Thursday, December 07, 2017

NeenaLoveCooks: Beef Stew In 90 Minutes or Less

I was at work utterly bored with building a database. As I looked out onto the beautiful view from my office, I couldn't help but notice the thick rain clouds that had gathered. Within minutes, the rain began to fall and I was immediately craving a nice hot bowl of beef stew and rice. Beef stew is definitely one of my comfort foods. My father makes really good stew and my mom did too. I carry the tradition on with my own cooking skills.

I don't normally follow a recipe. I "eyeball" everything and then taste my food often while I'm cooking. For the sake of this post here is a list of the ingredients I used:
-2.85 Pound Boneless Chuck Roast
-Water or Stock
-2 Pounds of Potatoes
-1 Pound of Carrots
-6 Celery Stalks
-1 Large Round Onion
-5 Cloves of Garlic
-6 Stems of Fresh Thyme
-1 small can of tomato paste
-2 TBSP All-Purpose Flour
-1 TBSP Vegetable Oil
-Salt and Pepper to taste

The great thing about stew is that you can mix up the quantity of the ingredients. Use what you have on hand. If you only have 1 pound of meat, adjust the other ingredients to your taste. I don't really like carrots so when I make stew for just me, I omit the carrots and increase the potatoes. I also LOVE garlic so I will use an entire head of the stuff instead of five cloves.

In the video, I go over the instructions on how I make beef stew. This is meant to be a quick stew. Normally, when I make stew it is an all day process. I cut everything in large chunks. In this recipe,  however, everything is cubed into smaller pieces so that it will cook quickly. This stew will be done in less than 90 minutes.

PREP:
-Cut beef into roughly 1/2 to 3/4" cubes and dust with 2 TBSP of flour and salt and pepper
-Peel and slice onions
-Peel and slice garlic
-Clean and slice celery into 1/2" slices, diagonal
-Clean and chop carrots into 1/4" slices, diagonal
-Clean and cut potatoes into the size of half a golf ball

COOK:
-Heat up a large pot with one tablespoon of vegetable oil
-Brown beef
-Add garlic and onions
-The juices from the beef, garlic, and onion should be thick. Add either stock or water to cover the meat.
-Let cook on med-high to high for 45 minutes.
-Add celery and carrots and cook on medium for 15 minutes.
-Add potatoes and cook on medium for 15 minutes.
-Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.

And that's it -- you're done. You can do variations by adding ingredients that you like. For instance, I usually add a couple of jalapenos. That is always yummy but I know that the people I'm dining with this evening do not like a lot of spice. You can add green chile, which is another one of my favorite flavor profiles. It's really up to you. I have seen people add green beans. I have seen clams in the mix also. There is nothing you can do that would be wrong. Eat Up!

Friday, December 01, 2017

Hello December - Easy Holiday Wreath DIY

Since moving here to South Carolina, I have so much time on my hands. All my side hustles from my former life are UNKNOWN here in South Carolina and for right now, I need it to remain that way so I can concentrate on my writing. However, it is the holiday season and there's just something about Christmas that compels me to express my creativity.



Thanksgiving weekend, the girls and I did a lot of shopping/window shopping. One of our stops was at the craft store Michaels. I love that place. All the Christmas blooms were 50% off. I was attracted to this blush color and inspired by it. White, gold, and silver accented it beautifully. The girls decorated the mantle and prompted me to round out the decoration with a matching wreath.



When selecting your own things to use in a wreath, it should be things that inspire you. This particular wreath just happened to be flowers but you can use anything to make a wreath. You are only limited by your creativity. You can look online or even in the stores to see the kinds of wreaths that are available. I see wreaths covered with ornaments and ribbon and mesh. I have seen feathers and toys. Really, it's up to you and the theme you're going with. Here's a wreath that I saw at Michaels. This is a 12" wreath. With all the added fluff, it looks larger. If you look at the price tag, they are selling that thing for $69.99. Isn't that crazy? And you can look at the wreath and know that NO LOVE went into making that. I'm just pointing out the obvious.



As with any craft, it takes practice to get to a place where you're happy with your creation. That can only happen if you do it all the time. Practice. Practice. Practice. People think they're not creative but give them some time, beautiful materials to work with, a little shove in any direction and the results are fantastic. Don't forget some inspirational music... my inspirational music today was BEYONCE. To be more specific, Drunk In Love. The pulsating beat had me bobbing my head and singing as I made this wreath. Do what makes you happy and NEVER GIVE UP.

Happy Holidays, fam!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Spontaneous South Carolina Adventure

The house was silent and empty last night. The dark of evening falls upon the land at about 5:15pm. Before I could second-guess myself, I decided on a spontaneous adventure. The adventure led me south east of my current location, about 140 miles away. The ride along i20-East was quite uneventful. Interstates are the best way to travel if you're in a hurry somewhere. Me? I like the scenic route - the route that's laden with a hint of danger like.... deer dashing across the road way and wrecking my car type danger.

After about forty miles of interstate (I20), I switch up to traveling on the single lane in each direction, county highway. There are no street lamps here in South Carolina. The road is only lit up by the headlights of vehicles and the occasional home. I am not sure how true this is but in the small towns, if you want a lamp pole on your street or in front of your house you have to pay to run the electrical lines, pay for the pole itself, and maintain the electricity. Thus, no street lights. I think it's fabulous for several reasons, the main one being that one can look up in the sky and see the true brightness of the stars without the interruption of manufactured light. The second reason, it must mean less taxation on citizens even though general excise tax here is at 8% and I'm mad about it.


I love driving on the mainland. For the most part, especially what I've experienced here in South Carolina, there is rarely any traffic on the country roads. The interstates are a different story and when you're in the city, it gets a little congested but nothing like I experience in Hawai'i.

I made my way south east of Columbia, SC. The darkness of the highway, the emptiness of the roads, and the silence was very relaxing for me. About half way to my destination, the fog appeared. It one particular section of highway, it rested just a couple of feet above my vehicle for several miles. It was mesmerizing to see the car lights reflecting off the moisture in the stark white of the fog. It moved and danced just above my car and was very distracting because of its beauty. The further south I drove, the thicker the mist became and I was not afraid -- only intrigued.

I arrived at my destination just after 730p. Why I found myself so far away from home is a story for another time. That's not what this post is about. When I woke in the early a.m. it was still chilly and the fog had not lifted at all. As I made my way back north, I was able to capture some of these beautiful images along my drive. I really feel grateful to experience this. The way the fog blankets the landscape is so beautiful in the early morning; the way it hugs the fields and the trees. My mind always seems to revert back to how people experienced this beauty before cars and modern roads. I think of the slave era. My fascination with American greed/slavery has been an obsession since I was a little girl. I cannot explain why I identify with it but I do.

I was thinking that maybe this weekend, I will find another adventure to get caught up in. If Hilton Head wasn't so far away, I would make my way there. I was reading up about things to do there and there are things that I have NEVER experienced that I have always been interested in. Back in the late 90's I read a book called Mama Day by Gloria Naylor. This book is set on a fictional island off the coast of Georgia and South Carolina. It mentions the Gullah people and some of their traditions. Thus, my interest in visiting Hilton Head  and Gullah culture has a lot to do with having read that book.

What might be simpler to do is to head back to Charleston. I visited there the weekend before Thanksgiving. It's less than a two hour drive and probably even shorter because the majority of the drive is on the interstate meaning I can "step on it." There were things that I wanted to do that I wasn't able to get to, places that I wanted to eat at, and pictures I wanted to take. Well, I think this weekend just might be my opportunity to go back and explore. On the other hand, it might be a chill weekend of lounging and writing and cooking and eating my favorite foods. If I were at home and it was a weekend like this, I would invite everyone to come over and eat. I'm in one of those moods. The holidays always tend to bring it on.

Happy Weekend everyone.







SIDE NOTE that I always feel compelled to talk about:
I am so fortunate to have so many people around me wanting whatever I want for myself. Everyday I wake up in extreme gratitude for the people in my life. Nobody really knows how difficult this past year has been for me. I do put on a facade very often so that others are comfortable around me. Very rarely do I let down my facade and have a good cry in front of people. My agony has been experienced privately and with my closest family and friends. Even when my mother passed away, I only cried with my now ex-husband. It would be in the dark while we were lying in bed. He wouldn't say a word to me. He would wrap his arms around me, let me cry, and wait for me to fall asleep. Ironic now that he is the source of my pain.
SIDE NOTE END.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Just One Of Them Dayz

This PMS thing just drains the heck out of me. I don't know how we, as women, do this all of our adult lives. It seems to get worse as I approach menopause or maybe I'm menopausing? I don't know. It's just so taxing and draining from the crazy food cravings to the cramps, the headaches, and the damn mood swings. Sorry for whoever has had to deal with me today. I have not been a happy camper.

Monica's 90's R and B anthem, Just One Of Them Days, rings truer now than it did back then for me. The older I get, the worse it seems to get. And then once the "event" arrives all the mood swings are gone and the stupid headaches and food cravings just magically disappear. The cramps will still be there though.

Some days I'm not sorry but today I am. I have been a little mean and grouchy and just plain moody. If I could, I would crawl into a cave for the next week until this "storm" passes. I feel restless but really I need to just chill this weekend and stay in bed all day long, write, watch some good movies, and just kick back.

A certain someone was heavy on my mind this morning. I like to think that I was on his mind also but I don't know if we still have that connection or if he thinks I'm a flake. I don't know but I am good where I'm at and don't need to complicate my life by reaching out. 

Thanksgiving Weekend I hung out with my two "nieces" from back home, Penina and Pu. They are both in college near me and I was so happy to have them. We're in the store getting snacks for our pending movie night and I am grabbing oreos and ice cream and chocolate cupcakes. Of course, it's obvious that the food cravings are taking over and we have a good laugh about it. While we're riding in the car Pu asks me if I heard the song, Time of the Month by Swiss. We find the song on Amazon Music Unlimited and I just about die laughing at the lyrics. The catchy reggae-esque chorus repeats:
It's the time of the month
When my baby goes crazy
Out of her mind
And she's telling me she hates me
I give her a little time
Cause in a few days she'll be fine

I guess it's a universal experience for straight men who deal with us crabby women at that time of the month. I did go ape this morning and I apologized for it. All should be well, right? Nope... I don't feel better and I just want to disappear for a week. Ugghhh... My boss is going to be out of the office until next Wednesday. Can't I just escape to Baltimore or Dallas for the week? Oh well -- it is what it is.

I hope I feel better tomorrow.




Monday, November 27, 2017

Thankgiving 2017

This year has flown by. It's been full of so many changes. I can't believe that I've kept up. I have had some bad days, some bad weeks but overall I am content where my life is right here and right now. I am still hungry to achieve the goals that I have set for myself. They are coming along slower than I expected but I am still on track. Inspiration still hits me in waves rather than a constant flow but I am working on that.

I can say nothing negative about my life here. My arrival in South Carolina has really been the path of least resistance. The hardest part was making the decision to leave Hawai'i. Once I did make the decision though, the path here opened so wide and easy that there was no other choice but to move out here. I am so grateful for all the support I have had with this move. Now that I'm here, I'm digging in and really building my own life and actively working on all the things that I wanted to but couldn't because of my commitment to my marriage and my family. This life now is ALL ABOUT ME and only me.

Thanksgiving weekend was a whirlwind with two of the three Sao sisters. I had my fun with sister number one (she's the oldest) before I left Hawai'i. It is always a "thing" when you grew up in the same neighborhood and find each other on the mainland. We hung out all week long and ate and ate and ate. I threw down in the kitchen even though all of us are light eaters. I'm still eating leftovers and am not sick of yet. We did Black Friday shopping at the Charlotte Premium Outlet mall. It was crowded and it took us a good ten minutes just to find parking. There were deals everywhere. Saturday - we drove out to Augusta, Georgia to partake of some Hawai'i grinds. It was really good especially being all the way out here - to be able to get poke and laulau - heavenly! And it was good too. A little fact - the owner and operator of Hawaiian Style BBQ is from my hood in Hawai'i. He is a graduate of Kahuku, Class of 2000. In fact, his dad and my mother worked together back in the 80's. Red Raider Nation ain't no joke.

The following photo collages are from Thanksgiving Weekend. I picked up the girls from Rock Hill, South Carolina on Wednesday. We had a blast. They are such good girls. Their parents should be extremely proud of them. The girls came to my office at the University of South Carolina to "house warm" my office. They wanted to decorate it for Christmas but I didn't have any. I took them to take a picture with "Cocky" the USC mascot. So cute. We shopped and explored Columbia. Main Street in Downtown Columbia has the cutest boutique shops. I really enjoyed walking around. Every shop was geared up for Christmas with the most beautiful decorations. It really put me in the holiday spirit. I was sad to drop them off early Monday morning but was happy to have been able to spoil them while they were here.






Friday, November 10, 2017

Redefining Love Relationships


All of my life, especially at the foot of my mother, I have been taught the following about love relationships:

Marriage is between a man and a woman.
Sex happens after marriage.
Children happen after marriage. 

And for all of my life, I believed that. I believed that love relationships progressed from love to marriage between a man and a woman to sex to children. I did not necessarily obey the "sex happens after marriage" part but I certainly believed that those were all excellent guiding principles for living a happy life.We live in an ever changing world whose values are shifting all the time. Marriage is being redefined. Gender roles - redefined. Bathroom entrance - who can use the bathroom and where - redefined. The world is shifting.

Here I am at age 42 and the result of the guiding principles is that I have two failed marriages under my belt. I'm not attributing the "guiding principles" as the reason that I have two failed marriages. I'm just saying that those principles did not really have an effect on the outcome. So here's what I'm thinking I want to do moving forward. I am nixing the whole marriage requirement. I don't think I ever want to be married again. My heart just can't take another round of giving my all only for it to end in divorce. I don't want to do that again. EVER. Of course, that's me talking right now and who knows what's in store for the future. My commitment to my mate DOES NOT need to be "sanctified" by the State. I can commit to him in front of God and vow fidelity and respect all the days of our lives. Why do I need to add the contractual certification from the State?



I am reminded of the scene in the movie Braveheart where William and Muron marry secretly in the cemetery. The priest meets them and they cite their vows to one another and the Church sanctions their union. William chose this route because "the State" at that time was the English under the direction of Edward Longshanks. According to the movie, Longshanks ordered the practice of prima nocta. This allowed the English Lord of the town or village the right to sleep with a new Scottish bride on her wedding night. The desired effect was to breed the Scots out of existence. Heinous and absolutely uncivil but this is why William chose to marry his love in secret.

Now I'm not saying that my refusal of state-sanctioned marriage fixes my relationship problems. That is not what I'm saying. What I am thinking, though, is that I don't want the hassle of marriage. I want him to live in his place and me in my place and on occasion, we meet for the weekend. He can attend special events with me. I can go with him. But to co-habitate and get bills and mortgages together? I don't want it. To have to cook and clean up after him, I can do without it. Well, I take that back, I actually enjoy cooking and cleaning. I just don't want to be tied down EVER again. I don't want to ask for permission to do anything! I don't want to ask permission on spending my well-earned money. I don't want to ask permission to go on a girls trip if I wanted to. I don't want to answer to anybody!

So then, this logic begs the question -- is my newly defined love relationship just about sex and physical satiation? Companionship, love, are those things no longer important to my new definition of a committed relationship? And if that be the case, am I just a creature of physical lust, animalistic in nature? I don't know what this new approach means. I am not sure how it will even play out. I don't want to appear as a bitter woman because I don't feel like I am. In fact, I am the exact opposite. I love life. Heck, my hashtag for the last year has been #iStillBelieveInLove because I do. I believe that I will experience blissful love again. I look forward to it. This time, though, it will be on my terms.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Happy Divorce Anniversary : Year One Is Complete



1 year ago today, Honorable Judge Na'unanikina'u A. Kamali'i ordered, adjudged, and decreed that "a decree of divorce is granted..." You can go back and read my posts from a year ago and feel the sadness that I experienced. I never go into a relationship to give up and I know I sound like a broken record but two men have found it better to be alone than to be with me. That messes with me from time to time because, well, it makes me wonder if I am unfit to be loved. Of course I know that I am lovable but some days when I think about the crazy loves I have experienced through adulthood, I have to question how good of a woman I think I am.

My first husband was my first love. I met him when I was just 18 years old. I didn't know shit about love but I swore I did and as soon as I met him, we moved so quickly and effortlessly into love. I was like a pitbull when it came to him. I locked my jaws onto him and was not going to let him go until he gave me what I wanted. And all I wanted was HIS professed love. We married after I turned 21. Six years later we divorced. My second husband was everything my first husband was not -- he was present in every single moment, in my face with love and affection, and wanted to be a part of every facet of my life. We traveled the world together. We were best friends. We bought our first house together. There was a bunch of firsts with him. He was so much fun. I will always hold on to our good times because there was a lot of them.

Having said all of that there is one thing I have made peace with and that is that I don't want to move backwards. All the pining I have done for my exes is just too much already. I just need to move forward and not look back. Everyone that matters to me has said as much. Even though I shared so much of my life with both men, there is just no way that I can put the hurt behind me. We can be friends, maybe. But partners or mates again? I'm not so sure. And the friend thing is questionable also just because I feel a sense of irritation just thinking about "helping" my ex with anything. Whatever value he sees in me that he would want to keep me as a friend, it was all his when we were married. And... well.... we're not married anymore and any value I might add to him is no longer available to him. It's time for me to move on and actually, it's time for him to move on as well. This is what you wanted - divorce. There is nothing that binds us together. We don't have children so let me go and you go on your way too!

When I think about the condition of my heart and the broken-ness and sadness of the past, I want to move ever so quickly toward something else. When it comes down to it, I love the butterflies that accompany new love. The anticipation and the magic that happens is so nice. There's no sadness or heartache associated with new love and I cherish the beginnings. I want it to stay just like it is in the beginning of the budding romance. I feel like I never want the relationship to develop past that beginning stage. I mean, because, what happens after the beginning? Usually one person is pushing for it to develop to something more, which usually means moving in together or marriage. And what happens in that type of relationship? The butterflies disappear. The honeymoon phase fades and the relationship becomes a shadow of what it was in the beginning. We forget how much we couldn't live without each other. We forget the instant attraction that happened in the beginning. We forget to love each other and to cherish each other. In fact, we find ourselves dreading the monotony of our lives. It doesn't have to be that way but it usually happens that way. Some people can manage it and push to work through those difficult times and some just throw in the towel. I suppose one is not better than the other, it all depends on your value system. So give me the fireworks of brand new beginnings.

I subscribe to relationship commentator, Derrick Jaxn. I love his videos. Some of them are really funny and truthful and it comes from the man's perspective. He talks about how women should approach relationships. I mention him just because he has been like the voice in my ear for the last year, reminding me that I need to know my own value. Thank you Derrick Jaxn! This video is one of my favorites. It's not very old. I think he posted it a month ago. I want my ex to one day realize what a gem he let go of when he gave me my walking papers. Maybe that day will never come and him divorcing me might turn out to be the best thing he ever did. Whatever happens though, I will be okay. Right now, I know that it's already TOO LATE. If he came to me tomorrow and said he wanted it all back, I can't. I'm done.


Truth be told, I feel so free right now. I will be even freer as soon as I no longer have joint debt with my ex. We don't need to be in contact. My feelings for him are still so raw. Any of our encounters since we split has been difficult for me. I will never show him that raw emotion again, the way I did when he first told me he wanted a divorce. He will never see me fall apart again. In fact, my rise is meteoric. He can watch me from afar.

So happy divorce anniversary. I will celebrate this weekend in Myrtle Beach, perched on a balcony overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. And hopefully I will find some good seafood to munch on as today, of all days, I am craving a poke bowl.

Monday, October 23, 2017

I'm REALLY Moving to South Carolina

It's really real.
I am really moving.

I don't know where this road is going to lead but I can say with certainty that NOTHING has unfolded this easily before my eyes. NOTHING. The events and circumstances that lead me to South Carolina can only be defined as a fated road; the path of least resistance pushing me in a clear direction where there is no denial of where it is I need to be. I cannot explain how or why I have moved with such swiftness. My visit in January followed by my visit in June and here I am in October making the move with a job already in place and a "hellafied" support system like no other!

I am extremely grateful for all the moving parts that is making this transition so easy. From my friends and family here in Hawai'i that have put up with me for the last year to my cousins in South Carolina, "my soft spot to land," and all the friends and family from California to Utah to Texas and to Maryland that have dealt with my bouts of sadness and erratic behavior. They are the true MVP's in my world. I don't know the wreck I must have looked like just a year ago but I sure don't feel like that today. And with the job offer I accepted in South Carolina and the adventure that awaits me there, life is only getting better and better. I untangle myself from anything that causes me sadness or causes me to second guess my self worth. Surely if you couldn't recognize my value in the past when it was all yours to have, why should I believe that you see it now?

Who would have ever thought that this island girl would fly away to such a foreign place. South Carolina. I think of it and a smile creeps across my face not just because of the memories that I have already made but because of the new experiences that await me. I feel like I am moving to live in a Nicholas Sparks novel (all of his love stories are set in the Carolinas). **cue romantic music** It excites me and fills me with wonder.

I am going toward living my wildest dream. I am speaking my future into existence. It is already a reality (inside my mind) - I am a published author telling the stories about love and about culture, about relationships romantic and familial. I am writing the memoir that every broken-hearted woman needs to read to see themselves in me and to find their own strength to overcome any sad reality.

Yes. I feel this pull to South Carolina and it represents freedom from my past. It represents me being my most authentic self. It represents new beginnings. I have craved this and longed for it, it seems, all of my life.

Here we go!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Talking To Myself : Random Love Thoughts



Love has dictated all of my adult life.

the pursuit of it
the wanting
the needing
the search for a partner to compliment my soul

This past weekend, I came to a quick realization that I deserve everything my heart desires.

The next time love finds me, it will be without effort, without having to overcome insurmountable odds just for our relationship to exist. I will never have to wonder if he loves me because it will be apparent. His pursuit of me will match or exceed my efforts and I will be in competition with NO ONE.

I have come to realize that I am worthy of a love that is big and sincere. It is not my job to prove to anyone that I am a good woman. Even though I categorize myself as the realest ride-or-die chic, I am not the poster child for all good women.Why should I continue to portray myself as this loyal partner when it goes unappreciated? My display of loyalty and honor and respect for my partner has me sacrificing my own needs. I compromise so much of who I am to be "that girl" for my man. I'm done with that.

Some of my closest friends tell me that I should wait for my ex-husband, wait for him to want me again. I think it is so degrading for me to wait around for him. If I wait for him, I'm telling myself that he is more important than my own needs, that my heart is not as important as his love. It's been a year since we split. I still adore him but I am tired of being sad. I am tired of carrying around my broken heart and if there is love for me on the horizon, may it be pure and free from any pain and heartache.

I don't want to associate new love with any pain or broken hearts. Some say that the pain adds to the the depth of the relationship but I don't need it. I want it to lift me and push me to the highest heights. I want to laugh uncontrollably in his arms and feel the aching in my belly that comes from laughter. I want to feel butterflies every time I think of him and see him. I want to feel him gently supporting my every endeavor no matter how stupid it may sound.

I never want to worry about another broken heart. Thinking of trusting my heart to another man scares me. Is it unrealistic to have an expectation that a man could love me for life? True, faithful, and full of genuine love and affection not just for a couple of years but for life, forever? What I really want is to put all of my broken hearts behind me and never look back. I know I speak about forgiveness and having no malice in my heart but I don't think I can let go of the pain of my broken heart.... at least not yet.

I don't know what tomorrow brings. All I know is the condition of my heart right now. It's a little bruised up and not ready for anything serious. I don't know when I will be ready again. I take it one day at a time. Some days I feel good. Some days it takes everything in me NOT to fall to pieces. Songs normally trigger a reaction. Billy Ocean's "Love is Forever" will have me a complete and utter mess. And, well, I'm tired of the emotion. I am tired of the bouts of sadness. Don't get me wrong though, I love to be in love. Heck, my moniker as of late has been hashtag-i-still-believe-in-love. I do! I really do... just not for me at this very moment.

i am hopeful
i am optimistic
i am moving forward


Monday, October 09, 2017

Ready To Move



Time is just flying. I have just about two weeks left at my job. After this, I will be making my way to South Carolina. That will be home for at least the next year. I am extremely excited to start a new chapter in my life. Though I move forward with trepidation I am also very aware of how blessed I am that I have such a wide circle of close friends and family who help me to move ahead with nothing but my best foot forward. It's amazing how much has happened in the last year. I am grateful that I am not the girl I was just a year ago. When I was going through the break-up, I was very sad for several weeks. Sometimes the sadness creeps up now and I cry my eyes out until I feel some relief. I pick myself up and keep moving forward. One day I will be able to talk about this without all the pain. For right now, I will just have to cry through it.

When the ex and I split last year, he moved out first. Eventually, I moved out so that we could prepare the home to be sold. I downsized considerably. We sold almost everything. He took one bed and I sold the other. He took the big TV and I sold the other one. We sold all the other furniture. I downsized my library of books considerably. I don't like to think of how many books I donated to Goodwill because each book was so precious to me. I had to detach from my relationship with the words on those pages and yet I still have tons of books that I kept.

Throughout the past two weeks, I have been combing through my stuff again. This time, I am downsizing for my move to South Carolina. It is unbelievable the amount of paperwork that I was able to throw out. I have had to decide what to keep, what to shred, what to send back to my ex, etc. etc. I came across our marriage certificate. We got married in Illinois right outside of St. Louis. I remember that it was a very cold and wet November day. I also came across our divorce decree. My own hand wrote out every single detail on that decree. How did I have the strength to separate the material things of our lives in that application for divorce. It is not even what I wanted and yet my handwriting is all over it. Normally, if you go through an attorney they draw up the paperwork and draft a formal decree separating the details of a couple's life. We did it on our own, without a lawyer. It's cheaper (for him) and I am not an idiot where I can't figure out the paperwork. I tear up just remembering that day. My stomach was in knots all morning long as I sat there in our living room filling out paperwork before the courthouse opened. I distinctly remember the clerk at the court looking at us as so strange because we weren't crying or fighting at her window. That doesn't mean that I didn't want to cry, it just means that I maintained a calm decorum so as not to embarrass myself or him.

Yesterday, as I was going through a bin of stuff, I came across a birthday card from my ex. It brought tears to my eyes and almost thwarted my efforts to pack my belongings. I am not surprised at the emotion that it stirred in me. I will always be a sentimental fool. It is probably one of my trademarks. I have held on to pieces of clothing, material, letters, pictures, broken jewelry all in the name of sentimental value. In fact, I just parted with a gold hoop earring that I received from my ex. He brought the pair as a gift for me while he was deployed to Iraq. I was so bummed when I lost one side of the pair on a trip to Europe.

I don't remember what year he wrote the card to me but it had to have been during one of our happy years because of what he wrote.
"To the best wife a man could have. I love you."
I remember when he used to feel like that about me. Like I was the best thing that ever happened to him. Like I complimented his life. Like there could never be another that he would ever love. Like his world started and stopped with me. And I don't regret anything that has happened - not our meeting and falling madly, deeply in love or our private nuptials all by ourselves in Illinois (we eloped), or our wedding dinner at Olive Garden - just the two of us. I don't even regret our break up. Of course if I could choose, I would have selected to stay together and work on our relationship. I did not know I had driven him to the point where he just did not want to be with me any more.

None of it matters and yet all of it matters. All of it contributes to the ever evolving me. It makes me who I am - this deeply feeling woman. The falling in love and the broken heart adds facets to my life that eventually will glow and shimmer in the light just like a diamond. The more facets, the more light I reflect. I love that my heart is so weathered and has so much mileage on it. Truly, one day I will sparkle even brighter than I do now. And though I do not wish this pain on anyone, I am so extremely proud of my ability to rise above the hurt.

I am ready for this move to South Carolina. I am more sure about this than anything I have ever done before. I am so ready to do what makes me happy and so ready to live out my wildest dreams. It is so exciting to move in a direction that frees me, liberates me, and pushes me to be the best version of myself.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Happy Divorce Anniversary : Don't Turn Around Edition


What a difference a year makes.

One year ago, today, I was signing divorce papers. No doubt, this has been a most challenging year for me but it has also been full of growth and change and new beginnings.

In just about thirty days or so, I am leaving my island home and making my way in the world. ALONE. The path of least resistance is pulling me in a direction that I NEVER, in a million years, saw coming. I would have never guessed that I would ever live in South Carolina. Even now, I am still amazed that I am going to call that home for at least the next year or so. Who knows where I will go next?

I saw something on Facebook that reminded me so much of this past year and all the changes.

Anything that annoys you is teaching you PATIENCE.
Anyone who abandons you is teaching you how to STAND UP on your own two feet.
Anything that angers you is teaching you FORGIVENESS and COMPASSION.
Anything that has power over you is teaching you how to TAKE YOUR POWER BACK.
Anything you hate is teaching you UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.
Anything you fear is teaching you COURAGE to overcome your fear.
Anything you can't control is teaching you how to LET GO.

When you're in the muck of a break-up, it's difficult to see outside of the sphere of hurt. It's hard to feel anything but sadness and anger and abandonment especially when breaking-up was not my choice. I have truly learned patience and to trust the process, to heal, to let go, and to soar above my hurt. I will always see my ex as a beautiful soul. Even now, I feel a tinge of jealousy. I am jealous of the person he will grow old with. And maybe he will do as he says he will and live out the rest of his days alone. In any case, my love for him is unconditional and I see him as God intended. I will always only have respect for his decision to leave. His courage is far stronger than mine was when we were together. Even in my unhappiness I remained silent whereas he did the hardest thing and severed our relationship. I hate to admit it but he was right. He told me when we were divorcing that one day I would thank him for doing this, that one day I would see that he was right about this break up and that it needed to happen.

**deep breath**

He's right. Though I am not yet at that stage where I am grateful for this break up, but I'm almost there. I am sure in the coming days and weeks and months, I will see the wisdom in this turn of events. Often we go through our day to day life just existing, almost robotic. I vow to never live in that dreary gray again.

What a difference a year makes.

I have made new friends. Rekindled old friendships. Fostered relationships that have been neglected over the years. And I think I am going to be okay. I move ever so confidently in the direction of my wildest dreams and I honor the people who have stuck with me through this whole process. I don't think they will ever know their full value to me, no matter how much I might say it. I am so humbled by the beautiful support system I have. My friends. My family. Wow! I thank God for all of them. I can't even name them all because my circle is wide and far.

Today, I will look in the mirror and wish myself Happy Divorce Anniversary. The world is wide open.





Monday, September 11, 2017

Homecoming Season : Kahuku Style

It's HomecomingSeason at my High School alma mater. I'm going to miss this when I make my move to SC. I have done the photography for the Homecoming Court for the last six years. And then the last maybe four years, I've done the bouquets, sashes, and boutonnieres. I told the coordinator that I'm coming back next year just to do Homecoming. 

Every year is a little different with all the different personalities. The King and Queen really make a difference in the mood of the evening. One thing is for sure. Our community rallies around these kids. It is a beautiful site to behold. I always look forward to this time of year as I did when I was in High School. Happy Homecoming to current Red Raiders and all alumni Red Raiders. 










Monday, September 04, 2017

Moving Forward: #SoloAdventures



I have about a month and a half left until my last day of work at my current job. When I leave this university, I will get on a plane and make my way to South Carolina - the state I have chosen to live in for the next couple of months, at least. I know it seems so random that I have selected South Carolina to make my home. I have visited the state twice this year and I feel compelled to go.

When my ex and I split, I know that we were both unhappy. However, I am stubborn as a mule. I was committed to my commitment to him. Loyal to a fault. In recent months, he and I have been texting back and forth. He is trying to explain to me why he left me. I don't really want to hear his excuses. I needed explanations when he left me not now, nearly a year later. I have already readjusted my life to being single. I can't say that I don't miss him but I am moving forward and I cannot look back. What is odd is that he blames me for the break up of our marriage and that is not my experience with how things went down between us. My inability to compromise on certain issues, namely relocation, is why he left me. I am sure he is perturbed that right after we break up, I decide to leave Hawai'i.

HIM: I think you wanted it too. (Divorce) I was setting you free. Us free. I didn't lose any attraction for you etc. Just going different paths. There was never anybody else. I know I was holding you back.

ME: We didn't have to hold each other back. We could have worked together to bang out every dream.

HIM: You didn't want to leave. I know deep down you don't. 

ME: If I could take it all back, I would have gone wherever you wanted to go.

HIM: Yea, you were so adamant about not wanting to leave.

ME: Sorry

HIM: It's fine. I was hurt about it for a long time. It was like all your people looked at me like I was the bad guy. No one called to see how I was doing. I was like wow.

ME: You shred my heart. What are they supposed to do?

I have to insert my opinion here. I am still so irritated that he was upset about my family not contacting him when we were getting divorced. When we split, I called his mother and father to thank them for all the years of support and all the years of love. He didn't call my father to even try to explain why he was leaving me and my father didn't need an explanation. He understands that this was his choice. My father said that my ex and I are both capable of making sound decisions. I am so similar to my father in his thought process. I cried my eyes out when I said my goodbyes to my in-laws. They were such a big part of my life. I loved both of my sister-in-laws. I loved my sister-in-law's kids and I know they loved me too. Break-ups are so difficult especially when it's not mutual. I feel very close to them in a way that I wasn't with my first husband's family. I miss them as much as I miss my now ex-husband.

HIM: Two sides but its OK. During a break up the guys is always the bad guy.

ME: I kept asking (friend) to check on you. I still have so much love for you. Wish things could be different. 

HIM: Thank you its all good. LOL. I can handle myself.

ME: Well you gave up on us. That is the disappointment. Instead of work together to fix it, you left me.

HIM: You gave up. When you got mad every time I talked about moving. Like walking on egg shells when I brought it up.

ME: I did not give up. Me talking about business ventures... was like walking on egg shells.

Apparently, we just did not see eye to eye. What hurts me every time I go back and read these texts is that he didn't want to try and work it out. He just wanted to leave and break up. That is so hard for me to swallow, even now. Even though I know how smart and talented I am, him leaving me is such a blow to my self esteem. He is the second man to leave me and it still hurts like hell. I see him as such a beautiful man. I can't lie - his body is so beautiful and he is so drop dead gorgeous - in my opinion. And he has such a beautiful soul. When things were good between us, they were really good. He was my best friend. We did everything together.

HIM: You were more loyal to your family than me.

ME: I see that. I apologize. And now it's too late cuz we're divorced.

HIM: Just paper. Its all good now.

ME: I can't talk about this. Crying. Still so raw. 

HIM: We both hurt.

ME: So why did you walk away instead of work it out? Try a separation.

HIM: I knew it was going to be forced.

ME: Nobody's forcing me now.

HIM: I see. Going to South Carolina?

ME: You was just done with me when I realized that moving was what you wanted. I also thought there was someone else because of your extra activities. 

HIM: No.

ME: You right though. My family did get in the way of us. Sorry. That realization prompted this move. I have to build a life separate from my fam. Even if it will be by myself. 

HIM: You choose your family over me. That was cruel.

ME: I'm a good woman and you rather be alone than with me - that's a blow to my self esteem. But its all good. I will bounce back.

HIM: You will.

ME: Wish you would have said all this stuff before you dumped me.

The conversation goes on and on. The way I feel right now, I would go back to him in a heart beat. That is my honest and true feelings. And it's not because I think we had a perfect relationship or that we are made for each other. No. What I loved about he and I is that we were best friends. We did every thing together. He always made me feel safe. He made me feel like I was the only woman in the world. We spent so much time together and were not sick of each other at all. He took really good care of us and I will forever be jealous of whoever he chooses to spend the rest of his days with.  

So here I am, making this move to South Carolina without my man/best friend. And this is what he wanted - to move - and I am doing it without him. If I could turn back the hands of time, I would gladly hear him out and allow honest expression to happen between us. I don't know why I was so uncompromising. I don't know why he gave up so easily. I don't know why we didn't have this discussion before he divorced me. And now we're having open and honest communication via text message. I wish I could take it back then this move that I am about to make would not be a #SoloAdventure but another positive move in our relationship. I miss him. I suppose I will always miss him.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

HeartBreak + Forklifting

Today was rough for me. Actually, the last couple of days have been rough. So many thoughts in my mind... needing to get my mind and heart right to move forward in life and not feel so weighed down. I just want to come out from beneath the grey skies. I was doing good for a minute but certain events in recent weeks just put me over the edge to where I can't ignore the conflict in my heart. After much contemplation, I have concluded that I need to do what's right for me and only me. I cannot be concerned with anyone else.

This morning, one single song triggered a host of memories that I just could not ignore. Bonnie Raitt, I CAN'T MAKE YOU LOVE ME. It took me back to 2001 when my first husband and I were separating. We divorced in 2003. I was taken back to the last time we made love before we parted ways. I knew he was leaving me and had known for weeks before he finally departed.

Turn down the lights
Turn down the bed
Turn down these voices inside my head
Lay down with me
Tell me no lies
Just hold me close, don't patronize
Don't patronize me


I had probably been very melodramatic leading up to our actual separation. How do I say goodbye to the only man that I had ever loved? How can he leave me and break my heart with little regard for me? Why was my love not enough to keep him here with me?

I'll close my eyes, then I won't see
The love you don't feel when you're holding me
Morning will come and I'll do what's right
Just give me till then to give up this fight
And I will give up this fight


I remember him kissing me. It always lead to making love. I absolutely loved that about us. We had a very compatible sex drive. This time was different than any other time because I knew this was goodbye. I think about that time in my life and just can't help but sob like a baby. I feel every single emotion I felt way back then. Even after all these years, I just can't shake those raw emotions and it seems even more intense now. It's funny how that works. I will NEVER get over my first love. NEVER. There will always be unfinished business between us. 

So this morning, as I am experiencing all these feelings all over again, I was crying like a baby. My eyes were swollen and red from the tears that just would not stop. I was falling to pieces. In the nick of time, one of my besties pulls up to save me from myself. She takes one look at me, her eyes narrow, and she says, "Who did it?" She tells me to get dressed. As is typical with me, whenever I'm stressed, I go right to work. Apparently she was having a melt down also and needed to get some physical activity.

We made our way to our job site about 45 minutes away and we put in work. We moved large items around. It required the forklift and thanks to my diverse resume, I know how to drive a forklift. Doing physical labor always helps me forget stuff that bothers me. Today was no exception. By 7:30 in the evening, we were spent and found ourselves pigging out at the local Mexican restaurant. Physical labor and sweat makes for good therapy. I am so grateful for my sister-friend who saw my bat signal and came to my rescue.


#NeenaLoveDrives
@ NorthShoreLiquidation






Friday, August 18, 2017

Say A Little Prayer For You

Made this video for the guy I like to call, "My Mentor," Richie Norton. I was such a groupie of his wife who is a fabulous photographer as well as Richie, both are extremely talented entrepreneurs. I love basking in their glow. They have such great energy and charisma. Prior to meeting them in person I followed them closely on social media. I read Natalie's entire blog in a matter of days. And Richie's free e-book, I devoured in a couple of hours. They are the salt of the earth.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Life Is a Collection of Experiences



Life is a collection of experiences.

I have become increasingly comfortable with being single, unattached, divorced, and free. I am not in a rush to be with someone exclusively. I am actually enjoying the freedom, the ability to choose my destiny. The road ahead is mysterious, scary even but it invigorates me. The adventure of new experiences or the potential for new experiences fills my world with a brand new excitement that I have not felt in a very long time.

I miss the comfort of my ex and I will admit that my birthday weekend had me really sad. I wanted to be with him desperately. I wanted him to take me out like we have done for my birthday for the previous twelve years. I wanted him to hold my hand, to make love to me, to  hold me long into the night but I know it would have been all wrong. There's just no way that my heart can handle that. Even though he offered to take me out, there was no way I could have done that without feeling all kinds of sadness the next day. It would get in the way of my healing and I cannot turn back now. I have come too far to go back to that place of loving him. Even though we had some really good years, I think we just grew apart wanting different things from life.

I could never be the one to leave. I only know how to be loyal and committed. I am truly a woman of my word. If I said, "Til Death Do Us Part," I really meant it. But he decided to leave and I can only respect him for his courage to make the changes that he saw fit. I know I never want to live under the gloom that was taking over our marriage. I never want to feel that dead inside again and I am sure he was feeling that way also. At the same time, I had a deep love for him and he will always own that piece of my heart. Life truly is a collection of experiences. Though he was not my first love, he is and will always be a significant character in the story of my life.

I was having a discussion with a friend. We were discussing first love. Every person has that one. My first love was everything that you would expect. He was pure love, animal attraction, physical satisfaction, and yet was also pure hurt. We compared the emotions of our experiences with our first loves and our reactions are identical - that we would run back to them in a heartbeat just to feel that rush again.

Why is it that we want to run back to that comfortable place of first love? Both she and I were similar in that we loved them with complete abandon. We gave our whole heart to them. What I experienced with my first love is that as shy as I was, he was patient with me. We explored our emotions and our physical desires together. He cradled my heart and my body like no one ever has. Even now as a 42 year old woman, I have only ever been fully satisfied with him and not just sexually. He knew my body and could take me to the heights of pleasure but even deeper than that, he appreciated my heart, and was absolutely in love with my mind. First love is supposed to be like that - a collection of brand new experiences that we brave together.

We wish beyond all wishes that we could take back the heartache that came with first love. It could not have been first love without the heart break. My first love will always own that title of "first love" because he broke my heart, because him leaving cut me the deepest. And my foolish heart was so naive to think that he could love me in my totality forever. And yet, I look back at the fierceness of my love and the strength that I loved him with and I am in awe at my capacity to love him. When we parted ways, I did find love again but a part of me will always belong to him. That place in my heart that was reserved for only him is still locked away never to be experienced by anyone but him.

The woman I have become since I split from my first love, I could never be her without having experienced that hurt. I honor that event and all the years since we split because it has added so many facets to my womanhood. My kindness, my compassion, and my capacity to love has only increased because I know what a broken heart feels like. And though I wish that our love had never stopped, I am also grateful that I found love again. And even though that second love has left me, I know I will experience love again and fall truly, madly, deeply in love with another. All of these experiences of love and pain and hurt and joy and passion are possible because I have loved and I have lost. And I honor all of these trials and triumphs.

Life is a collection of experiences.

#iStillBelieveInLove

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Zipline Review: CLIMBworks Keana Farms

I went ziplining with my nieces yesterday. In typical Leo fashion, I celebrate all season long. The party begins on July 22nd and ends August 22nd. So I have a couple more days of celebrating until Leo Season is officially over.

I had not planned on going ziplining. My sister-in-law had won two tickets to CLIMBworks at Keana Farms located in Kahuku, Hawai'i and she was sending her two oldest children to use the tickets. My oldest niece is leaving for college in just 12 short days. I am so crazy excited for her. This zipline thing was part of her "things to do" before leaving home. I decided to tag along. My father had given me some birthday money so I could afford to splurge on the $150 price tag (Kamaaina Rate).

EASE OF BOOKING:
I walked in there and asked if there was any availability for me. There was one more spot left and I snatched it right up. The worker behind the register was helpful and worked quickly to get me signed in and paid for. There is a 275 pound weight limit and they do actually weigh you before they take your money.

LOBBY AREA:
The lobby was clean and very nice. There are plenty of workers to assist guests with any needs.

GETTING GEARED UP:
Everything is provided for you. You just show up. The workers get you geared up and assist in making sure all the necessary safety precautions are taken. There aren't any lengthy safety videos or lectures. You go on your first zip right at the beginning where the guides give you some quick tips on being safe and having fun.

THE EXPERIENCE:
The tour is two and a half to three hours. After the first zip, you go up the mountain in an ATV. The views from the top are stunning. I think we did a total of 8 zips. One was as fast as 45 mph. The highest I believe was over 1,500 feet. It was an amazing experience! In between zips, you hike or climb or pull yourself up on a rope. It is quite invigorating.

OVERALL:
I had a great time. There is nothing negative that I can say about the entire experience. The guides were fabulous and friendly. They knew each of us by name after the first couple of zips. If there is one thing I wish I had done is take my camera/phone. I didn't take it with me on the hike because I thought I would have dropped it. All the videos in my short vid were taken with both of my niece's phones.


Thursday, August 03, 2017

Paper Hearts : Birthday Edition



Wow. I will be turning 42 tomorrow.

Last year was the saddest birthday ever. My now ex-husband and I were fighting like cats and dogs. We were both so unhappy. I had made plans for dinner and dancing atop the Ala Moana Hotel. It used to be called Aaron's but it's now called Signature Steak House. It still has wrap around views of the mountains, the city, and the ocean. When it was Aaron's, it was definitely one of my favorite spots. I frequented it a lot back in the early 2000's. The men were required to have a coat, which is always a nice, classy touch. The food, the drink, the views were absolutely fantastic. But my most favorite thing was that it featured a hot R&B band that played there on the weekends. They did covers of every single R&B song you can imagine from the 60's to the present. It was something kind of wonderful. I am not sure if the band has continued with the new restaurant but when I made reservations last year, I was hoping that it would still be a feature.

With my then husband and I fighting, I cancelled the reservation. There was no point in having dinner together. We could hardly stand to be in the same room much less have a conversation and be romantic. And I was craving the romance, wanting him to fall back in love with me. I had no idea how to fix whatever was happening with us and I sat idle and watched as our relationship came to a grinding halt. This, by far, has been the most challenging year for me and I have been through some really hard ish in my life.

Marriage number two is down the tubes and I am not sure if I will ever be married again. It is nearly a year since he and I parted ways and I miss him immensely. Recent conversations between he and I have crushed my heart and eeked out every last bit of resolve that I have been holding on to. What I have to do to get me through contact with him is to force myself to think that he will never love me again. And I have to be okay with that. I have to convince my heart and my mind that he has rejected me because he has. Even though every cell in my heart wants to run back to him and feel his strong arms around me, feel his gentle kiss upon my lips, I cannot let him just manipulate me whenever it's convenient for him. The new NEENALOVE will not accept that.

I crave love and affection as much as the next person but I just can't bring myself to put my heart out there again for another person to trample. I crave a deep connection with another soul - that is no doubt. And though I may encounter men that set my soul on fire, at this very moment I have NO desire to completely give my heart away. As a dear friend recently told me, I have a paper heart right now. She said I need to keep building it so that it doesn't shred to pieces at the first hint of rejection. One of these days my ex will not have this effect on me and I will be able to converse with him as if we were old friends. Today is not that day and it is taking EVERYTHING in me to NOT beg him to love me again.

So as my 42nd year commences, my focus is entirely on me and what will make me happy again.
I will not be mistreated.
No more paper hearts!