Muted Colors

Sunset

I used to live on an island vibrant with color, vivacious with life, and tucked safely in a watery cocoon of blue serenity and green bliss. I used to stare out at the greenish blues of the ocean all around me and feel comfort and peace, safety in remoteness, and a certain removal from the cliche mundane-ness of the daily grind. I was happy here. I felt safe from both petty crimes and “normal” life. I was comfortable.

Until Saturday….

The day started as many of our Saturdays do. Our children awoke first and played in their room, occasionally bringing us pretend coffee or plastic eggs from their little kitchen. The dogs paced by the door, waiting to be let out. HPR came on with the Saturday morning lineup. Me ignoring the Emergency Broadcast Alert on my phone because it usually meant high waves or flash floods, neither of which affect us much. After buzzing consistently and annoyingly, I finally reached over to check the alert, scanning it before closing it down. When I didn’t see what I expected to see, I bolted up, grabbed my glasses, and read the message again, this time out loud for my husband to hear.

Emergency Alert

I read that over and over, still not believing it was real. My husband jumped up and immediately went into action, filling the bath tubs and gathering our stockpile of emergency supplies. I jumped up too, threw on clothes, and started shutting windows and doors, screaming for the girls to come to me. They sensed our panic and cooperated, asking questions while I dressed them in leggings and shirts. I gathered them and the dogs into our designated safe space and started contacting people to get more information. I texted “Is this real???” to a few friends, and one responded “Yes,” because they were on one of the bases. The base shut down and they were told to leave and go north. I couldn’t believe this was happening. It was actually happening. We were being attacked…on a beautiful, Saturday morning.

THIS IS NOT A DRILL.

We waited, trying not to panic, in our space, pacing. The girls kept asking why would anyone want to fire bomb us and why were there bad people in the world. I knew we only had about 15 minutes before the missile would hit. I waited for it. I mentally and emotionally braced for the destruction that I believed in earnest was coming. After 15 minutes, no boom. I still waited, very much on edge, but now wondering. Nothing. I was screaming inside, thinking of my children, of all the families downtown, terrified. Would the missile miss and hit us on the hillside? Would it hit into the ocean, causing a tsunami? The journalist in me made a lousy attempt to persuade me to go outside and look down the hill towards Diamond Head, but the mother in me won without any real contest, and I stayed put in the safe place with my family.

THIS IS NOT A DRILL.

We continued to text friends to try to get real information. After 30 minutes of nothing, including no Big Voice siren and nothing on national news (we still had HPR playing), we were hopefully suspicious that it wasn’t real. Soon, Twitter confirmed our suspicions, but we waited in our safe place until we had official confirmation from local authorities.

As I stared out at the ocean during dinner that night, it didn’t look the same to me. The colors were off…not as vibrant as they used to be. It was like a thin, gauzy film danced delicately between my window and my view. Instead of feeling calmed by the seclusion, I felt trapped. The afternoon chirp of birds and geckos sounded mumbled, as if they too had shifted slightly in their comfort level. The once zesty oranges, fuchsias, and mauve of the sunset reminded more of detonating explosions and my heart lurched just remembering how I felt when I read THIS IS NOT A DRILL, having ignored it for precious, life-saving minutes. The romance of the island was quickly dying for me, morphing into a bewitching cage.

If someone had really launched a missile at us, we would have had no where to go, especially not in 15 minutes. All those people…so many people. Some people save their whole lives to take a vacation here. Honeymooners. Weddings. 50-year anniversary. Birthdays. People from all over the world come here to celebrate life. And that celebration of life was stolen from them, from all of us, on Saturday, by a careless mistake.

I’m afraid, though, that much more was stolen from me. I’m not sure I will be able to recover from this. Losing my family is one of my greatest fears, and I was not prepared. How can you ever be prepared for that? Some people say that this was a good “wake-up call” for people to get their emergency supplies together, but in reality, was it? We had our emergency supplies together along with a solid plan that we immediately activated. But our plan was for tsunamis or hurricanes, not ballistic missiles.

This was a wake-up call, though. It was a wake-up call that being attacked is not out of the realm of possibility, and if it happened, we would be entirely cut off from the rest of the country and the world. Isolated in our devastation. I thought I could live here forever, but now the gauzy veil of anticipated destruction is muting the colors. The Spirit of Aloha…is it still here? I can’t feel it. I only feel like I’ve been a fool to think that I could keep my family safe and out of international problems by living here. I try not to think about all the families, hard-working people, good, honest people, who were collateral damage in world conflicts. But I do think about them. I thought my family was special, different…but truly, what makes us exempt from being collateral damage? Saturday’s false alarm has provided me with one of the most consequential perspective shifts I’ve ever encountered, and I can’t predict how this will influence the rest of my life.

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“Behind Every Great Man…”

“…is an empty glass of scotch.” N.F.

glass of whiskey on dark wooden background

Well, that’s my contribution to the growing list of “Behind every great man…” quote corrections. I’m not surprised this saying, “Behind every great man is a great woman,” was adopted as a slogan for the feminist movement because back in the 60’s, women were starting from scratch, from not being recognized at all for our work or contributions. But have we seriously not progressed to a better preposition yet?

Recently, James received a promotion at work. We work at the same location but in different offices. All day, people congratulated me on his promotion, and that was great! Both, and all, of our successes are wins for our family. I reveled in the praise for him and felt very proud of his accomplishments. I know my strengths and that I am a force in my own right at work, and I know people know that.

However…

(You knew that was coming.)

However, my boss, a female half a generation older, said to me, “Congratulations to James! And to you, too, because as they say:

Behind every great man, there is a great woman!

I cringed.

I’ve been working for this lady for over two years now, and she is the happiest, most optimistic boss I’ve ever had. I hesitated for a full second before mumbling,

“Uhhh…I…uhhh…yeah. Okay, thank you.”

I wanted to yell at her. I wanted to say that I am not “behind” him, wilting in his shadow. I wanted to scream and accuse her of subtly reinforcing the mentality that our society subconsciously upholds on women. But I didn’t because I knew she didn’t mean it as an insult but as the compliment it used to be. It would have been rude to meet her praise with my personal distaste for a word choice.

I am very proud of my husband, but I like to think we are a team and that we support each other hand-in-hand, side-by-side, either of us shuffling wherever we need to go for the overall benefit of our family. And even though James doesn’t think of me as “behind” him, I love artist Rachel Wolchin’s quote in The Fameless, best:

Rachel Wolchin

“Behind every great man…” quote by Rachel Wolchin

 

I am very happy that our society is finally recognizing many of the women who were just as, or even more, brilliant, generous, educated, skilled as their husbands, bosses, or male counterparts. (I’m looking at you, Hidden Figures.) And even though that phrase is still floating around, we are definitely recognizing that the best way for all of us to succeed as a society is to work together, giving honor and recognition where it is due.

“Behind every great man is a host of mistakes he has learned from.” N.F.

Related reading: Behind Every Great Man: The Forgotten Women Behind the World’s Famous and Infamous by Marlene Wagman-Geller and the June 2017 OverDrive #BigLibraryRead selection The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict

The Other Side of Discipline

In my childhood, I always thought it was easy for my parents to dish out punishment.  They made it seem so easy.  There were a couple of times in my life when my mom whispered sadly, “This will hurt me more than it will hurt you,” but come on!  Southern parents like to say that, and then they proceed to spank you anyway, seemingly gleefully.  As kids, we would joke that if it hurt them so badly, why did they do it?

I could go on about spankings.  How I feel about them now greatly differs from how I was raised and how I thought I would feel about them as a parent.  But tonight…tonight was a discipline night, and now I truly get how it could hurt my mom to punish us.

N is about two and a half now, and she’s a smart little cookie.  My husband and I came to the realization tonight that she is pooping in her pull-up/panties at home by choice.  She has flawless potty days at school and when she was with the babysitter two nights ago, she asked to go poop in the potty.  She knows what to say and what to do.  She can take herself to the potty and wipe pretty well for a two year old.  So when she stunk up the house tonight with her giant pull-up full of poo, we were upset and knew we had to do something drastic.  So we sent her straight to bed.

 

Ooooo, big punishment!  Yes, I hear your jeers.  But N’s bedtime routine is a sacred ritual.  Whether it is me or my husband, we read her a story (or two or three), she picks her bedtime music, we say prayers, turn off the lights, and then she curls up in my lap and drifts peacefully to sleep while I recount stories of my childhood.  This is a precious ending to both of our days, and it is just her time.  No baby.  Just N time.  I knew we had to do something drastic to get across to her that pooping in her pull-up is not okay, but this punishment of going straight to bed alone was almost more than I could bear.

 

N cried forever…

Sad goodnight

Forever.

For the first few minutes, James and I just sat in our room staring at each other.  If Baby J hadn’t been asleep in my arms, I probably would have caved, fled to N’s room and showered her with hugs, kisses, and apologies.  But I had to be strong.  Her cries became more and more desperate, and every time she pleaded “Momma”, my heart plummeted even further.  As tears began to fall down my own face, James intervened.  He offered me strength, a nightcap, and adult conversation.  We worked on our summer and Christmas vacation plans to the painful symphony of N’s gut-wrenching sobs.

 

Soon forever passed, and all was quiet.

 

James admits that he was quite surprised by my choice of punishment, and hopefully it was worth it.  We’ll see tomorrow.  I know she will survive and will still love and need me, but this glimpse of life on the other side of discipline was brutal.  I always thought I would be the strict parent, but I must build a stronger stomach if I’m going to help us raise (and not hinder us from raising) these two girls properly.  Even though it does hurt more, I have to adjust to being on the other side of discipline now.

The Last Minutes

Illustration of a businesswoman worried out of time

I do believe that this is my first post of the year, and it begins with “Last Minutes”.  Sounds foreboding, but it isn’t, really.  I’m actually in the very early stages of labor right now, yes, during the Super Bowl, and I want to write a few posts before Baby J is born.  I’ve come to terms with the fact that I am not going to get “a few” posts in, but I had to write AT LEAST one.  I honestly and truly wanted to post this whole pregnancy, but how does one find the time?  No, really?  How do you do it?  If you’re married and you and your spouse both work full-time and you have other children and you have a fairly active social life, please tell me how you have time to write  (if that’s your thing) or do any other hobbies. I need some tips. 🙂

 

Anyway, that’s not why I’m here today.  I’m here today to write a little bit about this new, incoming, baby girl.  I’ve posted a few times about our now toddler, N, and life is very fun with her.  She is growing and developing well and is quite the techno toddler.  I’m always amazed by what she can do: unlock my cellphone and make specific phone calls, change movies in the player and start the new movie, turn her little netbook on, sign in, and type her name (along with a bunch of gibberish), call up the command prompt on my computer and run tasks in Russian that would destroy my computer if my husband didn’t catch her in time.  And she’s TWO! Amazing. I wonder how much of it is this generation and how much of it is her being just like my husband?

 

I also wonder how Baby J will be.  Will she be more of the creative type, like me, or another techno baby, like my hubby and N?  Will she be drama or will she be shy?  Will she be stubborn, sweet, or another bossy pants?  I also wonder if she’ll be another sugar cookie like N or a chocolate chip cookie, like me?  Will her hair be super curly and brown or wavy and black or medium curly and reddish?  Will she have hazel eyes like her dad or brown eyes like me and N?  I wonder….

BABY_32

I can hardly ever tell anything from ultrasounds pictures, but we saw one picture the week before last in which we could actually see her face clearly (she usually covers her face with little fists).  She looked so sweet!  She had full, pouty lips and a sweet, round face, and even though it’s impossible, she looked more brown to me lol.  Either way, now is the time, and we will be headed to the hospital at any moment.  I hope to be able to write again sooner rather than later.  (I actually have a lot to share.)  Wish us luck!

Gated

Growing up, my momma would impress upon me the importance of being put-together when you leave the house.  “Never walk out the door with rollers in your hair because you never know who you might run into,” that kind of stuff.  For the most part, I listened.  As a teenager, I did leave the house for church in pink, fluffy houseshoes one Sunday, but that was a complete and utterly embarrassing mistake.  However, when I left the house for the neighborhood park this past Wednesday, my un-put-togetherness was intentional.  Four velcro rollers: two standing, two lying flat

I didn’t have rollers in my hair (that would have been just blatant disobedience), but I was definitely not looking my best.  I had had a long day at work and really just wanted some fresh air and for N to get some exercise.  This was our first time taking her to the park in our neighborhood (because she’s still a wobbler and can barely play on the “big kid” slides and ladders), and I honest-to-goodness was not thinking about who I would meet.  I didn’t bother brushing down the random puffs of hair that had lost the battle to frizziness.  I didn’t change N out of her food-soiled clothes from daycare, nor did I brush and re-bow her also unruly curly hair.  I just threw on running shorts, a t-shirt, and running shoes, put baby in the stroller, and walked to the park with James (who was going for a real run), ready to enjoy a nice, relaxing half hour at the little park with baby girl.

 

childhoodI saw her and her two daughters as soon as we rounded the corner.

It was difficult to miss the absolute put-togtherness of this mother, especially at this small park full of mostly unaccompanied elementary school kids.

 

Her daughters had on matching white, light cotton shirts with small navy blue anchors all over them.  And I didn’t see a tag so I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she made the shirts herself.  Their dark blonde hairs were practically immaculate for children at the park.  And all three of them looked very clean, well-fed, and happy…yes…quite put-together.  I decided at once that I would ignore her.

Ignoring her mostly worked, and I perceived, anyway, that she was not impressed by my awesome minimalist running shoes.  We danced around each other as we chased our children and stayed vigilant in protecting them from the bigger kids.  Eventually N found herself climbing up the slide as Mrs. Perfect’s youngest daughter was sliding down.  Great…conversation starter.

 

 

Me, “How cute.  What’s her name?”

Mrs. Perfect, with a polite smile and nod, “Thank you.  Daisy.  And that’s Petunia.  I just had to have two flowers.”

Me, “Nice.  I really like Daisy.  That’s a pretty name.”

[These aren’t the girls’ real names, by the way.]

Me, “How old is Daisy?”

P, “She’s 18 months.”7

Me, “Oh really?  N is 18 months also.  When is her birthday?”

P, “October 25th.”

Me, genuinely surprised, “Oh wow, same day.”

P (is that shy surprise or mild aversion?), “Oh, a birthday buddy.  How nice.”

 

Our eyes locked for a split second and we both instantly realized that this wasn’t going to work out.  She smiled.  I smiled.  We moved on, separated our girls on the slide, and went back to the busyness of protecting them.

A few moments later, our little girls were on a collision course, but because we’re both good mothers, we sacrificed our need to avoid awkward conversation in order to protect them.  After I grabbed and redirected N, I foolishly tried another attempt at getting to know this family that we already had some things in common with.

Me, “Do you bring your daughters here often?”

Perfect, “We haven’t, but we’d like to.  I like to bring them here to ride their bikes on the courts because it’s just too hilly where we live.”

Me, “Oh sure, of course.  The whole area is very hilly.”

P nodded.

Me, “We live just a few blocks over and we can’t really ride our bikes, either.”

P, “Oh we live that way, too, in Oceanview.”  <pause for effect and drama>

“It’s the GATED community,” she added with a very, very slight smirk (that I could have imagined) and an even slighter (but real) nod towards me.

Me, “Yes.  I know Oceanview,” I mumbled and took that as my cue to leave.

 

I spent the rest of the time playing with my daughter until my husband returned from his run.  Not sure when Mrs. Perfect reappeared, but I found myself saying goodbye to her and her daughters as we fastened N in her stroller.  We shook hands and she said they were leaving too because the older kids were starting to get out of control (and they were).  She said she hoped we ran into each other again, but does she really hope that?

 

Security Gates

I have a few issues here that caused me to blog about this.  One, why did Mrs. Perfect mention that her community is gated?  Was she judging my all black workout attire and messy hair and sending me a message that there was no way we could be friends?  If she really knew anything about the area we live in, she’d know that the houses outside that gate are just as nice as the ones inside that gate.  Did she mention that tidbit because the gate is a cool feature?  Or was she sending me a clear sign of my inability to gain access to her friendship?  The off-handed way she said it leads me to believe that on some subconscious level, she had judged me and deemed me unworthy.

But there is so much that she doesn’t know about me, and that’s my second issue here.  Why didn’t I tell her?  Part of me was screaming all of our bragging rights out loud and impressing her with all of the cool stuff that we have and do.  Part of me wanted to show her that I WAS worthy, and that we COULD be friends.  I might look a hot mess right now, but I clean up well enough if you give me a chance.  I wanted to rub that smirk off her face and tell her that we have friends that live in the REAL gated community further up the hill (the gated community where the homes are $900,000 and above), and that her precious little Oceanview is just another middle class subdivision, just like all of the other subdivisions around it.  (You don’t know how badly I wished we lived in 900+ville just so I could reply with something snarky.)  I wanted to make sure she knew that we didn’t live in the apartments but in an actual house.  I wanted to beat her judgment of me and prove myself with words.

 

But I didn’t do it.  I didn’t say anything.  I just decided, instead, that even if I could show her that I’m not that different, even if I could surpass her first impression of me, the gate would still…and probably always…be there.