Winter solstice: It only gets better from here

Knowing what January and February usually entail (brrr!), I find it hard to celebrate Winter Solstice bringing longer days.  I mean, I know springtime is coming, but there’s a heck of a lot of winter still to go. Anyway, as is my usual M.O., I haven’t blogged in a while because I don’t know what to say. I’ll start with updates and we’ll see where that takes us. Sorry if it reads like an old school annual Christmas letter. I promise not to much corniness.
Obviously, the biggest change is that we left Hawaii. It was certainly bittersweet, as it was such a special place but Virginia really is home and it was time. I spent a few months getting the house together. No major changes, but I freshened the decor and worked hard to make it into a comfortable, bright space that we really like being in. The 1000sqft we gained sure doesn’t hurt, I’m not gonna lie. And it’s a good thing we like being inside, because winter came way too fast and now I feel like we never leave the house. Not being able to take a bike ride to the grocery store or go paddling at the beach in the afternoons has been hard. We continue to struggle with the adjustment, and I think we’re both a bit depressed by it. Finding new ways to spend our down time will be a challenge, but that’s life.
So, back at the house, after the contractors stopped coming by, I found myself super bored and lonely. I started volunteering at the Junior Achievement Finance Park, which has been a blast. One to two days a week, I hang out with a bunch of eighth graders and teach them that adulting is hard. I had no idea what I wanted to do for work, but my sanity required that I do something soon. I passively looked and one day came upon a position that sounded great, but I didn’t think I could handle it as a full time job. A few weeks later they added a part time position, so I took fate’s nudging and applied.

Well, I’m so happy to say that I start next month! I will be doing personal finance counseling for clients facing homelessness or domestic abuse. I can’t believe that I’ve made the leap to doing this for a job. Three years ago I was lost and didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grow up, and now for the first time I feel like I’m going to be doing what I need to, right where I need to do it.

Well, that’s it for this quarterly (err, triannual) update.  Happy holiday season.  I hope to see more of all of you in 2017.

tentatively joyful,

My love letter to Hawaii

My dearest Hawaii,

When I arrived here three years ago, there was no way I could know how much you would change my life.  I was told that you may seem off-putting at first, but after a year you would embrace me.  You did.  You stunned me daily with your beauty.   You also showed me parts of myself I’d never seen.  You introduced me to friends– some so much like me and some so very different.   You taught me that my way isn’t right for everyone.  You convinced me that there is no room in life for judgey.  You led me to my passion.  You were a playground– above the water, below the water, in the woods, on the sand.  You brought me turtles, dolphins, seals, and manta rays to swim with.   You provided a never ending parade of truly awesome experiences.  You surprised me with cool breezes, seemingly out of nowhere.  You delighted me with air heavy with the scent of plumeria.  You made me appreciate my too distant loved ones.  You didn’t let me miss out on fun worrying how I looked in a bathing suit.  You taught me the value of friends who make our time together a priority.   You forced me to decide what it is that I want and need.   

I thought that you were just a fling, that I was destined to return to”real life” someday.  About a year ago my perspective flipped and I realized that you are the real thing.  You have shaped a new reality for me.

I am so sorry to leave you.  It’s not you, it’s me.  I need to move on and find new places to fall in love with.  You will forever remain one of the great loves of my life.

tentatively joyful,

P.S.  You can keep your obnoxious rooster alarm clock.

Time is flying, soon I’ll be too

So anyway, it’s been a busy 6 months since I last checked in, there’s no way I’m attempting a comprehensive update. Here’s my snapshot of what’s currently going on. We had 3 weeks of fun visitors, so that was a nice distraction to the impending move (and my 40th birthday!) In less than a week, the movers come to take our stuff back to VA. We’ll be staying in Hawaii for an extra two weeks just to have some fun. We’re selling the house here, so that’s added a layer of tension to an already stressful time. So far so good, but I won’t relax until we close.
I’m over half way done with my 1,000 hours of financial counseling service required to finish my certification (exam passed earlier this summer.) I don’t know how I’ll get hours after we move, but I’ll worry about that later. I’m also putting off worrying about a job. That is so totally the opposite of how I normally operate, so I’m actually embracing it for now.
The whole move back to the mainland has got me turned all upside down. I’ve made a lot of progress here and I’m struggling with how to maintain the momentum. My priorities have changed; it’s important to me that I don’t get sucked back into the east coast grind, not really finding the joy in my life. I don’t yet know what my life is going to look like. I’ve chosen rather to focus on decorating our home in Alexandria. Hey, I never said my priorities were straight! One thing I do know is that reconnecting with friends and family is important. So look out, people, I’m coming.

tentatively joyful,

My life used to be more amusing

Yes, I fully admit, stories of my life these days aren’t terribly interesting.  I mean, I don’t have any tyrannical boss tales or pictures of my failed cooking class experiments.  My world has become a bit smaller since for the most part it’s confined to a 600 sqft island.  But I’ll catch you up anyway, if only to assuage my blog guilt.  I last posted on Sept 4, so here’s what’s been up:

September:  I started seeing a dietician.  Some of my “numbers” on a blood test weren’t great, so I wanted to try to do something about it.  It’s taken a lot of tweaking and many lapses, but 6 months later I’m starting to see some real progress.  (I am writing this instead of working out, so don’t get too excited for me.) Also in Sept, my mom came to visit.  We did a lot of hanging out and a little exploring.


October: While mom was still here we headed to Maui for a long weekend.  We did more stuff upcountry this time and it was so beautiful (and nice cool temps!)


The air show was on base this month, and I truly did stand with my mouth gaping and the feats those pilots could pull off.FullSizeRender 3

November: This was a fairly slow month.  We blew off Thanksgiving for the most part.  It felt good to not let a holiday stress me out in any way.

December: We headed back east for family visits before Christmas.  It was great seeing the fam and getting some “big city” life for a bit.  And upon my return home I finally caught this little bugger.


January:  I had my first contractor gig; very easy since I just had to observe this time.  The work will be intermittent (like every few months) but I’m glad for it and am looking forward to doing more.  I’ll be teaching classes to mostly government and military folks.  Right up my alley!

February:  This month started with a a great trip back to Maui.  We had promised ourselves that we’d dive there during whale season, and since this is our last winter here we had to get on it.  We seriously splurged and stayed at a fancy resort (not embarrassingly, it was because they have a great pool with water slides and a lazy river.)


We were so lucky and got an upgraded room, and I’m not exaggerating when I say the suite was twice the size of our home here.  We kept misplacing shoes and phones in the 1800 sqft!  I’m baffled at how some people live large like that on all their vacations. On our first dive we could hear the humpbacks pretty clearly– amazing!!

Ok, that brings us up to now.  The spring is going to bring some travel (Australia in March!!!), a few goodbyes (I’m ostriching that shit and pretending my friends aren’t leaving), and family visits. It’ll be a full spring!

tentatively joyful,

Sweet waves, sweaty me

Ahhh– the crisp Fall air, the crunching leaves underfoot, apple baked goods in the oven… oh wait, sorry, that was a dream.  No Fall here for me!  Well, if by Fall you mean hurricane season, then yes, I have that.  I just saw on the news that yet another ‘cane is brewing, lined up with the others to wreck havoc on our little Pacific rock.  What does it really mean for us, you ask?   So much rain.  Pretty sweet waves for the surfers.  But then ya know how you envision gently swaying palm trees in Hawaii?  That’s usually true thanks to the tradewinds that blow almost all the time and bath us in a wonderful breeze.  For the past couple weeks, those winds have gotten sucked away by the ever passing hurricanes.  So what’s left is 90+ temps with humidity that sticks to the body.  The one relief I could rely on back in VA when things got hot was air conditioning.  Yeah, we don’t have that (at home, anyway.)  Ya just don’t know how amazing it is til it’s gone.  Seriously, when I have get dressed for work I have to time it perfectly.  The time lapse between sitting in front of a fan in my underwear and walking out the door can only be about 10 minutes.  Any delay and I’m standing in my previously clean, dry clothing… dripping sweat.  The sounds I make upon walking into an air conditioned store or office are kinda embarrassing.

During the week I’m usually OK, since I’m working either at the wine shop or the Relief Society 2 1/2 days and I’ve got some classes I take a the Y (Aqua Zumba, yo!!)  Throw in an afternoon at the library (in theory doing professional reading, in practice reading magazines) or a beach day with friends, and I make do.  Sunday afternoons seems to be toughest for us.  We can usually entertain ourselves well enough on Saturdays, maybe doing beach stuff or errands in town, or again, the library.  By Sunday we are tired of the sun, the library is closed and we just want to veg.  Sorry, no luck.  Our choices have pretty much come down to the local mall (crazy crowded with locals who just hang out there, sitting with their entire family wherever they can find a place– true local housing is crowded with no place to sit outside other than the carport) and the cheapo movie theater ($6 does not buy you clean seats, if you were wondering.)

The moral of my story, you ask?  Eh, none.  I just wanted to complain  share.  Anyway, a quick update on what’s been going besides me sweating.   I’ve started the coursework to become an Accredited Financial Counselor.   I’m not sure how long it’ll take me, but I’m looking forward to it.

Between storms the weather has been hot but beautiful.   A morning with friends at a sandbar in the bay was a much needed dose of fun.  (That’s a big ‘C something’ cargo plane in the sky.  It was practicing takeoff/landing right over us!)



We hit our two year mark in Hawaii last month.  I can’t believe it’s gone so fast, but I also feel like I’m come so far.  The next year is going to fly by and I want to make the best of it.  We don’t have a return date, but it’ll probably be mid-late Fall.

That’s about all I’ve got going on. Or all I have the patience to write about before it gets too hot.

tentatively joyful,

Wish semantics

Remember when I said that I wanted a life where I could do yoga in the morning? It was going to help me be healthy and focused and calm. I put it out to the universe and in true Oprah-style, I got that. Well, turns out, I got what I wished for but what I wished for was the wrong thing. I do indeed currently have a situation that allows me the time to do yoga in the morning. What I actually needed to say is that I want to actually DO yoga in the morning. I’m so good at planning, notsogood at the execution.
I have a bit more than a year left on our grand Hawaii experience and I often feel like I’m wasting my precious moments here. I work 3 days a week, one at a paid job and two unpaid doing my financial stuff. My work day never starts before noon unless I want it to. I have a ridiculous amount of free time. (So I can imagine that at this point you may want to smack me. “Is she really going to find something to complain about??” Yep. But bear with me.)
How much time did I spend blathering on here about how my situation was getting in the way of my joy? I kept blaming my jobs. Turns out, as my faithful readers probably have known all along, it was me. It still is me. Me who gets in the way of my joy. Most hurdles are gone– I have the ideal situation for which to find myself, my passion, my joy. I live in one of the most beautiful places, I have access to a warm, clear ocean to play in, I have a husband who supports whatever I need to do to get my shit together. And yet, I do nothing. (Except cleaning.  I feel like I’m forever cleaning the house.  I blame the vog bringing in volcanic dust… Yeah, that’s it.).
Before I left Virginia I told a friend that I’d come back from Hawaii leaner, fitter, tanner, happier and for good measure, taller (but I won’t beat myself up that one). Well, I am tan. And definitely happier. I’ve failed miserably at the rest. I can’t be joyous if I’m not taking care of my whole self. (Yoga, while something that is important for me to do for my health, is mostly a metaphor for all the things that I want to do to find joy. I’m not so ridiculous as to write an entire post whining that I can’t get out of ‘couch pose’.) It feels like I’m failing at this joy business– still!
Ya know, in an old post I talked about how I didn’t even feel like I was at zero. I was at a joy deficit and needed to come into neutral before I could move forward. I needed to clear away the negatives. Maybe this is just that. Maybe it’s taken me this long to dig myself out of the crap hole I’d gotten myself into. In that case, today I declare myself at least joy neutral. I have a feeling I’m actually better off than that, but this will serve as the official point. Now I just need to get out of my own damn way.

Tentatively joyful,


Arigatou and hai…

Thank you and yes. I could understand the words when said to us, and could use them at the appropriate time…. and that’s pretty much it.  But in my book, that’s a foreign language “win” when the language is as vastly different from English as Japanese is. Our recent visit to Japan was the first time I’d ever been in a country that uses a completely different alphabet. It was odd not being able to understand what was said or written, but I did perfectly fine roaming Tokyo by myself.  OK, so maybe perfectly fine is exaggerating a bit… I usually found what I was looking for after a few tried.  (Largely thanks to the English signage on the subways.)

Here’s a rundown of the fun we had while in Japan:

Our first day was cold, snowy and rainy but we managed to get some amazingly fresh sushi for second breakfast.  We let the chef choose for us and aren’t sure what we ate.


This fish was alive 5 hours earlier. Some of it still may have been when we ate it.


Lots of goodies for sale at the fish market


Plus more citrus varieties in one place than I’ve ever seen

We took the bullet train to Nagano then travelled to Shibu Onsen for some hot baths and Japanese Macaque (aka Snow monkeys!)


Two bullet trains nose to nose


We are both furry, though only one of us was warm (hint: not me)


Those eyes say, “Put me in your pocket and take me home”. I just know it.


Dave’s new friend


Zero degrees, 7am, wandering the streets in a kimono on our way to an onsen (hot bath)


Sure we were cold, but the water bubbling up from the ground was hot enough to boil eggs

That week, I explored while Dave had meetings.

Some of my favorite places were the food markets in the basement of department stores.  Besides the copious amount of “sweets” and baked goods (two things I didn’t know the Japanese are obsessed with), they have top-notch produce stands.  $140 melon? Check.  $7 strawberry?  Yep, got that, too.  And all of it perfect.


That’s one strawberry, for just a bit over $7.

I found a sushi restaurant that makes conveyor-belt-sushi look antiquated.  We sat at a bar with our own tablets to order from and the food arrived in front of us on a little shuttle train.  Such a treat since it required no speaking or understanding of Japanese.

On one fun night we went to the Robot Restaurant. I still don’t know what we saw, I am barely on board with the fact that it wasn’t all dreamt.


Welcome. I am weird.


A two-headed robot rolling by, because why not?

Midweek, I took a day trip to see Mt. Fuji.  The Japanese are really proud of it, but other than being elusive it’s not all that spectacular.  Sorry dudes.


The peak is apparently only visible 30% of the time.


Clouds overtook the mountain right after this and it was gone for the rest of the day.

Here’s a link if you want to see more pics, and also the videos (in the “vid” folder at the top of the page) which wordpress doesn’t let me upload.  I’ll just say that you need to see these videos– I’ve got a monkey donkey-kicking an umbrella, robot boxing, and sushi on-demand.  What more could I hope for from a trip abroad?

Osaki ni shitsurei shimasu!  

(or, “Excuse me for leaving first.”  It’s typically said when someone leaves the office at night, and they are literally apologizing for leaving before others– which may be at 10pm! )

tentatively joyful,