Thoughts Become Reality

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One of my dear friends from childhood named Sue, someone with whom I can spend a total of 15 minutes with every five years and still have a perpetual connection with (thanks to Facebook and perhaps thanks to our spirits), often gives her friends daily spiritual vitamins upon which to reflect. Today it was something from Marianne Williamson:

On Meeting Limits with Unlimited Thought
Our power lies in meeting limited circumstances with unlimited thought. It is not what happens to us, but what we choose to think about what happens to us, that determines what will happen next.
If our circumstances tempt us to think thoughts such as, “I’m such a loser,” “I will never have another chance,” “It will take forever for this situation to right itself,” or “I hate whoever is to blame for this,” then miracles, though they are programmed into the nature of the universe, cannot make their way into our awareness. They’re in the computer, but we’re not choosing to download them. With every thought we think, we either summon or block a miracle.
It is not our circumstances, then, but rather our thoughts about our circumstances, that determine our power to transform them. We choose in life whether to live in victimization or in victory. We have power either way – power to use against ourselves, or power to use to free ourselves. The point is that we always have the choice, and it’s not always as simple as it appears.
– Marianne Williamson

This hits on several areas in my life. First of all, I think it is a miracle that I have such a great husband and these two lovely daughters who care and love me so much. I do not love myself as much as they do. I should. I need to work on that constantly.

Secondly, while it is such a gift to be a freelance writer and to write articles in my shady and private backyard office, it gets a little tough when the checks take a long time to come in. It’s not that stable. That’s why I am a substitute teacher (believe me, having the summer off with my family has been GREAT! School starts Friday. Yay!). So I’m happy to be writing, it helps me stay relevant as a journalist, and it keeps me in touch with my community and people who are important. But honestly, I feel like I need a miracle every month to stay solvent, which is why I still send out my resume. There must be a few hundred versions of it out there right now.

Finally, being a triathlete is crazy. As a kid I loved to swim, bike and run around. I didn’t have my children until I was past 40, so I could do all kinds of things for a long time before they were born. But after they were born, I got sluggish and fat and that also makes your self esteem and soul turn to mush. At 50 I started to do triathlons. Do I train to win? Of course I do! Do I win? No. Not unless everyone else is out of town doing full-blown Ironmans or other endurance events. I try really hard to do my best. During my last half Ironman, which was Honu in Kona a few months ago, I struggled during my ride and my run. The self talk was all about “never again.” Thank goodness I had friends along the course who interrupted me with their cheers and support. I would have happily fallen into a lava tube to die. When I finished just minutes before the clock wound down, it felt like a miracle. And it was, woven by the voices of friends, the unbearable heat that I wanted to get away from, the desire to be done with it.

Reprogramming myself to understand that my thoughts control the gate through which miracles arrive is difficult, but it makes sense. If I want to attract something wonderful and fulfilling or even a conversation with someone I want to spend time with, I have to appear ready, I have to be available, and I have to be receptive.

Thinking positively. Peace.

The Young

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The school year is swiftly coming to close with the end in sight: May 29. What an education this has been for me!

I don’t regret signing on as a substitute teacher for the Hawaii Department of Education, although I do have moments when I feel the attention span of children is about as easy to grip as greased rope. At the moment, I’m in a prep period for a teacher for whom I’ve subbed four days now. The class is quiet. The windows open to a densely wooded area and I am now hearing a bird sing. I wonder what it is?

The seventh-grade students in my science classes have been working on a PowerPoint presentation, based on one of five chapters in their text. Essentially, they create the project to teach the chapter. It’s a good stay-busy project. I showed them how to piece out the work into separate slides and to follow the end-of-chapter review to be sure they included all they needed in their presentations.

But I’m not here to babysit or pontificate. I’m here because part of me is still that kid in school who didn’t quite get it all right. I think I’m looking for me. I think I’m looking to help a kid make the right decision about her future. I know now that doing homework means you will be equipped to meet future deadlines. That keeping up with the studies means that the future will deliver something wonderful. Something. Wonderful. Something. Wonderful.

End daydream here.

They work on Apple laptops. I would imagine for about five minutes it was fun to take off computer keys and rearrange the letters into cuss words. But, since these students have never learned how to type QWERTY style, their hunt and peck is frustrating, and the joke is now on them. Brilliant. Will next year’s seventh graders know better? One would hope. I told the office about the computers. There’s a few weeks of school left and who knows if they’ll be refurbished or replaced?

Keys swapped and missing from laptops.

Keys swapped and missing from laptops.

I offered to edit the PowerPoints and fewer than half took me up on it, and each of them was glad they did. I talked to them about using bullets and art to break up big blocks of text. I told them about citing their work and creating a proper bibliography for their final slide. It’s important to me that their teacher feel as though I did more than babysit.

Early this week, three of the boys had “In School Suspension.” Apparently, when a duck flew into their math classroom, they let out their hoots and the substitute reported them. I think my perspective is much different. If there’s an uproar I usually separate the hooligans. If they persist, I give them an opportunity to come to the front of the classroom so everyone can pay attention to them. All of a sudden, no one’s a stand-up comic. It usually settles everyone down. It’s my favorite tactic.

Last night I attended the academic achievement awards ceremony at Kaiser High School, where my Kid1 is a sophomore. I am so pleased for her and proud of her. She was recognized for being a straight-A student, and for her achievements in math and social studies. She runs around with a cerebral crowd, plays viola in the orchestra, and explains youth vernacular to me. Our mailbox and emails are overflowing with queries from colleges and universities eager to enroll her. It is humbling and amazing to me. What’s it like to be her?

I relate more to students who don’t do well in school. When I was their age, I only succeeded in classes where I could write my way into good grades, so I took advantage of that. Math, science and foreign languages were difficult. So when I’m substituting these students, they have no idea how I can relate to their feeling disconnected to the subject. To them I’m an adult in front of the class. For me, it’s more than a babysitting gig. I want to help ignite eureka moments.

The Curly Peg in a Straight and Square World


It has always been the case, and at this stage in my life, I’ve accepted it better than anyone else in the world — I don’t quite fit here, there, just about everywhere. My husband gets it, so that makes me one of the luckiest and happiest women alive.

Do not marry a man who does not get you.

Because. Because the rest of the world doesn’t. I’m OK with it. I’m at peace with it. I do not need the world to get me. I do not need to fit into anyone’s mold. I do not fit in a cube nor a corporate mold. I question authority and sometimes in the past I’ve actually suspected my bosses to be as dumb as boxes of rocks. Sucking up embarrasses me and it embarrasses me to witness sucking up  by others. The people being sucked up to? How do they live with themselves?

So there’s that thing called Hell. It’s either here on earth or somewhere after you die. Mine is here. Thanks. Because when I die it won’t be there. Love that.

This week I tried my best to complete an article but it required massive sucking up and as you might know by now, by this paragraph, by knowing me in real life or virtually, that I am not one for kissing ass. It felt absolutely liberating to walk away. Anything that requires me to be something or experience something that I cannot embrace is just not worth it. Rediculous. Principles, people. Have principles.

Your zone is golden and I need a secret password to enter?

Did it ever occur to you that it doesn’t matter?

Be yourself. I’m living proof that you’ll survive. It’s a bumpy life, but it’s living.

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. 

 

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.

My Third Metric: Writing for You and Me.


Yesterday the automatic payment to renew my WordPress website was charged to my credit card. Lavagal.net is a blog that has yet to make any money. It wasn’t really designed to make any money, but I figured that it would generate the feel-good currency of followers, hits, comments and pitches. I believe this blog has value. The value increases every time I draw in a reader who finishes an entry to the end, gives my words some thought and takes a step toward being healthy, making something delicious to eat, or thinks about getting married.

As a free-lance writer, it’s important that my words provide a return on investment. So I hope my blog also will lead to writing assignments. My experience as a former newspaper reporter, business writer, and corporate writer helps, too. I am grateful.

As a free-lance writer, my income is sparse and scattered. I’ve learned to live with less. I am married so I do have a safety net.

As a free-lance writer, there is no choice. I’m forced to adjust my economic sails to embrace this thing called the Third Metric, where people are encouraged to put personal preservation above material goods, money and power. The Third Metric is a big deal on the Huffington Post website, but I find it ironic that people with money and power are telling the rest of us that focusing on money and power will destroy us, or something like that. Well, I’ll take money to pay for Kid1&2’s college bills in a few years, to complete some projects around the house and to take a trip once a year. Please don’t tell me I should embrace life with less money when money pours into your accounts at rates beyond my comprehension. Don’t.

So that’s why I’m a lonely voice in the Aloha State who thinks hitching my blog to HuffPostHawaii for no return on investment is a no-win situation. Obviously, I didn’t make the list for the big party the other night, and I had to get off social media so I wouldn’t have to see all my friends’ updates and Instagrams about the emperor’s new clothes.

This blog is awesome. When the HuffPostHawaii idea was first floated, I got in touch with the editor and she liked lavagal.net. But I’m not a college student, a beginner 20- or 30-something in communications, or a full-time public relations executive who can write her little blog on the side for free.

I have to respect my skill, my words, my work. I cannot give them away for free.

I understand that not all bloggers are journalists, traditionally. Not all bloggers went to journalism school like I did. Some bloggers stick to their interests such as anime, recipes, fashion, music and sports. Blogging is a way to journal about what’s going on. It may or not get hits.

But for me, blogging and writing professionally go hand-in-hand. I cannot help but reflect on current events, such as the time there was a shooting near Kalani High School on Kalanianaole Highway a few years ago.

I know that my blog entries connect with plenty of people in and out of Hawaii. This is real life. The flow of lavagal is decidedly different from the silly scratch-the-surface stuff you might find about Hawaii on some other big, shiny and pretty website. I hope you’ll agree.

Mahalo for reading.

Love, Me.

Writing for fuel and profit.


When Civil Beat announced that it will be partnering with Huffington Post and that there will be a site dedicated to the Islands called HuffPost Hawaii, I was excited. I’m looking for work, I’m a former Honolulu Advertiser and Pacific Business News reporter, I’ve been freelancing since the early 1990s, and I try to keep my writing chops sharp with my blog and by staying up to date with current events through the Internet and the world of social media.

Soon word got out that HuffPost Hawaii was looking for bloggers. I thought that maybe lavagal.net would be worthy of such a great opportunity. Maybe I could finally cash in on my words. Since I began the blog in 2008 I’ve accumulated a lot of subscribers, it gets plenty of hits each week, and some people actually share my blog! That’s all very gratifying. I can look at a map of my hits and see that people from all over the globe have found lavagal.net. They might be looking for something to do with Hawaii, a recipe, something to do with triathlons or motherhood, or maybe they want to know about the darker subjects I’ve covered such as that period where I felt like my phone number previously belonged to a drug dealer.

With a few emails I managed to get my blog before Patti Epler, the editor at Civil Beat. Patti responded, said she liked my content there and said that HuffPost Hawaii could definitely use the blog for the site, which will be live in September. She attached the guidelines to her email and I told her I’d be back in touch after I checked them out.

So here’s the nail in my “I’ll-never-write-in-this-town-again coffin,” which is a drag because I do believe I would be a great writer for some outfit here in Honolulu. The HuffPost Hawaii guidelines say:

“…You don’t get paid, but you get access to our highly engaged audience and a forum to share your views and express your opinions and ideas. You also get exposure, so promote yourself!…”

Well, shoots. I already don’t pay myself for writing lavagal.net. I get engagement, I post updates to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I do get pitches for ads on my site and maybe I should start considering them. But here’s the thing about lavagal.net: It’s purely me, it’s fun, it goes in any direction I want it to take, it gives you something to think about, it makes some people happy, it makes some people laugh, and it makes some people mad. And since I pay the annual fee I get to decide what comments are public and I make sure the spam about erection direction or secret love cam links never surface.

What’s the deal HuffPost Hawaii?

  • Does any working journalist think that anyone should contribute content anywhere for free?
  • Does any ethical journalist think it is OK to suggest that writing at no charge for exposure and writing without pay for the glory of a byline and writing for free just to get experience is legitimate?
  • If you are no longer a college student or beyond considering an internship, and if you are raising a family like me, writing isn’t for fun, it’s for fuel and profit.

As we see what bloggers decided to sign on to the HuffPost Hawaii gravyless train, keep in mind that not a single one of them will be paid. And keep in mind that not a single one of them has any self esteem.

Here was my response: 

Patti:

I would need tangible compensation in order to participate. I’m worth more than zero, and I do believe journalists and bloggers shouldn’t allow themselves to be used for the privilege of gaining national exposure. If you like me and my site enough to pay for it, then I’d be happy to discuss.

I’m disappointed, but I know I made the right decision. Pass the Cup Noodles, children.