Lesson From the Timeout Year

A couple days ago Keola and I took a drive through Makawao and ended up parking at Paia Elementary School our way down Haleakala. It’s my favorite drive on Maui and I often get into a contemplative mood on that road.

And as many of us are doing, Keola and I began to reflect on this year and how it went and how we’ve grown. To our surprise, we realized that compared with 2010 (when Noweo was born in April, Keola graduated in May, my sister got married in Utah in August, we moved to Oregon in September and moved back to Hawaii in December), 2011 has been a quiet, reflective year. The time out year. Aside from moving to Maui in May, life has been slow and steady and filled with time to think. Precious time, valuable time. Life-changing time. 

For a while we looked at this lull as a punishment, torture. We’d roll our eyes when people asked about the job front and we’d say (with a loud sigh) that we’re STILL waiting. Then we ended up in a situation where we had to take care of our two nieces, and while we love them to death, it’s one thing to be their aunty and uncle, and another thing entirely to be their temporary mom and dad. We found ourselves desperately wanting that job that’d be our ticket out. 

But it’s the eve if New Years Eve, and over the months we’ve settled into this haphazard situation, and decided not to be victims of circumstance, and embraced this life. And when we stopped whining, we started learning.

We’ve learned to have a little more faith, that there’s a reason for everything we do and every situation we encounter.

We’ve learned to be patient, and wait for good things to come while savoring the now.

We’ve learned to accept it when things don’t go our way, dust ourselves off and move forward, never dwelling on what could have been.

We’ve learned that richness doesn’t come from having lots of money, but by using the money we have on the things that are most important to us.

We’ve learned that when it comes down to it, we’d rather have more time and less money than more money and less time.

We’ve learned that when we live to make others happy, we often end up making ourselves miserable.We’ve learned that we can’t make anybody do anything. We can only choose for ourselves.

We’ve learned that to get the most out of life, you have to take risks, leave yourself open to new possibilities, and learn from others, and don’t count yourself out.

Clearly, we needed this year. We needed to learn these things, to have them reinforced in our brains. We needed to regroup, plan, recalculate, and decide what we value and what we want from life, for ourselves and our children.

But now that the “time out year” is over, we are ready to take on whatever’s next, with a little more focus, clarity, hope and drive. Goodbye 2011.

Would You Like Some Frosting with your Cookies?

We made these sugar cookies last week. It was hard and involved with 2 energetic girls, but sooo worth it. 

This is Tornado. Can you think of a more appropriate name for this cookie? I can’t.
Sprinkles anyone?
Frosting.
Would you believe that the only cookie cutter we had was of a cactus? Does it get any more random than that? I think not.

I hope everyone had a terrific Christmas. Ours was mellow with presents and food and more food and family. Couldn’t have been any better. Still need to sort through Christmas pics. I’m pretty sure that I have about 30 shots of the back of Noweo’s head as I tried to get her to show me her gifts as she unwrapped them. Oh well…

Christmas and a Funeral

Last week we received the devastating news that an uncle passed away. Thus, I will be making a quick trip to Hilo for his funeral this morning and be back just in time to set out the milk and cookies for Santa. Yeah, it’s the worst possible time of year to lose a loved one but the best time of year to be with family, so I’m gonna go be with them now. Count your blessings and hold your loved ones close. You never know which second with them is your last. 
On a lighter note we made these a few days ago as part of our efforts to make Christmas merry. Later I’ll introduce you to a sugar cookie named Tornado.   I most likely will go silent until after Christmas, so have a cool Yule everyone! xoxo

Decking the Halls

We’ve had our tree up for a week or so, but as long as it’s not December 26, it’s not too late to post tree decorating pics. Love these little kiddies 🙂 Leilei started a new trend of piling 3-4 ornaments on one branch. Traditionally a big no-no (no bald spots!) but actually makes a big impact. We had to stage the pics of Noweo hanging ornaments. She couldn’t be less interested. I’m sure she’ll thank us later.

p.s. I’m using another super sweet iPad app I discovered called photoforge 2. The $1.99 Pop! Cam in app purchase is so worth it. I love all the added filters, lenses and textures, some of which I used here. It makes not so great photos look like they’re on purpose.

Tradition Lives: Mochi Pounding

For the second time since being married to Keola, I had the privilege of witnessing a traditional mochi pounding. The setting is different (not Japan), the clothes are different (no kimono) but everything else was the same: wooden rice cooker, large, hollowed out stones bowl, hefty wooden mallets. The men pounded the mochi in the stone bowl with sure hands (one pounding with the mallet, one turning the steaming hot rice (often bare-handed) to ensure a smooth texture (minus smashed fingers). The women took the freshly pounded mochi and hand rolled them into balls, sometimes filling then with the traditional azuki bean or the more contemporary (but divine) peanut butter or nutella (yum!)  

  As I sat there and watched these mostly Japanese men and women work, I couldn’t help but smile at the mothers and daughters, fathers and sons working together, their hands repeating a process that their ancestors brought from Japan a hundred years ago or more. I’m in awe (and in love) with the slowness of it, in a world where you can make mochi in amicrowave. Grandma had been soaking the rice for more than a day before it was steamed, hand pounded and hand rolled.  

  The unmistakable sense of community prevailed as each family brought their rice to pound and each took turns pounding while the children ran around the yard, pulling each other in red wagons and attempting to eat green tangerines. After the work, we shared a meal and good company, stuffing ourselves with Portuguese bean soup, stew, ham, salad and (of course) rice.  

  There is just something about keeping something old alive and coming together for a common goal. I am almost half Japanese, but my Japanese grandmothers married Hawaiians so the tradition didn’t continue in my family. I’m so glad that I’m married into a family that still carries on this tradition. For the descendants of immigrants who have adopted a new homeland, days like today keep culture alive.  

   

Making Christmas Merry

Has anyone else noticed that while the entire blogosphere is all hopped up on Christmas cheer, I haven’t written a single post about the upcoming holiday? It’s a week and a half away and we JUST got our tree up two days ago. Sad to say, I’ve barely done any Christmas-ing at all, and it’s not because of the weather. For some reason, I have a mental block on Christmas this year. I can’t bring myself to buy gifts, wrap anything, bake anything, craft anything. I think it has something to do with the fact that early next year, we’ll be hearing back from schools and finding out whether we’re moving back to the mainland or staying here in Hawaii. You all know how much I LOOOVE HATE waiting. So part of myself just wants to get THROUGH the holidays rather than enjoy them.    However, I’m getting a little too future focused, so between now and Christmas, I’m really going to put for my best effort to make Christmas spectacular for the kids in my life, especially since today is the last day of school, and they’ll be with us all day during the break.    Here are just some of my ideas: 
  1. Check out Maui Ocean Center / image credit: directory of maui  
  2. Stroll through some botanical gardens / image credit: Hawaii magazine
  3. Gawk at some Christmas lights / image credit: Christmas geek
  4. Bake some sugar cookies / image credit: moms who think
  5. Create some string ornaments / image credit: craft penguin
  6. And some paper ornaments / image credit: design sponge
  7. Build a ginger bread house / image credit: sweetopia
  8. Roll up some delicious caramel popcorn balls / image credit: the mother huddle
Hopefully all these little things will make me forget about the future for a little while and make the season memorable. How about you? Any big plans for Christmas Eve week?  

Around Here…

Around here we’re still cleaning up from the too-full suitcases that threw up in our bedroom. Around here we’re glad to be back on Maui, the place we realize Noweo has lived the longest. This really is home for her. She was a wreck most of the time in Hilo, being a “new-to-her” place with strange people (aka Grandma and Grandpa). Skype just doesn’t do them justice I guess. I learned an important lesson on how sensitive even the youngest children are to changes in their environment and vowed to work harder at keeping things as routine as possible for her, even though our life is kind of everywhere right now.
Around here I’m coming to acutely realize the need that Noweo has for a companion. Her cousins do a wonderful job filling in for #2 which I’m sure is anxiously waiting in heaven. She was so lonely in Hilo without kids to play with. As the oldest grandchild, I can relate.
Around here we’re waiting for job offers and school acceptance letters, but with none of the nervousness and desperation we had months ago. I think we’ve become expert waiters and go-with-the-flowers.
Around here we’ve been contemplating what gratitude means. Today we think it meanschoosing what God has given us, rather than just being subject to it. A lot of times we don’t want to accept the situations we’re in. We waste so much time waiting and dreaming of the next thing, of something better to come along and miss the blessings that are right under our noses. So starting today we are making the conscious effort to take advantage of every day, to take control of our lives and not be victims of a bad economy. We choose to work part time and enjoy time together as a family. We choose to help care for our nieces whose short lives are infinitely more troubled than ours. We choose to use this time in our lives to follow our passions, write more, eat better and exercise. We choose to enjoy living on (HEL-LO!) M-A-U-I, one of the top vacation destinations in the world. Up until now we’ve spent very little time exploring the island. When you’ve grown up in a place, you hardly get around sometimes. There is so much magic here and we need Noweo to experience that.
Around here, we are happy, content, close, loving, full of faith, and blessed. Truly.

around here

Around here we’re still cleaning up from the too-full suitcases that threw up in our bedroom. Around here we’re glad to be back on Maui, the place we realize Noweo has lived the longest. This really is home for her. She was a wreck most of the time in Hilo, being a “new-to-her” place with strange people (aka Grandma and Grandpa). Skype just doesn’t do them justice I guess. I learned an important lesson on how sensitive even the youngest children are to changes in their environment and vowed to work harder at keeping things as routine as possible for her, even though our life is kind of everywhere right now.

Around here I’m coming to acutely realize the need that Noweo has for a companion. Her cousins do a wonderful job filling in for #2 which I’m sure is anxiously waiting in heaven. She was so lonely in Hilo without kids to play with. As the oldest grandchild, I can relate.

Around here we’re waiting for job offers and school acceptance letters, but with none of the nervousness and desperation we had months ago. I think we’ve become expert waiters and go-with-the-flowers.

Around here we’ve been contemplating what gratitude means. Today we think it meanschoosing what God has given us, rather than just being subject to it. A lot of times we don’t want to accept the situations we’re in. We waste so much time waiting and dreaming of the next thing, of something better to come along and miss the blessings that are right under our noses. So starting today we are making the conscious effort to take advantage of every day, to take control of our lives and not be victims of a bad economy. We choose to work part time and enjoy time together as a family. We choose to help care for our nieces whose short lives are infinitely more troubled than ours. We choose to use this time in our lives to follow our passions, write more, eat better and exercise. We choose to enjoy living on (HEL-LO!) M-A-U-I, one of the top vacation destinations in the world. Up until now we’ve spent very little time exploring the island. When you’ve grown up in a place, you hardly get around sometimes. There is so much magic here and we need Noweo to experience that.

Around here, we are happy, content, close, loving, full of faith, and blessed. Truly.