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Death is Real, Even on Mother’s Day

At the Core of it, death is a funny thing….not literally obviously, but it is one of those controversial topics with respect to what happens leading up to, during and after the passing of an individual.  Religion aside, it is hard to argue that the subject of death can leave one feeling mortal, without control and often mystified; yet, we know that each one of us will face it ourselves, along with the other many times that we will encounter it throughout our lives as loved ones pass.

Death is not a new topic for me.  My earliest memory of it was at the tender age of nine when my Baba passed away peacefully (thankfully!) in her sleep at aged 84, after some time spent in a Senior’s home.  All I knew then was that even though I could see her body in the casket at her funeral, she wasn’t really there and I had been told that she wasn’t coming back.  It made no sense, it usually doesn’t.  I also remember how devastated my mom was, as were the rest of us, and to be honest, some thirty-four years later, I don’t think she has ever fully recovered.  I am not sure you can and actually, I am not even sure that we are meant to ‘recover’, whatever that is.  Our lives are indeed forever changed when faced with such a close loss of life, if for no other reason than the clear physical separation.  Beyond that, however, we are human beings and by nature, we define ourselves based on those around us–when someone is no longer in the here and now, it leaves a space, usually in our hearts.  Sure, markers of time may come and go, and we are told that time can heal, but the rawness of those kind of emotions never truly go away.   It doesn’t always have to be bad in that we can use grief and sorrow as an opportunity to grow and change in positive ways (i.e. learning to value the small moments in life, getting out of unhealthy relationships, motivation to pursue our dreams, spending more time with our loved ones, prioritizing one’s role), but at the heart of it, a piece of us will always be missing that nothing or no one can EVER replace.  Some of us learn this the hard way and get caught up in trying to fill the hole(s) with all sorts of things, many unhealthy.  Here’s the truth:  We are individuals and while we may be expendable, we are NOT replaceable.  Our souls are connected and we are one because of that (remember that I am choosing to keep religion out of this), but the oneness changes.

Since my Baba’s death, my extended family and circle of friends has slowly become smaller and smaller, as I reach middle-age.  Many a death have happened, both young and old, expected and unexpected, self-inflicted, accidental or otherwise and all have been tragic in their own way.   I have attended more funerals than weddings or celebrations by a long shot, and each time, it is all the more sobering than the last.  Daily life goes on for the rest of us who are left behind, but in that instance of loss, the world becomes a different place than how we knew it the day before.  We evolve the best we can, but sometimes it just isn’t good enough and that is because it is not enough.  It never will be.  Good enough would be to have our loved ones back with us again in this world, but….

As I read through many of today’s posts, I saw tributes to many moms who have passed on.  So many people wishing to see or talk to their mom one more time, remembering often the good times, but sometimes the challenging ones too.  It is sad and thought-provoking and very real.  At brunch with my own mom today (for whom I am most grateful is here to spend Mother’s Day with), I learned about a close family friend of ours who died this past Thursday.  She just celebrated her 50th birthday in February, first learning of her cancer diagnosis six months ago.  Time froze when my mom told me.   Goosebumps rose and my racing thoughts began…

But how?  Why?  *Sherry?  Can’t be!!!  What?  Why?  She’s only a few years older than me.  My brother will be 50 in a month.  What if it had been him?  (Selfishly), thank God, we are all here.  Oh my God, her family.  How is her mom doing?  Why didn’t anyone tell us?  What can we do to help?   When is the service?  How did she spend her last few months?  Was anyone there at the end?  Will she be reunited with her dad again?  What kind of cancer?  I hate cancer.

Sherry.  50.  Gone.  My next door neighbour in early childhood.  Her family, my family, friends, ALWAYS.  Camping, laughing, fishing, travelling, birthday parties.  Forever changed.  Funeral this coming Saturday.  This is real.  Death is real.

I will do my best to celebrate Sherry’s life.  I am sure that that is what she would want.  I also take comfort in somehow knowing that she is with her dad.  ‘Maybe that is why this was her time?’  still thinking….  After twenty years apart, it must have been time to be with him again.  Now, they will be together forever.  I think that’s it.  I can only hope that’s it.  

*Name has been changed out of respect for the family.  


45 Years of Wisdom Speaking, If You’d Care to Listen In…

I am in my 45th year of experience here in this world of ours and I’d like to think that I know a little something about something.  Well, sometimes, anyway;-).  There are moments in time when I will admit that it is hard to believe that me, little Sue of the family (the youngest and only girl), is unequivocally a middle-aged woman, however not only do the numbers tell me so, but at times, my body and/or mind chimes in–you know what I mean?  It is strange though because, at times, when I think of myself, I still imagine being a youngster of sorts.  I find this ‘younger version of me’ phenomenon seems to happen most when I am with my family.  I guess because they are the individuals that I spent my formative years with and that is the lens with which I seem to associate us all…like we are all suspended in time from say, 30 years ago.

We have all heard people ask, “If you could go back to your younger self and give some advice, what would it be?”.   Well, here it is…like it or leave it.  Totally up to you.

  1.  Life really is short and the years do go by more quickly as you age.  Never wish time away.  Often the anticipation of certain milestones leaves us as young people wanting to just get there (i.e. a teenager, of driving age, adulthood, etc.), but really the anticipation OF is the best part, so enjoy it.  It will come and it will also go and you will never get it back again.
  2. If in doubt, don’t.  Those words are etched in mind thanks to Ms. Oprah Winfrey.  Doubt means your intituition knows better.  Listen.  Or at least, learn from it if you choose not to listen the first time.
  3. Take risks and learn to let go. Don’t Haul yours or other people’s ‘stuff’ around.  Let go of societal expectations, the stories you tell yourself to avoid being real, of certain fears that hold you back, of childhood baggage that will surely define you, but ONLY IF you let it.
  4. Trust in yourself first.  Always.  It is not your trust in others that matters.  If you don’t trust yourself, then you can’t trust others much like loving yourself.
  5. Realize that anger is just a mask, usually for sadness or insecurities.  Get to the bottom of it sooner rather than later, or it will eat you alive from the inside out. Honestly.  You don’t want to awaken one day only to discover that you truly do not know who you are, where you have been or why you have done the things that you have.  (Addictions of all sorts are often rooted here.)
  6. Be yourself.  At the end of the day, no one really cares as much about you as you do.  You might think they do and yes, we all pass judgement in some ways to find our place in this world; however, it is for that exact reason that you should be authentic.  Everyone else is just trying to do the same and because of that, they are too busy with their own stuff to worry that much about yours.  We all have egos, right?  Don’t pursue your superego or get caught up in your id.
  7. If you don’t like something in your life, change it.  You are the only one who can.  Complaining or worrying about it won’t do any good.  Ever.  (Unless you wish to ride a merry-go-round with zero results or forward movement.)
  8. Be kind and loving to your body, which includes your teeth and your feet (floss and avoid heels/ill-fitting/cheap shoes).  Your body really is your temple that is here to serve you, but you also want it to last you a long time.  Though you’ve heard it before, I’ll tell you again…everything in moderation.  Sleep, eat, drink lots of water (your body is 80% water, it needs it) and be active.  Meditation helps too, however that may look or sound like to you.
  9. Dreams really do come true, but you must work for them and believe in yourself.  Aim for the stars, if you like, but be willing to chase after them.  The reward will be greater for it.
  10. Give love, not hate.  And, most importantly, be open to receiving love and the vulunerability that comes with it.  Accept only healthy, loving relationships that enable you to become the best person that you can be.   Sometimes, this means having to cut toxic ties with family or friends and that is okay, if it does not serve you or them in a good way.  Tough decisions undoubtedly, but worthwhile ones. It’s not about forgiving or forgetting, it’s about letting go and moving onward and upward.
  11. SMILE. RELAX. ENJOY. LIVE IN AS MUCH OF THE MOMENT AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN.  It really is the best present that you can give yourself.


Perfectly Timed Vacation

You know, as I sit leisurely on the lanai for our tenth straight day,  I am trying to think of the word/words to describe when a planned vacation just so happens to fall during record-setting Frigid cold temperatures and snow back home.  Joy?  Happiness?  Lucky?  Blessed?  Relief?  Pure and absolute pleasure?  A sense of perfection?   How about all of that and more, times a million?  My, oh my, how fortunate we are…thankfully, none of this experience is lost on us; we will gladly soak up all of the sun and warmth again today-).  Mahalo Maui, you have been kind!


What If I Could Have Made a Small Difference and Chose Not To?

Life can be complicated no matter who you are–age, gender, race, culture, religion, geographical location, etc.  In fact, you can’t expect to go through this world of ours without your fair share of challenges in amongst those moments of clarity and elation; the ones we all aspire to achieve, hopefully more than once or twice.

As we vacation here in Maui, I think it would be fair to say that we are living very uncomplicated lives at the moment, so much so that our biggest worries thus far have been when to take out the garbage to avoid invitations from pesky bugs as well as how much sunscreen to put on and/or which hours we need to avoid the sun.  However, as we tootle around here and there taking in the sights and sounds of our favourite getaway spot, it is very apparent that there are two ways of life here, aside from the obvious vacationers like us and the locals.   This being our sixth visit to the islands of Hawaii, we have noticed a very high population of homeless individuals as well as those who appear to be more than wealthy.  I am sure that there is a middle-class that lies somewhere in between that we, tourists, don’t always see, but it leaves me to wonder what the percentages exactly are.  Not that I live a life of statistics, but I will admit that I am curious.

I just read an article in the Maui News last week that up to 70% (I believe) of housing was in short-term vacation rentals bought up by foreigners, while 4000 native islanders remain short in housing, especially affordable housing.  As with anything, there are two sides to the issue and the media will report what it wants.  Regardless, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that something isn’t working the way it should and homelessness is a recognized issue in Hawaii.  While many populations face impoverished conditions, each relative, I think that it is more striking here in what is considered a first-world country simply because there is such a stark contrast between what appears to be the haves and the have-nots.  Naturally, one could debate how the haves and have-nots have to come to be, etc., but at the end of the day, our personal observations stay with us in some manner, at times leaving us to feel guilty.  Don’t get me wrong, we have both spent some very hard-earned money to be here, yet we also realize that we are privileged enough in our lives such that we can choose between a dream vacation and food on the table.  Growing up, my dad always taught me the value of a hard-earned dollar as a farmer, gravel truck driver and snow removal guy, and to be appreciative of life’s circumstances, which could change at any one moment in time.

Two nights ago, we drove through a very well-to-do area in the hills on the west side of Maui with properties easily in the millions of dollars range, with guest houses, infinity pools, three-car garages, etc.  Then, as we made our way back to the highway where many of the local beach pull-offs are, in between areas, we witnessed derelict vehicles set up clearly as homes.  Little old me is not here to judge one person’s existence over the other and we all know that having money doesn’t necessarily equate with happiness, but I would venture to say that having to worry where one’s next meal is coming from is not an easy life.  Thankfully, clean water and showers are available at the state park beaches.

The image, however, that remains Churning in my mind, is one of a mother and her young child, who arrived at one of the beach shower houses just after dinner.  My husband and I were strolling along on our way back from a lovely sunset supper, when we saw the lady and her older four-door sedan pull into the parking lot.  The mom immediately began rifling around in the backseat for something and a few minutes later, she popped open the trunk, which was impeccably organized with many things, as was the backseat where a paper towel holder neatly hung.  Her daughter waited patiently in the shade of the nearby trees, and we assumed that they were there to take a shower.  Immediately, I pondered, ‘What is their story?‘, not out of pity, but rather from the perspective of one human being feeling somehow connected to another.  A part of me wanted to offer some money to them, but I also did not want to infringe on their privacy or their situation knowing nada about the two of them.  I mean, would I want a perfect stranger to assume that I need or want help?  Likely not, but I might also really appreciate a genuine show of concern and a few extra dollars, even if it was just enough to help pay for a bit of gas, for example.  To further the story (though I willingly admit that I am making my fair share of inferences and then some), the little girl was very pale, without hair, and her eyes seemed quite sullen.  My first thought was that she may have cancer.  Knowing the cost of health care here in the States, it conjured up a possible narrative that I’ve heard about before wherein people have to sell their home, etc., simply to pay for medical costs.  ‘What if this was their situation?  Then again, what if it wasn’t?  What to do?’.  The truth of the matter is that now we will never know, as that instance has since come and gone, and as usual, life has moved on for them and for us over the past few days.  Meanwhile, I am left to wonder, ‘What if I could have made a small difference in someone else’s life and chose not to?’.  Hmmm

Cloaked in Sadness


If the world could stop for a minute,
Everyone would definitely see,
That I just lost someone,
So very, very dear to me.

Though the sun is shining,
And a breeze is softly blowing,
Little things that once mattered,
Are no longer in my knowing.

My heart and soul are breaking,
NOTHING seems the same,
The noises around me fall silent,
I wish I knew who to blame.

I tried to prepare for this moment,
Never before have I felt so sad,
My insides ache and ache,
I cannot believe that I have lost my dad.

He meant EVERYTHING to me,
Was the apple of my eye,
How will I ever think of him again,
Without the need to cry.

They say that time will heal,
Surely they are wrong,
Everyone who tries to reassure me,
Sounds like a never-ending song.

My eyes are red and stinging,
My throat feels tight and dry,
My legs are weak and tingling,
I really could just curl up and die.

I slowly gather myself together,
I am going to win this fight,
After all, I owe it to him,
I will be his light.

(Written as a tribute to my colleague who has recently lost her father.)


The Half-Truths of Free Speech?

“Because your entire life, you have been taught a half-truth…and the half-truth(s) that you have been taught since you were in kindergarten are this:  words hurt, words wound, words kill.”   ~Brooks Gibbs

A couple of weeks ago, I came across a very thought-provoking video from a friend on social media by motivational speaker, Brooks Gibbs.  After listening to the beginning of the clip wherein my opening quote lies, my first thought was that what Mr. Gibbs had to say was a bit risqué, maybe even controversial, especially since it was directed to a group of ten thousand children.  ‘Ooh, is that REALLY wise to say?’  From personal experience, the immediate dilemma that came to mind is how you would tell a child who is crying their eyes out (while your heart is breaking for them) over having been called a name that “words don’t hurt” because clearly they certainly can.  They are young, they are vulnerable and in their realm of the world, as they learn to interact with others, words DO matter–both what they hear and what they themselves choose to say.  In fact, as grown-ups, I think many of us would agree that words matter whether we reference present life experiences or those in the past.  After all, I didn’t like being called ‘dumb’ as a youngster, nor would I appreciate it even as a well-established, self-assured, forty-something year old woman.  By the same token, I know how good it feels/felt when someone tells me or has told me that I look nice or that I am funny or smart.  As per my given examples, words obviously take on negative or positive connotations and I am sure that we have all experienced both ends of the spectrum from a very early age.  Thus, do we have the power to change our thoughts on the matter at hand?  Mr. Gibbs seems to thinks so and most of us have heard before that words affect us only to the extent that we LET them affect us.  Before we look at his message more closely, let’s go to the extreme of his half-truths first; the scary thought that “words kill”.

Let’s face it, “words kill” elicits a whole other discussion about suicide, the internet, social media, etc.  Just recently, my husband and I watched a 20/20 episode entitled, “Can Words Kill?” wherein a teenaged girl named Michelle Carter was convicted of manslaughter after exchanging texts and ‘encouraging’ her boyfriend Conrad Roy in a phone conversation to commit suicide, which he had threatened on numerous occasions prior to his actual death.  Needless to say, the case of Miss Carter set a precedence  and led some to question if the basis for her conviction was justified.  Regardless of what you believe about the case, it is a purely tragic story in which one life ended and another was forever changed on the basis of words and words alone–a bit sobering to say the least and a sordid tale hopefully never to be duplicated again.  So, is Mr. Gibbs flat-out wrong in his message to students that “words don’t hurt”?  I am not so sure actually, but in saying that it requires one to really focus and listen to the message he sends to kids in his ‘Free Speech‘ spiel.

As the clip from Brooks Gibbs video continues on, he goes on to say that, “Words DON’T have to hurt, (that) words only have the power that YOU give them”, which as I said earlier, most of us have heard at least once before.  We can also probably relate to his statement that “when you believe that you have the human right that everyone must be nice to you, you’re setting yourself up for failure, you’re creating in yourself a victimization mentality.”  I mean, just think about the saying, “You can’t please all of the people all of the time.”  True, is it not?  What likely takes Gibbs’ speech to another level of contemplation is when he challenges the notion that others have the right to say what’s on their mind, even if it’s mean and hateful, and that their constitutional right to free speech should not be suppressed (though it may be immoral), since we wouldn’t want our own freedom of speech taken away.  “Every single citizen, ” he says, “has the right to stand up on their platform and speak their mind even if it offends another group.”  While the idea of offending others makes many of us cringe, it cannot always be avoided and countries such as ours ARE founded on the very principles of democracy in which everyone HAS a voice.  Of course, the hope is that “the virtue of love (will drown) out the vice of hate.”  So, how does one achieve that, according to Mr. Gibbs?  The answer is two-fold:

1) Make a decision that you are NOT going to give people the power to hurt your feelings.  Expect that people will be mean from time-to-time–after all, they technically have the right to (it’s not nice!), but that ultimately, you get to choose NOT to pay it any mind.  I’d go one step farther here and explain that the reason that you shouldn’t pay it any mind is because it’s often rooted in another person’s own insecurities/low self-esteem.

2) Despite how you are treated (within reason obviously–this post and his video clip are meant how to address and deal with everyday hurtful comments, not instances of physical and/or verbal abuse), use the ‘golden rule’ to treat even your enemies the way that you would want to be treated.  “Kill them with kindness”, I believe is how the saying goes.

After seeing the video on “Free Speech”, it led me to think about what impact it would have on children.  Would they be able to realize the power that THEY truly hold in what they often perceive as powerless situations, i.e. being called a name, etc. or would it be irrelevant to their fragile egos?  And, if we could get them to realize that love wins over hate, would self-esteem be on the rise and bullying and suicide on the decline?  I don’t know, but I would certainly share Brooks Gibbs’ message if I thought it could make a difference.  Would you?

Haleakala Lava Cake


This chocolatey, flourless lava cake at Duke’s Beach House in Maui is simply delectable.  We know….we devoured it!  Served warm with caramelized pineapple and créme anglaise sauce, technique and timing is Critical when it comes to eating it.  Timing maybe, but technique you question?   Yes!!  In order to get all of the ooey-gooey ingredients in every bite (an absolute MUST!), it requires precision maneuvering of your spoon or fork (ALWAYS a fork for me, spoon for my husband).  Don’t worry, though, it’s worth the effort and should you miss acquiring the correct menagerie, you get to try, try, and try again…until it disappears;-).

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