Cheers To Change

By December 8, 2018 Musings

Yes, it’s scary, but sometimes that’s exactly what you need.

It’s official.

Yesterday was my last day as the food editor at HONOLULU Magazine.

I’ve been at the magazine for just over three years, covering everything from new restaurants opening to the farmers who grow the food we’re eating. I’ve eaten alcohol-infused fro-yo, fried chicken drenched in adobo butter and a teppanyaki dinner that cost $200—without drinks.

I had never, ever planned to be a food writer. (Read this.) I like to eat food and make food—but I never really thought about critiquing food. To me, food, in its many incarnations, is subjective. You like what you like. You hate what you hate. That’s it. I mean, how can I be an objective food writer if I’m partial to mayo and loathe peas?

Then again, how could I complain, either?

My job is to eat and write about it. I get paid to try out new restaurants or talk story with some of the most interesting, hard-working people around. It’s really not a bad gig.

So why in the world would I quit?

It’s not the job that I’m quitting. It’s not the company or my co-workers. I left because I needed to. I wanted to do something different, challenge myself, get outside my comfort zone. While I can’t say right now what, exactly, that new gig is, I can say I’ll still be writing—and I’ll still be working at the same company. (Just a different magazine.)

I could never do the same job for the rest of my life. In fact, if you look back at my work experience, I’ve done everything from making bouquets at a florist to working in an accounting department to assisting on a marine conservation campaign for a nonprofit. And I enjoyed all of it.

I like learning new things, working with new people, seeing jobs and companies evolve—and, even better, seeing people evolve. There’s nothing more gratifying that watching co-workers get promoted or move on, quit and start businesses or families or travel the world. Life has to keep moving forward, and we all need to ride the changing tides.

The one thing, though, that I’ve done the entire time, no matter where I’ve worked or what title I’ve had, is write. I love writing. I always have. From the time I could—around second grade—I penned stories. About horses, about magic dragons, about three fish with Chinese names. That has never changed.

And with this new job, that won’t change, either. I’ll still be writing—just not so much about food. And I’m looking forward to it. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love sampling new menu items and interviewing the passionate people behind all the restaurants, bars and bakeries I’ve covered. And I’ll still be doing that—just not exclusively. (More to come, I promise!) But I needed to step outside the confines of food and write about other experiences, get uncomfortable and, in doing so, grow as a writer and person.

At least that’s my intention.

It was incredibly hard to walk away from such an enviable job, one that came with great medical benefits and an expense account. And I got to work with a pretty amazing team over the last three years: art directors who are incredibly creative and work longer hours than anyone else because they care about their work; talented writers who love to help, share and collaborate; editors who only want you to be better and write the stories you’re passionate about. I have made friendships with many of my co-workers—including an entire cadre of millenials—who are compassionate, funny, loyal and aggressively fun-loving. These people have been there for me through everything: the stress from audits, a tough pregnancy, my transition to motherhood, and all the ear infections, concussions, migraines and hospital visits I’ve had in three years. They have been so kind to me, throwing me baby showers, writing me cards when I’m stressed, buying Landon random gifts just because they were thinking about him, sewing me squids made out of socks, putting chocolate on my desk because they know I love it. And there were A LOT of hugs. You don’t find co-workers like these very often.

The good news is I’ll still be working with them, though not as closely as I was before. But we’ll still meet for lunch and take breaks to 7-Eleven. That’s made this decision a little easier, for sure.

So stay tuned! I’ll have more to announce soon. But just know, it’s all good.

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Why We Should Be Thankful For Everything, All The Time

By November 23, 2018 #BabyFox, Musings, The Daily Dish

Spending Thanksgiving morning in the ER really makes you think about what you should be thankful for.

It’s been a tough year. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had my own cancer scares. I found out I couldn’t (likely) have any more children. I got an ulcer and had to stop drinking Diet Coke. (Yes, I know, it’s a good thing, but not when you love it as much as I do.)

I look back on this year and remember when I had such lofty goals in January. I would surf more, work less, maybe finally lose that baby weight! But that hasn’t really happened. I watched more reality TV than surfed. I took on a second job. And I’m about ready to give the baby weight a name.

There’s a lot not to be thankful for right now. California wildfires, climate change, the fact that some people have access to Twitter and really shouldn’t.

And I have to admit, lately I’ve wanted more than I already have, feeling unaccomplished or lost or worried that I’m missing out.

It may be cliche to think about what we’re thankful for on, of all holidays, Thanksgiving. It may even seem forced, having to tell a room full of family and friends what you’re grateful for this year. You start rattling off the obvious answers: good health, family, friends, jobs, extended credit limits before Black Friday. And yes, these are all things we should be grateful for — if you have them. But what if you don’t? Or what if these things aren’t in the best condition right now? What if you haven’t talked to your sister in decades or you hate your job? What if you don’t have your mom this year? What if you’re suffering from something — arthritis, lupus, cancer, a broken heart? What then?

It’s always the hardest to search for something to be grateful for while you’re searching for something else. An answer, a sign, a prayer, a glimmer of hope or light in the darkness. But that’s precisely when we need it most.

As I sat in the ER yesterday, there because my 2-year-old hasn’t stopped coughing for weeks and it had gotten particularly bad that morning, I was stressed and frustrated and worried — not thankful. My heart was racing. I had so much to do back home! I had food to cook, a house to clean, dogs to walk. I didn’t have time for this!

But I looked at my son, his throat strained from coughing all night and his runny nose red and raw from rubbing, sitting so nicely on the hospital bed, coloring in his drawing book and singing a song about peanut butter. This kid had every reason to cry and scream and complain — and he didn’t.

I may not have lost those lingering eight pounds or published a novel or saved enough money to upgrade from my iPhone 6s. But it felt good to think about what I have done, what I do have — and be grateful for that.

Sometimes it’s an accomplishment just getting out of bed on days when I’d rather sleep in.

My kid is healthy and adorable. My dogs are happy and content. My friends are awesome. I love my little family. I can walk to work. I live in a place where I can surf or hike before heading to the office. I have giant picture windows in the living room that open to a blue sky. I can still fit my pre-pregnancy clothes. (Good thing I like stretch fabric.) My gym membership is just $40 a year. (I got in early.) I have a new and bigger fridge. (That’s huge!) My car, phone, Internet, cable and microwave all work. For now, anyway.

So what, exactly, am I thankful for this year?

That there’s so much to be thankful for, now and always.

***

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving! Can you believe it’s almost Christmas? GAH!

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Why We’re Not Having Any More Kids

By October 12, 2018 #BabyFox, Musings, The Daily Dish

I had a rough pregnancy. I had an even more traumatic birth. I’m 43 and not getting any younger. We make just enough money to pay our bills. We have three dogs and a chicken. And my son, almost 2, is awesome.

So why would I even entertain the idea of a second baby?

It’s an interesting question, especially if you’ve ever had a conversation with me at any point during this experience. There were days when I’d say, “No way. One and done. I can’t do this again.” And there were other days when I’d lament, usually to myself, “Oh, wouldn’t it be fun to have another kid like Landon?”

And no amount of talking about this to other parents has helped, either. Some parents of onlies (only children) wish they had had another. Some parents of onlies wouldn’t have it any other way. And then there are the parents with more than one kid who can’t seem to stop sharing horror stories with me about lack of privacy, lack of sleep, lack of money, lack of sanity.

It really comes down to what we want — and what we’re able to do. And those aren’t always in alignment.

Here’s the thing: Nothing can prepare you for the feelings and thoughts you have once the baby comes. I vividly remember the first two weeks after bringing Landon home from the hospital. I honestly thought we had made a mistake, that I wouldn’t be able to do this, that I was going to suffer from a mental breakdown so bad I’d never recover. I’d be sitting in a corner, embracing the techniques of self-soothing with a pacifier and swaddle the way my son was. It was bad.

But as he got older — and we got better at this — it really did get easier. We figured it out. He evolved. It was starting to work.

And that’s when you start thinking about the next one. You start imagining what it would be like to have another baby in the house. You start packing up — not giving away — your first born’s old clothes and toys, just in case. You start thinking about names and Googling double strollers and looking for where to put the second crib.

And then the inevitable happens. Maybe it’s a new bill you have to pay. Or maybe it’s when you find out how much childcare costs. Or maybe it’s when you hear a parent of two complain about buying a new car to fit two car seats or about how her two kids won’t stop fighting — and they’re already teens.

And then there’s this other thing.

It’s called age.

I’m 43. It doesn’t matter if I look 33 or if I feel 23. My ovaries, my body, everything about me biologically is 43. And there’s no diet or exercise routine or supplement to reverse this.

That means, reproductively speaking, I’m very old. Maybe too old.

I was just talking with a couple of girlfriends — all around my age and dealing with infertility — about how we wish we had listened to our doctors when were in our 20s. You know, that awkward conversation when your OBGYN explains to you that you’re 25, your body is aging, you should really think about whether or not you want to have kids. Back then, we were all, like, “Kids? I’m not thinking about kids! I’ve got a career, student loans, places to travel. I’m not ready to have kids! And besides, with what guy…?”

It didn’t occur to me back then that what my OBGYN was really trying to say to me was, “You’re not getting any younger and if you really want to have kids at some point in your life, you should consider freezing your eggs, which will ensure a much, much higher chance of getting pregnant with your own genetics in the future.”

Why didn’t he just say that?

But that’s done, and here I am, 43 and thinking about having a second child at an age many women are already sending their kids off to college.

Truth is, I probably can’t have another child anyway. The way we would need to do IVF — genetic testing, which isn’t covered by insurance — is too expensive and my chances are bleak, and I’m not interested in finding an egg donor. (Nor can we afford it.) Adoption is pricey, too, and we would probably have to wait years to actually be matched with a child.

I know all of this and, about six months ago, was perfectly OK with having just one child. So much so I gave practically everything of Landon’s away — his car seat, stroller, walkers, toys, bottles, breast pumps, unopened baby food, pacifiers he never used, newborn onesies he never wore.

But there’s this one small box I kept. It has some of my favorite things of Landon’s. And I can’t seem to give it up.

Just like this idea of having another child.

I didn’t think this decision was going to be so emotional, so crippling at times. It’s a void I can’t seem to fill. I’ll never feel a baby kick inside me again. I’ll never see Landon grow up with a sibling. I’ll never have a daughter. It’s heartbreaking in so many ways.

But I have this awesome kid who’s funny and playful and smart and healthy. And he’s been sleeping through the night since he was 2 months old, which I know, from other parents, is probably his best trait. I really have nothing to complain about. And I should have nothing to covet or want.

And yet, there are times, usually when I see brothers playing at the park or a pregnant woman standing in line at Foodland, that I feel a bit of envy and sadness, like I’m letting myself down, like I’m letting Landon down. Not that he ever asked for a sibling. And not that having one will enhance his life. But he’ll never have a brother or sister to talk to or lean on. And he’ll be alone after we’re dead. That part kills me.

This isn’t a decision I made alone. My husband helped. My body chimed in. And the fact that we can’t seem to get pregnant anyway is a sign.

I realize it will take time to grieve what I feel like is a loss. And I know how lucky I am to have one healthy, happy kid. (There are lots of families who don’t even have that.) I just have to accept what is and what will never be — and know that life really isn’t that bad at all.

And reading my journal entries about those first few months of parenthood helps, too.

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Hurricane Lane, You’re Getting To Me

By August 21, 2018 Musings, The Daily Dish

As I type this, I’m sitting in our living room, two dogs nestled on either side of me, and staring out our windows at a remarkably blue sky.

It’s hard to believe that, just a few minutes ago, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center upgraded Hurricane Lane to a dangerous Category 5 storm with sustained winds up to 160 miles per hour. And it’s heading directly toward us.

I’ve heard forecasters say this hurricane is traveling along a similar path as Iniki, the most powerful (and devastating) hurricane to hit the Hawaiian Islands in recorded history. When it struck O‘ahu and Kaua‘i in 1992, it had winds of 145 miles per hour. A Category 4 hurricane. Lane already seems worse.

It’s a funny thing, this hurricane. Maybe I’ve been numbed by news of disaster — remember the false ballistic missile alert? — or I’ve been unusually busy lately — I decided to teach a college-level journalism class this semester in addition to my day job at HONOLULU Magazine — but I just haven’t wholly embrace this whole hurricane thing.

Growing up in Hawai‘i, hurricanes happen — and they rarely hit us like this. In my lifetime, there have only been two significant hurricanes — Iniki in 1992 and Iwa in 1982 — and both times I didn’t experience the brunt of it. Our house was fine, the roof stayed put, no trees fell, no patio furniture went flying, the electricity eventually returned and life went on, at least for me. I remember staying home from school during Iwa and playing board games by candlelight. And I can’t remember what I did during Iniki; that’s how unmemorable it was for me.

But this one already seems different. Maybe because I’m a mom now, I don’t live my parents (whose job it was to protect me from natural disasters), I’m inundated with news more than ever before, and I live in a house with huge plate-glass windows that are, as I write this, freaking me out. All I can think about is, “Am I ready?”

I’ve seen social media posts showing empty shelves at Costco, Target, the commissary. I’ve driven past the long lines at gas stations. I’ve already braved Safeway today, only to stand in a line that was snaking down the frozen food aisle, with worried shoppers stocking up on bottled water, toilet paper, canned goods and beer.

I remember walking outside, pushing my cart filled with probably all the wrong things (everything was perishable and I forgot to grab bottled water), and noticing how still the air was, how perfect of an afternoon, how it seemed virtually impossible that, in less than 24 hours, the Islands would be inundated with life-threatening rain and wind.

But it’s so nice out!

Panic started to hit me at around 5:45 p.m. For no real reason except the house was quiet and I had time to think. I started to search the house for supplies. (Thank God I went to Costco this weekend.) We’re good on toilet paper and batteries, we have flashlights ready to go, we did laundry on Sunday, I charged all of my devices and I have at least two unopened bags of chips and five bottles of wine. Hurricane preparedness complete.

But something is twisting in my gut. I know, as I watch the sun disappear and the skies darken, something bad is coming. I may be prepared with supplies, but I’m definitely not emotionally ready for this.

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My Brain, An Update

By August 1, 2018 Musings, The Daily Dish

It’s been more than a month since I last posted about my mental health crisis, and I suppose it’s time for an update.

Or at least let you all know I’m alive!

A lot has happened in the past two months. I tried to refocus, committing to taking better care of myself and resting my brain, which had been AWOL for awhile. I meditated, I hiked, I surfed, I read (a lot), I journaled, I walked. It felt good. I was finally allowing myself to slow down, breathe a little, rest.

Of course, this only lasted less than two weeks before the panic started in.

I’m so behind with work! I’m late on preschool applications! The dishes can’t wash themselves!”

And just like that, I was back in the hustle of my impossible life, trying to juggle too many things and believing this is what I need to do, this is what every woman does. Even while knowing FULL WELL that this isn’t true.

It’s funny to read the texts I send my friends or listen to myself dole out advice. I just texted a stressed-out mom friend of mine that no one ever said we needed to suffer to be a good parent.

It’s true. But, as my mom always says, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

For some reason, I believe that every minute of the day should be occupied by something productive. This obsession stems from a childhood marked by daily chores and a Catholic upbringing, no doubt. I hatehatehate wasting time. So when I’m watching the time-suck of Real Housewives marathons, for example, I have to be doing something else, something productive. Folding laundry, cooking dinner, sorting mail. I can’t just sit and indulge. Everything I do has to have a purpose. A surf session is a workout. The kid’s nap time is a chance for me to cook meals for the next few days. My commute to work is a chance to catch up on podcasts or check email. No second is wasted.

I realize I’m really screwed up.

I’m sharing this because I know I’m not alone. I know there are people out there who feel as trapped in their lives as I do. We don’t let ourselves rest or relax because, for whatever reason, we think we don’t deserve it. And it has actually nothing to do with deserving anything.

Our bodies are like cars. They need to be maintained and taken care of, so they keep us safe and last for years. And, like many of us bad car owners, we let that slip. We skip the oil change because it’s too inconvenient or drive on bald tires because we’re trying to save money. And it costs us later. Our cars will break down and so will our bodies. One day, our bodies will say, “OK, jackass, you pushed me to the limit and now I’ve got nothing left to give.” Then what?

I watch my son, now 20 months old, just play. He draws, he throws balls, he stacks blocks. Nothing about it is very productive. (I’m not going to lie, I can’t wait until he gets old enough for chores.) But he’s happy, he’s learning, he’s content. He’s not worried about his chubby thighs or prepping for tomorrow’s day at the sitter. He’s just living life as happily as he can, without a worry in the world.

Sure, things are taken care for him. He doesn’t have to deal with morning traffic or Wednesday meetings or spotty Internet coverage. He doesn’t have to wash his clothes or prepare his meals. I mean, he doesn’t even have to wipe his own butt! What a life!

But we can learn a lot from toddlers, in the way they are optimistically curious and delighted by even little things. (I have never seen someone so excited to see the moon every morning.)

So where am I with this mental health thing? I’m still moving forward. Slow but steady. Sometimes stuck in place. But always hopeful.

***

On a side note, thanks to everyone who reached out — in person, by text, in messages — to ask about how I’m doing or to just share a personal experience with anxiety and depression. It has meant so much to me.

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