Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Magnolia Gardens and Plantation: From Slavery to Freedom | Photo Blog

The South (United States) has always drawn me. Outside of Hawai'i, I can't imagine living anywhere else but The South. The laid back vibe and the history of slavery draws me to this area. I have always felt, in some way, connected to the struggle associated with oppressed cultures. Every culture on the planet can identify with being oppressed in some shape or form but I am particularly captivated by the history of slavery in North America as well as the Native American struggle against European colonization. My own Pacific Island heritage continues to struggle against European colonization so I am no stranger to the struggle to overcome White privilege. 

My visit to Magnolia Gardens and Plantation in Charleston, South Carolina, included an eight dollar tour called From Slavery to Freedom. A young Caucasian man conducted the tour. I would say he is in his mid-20's.We boarded a small tram and headed toward a clearing with four white structures and it was surrounded by foliage and oak trees. We exited the tram and sat at picnic tables while the young tour guide did a 20 to 25 minute presentation, which in my opinion was very flat. It was full of information but void of real emotion. I will charge that to his age and lack of life experience but it is probably more about his disconnection to the practice of slavery. He was not disrespectful but his sympathy was a little manufactured but at least it was civil.   

In contrast, I can't help but think of my father who conducted tours for 25 years. The amount of insight and his deep connection to the content of his tours is unparalleled. He used humor, knowledge, emotion, and his God-given charm to regale his audience. I also think of a tour I took of St. John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta, Malta. Our tour guide was an older gentleman dressed in a three-piece, gray suit. He was small in stature with dark gray hair. His face was lightly wrinkled and wore a set of very thick glasses. Atop his head was a red cap; not a baseball cap or a fedora but almost like a skull cap and he walked with a cane. He had a deep, gentle voice. It was very soft. When we came across the Caravaggio painting called, The Beheading of St John the Baptist, it was like I was transformed by his monologue. I can't even recall all the details of what he said except that I knew he loved every word that came out of his mouth; that he was proud of his Maltese roots and that he was so excited to share the story of the painting and its importance to Malta. Ahhhh... If only every tour guide could have that depth and emotion.

There were some very interesting facts that the young man shared about the Magnolia Plantation. Specifically, the plantation was primarily a rice farm. The Drayton family that owned, continues to own the plantation attempted all sorts of crops but none were successful until they came across rice farming. And the rice farming was imported with the slave labor from West Africa. The tour guide shared that the West African slaves were very skilled at every aspect of rice cropping and it was their success that allowed the plantation to flourish.

The entire property is so beautiful. It's quiet and peaceful. In some areas you can hear the gurgling of a nearby brook or the wind in the trees. The birds are chirping and the peacocks cawing. The heat and humidity was nearly stifling but the gentle breeze gave some relief to the heat. The open fields surrounded by centuries-old Oak trees with Spanish Moss hanging from its limbs transported me to another time. The skies were so blue. It was a beautiful day spent there. 

The tour of the current mansion was very informative. Leslie was the tour guide and she was very knowledgable about the Drayton family. I was disappointed that the mansion was so modern. The home is not a centuries-old southern mansion at all. It is nothing that you would think of from the antebellum era. I was really hoping that it would be. I skipped posting a picture because it's just not a grand mansion. There was one piece of tapestry in one of the bedrooms that I really liked however we were not allowed to snap photos. Previous Drayton mansions on the property had burned to the ground during the Civil War. According to Leslie, that mansion was over 22,000 square feet because it included a grand ballroom on the 2nd floor. How festive. That is the type of mansion I was hoping I would be able to tour. Enjoy the photos. 










Monday, May 21, 2018

Someone Waiting Home


-As Performed by Shannon featuring Herley Johnson, Jr. 

I traveled to Las Vegas recently with my best friend. We have both had a rough couple of years with separate life trials. A Girl's Trip seemed an appropriate way to, sort of, decompress. She just went through 18 months of dealing with her young son having cancer. Thankfully, he is in remission. Me, of course, I am dealing with the divorce from my husband of thirteen years. Aside from the wonderful activities we engaged in, from shopping and gambling to attending world-class shows, much of our time was spent talking through our pent up emotions. The really deep discussions always ended up with both of us sobbing our eyes out. And actually the joyous conversations, where we celebrated our small triumphs, also ended in tears - of happiness of course.

At the end of our trip, as we made our way to separate gates, I thought to myself that she's overflowing with love (after a much needed getaway) and she gets to go home to a family that's anticipating her arrival. For a quick second I felt sorry for myself as I had no one waiting at home for me. There was no one to pick me up from the airport. There was no one that was missing me and waiting for me to come home. At the end of my journey was an empty bed and no one to share all the fun experiences I had in Vegas. There are perks to being single and being completely free to operate without permission from another person, however the perks are sometimes unfulfilling. I hope that when I do find someone who loves me the same way that I love, that he will never stifle my desire to be free.

My ex and I was texting the other day and he asked me if I was seeing anyone. I said, "YES." I was surprised at how emotional I became with our conversation. He said he was not seeing anyone and reminded me how he always used to say that if we didn't work out that he would be done with relationships. And we did always say that. I said I would never marry again if we ever split NEVER thinking that we would ever split. I thought he was my forever. I didn't have a Plan B. I don't have a Plan B. I'm figuring it out every single day.
ME: I never wanted to be alone in life. I don't like being alone.
HIM: I just do
ME: To each his own. It's rough trying to get to know someone new. I'm too old for this.
HIM: Yea that's why I don't.
ME: I like being a wife.
HIM: You about to get married?
ME: No. Hell no. I'm just saying I like being a wife.
And there, that last statement explains it all.

I do like being a wife. The clearly defined roles in a relationship from the past are changing or have changed. Most modern women shy away from the domestic duties that come with relationships. I enjoy it. Serving my home is how I show my love. My love is big, It's generous. It's loyal. And I only want to share that with one person. I don't want to spread myself out even though that seems to be the trend of the dating world. In return, however, I want the same big love and loyalty and genuine affection.

As I boarded the plane in Las Vegas with the final destination being Charlotte, North Carolina, the only thing I could think of is the empty home waiting for me. And this season that I'm in, unmarried and childless, I suppose is my time to chase and achieve every single dream I have ever dreamed. There is nothing holding me back except myself. I resolved, on that flight, to not sit in self-pity because my home is empty. I resolved to fill it with all my hopes and all my dreams and with pure, self-love. I vowed to use this time, use the pain of a broken heart to push me into a life bigger than I can currently imagine for myself. My home is full of love because my heart is full of love and though my heart is a little banged up right now, I still BELIEVE in love! And why do I still believe in and search for love even after experiencing so much heart ache? In all the ways a person loves and seeks love, what is the thing that makes the pursuit of it all worthwhile?

Home. I want HIM to feel like home.



Monday, May 14, 2018

PhotoBlog | Playing Tourist in South Carolina

My lil-cousin-bestie made her way to visit me in South Carolina. I am so tickled that she came out. We played tourist while she was here She set my mind right and kicked me in the arse to make sure I do the things I said I would do. She gave me a timeline and everything. I love that about her. She is such a task master!







Sunday, May 13, 2018

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

ADMISSION: Adults $20 | Kids $10 | Additional tours are available at $8 per tour | HINT: Groupon has discounted admission. Check there first.

I am happy to have visited Magnolia Plantation and Gardens recently. It is located in Charleston, South Carolina. 











Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Sea Calls Me | Photo Blog : Myrtle Beach Edition


LOCATION: Myrtle Beach State Park
COST TO ENTER THE PARK: $5 for 16 and above | $3.25 for 65 and older | $3 per child ages 6-15

I went to Myrtle Beach State Park on May 9th. This is typically NOT tourist season so the beach and the pier was nice and empty. There were a few people along the beach and a few people fishing from the pier but nothing like you'd expect during tourist season (June through August). 

I was born and raised in Hawai'i so I have a very high expectation of what a beach should look like. I have to say that Myrtle Beach was everything I needed to see and feel and be a part of in the moment. It is not similar to the Hawai'i beaches that I grew up on but it is still beautiful nonetheless. I will always have a love affair with the ocean and Myrtle Beach did not disappoint. Perhaps I will move closer to the shore soon. I have missed the ocean so much. I look forward to when I will be able to be in it again.

******

I cannot remember the first time I went into the ocean and yet I cannot remember my childhood without mentioning the ocean. I would bet that my folks took me into the Pacific waters before I could even roll over on my own because we have always lived by the shore. All of my summers were spent at the beach, in the water. My folks never slathered sunscreen on my melanin-rich skin so my skin would turn purple under the steady glare of the sun. 

Hot summer days, when the ocean was glassy, my father would go skin diving with a simple pole spear and a T-Bar to hold his catch. The pole spear was always yellow and it was made of fiberglass. One end was equipped with three steel prongs and the other end was a rubber loop that allowed the holder to use the spear as a sling shot. He used goggles and a snorkel and donned tabis and fins. Tabis? What are those? Well a google search returns a wikipedia entry that states it is a Japanese sock, ankle high with a separation between the big toe and the other toes. He would put his swim fins over the tabis. 

When he entered the ocean, I never once thought that he would not return. I always knew that he was safe in the ocean and so was I. Even now, when I set foot into the sea, any sea, I am fluid and become a part of the great wide expanse of water. There is no fear; only joy, which is larger than happiness. I will always feel this way, I'm sure, even beyond this life. The freedom and weightlessness of being in the ocean and the gentle rocking of the tide is the most transcendent feeling. In sadness, the ocean masks my tears. When I am joyous, it amplifies my laughter. And when I submerge my ears just under the surface of the water, with my face toward the sun, and I am floating in bliss, the Goddess within speaks and I hear her. 

After hours at sea, my father would walk out of the ocean. I cannot recall a time when he arrived empty-handed. Dried Octopus was my favorite gift from the sea when I was little. When my father emerged from the ocean, there would be several octopus writhing along his T-Bar and maybe some fish, usually manini (convict tang) and sometimes kala (unicornfish). I was always terrified of the tentacles along the legs of the octopus. I feared that it would suction my father to sickness or maybe even me. After rinsing the octopus, my father would pound it in a pot for several minutes. This tenderized the meat. After he completed that step, he would spread the octopus out on a line, attach it to the line with clothespins where it would hang in the sun to dry. The octopus would turn a deep purple color and the interior was a grayish white. I could eat this all day. The meat was chewy and was flavored by the natural salt of the ocean. I think back on those days with great fondness and realize how blessed I am because of my father's skills and because I grew up along the ocean shore. The ocean gives and we gratefully receive. 

I never realized the magic of my father's "water-eyes" until I was learning to find the octopuses and their hiding places on my own. I was a teenager when my father would allow me to accompany him on his day dives. I had no desire to go night diving with him. The darkness of the ocean was far too mysterious for me and he would only go when the moon was hidden. But the day dives were magnificent. The way the light of the sun would shimmer in the water and cast its light on the sand still makes me smile to think of it. I always stayed within fifteen feet of my father. I know he swam slow just so that I could keep up. The excitement inside me was palpable when I would see him spot an octopus. Octopus' are very stealth. They can camouflage themselves anywhere. I would never see the octopus. My father would place the spear in a hole in the rocks and the legs of the octopus would wrap itself around the spear and that is how I would spot them. I never did get good at spotting the octopus. He said it's the way the rocks look that gives away where the octopus could be hiding. I understand the concept, I just never got really good at seeing it. My "water-eyes" are not as magical as my dads. 

Of all the places I could be in the world at this very moment, I find myself living in a city that is land locked. The ocean is a two-and-a-half hour drive to Myrtle Beach. And of all the things I have given up to move to this city, it is the ocean that ever calls to me. Truly, I have risen from the ocean with my mother being from Samoa and my father being of Hawaiian decent. Their lives and those that came before them rose from the ocean as well. It is the ocean that binds me to them and to all of my ancestors all through my familial lines. Even the Swedish blood that runs through my veins required an ancestor to board an ocean liner that eventually landed him in Samoa in the South Pacific. And my pure Chinese great-grandfather also had to board a ship to make his way for new fortune and new experiences in the tiny Kingdom of Hawai'i in the middle of the Pacific. And even if I'm in this wide world, seemingly, making my way all alone, I know that my mother and those who have birthed into their next life watch over me. They guide and protect me and I will always find their spirits when I am joyously drifting upon the ocean water.

I've been staring at the edge of the water
'Long as I can remember, never really knowing why
I wish I could be the perfect daughter
But I come back to the water, no matter how hard I try
Every turn I take, every trail I track
Every path I make, every road leads back
To the place I know, where I can not go, where I long to be

See the line where the sky meets the sea?
It calls me
And no one knows, how far it goes
If the wind in my sail on the sea stays behind me
One day I'll know
If I go there's just no telling how far I'll go
-Performed by Auli'i Cravalho (How Far I'll Go)







Friday, May 11, 2018

Homage to the Sisterhood


If there is anything that I have learned over the past 20 months, it is the unbelievable amount of support I have. I am extremely humbled and so grateful for the many souls that continue to push me, support me, and encourage me. The past 20 months has truly been difficult; full of so much change and discovery, a myriad of emotions, tears, grief, triumph, fear, and love. Sweet Love. And with all of the ups and the downs, I feel so alive. I feel like I am living at the edge of my previously well-defined limits and pushing, ever pushing my known boundaries. This move to South Carolina, at first, was so scary. I was terrified and yet I felt so excited and invigorated. I still feel so invigorated by being here.

There is so much that I have discovered about myself. I fight against the old me that says, "I can't." In reality, I am discovering that, "I Can and I Will..." I will live my biggest dream. The path ahead is unknown except that I will do whatever it takes to publish, to extend my entrepreneurship beyond its current limitations, and move ever so quickly into prosperity. Breaking through my limitations is difficult only that I have known one way for all of my life. I saw my parents do it and I do it now - the comfort of a job with salary and benefits. I feel myself falling into that comfortable, familiar place where everything is predictable and I swore that I would never be that girl again. I don't want to fall into the hum drum of predictability. And going to a 9 to 5, I feel so underutilized. I know how many talents and gifts I have been blessed with and it is wasting away at a regular job because this regular job requires so little of me. It is NOT challenging. **sigh**

I need constant reminders from people holding me accountable. My closest friends/family are ON ME about the goals and things I said I would achieve. And when they check me and I give a million excuses for why I haven't done what I said I would do I am reminded to get back on the wagon and write and put into action all of my grand plans.

I just want to say how grateful I am for the women and men that push me and prod me into productivity. I want to say thank you to the ladies (and my brothers) that lets me cry it out until my vision is clear. And surely they must be tired of my swollen eyes full of tears, snot running down my face, ugly cry and yet they still listen. I want to say thank you to my popps who never judges me and allows me to blossom in my own way. He really gets me and he is always there when I need him. ALWAYS! I am ever grateful for the husbands of the wives who are my closest friends. Surely, those women would not be able to support me in ALLLL of my times of need without the willingness of their husbands. So even though the title of the blog is an Homage to the Sisterhood, I know that there are men behind the scenes that support me too.

I am learning to trust my own voice. I commit to trusting the power in my thoughts and in my words. Though I value the words of those closest to me, ultimately, I am the one that must follow my authentic path. I see so clearly my rising star. I welcome it. I am happy to accept the responsibility that comes with all my gifts and talents.

ARMY: Poster Child for Equal Opportunity




Friday, May 04, 2018

Celebrity Crushing: The Mirage of Johnny Gill



When I was a teenager, I remember one summer being so obsessed with Johnny Gill. My, My, My has always been one of my most favorite songs. Til this day, it is the reason why I love red dresses. I live in fantasy land sometimes and imagine my man (whoever he is) singing that song to me and admiring me in my red dress. I want to say it was the summer between freshmen and sophomore year. It was an extremely hot and humid day and I go with my family to the airport to pick up my older brother. These were the days when you could go all the way to the gate even if you weren't traveling. I am sitting near the gate where my brother is arriving at. It was just me. The rest of the family was in the air conditioned area. I'm sitting looking out across the lobby and see a gentleman dressed in a white linen outfit, a box cut fade, beautiful chocolate skin, round-rimmed sun glasses, a cotton tank top beneath the white linen, and a captivating smile. I look a little closer and I swear it's Johnny Gill. Me, not wanting to look like a groupie, I did not go up to him immediately. We smile at each other. I wave and he waves back. I feel like my heart is about to beat out of my chest and I rise to close the gap between us. In an instant, the distance between us is filled with swarms of people disembarking from the plane and I lose sight of him. Nobody will believe that I just saw Johnny Gill. Who can I tell this story to? I didn't even confirm if it was him and now he was lost in the sea of people.

The days following my "airport encounter" with, who I think is, Johnny Gill just drag on. I am swept up in fantasy land that Johnny Gill and I made a connection across that lobby. I mean he smiled at me across that airport lobby. He waved back at me too. It had to be day four after the airport encounter. It is the middle of the day and I am driving my grandmother to the bank. I come from a little country town where everybody knows everybody. If you are not from the area, you stick out like a sore thumb. I drive past one of the streets in my town. At the entrance of the street is a bus stop for the City Bus line and there, standing at the bus stop is Johnny Gill from the airport. I double-take and I swear it's him. My grandmother is talking and asking me why I'm slowing down. I look back at the bus stop and I am not imagining things, he is really standing there. It's another half mile before I have an opportunity to turn around. As I make the turn-around, a bus passes by. I try everything to beat the bus to Johnny Gill's stop but I don't make it. I see him boarding the bus. By this time, my grandmother is scolding me for making the detour and I am just silent, wanting to believe that Johnny Gill was just here in my little town AND riding the City Bus.

I want to chase the bus down and follow it until he gets off but how does that work? When he gets off the bus, what happens next? What if it's not Johnny Gill but my imagination? I can't make sense of it. I sit on thoughts of him as I continue on with my original task of driving my grandmother to the bank. The high of seeing Johnny Gill from the airport here in my neighborhood, so close, and the low of watching him get on the bus without me verifying that it was him makes me want to scream.

I day dream about he and I walking on the beach, holding hands, and talking. It's just the two of us on the beach. No one around. In my daydream, we are the stars of the Kool and the Gang music video, Cherish. The cool breeze, birds chirping and flying above, and the sound of the ocean set the scene. I gush about how his voice is so magical and velvety. I tell him that I always imagined that I was Stacy Lattisaw singing Perfect Combination with him. He smiles at me, kisses my hand, and hugs me. He tells me that he thinks we have a connection but that he has to go back on the road. He has obligations to his fans. I tell him that I'll wait for him to come back for me. He caresses my face and stares into my eyes. I feel like I am going to jump out of my skin with excitement. Our faces are so close together we can feel the warmth of each others breath. He slowly moves even closer. I close my eyes waiting for my first kiss and it's with Johnny Gill! Fade to Black... the daydream ends.

The new obsession is with Jaheim. I will attend a concert of his as soon as I find one here on the East Coast. I put myself on Ticketmaster's alert list for any performance by Jaheim. I read some reviews while I was on Ticketmaster and apparently he is not that good of a performer. Maybe he was having an off night. The reviewer said that he sounds amazing but he just doesn't put on a "show." I can understand what the reviewer is saying. Some people really are just singers and not performers. Yet and still, I want to see him and hear him live.

His voice is so masculine and raspy and edgy. I just love it. Prior to this newfound obsession with Jaheim, my bucket-list-have-to-see-performer was Maxwell. I took care of that in November 2016. That was the BEST date ever! Hands down -- the BEST date of my life. Sad that I was 41 at the time and that was my best date. Maybe we, as women, have to expect more from the men that want to court us. **sigh** Before that evening, I always referred to my Junior Prom date as the best date I ever had. He was on time, handsome in his tuxedo, bought me the nicest flowers and corsage, and he was the PERFECT gentleman the entire evening! Fast forward 25 years and I am front and center at a Maxwell concert in Baltimore, Maryland. The timing of seeing Maxwell was so perfect. If I never see that man, who was my date that night, ever again I want him to know how special that was for me. He made me come alive again. And maybe we both came alive through all our get-aways and maybe we're better people for the ones we are partnered with now.

I never did find out if that was Johnny Gill at the airport. The guy at the bus stop was NOT him. He was a cousin of someone that lived on that street. I met him a couple days after the incident. He did resemble Johnny Gill with the box fade and the beautiful skin tone. I think he knew that he looked like him and was milking it because he even dressed like Johnny Gill. I had a good laugh about it. But I will never know if that was Johnny at the airport and I'm okay with that because I will hold on to my Cherish Day Dream for all my days and have a good laugh about it from time to time.