Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanks, Mom

On this day of the year, we make a collective effort, as a society, to be mindful of the people, circumstances and things in our lives that we are grateful for.  Despite the varying view points surrounding the actual origin of this particular American tradition in regards to its Native inhabitants, I think that the focus on expressing and feeling gratitude is a beautiful thing and one that is often neglected in our hectic daily lives.

As with most women, the holidays are often a mark of a season of "busyness". There are menus and dishes to prepare, sentiments and gifts to share, lists to make, people to get to, houses to clean and, inevitably, pounds to shed at the start of the new year.  My hubby and I have tried to pare down the craziness this year by keeping things simple and focusing on improving something in our home as a family. We decided to spend the last couple days moving my son into my mom's old room.  It is bigger, cooler and, since her passing four years ago, has remained somewhat in limbo.  This project entailed cleaning, moving, purging (my favorite), and decorating his 'big boy' room and bathroom.

We ended the day with preparing the majority of the food for today's Thanksgiving meal.  Hubby made the ham (that's our family tradition, we don't have the turkey thing down), the potato salad, the rice and I made the stuffing (Stove Top), the gravy (just add water), salad (a new recipe I tried with pecans, goat cheese and cranraisins), and my famous once-a-year (because it takes way too long and is expensive to make) banana cream delite.  After a morning at the annual Turkey Bowl touch football game for the boys and watching some of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade for me and Snoop, our little trio sat to a quick, simple and delicious collaboratively prepared meal, which we shared with mom, dad and uncle, as well, before they went off to visit family.

As I sat at the table, my mind couldn't help but to recall Thanksgivings past-memories filled with family, good times and lots of food, all prepared by our mom, of course.  When my dad passed away I was six years old and my mom was left to be the sole provider and parent for six children, ranging from ages 4-19. And yet, not a birthday or holiday went by without gifts, decorations, thoughtful touches and a table laden with homemade delicacies.  Mom worked grueling hours at the Juvenile Detention Facility and, never having learned how to drive, caught the bus to and from work each day, sometimes after 16-hour shifts.  Still, every fourth Thursday of November, we awoke to the smells of turkey and homemade stuffing in the oven wafting down the halls and stairs of our two-story Kalihi home.  The gravy was homemade, the pies and crust were lovingly prepared by her hands and the table was set with the best serving dishes. All for us, her little family, and prepared all by herself.  With the exception of my oldest sister, who was her helper, and my second oldest, who was off at college or on a mission, the four youngest were, how to say it best-spoiled? Lazy, maybe? Yes, I admit and accept it (sorry for calling out my other three siblings on this, but you know it's true, lol)!  Mom never complained and never yelled at us (although she should have) to help cook, or even set the table or clean up afterwards. She just wanted to see us happy, fed and content. And that we always were.

And so today, as I lifted fork to mouth, I turned to hubby and said, "You know, I can't imagine that mom did this alone for years on end, making things from scratch and doing all the hard work without complaint." I felt her spirit with me and I felt overwhelmed with gratitude and humility for being raised by a woman who emulated the true spirit of motherhood, sacrifice and love.  We all do the best we can with what we know, and I can only hope to pass on to my son some of the lessons that my mom passed on to me.  I'm not sure I'll ever conduct myself with the grace and absolute selflessness that my mom embodied, but I can certainly strive to do so.  With all I am and all I have, I want to say "thank you, mom"-today and everyday. I love you.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

A Place in the Middle

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of this blogger and do not necessarily represent the views of my family, church, friends or dogs, for that matter-just plain ‘ole me!  There’s enough material out there in the universe for you to read up on regarding both sides of the same-sex marriage issue. If you were hoping for an in-depth theological, legal or social debate here, I’m sorry to disappoint.

Over the last couple of weeks, our peaceful little island community has been rocked by one of the most controversial issues of our time.  When Governor Abercrombie pushed for a special session in the state legislature to consider SB 1, a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in Hawaii, there was no way to foresee the public outcry, uproar and emotional rollercoaster that would ensue in the ‘Aloha’ state.  I could review the chronology of events-the bill’s introduction, the key players, the committee hearings, the floor votes, the rallies, the sign-waving, the press conferences. I could regurgitate some of the speeches given during the record-breaking 57 hours of live testimony (the inspiring, the ignorant and the incredulous).  I could talk about the articles written, the commercials aired, the accusations made and the threats uttered.  I could commend the enormous show of civic participation, the political dialogue generated and the interest peaked in everyday citizens of all ages and backgrounds to obtain knowledge about the legislative process and the workings of their government.  I could go on (and on) about the deluge of Facebook posts, comments, threads, links, videos, pictures and overnight scholars that emerged on this subject matter.

I could describe the sights and sounds of the last two weeks. The rainbow lei worn by SB 1 supporters and the dark blue shirts worn by those in opposition.  The signs held by kupuna and children, men and women from all walks of life, stating their bearer’s position: “Save Traditional Marriage”, “Let the People Choose”, “I Support Marriage Equality”, “Love not Hate”. The Hawaiian flag, the rainbow flag floating gently in the Hawaiian breeze. The pleas, the prayers, the proposals.  And always, always in the background, the raised voices of the masses chanting at the State Capitol for hours on end, “Let the People Vote”,  “Let the People Vote”!!!  
After all is said and done and the silence of relief or resignation ensues, the images and sounds of this moment in history will not so easily be erased.  

I could mention the rift that seems to have divided our community in two. Today, officials literally divided the sign-wavers and capitol audience in two, so as to be fair in representation and safe in temporary segregation.  There have been relationships between family members and friends that have been damaged and it has felt particularly 'icky' around here lately. I fear that these memories will live collectively within the people of Hawaii for many years to come and I pray for healing, understanding and compassion.

I confess: I’ve avoided the rallies, refused to watch most of the live testimony and steered clear of uncomfortable conversations in general (although I confess to camping on FB) because I’ve found much of the dialogue to be divisive, hurtful, unyielding in position and sometimes just ridiculous.  I was there many years ago when this was before the legislature and was so disappointed in the behavior of many back then that I vowed I wouldn’t go be in the front row as a witness, again. Unfortunately, this time, it was much worse than I could have imagined.

 I’ve been appalled at the vitriol that has been spewed forth in the name of the God and Savior that I worship and at the same time, I haven’t appreciated being categorized or written off as ‘sheep’ just because I choose to believe in them. I’ve witnessed the Native Hawaiian community grow farther apart and just as I support traditional practices and beliefs, I want to be respected as a Hawaiian with my own set of values and beliefs handed down to me from my kupuna.

For me, and I’m sure this can be said of many others, it has been an emotional and often confusing time.  Ever the analytic and true to my Libra tendencies, I’ve considered both sides of the coin.  I’ve heard the arguments, studied the issues, and discussed the matter with select family and close friends. I’ve considered the legal, cultural, societal and spiritual ramifications of same-sex marriage. Above all, I have relied on my foundation, my faith, and tried to check in constantly with my own spirit, or na’au ,to guide me.

I cannot and will not try to convince others to my point of view.  I am, however, open to respectful discussion.  What I can do is share the conclusions and commitments that I have personally reached as a result of this journey thus far.  I watched a great video today that talks about everyone having their own ‘closets to come out of’, so if this qualifies as one, here I go:

·      I claim the privilege of worshipping God and Jesus Christ, and I have a testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel.  My beliefs are sacred to me and an integral part of who I am and how I live my life.
·      I honor the fact that other people do NOT share my beliefs and that they have their own values, beliefs and creeds that they live by that are sacred to them and they have a right to live their own truth.
·      I understand the difference between God’s laws and man’s laws.
·      I fully support each person’s right to participate in government processes (that includes testifying, telling their legislators off, holding signs, watching hours on end of live testimony on Channel 54 and responding to any and all Facebook posts relating to same-sex marriage).
·      I do NOT condone hate speech, violence, threats and outright ignorance (or those who are unwilling to even consider that there may be other viable positions that are contrary to their own).
·      I support the protection of religious freedom and religious exemptions that are available under the law, broad enough and clear enough for everyone to understand.
·      I support equality for all people.

As parents, this is what my husband and I have committed to do:

·      We will raise our son in our religion and try to live our values and beliefs the best we know how, knowing that he has free agency and will believe and live as he sees fit as an adult (yes, when he leaves my house, lol).
·      We have spoken with our son about tolerance, acceptance and compassion and the value of learning from those who do not share our beliefs or viewpoints.
·      We have been very clear with our son about bullying and what is NOT acceptable language anywhere (like “that’s so gay” and “faggot”).
·      We have had age-appropriate discussions with our son regarding homosexuality, stereotypes surrounding the LGBT community, SB 1 and same-sex marriage, in general.
·      We will raise our son to embrace people from all walks of life. That includes hanging out with gay friends and family members and yes, attending their fabulous weddings, should they be kind enough to invite us.
·      We will do our very best to lead by example and to teach our son to not be afraid of what he doesn’t know, to seek to understand and to LOVE and RESPECT others. . .

I don’t know if I’ll be accepted as someone who can simply see and accept both sides of this issue. I'll be the first to admit that there's so much I don't know or understand and there are things I am sure about.  If I went to the Capitol today, I wouldn’t know which side of the ‘line’ to stand on. You probably wouldn’t find me wearing a rainbow lei, per se, or even chanting, “Let the People Vote”. You’d be more likely to find me here and there, talking story, giving hugs, handing out cookies, holding up a homemade sign that reads, “Aloha Kekahi I Kekahi-Love One Another”, while supporting religious freedom AND the right to love and be treated equally. So for now, a place in the middle will just have to do.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Tales From the End Zone

Saturday in Hawai'i and I find myself doing what hundreds of other mothers are obligated, I mean, happy to do. . .watch my son play football.  This week's Big Boy league game took the Rock Solid Crusaders of Kalihi to picturesque Kahalu'u on Oahu's North Shore.  I arrive an hour before kick-off, my son adorned in full gear, hubby and his uncle in Rock Solid red and Snoop in tow.

My family heads off to the field without me, seeing as I'm engrossed in a serious phone discussion with my BFF about the hearings currently taking place at the State Capitol around a proposed same-sex marriage law before the legislature (possible blog to follow).  After I hang up, I hesitate for a moment, but decide to leave the iPad in the car. I will be an attentive and supportive football mom today, no re-reading "When Water Burns" on the Kindle app, as much as I'd like to. I'm here for Sonny, period.

It's another scorcher on the island, the noon game sun is strong (who made this schedule, anyway?) but the trade winds provide the onlookers with a reprieve from the humidity, as they cool the land from mountain to sea.  The field is a wide expanse of lush, green grass. The Ko'olau mountains provide a majestic backdrop, and the ocean waves beckon just across the street. I sigh with gratitude for such beauty. If I'm gonna watch a football game, I can't think of a better place to view it. It seems like there are hundreds of people scattered about the field, teams playing and players awaiting their game. Coaches, referees, family members and friends are scattered about in various phases of participation-cheering, clapping, shouting out plays, blowing whistles, setting up tents to fend off the heat, children running about throwing rocks. I stop to scold one of the kids, "Eh, stop tro-ing rocks!". (My pidgin turns on when I yell, particularly at naughty local kids.)

Hubby decides to lead me, the chihuahua and his uncle, who is healing from a leg surgery, clear across the other side of the field to the north end zone. He stops intermittently to ask where I want to sit. After a recommendation or two that doesn't meet his approval, I tell him, "Lead away, Moses." He refrains from further inquiry.

I am a people watcher, for sure. That is what I find most interesting when I attend an athletic event.  Who did I watch today? Let's see. Well, there was the big scary coach who, during halftime, stood over his elementary-aged players and yelled at them about making "stupid" plays and how they needed to "get in the frickin' gap!". Lovely.  Sign up my kid for that team!  Then there's always the parent  (or two) who decides that their coaching skills are superior to that of the actual coach and proceeds to run alongside the sidelines yelling at their 9-year old about missed tackles and dropped balls. Thanks, dad! My favorite little people to watch, I have to admit, are the Rock Solid cheerleaders (we're the only team with cheerleaders, woot woot!) with their fabulous cheers, total dedication and an array of Polynesian body types. My other favorites are the increasingly growing number of fierce little girls playing football with their male counterparts and bringing it big time. Tasha, Precious and Bridgette kick butt!

And then there's the mother who is unaware of what quarter it is, which team has the ball and where her child is on the field because she's camping on Facebook, listening to music, taking photos of the mountains and people-watching. That would be moi. (Don't judge me.) I mean I try, I root for my son and his team, I join the other parents on the field after the game to create the 'bridge' which the players run through while we all cheer, "We're so proud of you, said we're so proud of you!". I pat their little helmets as they file past me and say, "good game, uh... #44". Ok, so I don't really know their names. (Don't judge me.) I don't watch the practices like the other moms do, (I'm at work) I don't make the lunches (but I contribute money towards them). I don't have a team shirt (were they being sold this year?) I sell the fundraising tickets. . .well, I did last year.  Alright I didn't know my son was crying with the other boys after the game because this loss meant the end of their season (because I retreated to the van) and I kinda found out via a Facebook comment. (Don't judge me!) I talked to him about it afterwards!

Ok, I kinda suck as a football mom. But I'm there and I wash his uniform (well Hubby did this time, but I have before), and I love my son and I buy him food before and after the game and tell him that he's improving and played well and tell him, "GOOD GAME,  #99!".  (Don't judge me, lol).

Until next season, this football mom is O-U-T!