What the ʻMistake’ Missile Alert Taught Me

By January 13, 2018 #BabyFox, Musings, The Daily Dish


The lesson I learned? Never take a moment, even the small ones, for granted.

We all know where we were when we got the alert on our phones.

My husband had just taken some coolers down into the garage. One of my friends was fast asleep but woke up to the sound of the alert. I was driving with my mom and 13-month-old son to Pearlridge to go to the farmers market.

The message on my iPhone read: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”

The all-caps didn’t help.

I immediately called my husband.

“Did you get the alert?”

“Yeah.”

“What do we do?”

“I don’t know.”

I was already on the road, heading toward Pearl Harbor, which, I figured would be an obvious target. And I had two of the most important people in the world IN MY CAR with me. I was now responsible for their safety. I didn’t know what to do.

As we drove down the H-1 toward Pearlridge, we noticed cars and trucks pulling over under bridges and overpasses. Smart, I thought. At least smarter than still driving. I needed a plan.

My mom was frantically searching the Internet on her phone to find information about this warning. I was all over Twitter. “Anyone else get that ballistic missile threat?” A barrage of tweets followed. Apparently, yes. Some claiming to hear sirens. Others seeing alerts on TV. It was obvious no one knew what to do except panic — and tweet.

Honestly, what could we do? When we get an alert like that in Hawai‘i, we have literally 15 minutes to run and hide. (Or “seek shelter” as the local civil defense says.) What can we possibly do in 15 minutes beside down a bottle of wine, hug our kids and dogs and post one last selfie?

And if we survive the initial attack — which, according to the military, would annihilate 10 percent of the population — we’ve got about two weeks until we can emerge from whatever shelter we’re in. (Who’s got basements or bunkers in Hawai‘i?) Then what?

We’ve all been on edge since President Trump and Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, began threatening nuclear attack. We’re just 4,600 miles from Pyongyang and we all know those missiles can reach here, no problem.

I drove to the back of Moanalua Valley, thinking we would be safe (safer) here. We were met by a Boy Scouts troupe heading out for a hike. I felt pretty secure knowing we were with a bunch of kids who could tie knots and start fires with sticks.

By the time we got the official all-clear — more than half an hour later by the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency, which sent out the alert — everyone felt the affects. People were visibly shaken at the farmers market. One guy, who was buying ung choy, told me that he had rushed home to get to his family and two cars had run red lights. Another vendor ditched everything at the market and went straight home. We were strangers, all sharing our stories, all expressing our fears and emotions, all connected by this mistaken warning of an incoming ballistic missile attack.

It seems this always happens, right? A tsunami warning, a hurricane prediction, now a missile attack, and everyone freaks out, hugs the nearest person and clings to a hope that we’ll see our families again, we’ll make it through this, we’ll be OK.

Luckily — though not for the person who accidentally pressed the button — we are OK. The alert was a result of human error — not hackers — at the emergency command post.

But I hope this experience changed us — for the better. We worried we’d never see our parents again; visit more often. We hugged our kids one last time; hug them every day. We ate that piece of cake in our fridge; eat cake always.

I hope we all get our missile attack plans in place, we all take political action (run for office, write letters, volunteer, just vote) to ensure our safety, and remember that life as we know it can be over in just 15 minutes (less if you, like my mom, didn’t get the alert). So live accordingly.

You Might Also Like

My Plans for 2018? Breathe

By January 1, 2018 #BabyFox, Musings, The Daily Dish

I’m not going to lie: 2017 was a crap year. For lots of reasons. And beyond the political landscape or potential nuclear war.

I’ve been waiting for 2018 for months now, hoping the mundane move from 11:59 p.m. to midnight — it happens every day — would be magical this time around, that everything was going to get suddenly better. My job wasn’t going to be so stressful, I’d be 10 pounds lighter, I would have more hours in the day to get everything done, a nanny-chef-stylist was going to show up on my doorstep and say she wants an unpaid internship. And she looooooves vacuuming and folding laundry.

Of course, nothing happened at that highly anticipated p.m.-a.m. changeover except my dogs shivered under mounds of blankets as half the neighborhood shot off illegal aerials and strings of firecrackers to ward off evil and ring in the new year.

I was in bed, holding onto a distressed Indy and watching our baby (via monitor) sleep happily in his crib, lulled by the sound machine in his room set to crashing waves and enjoying the only air-conditioned room in the house.

Every year since I can remember, I’ve come up with resolutions to change my life, thinking that small changes would snowball into big ones, and suddenly, come summertime, everything would be different. I’d be happier, less stressed, more fulfilled. I’d be an expert in whatever new hobby I had planned to take up or ready for the marathon I sign up for every year.

I would spend New Year’s Eve frantically cleaning the house — it’s hardwired into my DNA — and getting ready to usher in the next year with sparkling floors, clean bed sheets and shaved legs. I would journal every eve, recapping the year and making promises to be more organized, be more mindful, be more selfish, be more compassionate, just be a better person. Because who I was at the time was never enough.

This year, though, has been a blur. With learning how to take care of a newborn to transitioning back to a pretty demanding job, I barely have time to floss my teeth, let alone sit on the couch with a journal and contemplate a better life.

It’s easy to get lost in the web of social media, feeling like everyone else is traveling or hiking or surfing or living a life I’ve had to put on hold. And while I don’t regret our choice to be parents and love every moment we have with Landon, it’s hard not to imagine a more carefree exisitence, one where I can just jump on a plane and be in a different time zone, one where I didn’t have to worry so much about money because I was the only person I needed to support, one where I could surf or hike whenever I wanted, one that didn’t involve a carseat, stroller and pack-and-play.

I briefly thought about writing down a few New Year’s resolutions — then, of course, quickly forgot about it when I heard the baby babbling in his crib. Sure, I’d love to set some goals, make some positive changes to get me back on track. But maybe now isn’t the time.

It’s hard for me to wait; patience is not one of my virtues. But I know that soon enough, Landon will be old enough to take on adventures, whether it’s fishing in New Zealand or surfing in Waikīkī. I’ll have time to work out more, write more, read more, cook more, blog more. But right now, I’m just trying to stay above water. And that’s OK.

I’m not Super Mom. I’m not Super Anything. But right now, I’ve got a Super Kid that needs my love, attention and baked goods. So instead of worrying about my goals this year, I’m just going to breathe… exhale… and remember that I got this.

And there’s always next year.

Happy New Year, everyone!

You Might Also Like

Why We Didn’t Throw a Birthday Party for #Babyfox

By December 13, 2017 #BabyFox

There’s a lot of pressure that comes with motherhood.

We’re expected to do it all, be Super Mom, memorize parenting books, start a blog, breastfeed no matter what.

And that’s just in the first month!

As my child approached his first birthday, I was faced with yet another must-do: throw a huge party.

In Hawai‘i, baby first birthdays are a thing. Like, a huge, expensive thing. These baby lūʻau (as we call them) can be the size of weddings: hundreds of guests, pricey centerpieces, favors for everyone. It’s intense.

I’ve been to parties held in cavernous hotel ballrooms, one with a casino and fortune tellers, another with a live band whose name I actually knew.

My family threw us birthday parties, too, but small ones, just at the house and just with family, nothing fancy. We had a homemade cake, some presents, I was dressed in a kimono. Not that I remember anything, of course.

We decided pretty early on that we weren’t going to do anything more than lunch with our families for Landon’s birthday. When we ran the numbers — just for fun, really — our guest list was well over 200. Conservatively. With catered food, favors and a venue big enough to accommodate that many people, this party would cost us easily more than $10,000. It just didn’t seem reasonable — or responsible. It’s not like we had an extra $10,000 hidden under the mattress. And honestly, I’d rather just give Landon that money, put it toward the college tuition that we’ll never be able to afford.

But my husband had an even better idea.

In the Hawaiian culture, traditionally, when a baby is born, the family would plant an ʻulu (breadfruit) tree. In theory, the tree would provide a lifetime of food for this child.

When Landon was born, we had planted a Samoan coconut tree in our front yard. We already had a very prolific ʻulu tree and didn’t want to plant another. (As it is now, we already freeze or give away most of the fruit.)

But my husband was thinking bigger than just our backyard. He wanted to plant a lot of ʻulu trees, trees that would feed a community, not just our son. Our mutual friend — and one of the guys responsible for setting us up four years ago — is the executive director of the nonprofit Kākoʻo ʻŌiwi in Heʻeia, which grows kalo (taro) and other crops for the community, and he wanted to support the great work he does.

So, instead of planting a tree just for Landon, we planted trees for the nonprofit, trees that would provide food for an entire community for generations.

If I could afford it, I would have wanted to throw Landon the biggest, baddest party of all time. He’s the best kid — I know, I’m biased — and I wanted to do something super special. Because he’s special. But we just couldn’t swing it. And that’s OK. We did the best we could — and no matter what, it was going to turn out great. It had to. We had all the right intentions, as every parent does, and it really didn’t matter what we did. At the end of the day, it’s just about celebrating our awesome son.

So, on Landon’s birthday last month, we got up early and drove to the farm in Heʻeia to plant two ʻulu trees in its orchard. It was just a small donation — we could only find two of the Hawaiian variety to plant — but we’ll continue to plant more trees every year. We want Landon to learn that giving is way more important — and fun — than receiving.

With cake after, of course.

You Might Also Like

It’s Not Always Easy To Be Grateful

By November 23, 2017 #BabyFox, Musings, The Daily Dish

We all have those days. When nothing seems to go your way. When you feel like you’re in a hole/ditch/closet/swamp/jam/hell/parking garage you can’t find your way out of.

I’ve had months like that. Long stretches of bad situations, little things strung together. When you’ve come to terms with one, there’s another. And another. I would tell myself, “OK, this is the last bad thing. There can’t be anymore!”

I learned to never tell myself that anymore.

These are the hardest times to feel gratitude. In fact, I honestly couldn’t do it. I couldn’t appreciate my health or a full fridge or the fact I don’t live in an abandoned airplane somewhere at the South Pole. (I had a dream about that last night.)

I remember being so annoyed whenever my mom would say, “You should be thankful for your two legs and your two arms.” I would roll my eyes. “Everyone has those,” I’d think (but not dare say).

Truth is, some people don’t. Some people can’t get around as easily as me. Some people spend months in hospitals, hooked up to machines. Some people don’t have warm beds or access to education or a car that starts without having to hot wire it. I’m even sure someone has lived in an abandoned plane at the South Pole.

I’ve never been much of a Thanksgiving person, except that it’s the only time I can, without embarrassment or judgement, eat an entire box of Stovetop stuffing. But this year, I feel differently.

This year, despite the dark clouds still circling, I can finally see the light. The light that was always there. The light that’s been my son, my husband, my dogs, my friends and family, my health, the opportunity to do what I love for a living, the fact that my fridge is always fully stocked. It can be incredibly hard to find the simple, small, seemingly inconsequential things to be thankful for, but those are actually the stuff that’s most important.

So, hoping you all find your moments of gratitude today.

And there’s no shame in Stovetop stuffing.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

You Might Also Like

What ‘Live Life to the Fullest’ Means To Me

By October 17, 2017 Musings, The Daily Dish

You hear it all the time.

You gotta live life to the fullest!

Live like there’s no tomorrow!

Life is short!

Live your best life!

Be in the moment!

Carpe diem!

YOLO!

But what does this all really mean?

I used to think living your best life meant checking items off the proverbial bucket list, finishing personal projects, learning new things, eating the entire cake. Because why not! We only live once!

But, especially after this weekend, my perspective on this way of thinking suddenly seems flawed.

Sunday was the memorial service of Gilbert “Soyu” Kawamoto, a 74-year-old surfer whom I met 15 years ago in the water. He surfed every morning, rarely missing a session. Even in the blustering winds at Diamond Head, even in small, sometimes non-existent surf. It didn’t matter. He paddled out — and enjoyed himself. I can’t recall a morning when he complained about the conditions, no matter how awful. It was always fun, good to be out, he would say.

He died suddenly last month. Got sick, went to the hospital, died. Just like that. We didn’t have time to say goodbye.

When I told my husband about Soyu’s passing, he said something that stuck with me for a few days: “He lived a really good life. That’s the way to go, surfing every day.”

Soyu never wasted a moment. That’s how we should live our lives, I thought. To the fullest.

But here’s the thing: I thought that living life to the fullest meant surfing every morning — or whatever it is that you love. Could be hiking or traveling or getting massages. Whatever you love to do, whatever you’re passionate about, do it. Do it all the time. Whenever you can.

But I don’t think that’s actually what it means. Or, maybe, should mean.

All these things — surfing, traveling — are mostly selfish endeavors. These are things that only matter to you, that only benefit you.

And most of us have to work or can’t afford to travel to far-off places. Many of us have kids or families we can’t up and ditch. A lot of us just don’t have the time or money — or both.

So does that mean we can never live our lives to the fullest? We can’t YOLO?

On Sunday, the family held a memorial service for Soyu at the Elks Club in Waikīkī. It was a glorious send-off, with his friends playing Hawaiian music, food catered by Rainbow Drive-In, tons of photos of Soyu surfing and laughing.

It didn’t feel like a funeral at all. It was a party, with beer and poke and live music. It was exactly the kind of party Soyu would have loved. I could imagine him sitting in the back with his friends, a cold Big Swell IPA in his hand, cracking jokes and kicking back like he always did.

But talking with his family, namely his daughter, Malie, I realized something else: Soyu spent a lot of time with his family, coaching baseball, teaching his kids how to surf, playing Nintendo at home. Everyone who knew him would say that Soyu would help anyone out, he was generous and willing to pitch in, he showed up, he always did the right thing.

That’s when it hit me: Living your life to the fullest shouldn’t be selfish. In fact, it shouldn’t be about you at all. Living a full life means carving out time to spend with the important people in your life, even when you’re busy. It means supporting causes and charities that mean something to you. It means stopping to give someone a hug for no reason. It means telling your mom or brother or husband or kid or dog that you love them. It means not waiting, not hesitating, not saying, “Ah, I’ll do it later.” Because, as Malie knows, later may never come.

I can’t travel the way I used to. I can’t surf every morning anymore. But that doesn’t mean my life is any less valuable or important. And it doesn’t mean I can’t find pleasure in the simpler things, like watching my son laugh so hard he falls over or snuggling with my husband in bed with three dogs and watching “The Avengers.” These are the moments that I’ll remember.

But I might start planning more massages, too.

You Might Also Like