What 2013 has taught me

I knew a year ago, back in December, my birthday month and the month of holiday cheer, that those I found so very uninspiring were plotting to end my corporate-within-the-cube-writing career. It was OK as I had already left in my mind at least more than 1,735 times. In April of 2013 the footprint was on my ass and it was the first time I left an employer without feeling sad. It was more a wave of relief. I had been dismantling my personality from the cube over the months until it looked like a sterile, cold and gray space without personality, exactly what it was supposed to be.

I am grateful that finally I was free to be me. 

I applied for at least three jobs a week — sometimes three jobs a day — until my unemployment ran out in November. I completed the substitute teaching course for the DOE in October. I started my seasonal position at Costco Hawaii Kai in November, too, so I have been able to step off the ice floe. 

I am supposed to be grateful for the more than 80 jobs I applied for and didn’t get, but it’s hard. I got a few interviews and I am sure those humiliating experiences have made me a better person. Radio silence gives you a lot to think about. It was hard not to think about rejection, it was hard to see the silver lining. I know I’m a survivor and I’ve got the most amazing support person at my side. He gets the most gratitude of all. 

What good was there from 2013? I got to spend a lot of time with my husband and we really enjoyed it. There are new gardens in the yard. While things like tomatoes, zucchini and eggplant don’t do so well, our kale, Swiss chard, chili peppers and herbs are bountiful. We have a beautiful area in the backyard where I can write or where we can sit even when it’s raining, with our Kitty Girl. The avocados drop before me, a compost bin settles without stinking, and there’s always gas in the grill. 

In 2013 I trained for triathlons and did alright. I went to the Big Island and participated in my first half Ironman in Kona. I rode my bike, ran and swam several times a week. I did the Honolulu Tinman, the Na Wahine Festival’s swim and spin, the North Shore Swim Series and the Waikiki Roughwater Swim. I love doing all those things. This year I was able to participate without the mental and emotional cave in I had the year before just as the swims were starting. I’m pleased that I can remain calm during those first crazy minutes of an ocean swim with hundreds of arms and legs flailing at me and around me. 

In 2013 I found an editor who gave me a shot at writing for his magazine and I have been writing for him steadily since the summer. I hope to continue. 

During 2013 I applied at Costco four times and finally got a call for this seasonal job that is quite demanding. As a shopper I always thought how fun it must be to work there. Yes, it is fun, but it’s the hardest job I ever had. There’s a chance that I may get picked up as a permanent part-time worker after January 7 when the gig is up, and I’m hopeful that I do. How can that happen? Go. Spend. Your. Money. Thank you!

I am optimistic about 2014. I’d like to weave a work life of substitute teaching, freelancing and customer service at Costco. Once 2014 kicks in and I’m no longer working 48 hours a week at the big box, I’ll start focusing on my triathlon training again, focusing on the May 31, 2014, Kona Half Ironman with a few other triathlons to help me gauge my progress.

I am grateful for my husband and my daughters for their confidence and love. I can’t imagine having a better family. 

One of my strong suits has always been empathy. For that reason I often wondered why I had to have this year of humility to reflect on other intangible qualities generated by my heart and soul. I’m still not sure why, but I am confident that I will put it all to good use. 

Please keep me in your thoughts so that my 2014 is much better. Mahalo. 


New Frontiers

Confess your passion, your secret fear. Prepare to meet the challenge of the new frontier.

– Donald Fagen, The New Frontier

I make it a point to grow where I am planted, to find the joy in each day, to try and keep a smile on my face here and in public. I know that if you fake it, you can eventually bake that smile onto your face and right into your psyche to become that go-to point of positivity for your world.

I had applied to work at Costco four times since I got shoved into the unemployment line back in April. Most big companies employ an on-line process to screen applicants, so this year I quickly got used to sending a piece of my soul into the Internets from three times a week to sometimes three times a day.

Good-bye cover-letter-resume-combo info packet…

Whenever I’d get a call for an interview, I’d get very happy and excited. If I got to meet with people, I could tell INSTANTLY whether it was going to happen. One time I was brave enough to say that I could tell this wasn’t going to work out, thanked them and left. In and out before the 30-minute free parking clock ran out. After a while you get really tired of the BS dance. Why fake it?

In under two hours after I sent my last application to Costco, I got a call from the store that’s less than 10 minutes from home. I had four interviews over a few days. I had to pass a background check and a drug test for a seasonal part-time position. With that kind of investment, I hope they hire me permanently. As a Costco shopper, I always thought it would be great to have a job like that. After having a job where my writing is OK one day but not the next, I was ready for a job that didn’t have me coming home each night demoralized and sad.

It’s been almost a month since I started and I’ve not worked less than 36 hours a week. I enjoy it, but it’s very hard. Some coworkers seem skeptical about my ability to cope with the workload. At first my legs would ache with the running around or standing at the tables folding merchandise, but the ache would be gone in the morning, thanks to my triathlon training. When I was sent out to round up carts from all over the parking lot, I got a feel for hard labor in the hot sun or pouring rain. I have graduated from pushing seven carts at a time to eight. I have a garbage bag hooked onto a belt loop, and I wear my garden gloves to make picking up the glop left in carts more bearable. I believe in hard work, and I enjoy the contemplation this job gives me. I’ve made a point of returning found items to the front desk, logging them in so someone can come in and claim it.

What I like about Costco is that no one is too good for any one job. And that makes it a hugely wonderful place to work — where the managers will join me outside because I can’t get carts to the front door fast enough. It’s a great problem to have — shoppers eager to spend and willing to wait by the front door as you approach with a few hundred pounds of steel on wheels.

This certainly has been a big change for me. Some of my old friends, former colleagues and fellow school moms see me at Costco and are stunned. Some old friends see me and just keep on going. It’s OK. I need to work but heck if I’m ever going to work at a job that doesn’t make me happy. With all the time we spend working, you might as well get a kick out of what you do. This is why I also decided to become a substitute teacher out here for East Oahu DOE schools. Talk about the new frontier. Kids are interesting and they need to know that. And I’m back to freelance writing, mostly getting published in Hawaii Business Magazine. It’s nice that somebody out there thinks I can string a few words together.

The Teacher is the Student

Unemployment has run out. I’m working at Costco Hawaii Kai as a seasonal hire, which I hope to turn into a permanent position in January when the job ends. I have never worked so hard in my life. I lift, push, pull and run. I clean bathrooms. I sell Versace handbags. I especially like running into friends and I also like when total strangers engage with me because of my name tag. So, I hope that will be a job I get to continue to enjoy. When I go to work my husband says, “Have a nice workout!”

The teacher's work table.

The teacher’s work table.

But I’m also doing something else. Upon advice from friends in the know, I revamped my resume yet again and attached it to copies of my substitute teacher certificate and evidence of passing my TB test. They also recommended that I hand deliver my resume to the schools I want to work at and request I be put on their preferred list. I did that this morning.

I went to three grammar schools in East Oahu: Koko Head, where I personally know the principal; to Kamiloiki, where I am an unknown; and to Hahaione, whose principal I know at a distance. I also went to Kaiser High. The acting principal, Justin Mew, signed my paperwork in August approving my enrollment in the course while he was the principal at Niu Valley Middle School.

And then I crossed my fingers. And I wondered if I would like being a substitute. I consider myself young at heart and a free spirit. How would that work with teenagers?

Unicorn bones.

Unicorn bones.

About 20 minutes after I dropped off my resume at Kaiser, I got a call from the art teacher asking me to come in because he was feeling sick. I stuttered, asked a few questions and said yes, throwing all of my other plans aside, even the one where I pick up Kid2 at school at 2:15.

Students' work.

Students’ work.






Art students. Talk about free spirits. As I waited in the room for them to show up, I looked around. I had to find out about emergency procedures, exits, bathrooms and room rules. I was fascinated by the work that surrounded me. This teacher is a proponent of expression without restriction. He encourages his students to work through the mistakes and to work the mistakes into the final work as those flaws speak to the artist and to the observer.

Talk about speaking to my heart! This is what has to happen to me? I get called on the spot and put in a classroom to learn how to relax and write?

Old style bikes and chickens.

Old style bikes and free-range chickens, the unofficial mascot of Kaiser HS.

As a writer I edit myself into a straight jacket. You know why.

The students were generally well behaved. I’m sure they took advantage of my newness, but I stayed engaged, walked around and observed while they painted, and wrote down in my notes to the teacher who did the work and who didn’t, just because.

Visiting Hokule’a

Hokule'a docked in Koko Marina. Koko Crater in the distance.

Hokule’a docked in Koko Marina. Koko Crater in the distance.

Hokule’a. Ho-ku-lay-uh. That is how you say the name of the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s sailing vessel currently on an educational tour around Hawaii as a precursor to its very ambitious sail around the world that begins in May 2014. When Hokule’a was scheduled to dock at Hawaii Kai Towne Center in Koko Marina on Friday, October 25, one of Kid2′s teachers arranged for her students to tour the vessel. She needed chaperones and drivers. It was an opportunity I could not pass up.

Crew members talk about life on the Hokule'a.

Crew members talk about life on the Hokule’a.

I drove three groups of very well-behaved students from Niu Valley Middle School to the shopping center and back. I toured the vessel with my first and third groups. I had only planned on going on board once, but after the first time I wanted to know more. I guess you could say I was one of the more excited ‘students’ there that day.

Mrs. Chang, the students’ teacher, had us all remove our shoes outside the dock before boarding. She calmed the excited kids (and adults) and turned to face the crew that was greeting us to chant an  ‘oli,’ a poem-prayer-plea-song-greeting to invoke our respect and desire to board. Representatives of the crew welcomed us with their response sung in Hawaiian.

Let the chicken skin begin.

Students learn about the Hokule'a.

Students learn about the Hokule’a.

Never in all my days did I ever think that I’d have a chance to board the Hokule’a. Many of us who live in Hawaii know of its background, the purpose of its first voyage in 1976 to Tahiti — to prove Hawaiians could have sailed great distances long ago using only the stars and ropes to navigate. And let’s face it, I’m not Hawaiian. I always felt that the Hokule’a, the Polynesian Voyaging Society, and all things native in the state of Hawaii were things I should keep at a respectful distance. I completely understand the desire for Native Hawaiians to protect, preserve and sustain their culture. I am eager to learn and to know, but I do not want to intrude. I, like many people, know that there was more to Hokule’a than the phrase, “Eddie Would Go.” I cannot stress enough how huge this opportunity was for someone like me. I may never get to sail on Hokule’a, but I know its importance to inspire future generations of explorers — on the ocean, around the globe and into space.

That’s why this tour of the Hokule’a is mostly for the keiki. While on board with the seventh graders, I asked a few questions to “pop the cork” and to tip the kids into asking questions of their own, from “Where do you go to the bathroom?” to “Is there a refrigerator?” to “How can I join a voyage?”

Solar panels to power the lights required for night sailing are a modern embellishment.

Solar panels to power the lights required for night sailing are a modern embellishment.

The Hokule’a is beautiful. Made of plywood, resin and fiberglass, the double-hulled, twin-mast vessel is 61.5-feet long and 15.6-feet at beam. It is steered by a long paddle and has no auxiliary motor. A modern embellishment is its solar panels used to power its lights required for night sailing, and to power a few high tech items, including a laptop used for journaling and updating the website. Ropes are everywhere. Knowing knots is a requirement among her crew.

Bruce Blankenfeld gives a captivating talk to the students.

Bruce Blankenfeld gives a captivating talk to the students.

Crew Training Navigator Bruce Blankenfeld of Niu Valley mesmerized the students as he held up his hands and showed them how to position the stern and the ropes to navigate by the stars. He showed them how to tie a basic bowline knot while discussing what kind of candidates make great crew members. He talked about how different birds were indicators of where they were, even if there was no land ho. Gently, Blankenfeld encouraged the students to aspire toward their dreams. Knowledge is power. Know math, astronomy, oceanography, geography, zoology. Know compassion. Be resilient. Be resourceful. Go with the flow. Deal with the unexpected. Rejoice in the accomplishments of the crew. Support those who struggle. Batten down the hatches when a storm rolls through. Secure your harness to the boat and ride it out. Survive. Accomplish. And always keep in mind those who’ve sailed on Hokule’a before. All eyes on deck were on Blankenfeld, inspiring storyteller, experienced sailor and fisherman.

And then it was time to explore. Down into the bunks where the crew sleeps. around the deck, taking pictures with their camera/phones, posing with the each other and the crew members. Finally, Blankenfeld had the keiki circle the mast and help him drop one of Hokule’a’s triangle sails. The ropes were untied, and hand over hand, the tanned sail filled with the breeze that at that moment launched a few dozen imaginations across the seas.

Please visit hokulea.org to learn so much more about the 2014 voyage, the Polynesian Voyaging Society and the history of Hokule’a and low-tech ocean navigation. You can also make a tax-deductable donation of $10 or more at the site. For $50 you will receive a member T-shirt.

Below are the videos of the oli to board the vessel and of the children helping with the sail.

Riding with a seasoned triathlete and Kona IM finisher.

I had the opportunity to ride with Lori McCarney yesterday. Here are our stats and the map of our cycling voyage.

A few weeks ago the words “Lori McCarney, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN,” were recited as she crossed the finish line in Kona. So, yeah, you could say she’s one of the superhero moms in my world. Thanks to a lot of hard work to QUALIFY  – because lottery entries had not yet begun — Lori was in Ironman Kona in 2009, but fell short of her goal when the clock ran out and the finish line was in sight. Heartbreaking. This video really wrenches your gut.

Lori and I in our TryFitness kits.

Lori and I in our TryFitness kits at Makapu’u Lookout. What a beautiful day and ride!

When I first met Lori about two years ago, I couldn’t tell what she was about. But as I go to know her, I became a believer in her positive spirit and personal drive. Lori doesn’t keep secrets and willingly shares training tips. Yesterday we discovered that we were riding with the same tires, Continental Grand Prix 4000s. Her Cervelo is such a little Maserati. I have bike envy, that’s for sure.

Sometimes Lori and I share age groups, sometimes we don’t. But that never matters to her. Lori gets it. Her training and goals are different from mine and everyone elses, but she believes there are plenty of wins to go around when she shares ideas and tips that help people like me cross their finish lines.

For yesterday’s ride I promised clear roads along the Ka Iwi Coast because of the road construction. Wrong! Construction makes progress and the one-lane closures weren’t there, so neither were our opportunities to ride without vehicles along this narrow and precarious curvy stretch of road with minimal shoulders. But we did it. Plan B was to go back along Heartbreak Hill and to ride through the Hawaii Kai farm lands out to Hawaii Kai Drive to avoid the road construction on Lunalilo Home Road. Success! It was a smart choice.

Mahalo, Lori! Great ride. Let’s do it again!

The Perfect Ride

Today’s ride, stats, route: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/393279373.

I have always wanted to do this ride. But the roads in Waimanalo weren’t ever up to standard. Plus, I always worried about wild dogs and lawless humans who would attempt to take down a hot chick on a bike (me). When we did the Honolulu Century Ride last month, we discovered freshly paved roads in Waimanalo — the ones we always train on. Mahalo Mayor Caldwell. Can I suggest another little street?

As my husband and I were riding in the Century, I thought how training in this direction instead of toward Diamond Head just might work. Today I decided to give it a try. My first climb was up Hanauma Bay. The timing of the traffic for me going through the swirly curves around the Ka Iwi Coast was perfect. The last truck behind me turned into the Koko Head District Park shooting range and the road was all mine until I passed Sandy Beach.

I headed toward Makapuu, took a little break, a lousy picture, sucked on a PowerGel and decided to throw caution to the barely there Kona winds and head toward Waimanalo. I spotted the Hokulea resting offshore at Waimanalo Beach Park. So that was cool.

The Hokulea at rest off Waimanalo Beach Park. Kid2 and her class will visit it at Koko Marina this Friday.

The Hokulea at rest off Waimanalo Beach Park. Kid2 and her class will visit it at Koko Marina this Friday.

No dogs, plenty of free-range chickens. An old Hawaiian dude waved to me from his garage. Other cyclists had the same idea as I was never 100 percent alone. The skies were gray, the air was still and the birds deep in the valley cathedral sang quite heavenly. A very nice contemplative ride. The Perfect Ride.

Beach Baby

Barnacle Ball on the beach today. I touched it to see it was rubber. Didn't see any glass balls. It sure was windy! I was ready for anything!

Barnacle Ball on the beach today. It was rubber.

Took my girls to Sherwood Beach today in Waimanalo. It was quite deserted. The wind howled, squalls whipped in from the sea, and beautifully bubbly marine blue man-o-war were everywhere. The sun peeked through the clouds. I had to get some sand running in, my new favorite way to keep in touch with my inner whimpy runner.

We parked The Forever Van under the ironwoods and before I could shut the back hatch, Kid2 was up to her waist in waves, bobbing up and down, goggles holding down her curls and protecting her eyes from the salty sea spray. Kid1 followed with a boogie board that launched into the air like a kite while she tried to hold onto it in with the leash.

I loaded down the chair with our beach bag of towels and slid my arms into the cords of my mini backpack — a giveaway from one of my races. Inside were our three iPhones, two wallets, my reading glasses and a bandana. We don’t leave our valuables laying around. When I run I honestly don’t even feel the bag or its contents bouncing around on my back. The wind is so intense I do what I can to keep my visor on my head. I watch the sand for the spots of blue, I look around at the people, I watch the waves and take my turns running in the water, on the mud, or on the soft, dry sand.

Twice my legs got entwined in man-o-war tentacles. By the time I finished my second of three laps, the girls had decided there were too many man-o-war, it was too windy, and here comes the rain. Argh. Who are these sissies? My parents had to pry me off the beach when I was little. Heck, I could stay there all day, everyday, if I had my way!

This perplexes me. How are these girls my children? If it’s raining at the beach, you get wet, right? But you’re swimming in the ocean! It’s so cool to be in the ocean when it’s raining! The fresh water trickles down your face and it is a weird sensation to taste fresh water when you’re floating in the ocean. They were wearing long-sleeve jerseys to protect them from the sun and stings. Neither had been stung, but they still wanted to get out. I was really disappointed. I was ready to sit in my chair and enjoy being at the beach, just as I have done for as long as I can remember. When I got hot again, I’d run back into the water. It’s the way it’s done. Swim, drip dry, repeat.

It’s fall break for my girls who now have demanding social lives and obligations beyond hanging out with Mom. I’m OK with that. I will admit going to the beach alone is a lot easier than going with an entourage. But someday they’ll be gone for good and I’ll have plenty of solitary beach days. I know I’ll miss having their whiny sandy butts bickering in the back of The Forever Van, sweeping between their toes with the mini whisk brooms, burping their demanding iPhones, while I sit in the chauffer’s seat, with the wind blowing full throttle in the windows, taking whatever conversations they have out and far away.

I’ll collect shells and take pictures and send them emails signed:


The Forever Mom.