurance, buy stocks, get a dog, get a promotion, fix your roof, pay off student loans, pay property taxes, pay income taxes, pay for kids’ education… And eventually retire—either to the Poor Farm or to the Millionaires’ Estates…

In retrospect, it’s not a very interesting game. A player’s individual outcome depends entirely on the spin of the wheel (and the specific “events” on which the plastic car lands), rather than resulting from any choices or actions on the player’s part. What is interesting about this game (again, in retrospect) is the picture it paints of American assumptions—specifically, the events that are expected to compose a Life. (That, and the fact that a player’s success is ultimately measured in money.)

Life at 30: this pair of "pegs" in my back seat, and the rest of life looking pretty predictable...

Life at 30: this pair of “pegs” in my back seat, and the road ahead looking pretty predictable… Ha!

I didn’t question those expectations as a kid counting board-game squares with a game-piece populated by pink-and-blue pegs, and still wasn’t questioning them when I turned thirty. After all, I seemed to be squarely set on that standardized and circumscribed track—complete with husband, house, and a pair of “pegs” (one pink, one blue) in the back seat of my minivan… But this week (my 40th birthday!) I find myself reflecting on the unexpected twists my life has taken in the course of the last decade.

Ten years ago I probably imagined I could write my life-story, at least in its outlines, all the way to the end without waiting to live it. I didn’t foresee any drastic deviations from the proscribed path, and that vision didn’t vary much from the Milton-Bradley version. But God, in his infinite wisdom and humor, had other ideas. (As my A.A. Sponsor says: “If you want to make God laugh… Make PLANS!”) Instead of the conventional course I had calculated, my map of the last decade consists of curves and curlicues, spirals and swivels, U-turns and dead ends and leaps of Faith… I have definitely departed from the predestined path of the presumptive game-board.

winding road sign

so much for the straightforward road!

I’ve been entertaining myself today by imagining a game-board re-write to reflect the reality of my thirties. It’s altogether a richer journey than my designs of a decade ago, but not at all what I’d imagined… Here’s what some of the squares would say in a “Kana” edition of Life

[We begin at Thirty, with stay-home-Motherhood and two small children…]

  • You hit your limit on watching Sesame Street and decide to get back in the (outside-the-home) workforce. Take a full-time job teaching English and science for the state-sponsored online high school.
  • Spend a week aboard a sailboat in the San Juan Islands, earning your sailboat Skipper’s Papers. Charter a sailboat Christmas week in the British Virgin Islands with two small sailors-in-training.
  • Defend your Master’s Thesis in Creative Writing and publish some poetry. Discover that you prefer writing nonfiction! (Although your Master’s program doesn’t offer a “nonfiction” emphasis, this bit of self-knowledge will come in handy down the road, with the invention of the Blog!)
  • Move into an administrative job as Curriculum Director for Idaho’s online high school.  Fly around the country giving presentations, publish academic articles, co-author a book chapter, and establish a national reputation in your field.
  • Move out of your house and your marriage and reimagine yourself as a Single Mom.
  • barefoot at the helm... trying to take control of a new life

    barefoot at the helm… trying to take control of a new life

    Take your first-ever solo vacation: another live-aboard sailing week to earn advanced sailing certifications.

  • Buy a house of your own, to be christened “The Gingerbread House” by your kids. Demonstrate to your kids (and to yourself) that you can mow your own lawn, change your own flat tire, and generally Take Care of Things by yourself.
  • As Taking Care of Things takes its toll, your alcoholic tendencies get increasingly out of hand. You get sent home from work and suspended, pending a review by the Board of Directors after a month of outpatient rehab treatment.
  • Having been given a generous second chance at the job, you blow it almost immediately and get sent home again, this time with a termination letter.
  • Go to jail for Driving Under the Influence. (Do not pass “Go,” definitely do not collect $200. There is no get-out-of-jail-free card.) Embark on a year with suspended license (get to know the public bus routes!) and brace yourself for two years of Probation and peeing-in-cups.
  • a gingerbread house on Rehab-Eve

    a gingerbread house on Rehab-Eve

    Two days before Christmas, call your ex and ask him to take the kids so you can check yourself into an inpatient rehab center. Spend the evening building a gingerbread house with your kids and then drop them off with their Christmas presents. The artificial Christmas tree will never make it out of the box.

  • Check yourself into Rehab, subject yourself to a strip-search and confiscation of your toiletries (including feminine hygiene products—although why you need to be protected from those is a mystery). Meet the Old Hawai’ian Guy, introduced by the ward-nurse as “the guy who takes care of everybody.” Engage him in a gripe-session about having to ask a male nurse for your “female supplies;” because this is your first-ever conversation with him, he will dub you “The Maxi-Pad Lady.” Spend Christmas day constructing the exact same gingerbread house you just built with your kids, playing badminton in the hospital cafeteria, and singing a karaoke duet (with the Old Guy) of the Beach Boys’ Kokomo. Fall asleep clutching your childhood teddy bear, hating Rehab, and missing your kids.
  • HuakaiKapono

    “Spiritual Journey”

    Check out of Rehab several weeks later with no earthly idea what to do with your life. Offer to rent a room to the Old Hawai’ian, who needs a new place. Begin addressing the “what-next” question as a team. Get your first tattoo: a honu (turtle) with the Hawai’ian words Huaka’i Kapono—a reference to Recovery that translates loosely as “Spiritual Journey.” Realize that you love Ink.

  • After five months of fruitless job-hunting (your impressive resume no longer being worth the paper it’s printed on in the field for which you trained), you beg your parents for a business-start-up loan to open a Hawai’ian BBQ restaurant with your Hawai’ian Guy. Your parents are blessedly willing to believe in you despite yourself, your recent history, and your lack of business background (or, for that matter, kitchen skills; your mother had already given up on you in this regard when she sent you off to college with a cookbook titled “How to Boil an Egg”)…
  • Creativity, Desperation, and Determination seem to make for a workable business plan. Several months after opening, your new restaurant holds a top spot in the BBQ category of UrbanSpoon, and you begin catching up on your bills.
  • Call your Sister and your Guy’s best friend on a Monday night and ask them to meet you at the courthouse before work the next morning. Marry your Hawai’ian with those two cherished witnesses, and then head over to open your restaurant for the day.
  • 4ebcc7d6fc5888b7f96987651cd68f17_zps023309f6Enjoy the restaurant’s success, and family life, for a year before throwing everything away (not “losing it”—throwing it away) by picking up the bottle again. Your house goes into foreclosure, car repossessed, business gone, and (WORST!) you lose your share of custody of your kids.
  • Sober up again, find a trailer to live in, eke a living by freelance writing, and fight your way back to the most important thing: time with your kids. Learn how to blog. Find joy in writing, and in simple things that don’t require money. Practice gratitude. Remember, in this round of Recovery, to continue nurturing your marriage and praying with your husband—things that helped you both to stay Sober before.
  • After a couple years of bartering and scrounging and scraping by, your husband ages enough to cash in his retirement account (from the career he crashed-and-burned through drinking), and that it’s enough to re-open the restaurant. Immerse yourself for a year and a half in a second round of (successful) restauranteuring… And then remember again, just before your 40th birthday, that you love to write, and “dust off” your dormant blog…
Have I learned anything at 40? Maybe to "hang loose" and let God's plans happen

Have I learned anything at 40? Maybe to “hang loose” and let God’s plans happen

I suppose it’s a common enough (if self-indulgent) urge to take stock of your life when you hit a birthday ending with a zero… And I wonder if it’s also common for people to find themselves shaking their heads at the unexpectedness of their path so far. I’m betting it’s far more common than a “Life” boardgame (or a million other cultural and media messages) would have us believe. (And I’m damned sure that “more money” doesn’t constitute an automatic win.)

Sure, some of the events of the last decade are things I hadn’t yet planned at 30, but they at least fit with my ideas about myself (like the career in online teaching & the move to administration). But there are so many more things that I never, never would have believed (at 30) a part of my future. Divorce. Arrest. Career termination. Academic failure. And that “unexpected” category includes the positive twists as well; I would have laughed my ass off at anybody who foretold I’d own a restaurant!

If I’ve become any wiser in the last ten years, it’s a simple matter of acknowledging the Journey. I accept now that God’s plans are better than mine; that even trials and tough spots can contribute to growth and joy; and that (even when I think I have a plan) I truly have no idea what’s in store for me on the road still to come. Today, I’ll focus on today’s segment of the Journey, and whatever it brings. Huaka’i Kapono.


The Double-Bride Wedding

There’s a famous line from the Hawai’ian-themed Disney movie, Lilo & Stitch: “Ohana means family, and family means nobody gets left behind.”

But as even the movie demonstrates, Family is also a very complicated thing. Sometimes it takes some time—decades, even—to reach that point where nobody is being left behind.

Hawaiian wedding

Two brides: Anela & Sarah!

Our family is a pretty good example, “All-American” in its complexity. Keoni and I have seven kids between us, from a total of three previous marriages, and with a rainbow of cultural backgrounds. (I’m the “token white person” in our family—Keoni’s kids are Hawai’ian-and-Mexican, and mine are half Filipino…)

The three oldest kids, Kulia, Anelahikialani, and Keoni—from Keoni’s second marriage—live close to one another in California with their respective partners and kids, and their mom, Diana. With these three kids, ours has been a journey of RE-connecting.  Keoni actually had very little contact with them for a long time, because his third ex-wife is one of those people who feels threatened by the idea of anyone else having a place in the heart of someone who “belongs” to her. She used to intercept calls from the other kids, block their attempts at contact, and keep them out of the picture by whatever means she could manage. When Keoni and I got together—just out of Rehab—one of the first things we did was to cash in my last free airline-miles to buy a ticket to California to see his kids. To put things in perspective here, he hadn’t seen his adult son since Keoni-the-younger was twelve.

wedding flower girl

our granddaughter Annalia (Kulia’s daughter), flower-girl at this month’s wedding

An important player in our extended family is Keoni’s second wife Diana, mother to the oldest three kids. Despite what could certainly be considered “bad history,” Diana always told the kids “keep the door open” for their dad, and have faith that he would come back into their lives. Quite honestly, we were overwhelmed by the genuine and heartfelt welcome we received—from Diana as well as from the kids. Diana is a wonderful and generous woman who did a great job of raising three amazing people—and I’m honored to count her among my friends!

A few years ago, when we owned our first restaurant, we told the Cali-kids that we’d like to provide them with Christmas dinner… They missed Daddy’s home-cooked Hawai’ian food, so we arranged  with them that we’d have food shipped and delivered at a specified time when they’d all be together. Only Diana knew the rest of the plan: that WE would be delivering! We packed the Prius with food and drove through a snow-storm from Idaho to California, calling Diana’s cell phone from a couple blocks away at the designated time. She opened up the garage door for us and told the kids “the food” had arrived. The expressions on the girls’ faces when Daddy walked through the door… That’s in my mental scrapbook of precious moments!

winter sled tubing

Sarah & Anela visiting us last winter–first time sledding for these California girls!

This month they knew we were coming, because this was an Occasion. Anelahikialani had dreamed for years—even when her Dad wasn’t actively involved in her life—that he’d be on hand to give her away at her wedding. When they visited us last winter, she and her fiancée Sarah asked us if Keoni would cook for their reception and if I would perform the ceremony. As the day approached, we teased the girls about the explosive potential of a wedding with TWO prospective “Bridezillas”… But in truth, they were both beaming. And beautiful!

Note to myself: if I ever perform another wedding for one of our own kids, I need to stock my pockets with KLEENEX!

I stood at the foot of the outdoor amphitheater on Mount Madonna and Anela appeared at the top of the stairs… Barefoot in a delightfully simple strapless gown and Hawai’ian Haku Lei, absolutely radiant, on the arms of both her parents…

Hawaiian wedding

Anela on the arms of her parents

Well, it’s just as well that all eyes were on her, because the minister was having a hard time stemming the runny nose I get when I cry. (The girls gave a thumbs-up to my short-sleeved clerical blouse—largely in giggly anticipation of the “shock-value effect” my tattoos would have on their older aunties—but it didn’t leave me with any options for subtle nose-wiping…)

A lot of OUR marriage went into the words I wrote for this ceremony—after all, it’s my “source material” when I reflect on Marriage…Which is why I choked up entirely when I got to these words: “From this day on you will have the joy of waking every morning in each other’s arms, and both of you in God’s hands.”  That right there is our bottom line—our joyful reminder to each other in our best moments, sometimes a tearful reminder in the tougher times. God gave us each other, and He’s got our backs.

wedding kiss

Anela and Sarah’s first married kiss

“Gay Marriage” has been in the headlines a lot this month—absurd arguments about “protecting” Marriage, as if any marriage could actually be threatened by anything so completely unrelated as other people also being married. Any “threats to a marriage” come from within that marriage, end of story. Let me think… My marriage is not in any way threatened—in fact, not even affected—by any other pair getting married. Not the Republican couple I run into at the mailboxes, not the teens down the block with two kids, not Laura and Maria who lived across the street and raised a great kid… Okay, I’m done with the Soapbox now.

Usually when I perform a wedding ceremony, I finish by proclaiming a couple married “by the laws of this state”… But this time the statement isn’t true.

Hawaiian wedding receptionSo… The State can go to hell on this one. I don’t presume to know God’s mind, but I DO know a God who isn’t hateful or exclusionary—so when people try to put hateful or exclusionary words in God’s mouth, I’m not buying.

Bottom line: THESE words of the ceremony do stand: “By the authority vested in me as a minister of the Word of God”…  Anela and Sarah are married.

And we are SO joyful to see the joy they bring each other.

At the outdoor reception, the very first dance (“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole) featured the two brides dancing with their Dads. Diana and I stood with our arms around each other, crying and watching Keoni & Anela singing along with Izzy. Our ‘Ohana probably doesn’t fit any version of “traditional” labeling, but I have to think God approves of all the LOVE!

dancing brides

The first dance


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