Go-at with the Flow

By January 26, 2019 #CatTravels, Musings
I learned a lot from this Nigerian Dwarf goat at Maui Goat Yoga.

A month ago I left a great job with a great team to do something I had never done before: be a boss.

I took a job at the editor of HAWAI‘I Magazine, a bi-monthly Honolulu-based travel publication, where I would have to manage a team, albeit a very small one. (Like, one person. But still.)

As it got closer to my taking over this role, I started getting nervous. I had managed college students, interns, freelancers and three dogs—but this was different. I would be responsible for budgets, personnel issues, invoices, schedules, vacation requests and possibly office supplies. My decisions, even the smallest ones, would affect more than just me. And that’s not something I’m used to.

As a freelance writer, which has been my main job for more than a decade, I’ve only had to manage one person: me. I kept track of my own schedule, I decided on assignments, I figured out what needed to get done and how to do it. Now that was all changing.

Or was it?

In my first month on the job, I realized managing a team is a lot like managing myself. I need to be aware of scheduling, workloads, spending—the same things I juggled as a freelancer. I viewed my job as a contract writer as a small business (which is actually is) and this job, as editor of a magazine, is no different.

And it helps that I have a great team.

I inherited an awesome associate editor, Kevin, and I hired a super talented art director, Kayla. And, in addition to our multitasking digital media manager, Tracy, and a slew of others, everyone has made my transition so easy—and actually fun. We laugh in our meetings, we go on field trips, and we all really enjoy each other. That’s been the best part.

And that was never more evident than a couple of weeks ago when the editorial team, including photographer David Croxford, spent two full days on Maui to work on stories about the island. (When I say, “full,” I mean 16-hour days, always together.) We wandered around small towns, got excited over a coffee shop in Wailuku, spent way too much time driving and too little time in our luxe rooms at the Hotel Wailea, ate too much, talked too much and definitely drank too much coconut water.

The HAWAIʻI Magazine editorial team at Mākena Beach on Maui.
The basement of a record shop we found in Wailuku, Maui.
When on Maui, you drink coconut water.

But it was the morning we spent at Maui Goat Yoga in Kula, an adorable farm on the slopes of Haleakalā that offers yoga classes with its fleet of Nigerian Dwarf goats, that everything started to click. (Read more about our experience here.)

While yoga itself is meditative and, at least for me, really centers my mind, the addition of the goats changed the experience—in a good way. Yes, the goats were disruptive, nibbling on your shirt or deciding to take over your entire mat for a nap. But they were so joyous and present. They didn’t care about anything, even pooping during shavasana. They were happy to be with us, happy to be on this farm (who wouldn’t?), happy to jump on our backs for a few Cheerios and animal crackers. There’s a lot we can learn from these goats.

I know I did. I learned to let go, to be in the moment, to enjoy all the things I’m able to do in this job—travel, write, eat, share stories, meet interesting people—and with people who love what they do, too.

Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed or stressed about deadlines or projects or my expense report, I just remember these goats and their attitude about life: Every day is a new day—and there are always people willing to give you free treats.

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The Good, The Bad, The Ballistic Missile Alert of 2018

By December 31, 2018 Musings

I remember discussing 2017 with my co-workers. It was unanimous: That was a really bad year. I couldn’t tell you why—it’s amazing how even the most awful memories can fade away with time and tequila—but I remember hoping for a better year in 2018.

And did we get it?

Good question.

All I do know is it’s been a very strange year. It started with the false ballistic missile alert and ended with me, right now, in bed with the stomach flu after recovering from pneumonia. The good thing is everything in between wasn’t worse.

We’ve survived Category 4 hurricanes heading to the Islands, freak flooding on Oʻahu and Kaua‘i, and an erupting volcano on the Big Island. But it hasn’t been all bad. Wailana Coffee Shop and Ryan’s Grill may have closed, but dozens of other restaurants opened. Several friends gave birth this year, others announced pregnancies, others got dogs (which is similar). Some got married, some got divorced (not always a bad thing), some are still happily single. Friends have changed jobs, moved away, came home. “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Thor: Ragnarok” got me excited about movies again. “Riverdale” is weirder than ever. I read a lot of books. And then there was Bruno Mars.

For me, though, it’s been a year of change and evolution. We decided to not try for #Babyfox No. 2. I left my job as food editor at HONOLULU Magazine to head the team at HAWAI‘I, a local travel pub. And I started teaching again — which left me both sleep-deprived and inspired. (I adored my students.)

But the real lesson this year is the one I seem to still be learning.

I got a message through Instagram from my pal at work, someone who knows me way too well. I shared with her — and everyone else on the group chat — that my New Year’s Eve plans had changed. “I have the stomach flu,” I wrote. “Anyone wanna hang out?”

Her response, devoid of sarcasm or snark: “Maybe you should make a resolution to take care of your health in 2019.”

This has been a long year of that. It started with some kind of ocular event in February that had one ER doctor thinking it was a seizure. And in between I’ve dealt with anxiety, depression, cancer scares and migraines. And then, in late October, I started coughing. Bronchitis. Then pneumonia. Then, now, stomach flu. All the while I’ve been caring for Landon, who’s been sick, too. I feel like I can’t catch a break with my health, that I haven’t had time to recover, to enjoy a stretch of good health. I can’t even remember not coughing. And since I’ve been so busy taking care of my family and working, at times, two jobs, I haven’t had a chance to do anything about my health. The only times I’ve been able to see the doctor is at the emergency room, when it’s gotten so bad I can’t function. And that’s when I hear it, the voice in my head emerging from the mouth of an ER doctor or nurse: “Why did you wait so long?”

It’s frustrating to start 2019 like this, sick, in bed, unable to do much more than lift the remote control to change the channel on the TV. But it’s also a good reminder of what I don’t want to do in the coming year: If all I want to do is take care of others, I can’t very well do that if I’m not healthy myself. So maybe I’ll heed the words of my Millennial friend and start focusing on my health. Because, let’s face it, no one else will.

You never know when another false ballistic missile alert may happen and I need to be ready for it.

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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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